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ONLINE SEARCHER: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies

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Backing It Up
Volume 41, Number 3 - May/June 2017

We’ve all heard the admonition to back up our data. You don’t want a computer crash or a natural disaster to wipe out your work. Even worse would be a ransomware attack where you have to pay a ransom to have your data restored—and if you don’t pay, your data is permanently erased. Your library’s data is just as at risk as your personal information. Documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos, and archived search results, vital to your professional and personal life, won’t re-create themselves on their own. It will take tremendous effort on your part and, even then, the task may be impossible. So, I’m sure you’ve got a backup plan. You do, right? An external hard drive perhaps or cloud storage? And if it’s an external hard drive, you don’t keep it right next to your computer, do you? Of course not!

However you’ve opted to back up your data, you also need a disciplined approach. You need to religiously follow your backup procedures. Having a plan is wonderful, but sticking to it is even better. Sometimes discipline isn’t enough. A friend of mine recently discovered, to her consternation, that her faithfully executed antivirus regimen was ineffective. She did a complete scan and found five things to quarantine/delete. A computer consultant then ran a scan using MalwareBytes. It found 2,764 threats—a pretty dramatic difference! My friend is now a MalwareBytes convert.

 Further escalating the concept of backing up your data, consider U.S. government websites. Many began to see content disappearing from them shortly after the Trump administration took power. Scientific data seemed particularly vulnerable. Proactive librarians took the initiative to preserve data before it fell into the black hole of political expediency. Hacker groups gathered to grab data and preserve it. DataRefuge ( concentrates on environmental and climate data. Some individual agencies also acted. The U.S. Geological Survey created the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (

To some extent, it’s inevitable for new administrations to create websites reflecting the new administration’s policies. The Internet Archive’s End of Term Web Archive ( began in 2008 with the transition from Bush to Obama. The point of backing up isn’t to castigate one administration or another; it’s to ensure that data is preserved in a usable form for future researchers.

Backing up is important for your personal information, your library’s data, and research findings in general. Never think that data loss can’t happen to you. It can. Responsible information professionals think ahead and take action to protect data, whether it’s on their mobile devices, library servers, or government sites storing sponsored research.

Marydee Ojala is Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher (the successor journal to ONLINE) and writes its business research column ("The Dollar Sign"). She contributes feature articles and news stories to Information TodayEContentComputers in LibrariesIntranetsCyberSkeptic's Guide to the InternetBusiness Information Review, and Information Today's NewsBreaks. A long-time observer of the information industry, she speaks frequently at conferences, such as WebSearch University, Internet Librarian, Online Information (London, UK), Internet Librarian International, and national library meetings outside the U.S. She has adjunct faculty status at the School of Library and Information Science at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). Her professional career began at BankAmerica Corporation, San Francisco, directing a worldwide program of research and information services. She established her independent information research business in 1987. Her undergraduate degree is from Brown University and her MLS was earned at the University of Pittsburgh.


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