Hard drives die, sometimes with no warning.

Hackers are developing new ransomware schemes to “lock” your data unless you pay to have access restored.

Early in my career, a building I worked in caught fire, destroying my computer.

While data losses like these are rare, they do occur, and if your research data is valuable to you, you need to be prepared.

When working with Transana, there are simple steps you can take to prevent data loss.

1.  Use a Media Library.  You should be able to point to a single directory on your hard drive or on your network where you can find all of your data.  You can have subdirectories to organize large data sets, but you should avoid having files scattered in multiple locations.  Having all your files centralized in a Media Library makes it easier to work in Transana, easier to share data with colleagues, and easier to back up your entire data set.  When you add new files to Transana for analysis, always copy the files into your Media Library, and then created your Episode or Snapshot in Transana.

2.  Periodically export your database.  Go to Tools > Export Data and use Browse to create a file in your Media Library.  (I embed the date of the backup as well, using the “YYYYMMDD_DatabaseName.tra” file name pattern.)  This creates a database export file, a full copy of your Transana Database, a snapshot of your data at the time of the export.

3.  Use a backup program or data file synchronization program (like Box, DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, etc.) to make a full copy of your entire Media Library, including both your raw media and image files, and your Transana Database Export files.  If you have a lot of data, consider using an external hard drive to store your data backup.

4.  Make sure you keep a copy of your data in a different location.  Remember that office fire I mentioned earlier?  Not only did that fire turn my hard drive into a lump of charcoal, it also melted the data backup I carefully maintained, but unfortunately stored in my office.

There are several advantages to this approach.

First, your media and still image files are not copied into the Transana Database.  Transana stores the name and location of these files, but does not copy the files themselves.  As a result, to back up ALL of your data, you need to back up both the Transana Database and all of the media and still image files you refer to in that database.

Second, the database export files represent snapshots of your database.  If you change something during analysis and decide you don’t like the change, you can use a previous database export file to recover an older version of your data.

Third, you don’t have to worry about backing up multiple locations and tracking down files in multiple locations.

Finally, if you are using Transana Multiuser, this method gives you control of backing up your own data on a database-by-database level.  Because of the way a multiuser database server differs from a single user copy of Transana, there are subtleties to backup and restoration of individual databases that even the most competent of server techs may not account for in their backup strategy.

 Chances are, you’ve put dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of hours into collecting your data, bringing it into Transana, organizing it, analyzing it, and documenting that analysis.  A little bit of planning can set you up so that you won’t lose that work even if you experience a computer catastrophe.

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