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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Importance of Data Portability in Web Services

Image Credit: Thomas Hawk
All week I've been writing blog posts about downloading the content from your blogs in order to have an offline copy of your blog entries. Writing those posts reminded me of the importance of the importance of data portability when using web services.

I use a lot of web services in my daily life but all of the services that I use for important information have the option to download offline copies of my files and data. This option is something that I look for when considering using a service for important functions. My recommendation to anyone that uses online services for important work in their schools is to make sure you can take your data whenever you want. Using an online grade book? Make sure you can download those grades whenever you want to. Bookmarking your favorite online resources for your lessons? Check to be sure that you can export a copy of those bookmarks. Some services make this easier to find than others. For example, Google has Google Takeout that you can use to export content from all of your Google services at once. Evernote, which I used for a long time, has the option but you'll have to search their help pages to find it.


The bottom line is this, if you're using online services to host important information for you, get in the habit of backing it up to an offline file. That way if something happens to the service you will still have your important information available to you.

Update, planning for data rot:
I'm sure that many of you have had someone walk up to you with an old floppy disk and ask, "can you help me open this file?" Now that is happening with CDs too. Last weekend when I was ice fishing with a friend who teaches biology he complained that the publisher of his favorite biology interactive wasn't sending out updated CDs anymore because they were replacing the CDs with an online option requiring a login. This is indicative of a larger pattern that we're seeing and that is the end of CDs for software. Along with that we're starting to see fewer computers shipping with internal CD drives, particularly in the laptop market. If you're using CDs to store information that is important to you, you might want to start looking at other storage options either online, on an external hard drive, or a combination of both. I use Google Drive, Box, and Seagate external drives for my storage needs.

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