Friday, September 7, 2012

The Road to Getting Your Digital Life Together

Maybe this will be a bit morbid, but I've heard of nightmares when it comes to somebody dying and not having access to their digital life afterwards. Here is my list of things to do to get your digital life in order.  Not only will it help those that you leave behind; it will make your life easier while you are alive!


So don't think you'll get a jump on those dice of life. Snake eyes will come someday -- whether it's death, theft, flooding or fire.

  1. Use a Password Manager

    Don't use the same password everywhere.  That will lead to your digital life being hacked.  Use a unique, strong password for each service and website you use.  I like to usethe open source KeePassX which is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iPhone. You only have to remember one password to unlock your database (make sure it's a good -- it's your master key). I keep my password database synced between my phone and my main computer using a file sharing service (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc). You can even periodically print out your passwords and put that in a safe place (like a fire safe).

  2. Get Your Backup in Order

    Now that you've made your life more secure, be sure to backup all those important documents, photos, and music.  Backup never seems important until you actually need it.  So don't mourn the loss of your prize MP3 collection or your kid's baby pics.  Easiest option is to buy a large external hard drive and use backup software.  Space is cheap so consider 1TB of space or more. Consider getting a disaster proof backup drive. ioSafe makes drives that are fireproof and waterproof.

    Don't rely on remembering to backup.  Set your software to backup on a schedule and prompt you if your backup drive isn't connected to your system.  I'm paranoid and I backup daily. Also any good backup software should be encrypting your backups in case your drive should get stolen or go missing.

    Alternative, you can use a cloud based service however you need a good internet connection and I can only assume it's only so secure.  I mean I know it's not public access, but somebody would have to steal your external drive.

    I use DejaDup on Linux which allows you to backup to local drive or cloud services like Amazon S3, Rackspace and Ubuntu One.  I love it -- just set it and forget it (thanks to Ron Popeil for that line).

    Alternatively for music / photos, there options from Amazon (CloudDrive / CloudPlayer), Google (GoogleDrive/GooglePlay) and Apple.

  3. Digitize Your Music and Photos

    Unless you're in the Millenial generation, then you probably have CDs and printed photos.  Theft, flood and fire are all possible. I've spend many an hour ripping CDs to OGG format and uploading to GooglePlay.  Nice side effect is that I can stream my entire collection from my phone / computer and they are backed up!

    I like to use RipperX for Linux which has CDParanoid built-in.  CDParanoid is great for ensuring great rips since CDs that are scratched etc.

    If you don't want to scan your prints in yourself or do not have equipment, you can take prints or negatives to places like Costco and they have services that will do that for you.

  4. Get a Will and/or Living Trust

    Ok, I know this isn't part of your digital life, but your Last Will and/or Trust dictates what happens to your stuff -- including your digital life such as music, photos, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. No Will means those that you leave behind will have a hard time cleaning up your digital mess especially if you are more technology savy than your next of kin.  Make sure your Will or Trust states what your executor or trustee should do with your digital life.

    One option is Nolo WillMaker which will create Wills, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directives and Living Trusts.  Not bad for $42 or even less if you look for Nolo promo codes on Google.  WillMaker works like TurboTax -- you are interviewed and the software walks you through the process.  It even comes with 100+ page eBook to help you decide what options are best for you.


  1. As an alternative to paying extra for a "disaster-proof" single external drive that's still subject to theft or hardware failure, you could just have two external drives, and swap them out periodically, and keep the one that's not currently connected offsite at a friend's house or in a safe deposit box or something similar to that. Instead of a second drive, you could also periodically back up to a DVD or two (unless you have a *lot* of data to back up).

  2. I always hear people complain doing all this is expensive. Then I tell them the cost to recover photos of a bad hard drive.

    I'd also recommend getting several external drives and rotate them around to different locations. If you house burns down and someone comes in and steals everything - you'll feel better knowing you have a backup drive in your drawer at the office.

  3. I found out that Sentry Safe has started to make their fire / water / theft safes with USB connectivity. It could prove to me a nice solution with a HD inside and connected to a router that allows you to mount a USB drive as a networked HD.