Monday, March 28, 2016

Ancestry Lost RootsWeb Data

When I first started getting serious about genealogy research, I loved RootsWeb. It provided surname and location message boards, a place to post your family tree data for free and even provided a large amount of disk space available for genealogy-related web pages. Best of all, it was free!

Then Ancestry bought Rootsweb. They assured us that nothing would change in the way Rootsweb was run. I never noticed any problems but was always wary because I just have never trusted Ancestry to do the right thing. This is only my personal opinion. It is not based on anything that has gone on in the past. I just always thought their share holders were more important than doing the right thing.

A little over a month ago, you may have noticed the alert on RootsWeb's front page advising visitors that they had a hardware failure and that certain portions of their web page would be unavailable for a couple of months! Now, given my experience in Information Technology, backups, and disaster recovery, let me tell you that this is unacceptable. Yes, I know that what they are providing is free. The problem is that if you have a service out there, having any system rely on a single point of hardware failure is not good business practice and to say that something will be down for a time measured in weeks is just not acceptable.

Finally, the date they predicted full functionality came and they updated their message to say:
 "In late February 2016, the RootsWeb site experienced hardware failure. Our development and web operations teams have worked diligently and carefully to restore much of the functionality and we're currently performing a site audit. If you see any issues you'd like to report please reach out to Member Services through our support form."
 I didn't notice any problems so I thought things were back to normal. Then we see this article by Thomas MacEntee on Geneabloggers:

Ancestry has lost all data posted to the RootsWeb free web pages after the summer of 2015. What does this mean? It means that Ancestry failed to perform backups, or possibly failed to verify they were being performed, or possibly failed to verify they had valid backups or possibly they stored their backups on the same server hardware that served up the web pages. Any one of these possibilities demonstrates a lack of understanding of backups and disaster recovery.

From my perspective, the good news is that I hadn't updated my web page since before that time. That's also the bad news. I really need to get it updated!

Regardless, this event has demonstrated again what I've said previously:

1. Save all your data to your own computer. Don't make anything in the cloud your primary storage for any data. You can only count on yourself to keep your best interests at heart.

2. Back up your data! Back everything up to external hard drives, cloud backup services, other people's computers, and store at least one external hard drive at a site other than where your computer is kept!

Take a moment today to schedule a time in the very near future to ensure your data is backed up and stored off-site. It may not be today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, but I can virtually guarantee that you will be glad you did some time in the future where there is a failure!


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