Thursday, January 31, 2013

hard drive protection.

"If you have not had a hard drive crash, you will."  Photographer Nick Kelsh

The cold, hard fact is that hard drive crashes happen.  And it is inevitable that it will happen to you. 

I got a new computer 3 1/2 years ago.  At the beginning of December I was thinking to myself how wonderful it was that my computer was running so fast & so efficiently.  Two days later the hard drive crashed.  The black screen with primitive white letters was horrifying.  I thought I was above this sort of thing.  I care too much about my photographs, my memories and my stories... somehow I  thought that would translate through cyberspace and protect me.  Didn't my computer know that part of me would die if I lost my photo collection?  Right or wrong, it is my reality.

While I tried to remain calm & collected while my computer genius worked to retrieve my photos & data, the reality was that I was a hot mess for several weeks.  Mike sweetly asked "Could we take more precautions with back-ups to prevent this from ever happening again??? Please."

I have an external hard drive that I use faithfully to back up my photo collection through the Shadow Copy feature in my Memory Manager Software.  It is one of my favorite features of MM because it makes back-up simple & fast with the touch of a button... But low and behold, I had been getting an error message which indicated that my external hard drive was full and thus the backup could not be completed.  With the Holiday Home Tour fast approaching I decided to "take care of it later".   This realization made the CRASH even more painful.  The 33,000 photos in my personal vault were not backed up.

My story did end happily.  After three weeks of data retrieval efforts, Andrew my computer guy - now best friend, was able to restore all my data and all my digital images - with the exception of maybe two images.  I can live with two.

My Bottom Line:
I have emerged from this with a new fervor about what I do.  I feel even more passionate about teaching my Digital Diva classes and helping people get their photos OFF THEIR COMPUTERS AND INTO THEIR LIVES.  I felt first hand how precariously our photographic images are dangling in cyberspace.  I have a renewed commitment to get my own photos printed in some form for posterity - be it StoryBook albums, calendars, photo panels or printed photographs in a photo album or even in a box.

Andrew's Hard Drive Tips
Andrew Cullen of Novus Computers was the guest speaker at my January Digital Diva Classes.  He brought a hard drive for us to look at and explained all the moving parts.  Our brains were bursting with technology by the end of the evening but here is a summary of what we learned.

It is best to have your hard drive only half full - or less.
Many of us make the mistake of filling our C: Drives to full capacity. Mine was at 97% when my crash happened.  Keeping your hard drive around 50% capacity helps keep the drive defragmented, and as a result your computer will run faster.

There are 4 ways to back-up your Hard Drive - and 3 of them are good options.
1.  CDs or DVDs
This is an option that is almost obsolete and not a durable choice.  But years ago burning photos & data to CDs was what we did.  Andrew explained that there are two kinds of CDs: Pressed Disc and Burnable CDs.  If you buy the soundtrack to LesMiserables or watch the movie Toy Story 3, you will have pressed layers of plastic & film that provide a more durable product than the Burnable CDs you  buy at Staples for backing up your photos. The single layer of plastic with burnable film is much more prone to scratches and deterioration, giving it a shelf life of less than 5 years.

And with my 650 Gigabytes of photos & data, Andrew estimated that it would take about 685 CDs every time I backed up.   Now that is funny!

2. External Hard Drive
Everyone should have an External Hard Drive.  It provides one of the fastest means of recovery. Andrew recommends backing up your data every other week.  Like I mentioned, Memory Manager software helps make this easier.  Under the PROTECT tab, select the SHADOW COPY option.  Since you choose the location of your SHADOW COPY, select whatever drive you plug your External Hard Drive into.  Using an External Hard Drive with my Memory Manager software is a good option for me because it is my PHOTOS that have my highest value of anything on my computer. Since I use Memory Manager so often, it is easy to remember to SHADOW COPY every time I add a collection of photos.

External Hard Drives cost between $100-$250 depending on the storage size - and this is a one time cost.

A couple things to remember: An External Hard Drive has the same components as a Hard Drive on your computer, so it is prone to failure as well.  At one time I viewed an External Hard Drive like the "black box" on an airplane - indestructible & durable even tumbling thousands of feet out of the sky.  Not true.  It is a delicate piece of equipment that could be damaged if it fell off the table. 
If some catastrophic event happened to your home and wiped out your computer, chances are your External Hard Drive would be toast as well.

3. Network Attached Storage
"NAS Box" for short, this is a popular solution for small businesses - and maybe people who have crazy-big digital photo collections.  It is like having your own server or "your own personal cloud"right in your home.  It interfaces with all the computers in your house and manages multiple drives.  One cool benefit is that you can access files from your main computer to other electronic devices in your house.  For example,  I could sit downstairs on the sofa in front of the fireplace with my lap top or iPhone and access data on my main computer in my office.

The cost of setting up a Network Attached Storage System is around $500 - but it is a one time cost.  Again, if your house was wiped out, your NAS Box would be too.

4. Offsite Online Storage - like CARBONITE
When you download a purchased subscription, all your data and photos are uploaded to a safe & secure storage "cloud".  I am going to talk about CARBONITE because it was one of the first and is one of the most well-respected Offsite Online Storage companies... and my new best friend Andrew the computer guy recommends it.  If you have more questions, you can even email him at

I am personally thrilled to know about this option.  There are 3 very reasonable service plans which will systematically and continually back up everything on your computer 24/7.  All your data is fully encrypted (which means that it cannot be intercepted en route to the storage site) and all the storage in right here in the USA.   The means for $60 - $150 a year (or $5 - $12.50 per month) all of your precious photos & data can live off site in a "cloud" as a safe BACK UP - and it all happens automatically. Ahhhhhhh.

As soon as I got my restored computer back into my hands, I ran a SHADOW COPY on a new, bigger External Hard Drive - and I started a CARBONITE subscription.  With the massive data files I mentioned, my Carbonite backup should be complete when my asparagus heads pop up in the spring! Andrew said that for a 'normal person' the complete backup should take a couple days. Ha.

The cost of a CARBONITE subscription is:
Home Package  $60 per year (24/7 backup of unlimited data)
Home Plus  $100 per year (includes backup of external hard drives + mirror backup)
Home Premium $150 per year (all the above + courier service to deliver recovered data to your door!) I picked this one. 
Remember that this is an annual cost.  One of the sweetest benefits of Offsite Online Storage is that if the catastrophic event wiped out your computer and home, your photos & data would be safe and sound.

This is a lot of information to absorb but THIS IS IMPORTANT STUFF.  When your hard drive crashes, I want you to be in a better place than I was.  Make a plan today for backing up your computer hard drive.  And don't put it off.

Fell free to share this blog / link with anyone and everyone who might need it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

how to order.

I admit that navigating the purchase of digital embellishments can seem complicated.  But I would like to share a few simple suggestions to help you chart a fun shopping experience.

1. Go to my web site at

2. I recommend viewing digital artwork at the HELPZONE first - before actually shopping. In this PDF format you can make informed shopping decisions because you can see every paper and every embellishment and every word in each kit. You can even print them out for ready reference.  (This is what I do!)

Scroll to the bottom of the opening page of my web site.
Go to HELPZONE, then click on DIGITAL ARTWORK.

Simply click on the PDF of your choice to see the kits upclose & personal.
Print off the ones you love - and maybe the ones you might want. You can study the contents to help you decide what to purchase.

You have heard me say it, and I will state it again here:
Some kits are not worth buying, and then there are others you cannot live without.  Please check out my new favorite MUST-HAVE digital embellishments.

Nordic Christmas Digital Kit
Cakes & Candles Digital Additions
Cakes & Candles Digital Kit
*Tropical Tiki Digital Kit
*PS I Love You Digital Embellishments
*PS I Love You Digital Kit
*Happy Birthday Digital Embellishments

*Brand New This Month

3. When you find something you want to own, head back to the top of my web page and select SHOP ONLINE / then DIGITAL SOLUTIONS.

I think it is easiest to type the full kit name in the SEARCH BAR in the upper right corner. The kit you want will pop right up.  You can also find your favorites by clicking on the Category and scrolling down to your choice.

4. Remember to select the STORYBOOK CREATOR option rather than UNIVERSAL. With the SBC option the embellishments go straight into your software upon purchase - so easy!

5. Add any embellishemnts you want to your cart! This is the SHOPPING part!

6. It will ask for your email for your CM Digital Center account - this is so that your new embellishments will go straight to your computer and into your SBC software.  (If you don't have an account yet, you can follow the prompts and do it then.)

7. Then follow the prompts to check out! No shipping charges. No crowds. No parking issues.

8. You will receive a confirmation email with download links and actvation codes.

Wishing you smooth sailing on your next digital shopping spree!

these are a few of my favorite things.

About a year ago I made a list of my very, very favorite digital embellishments.  These are the kits that I find myself using over and over again on my digital StoryBooks, calendars, cards and photo panels.  When my Digital Divas ask me, I tell them that they NEED these to survive.

I think it is time to post the 'old favorites' list again. 

My challenge to you is to discover your own favorites.

I will list mine to help you acquire a collection of digital embellishments that you love...
I added a *star* to my super hero favorites.

Earthy Serenity Digital PP Kit
Tie the Knot Digital Addition*
Save the Date Digital Addition*
Fabulous Baby Girl Arrival Digital Addition
Rugged Baby Boy Arrival Digital Addition
Cheerful Christmas Digital Addition*
Cheerful School Digital Addition
Jewel Christmas Digital PP Kit
Romance Digital Power Palette
Distressed Digital Embellishments
Digital Embellishments - Elements
Vintage Romance Sewing Room Digital Embellishments
Digital Embellishments - Sewing Room Stitches
Digital Embellishments - Office Supplies II
Digital Embellishments - Doodles
Dress It Up Digital Embellishments
Fabulous Milestones Digital Embellishments
Digital Embellishments - Frames & Borders*
Cheerful Digital Power Palette*
Fabulous Digital Power Palette
Very Merry Digital Kit
Vintage Romance Digital Kit