Remember to Backup (Even NASA Gets it Wrong)

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Neil Armstrong's first moonwalkToday is the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing on 20 July 1969. The Apollo 11 landing and Neil Armstrong’s first steps were watched by more than half a billion people worldwide.

To celebrate, NASA has released digitally-remastered videos of the momentous event. They have also admitted to making a monumental mistake: the original high-resolution videos of the first moon walk have probably been erased forever.

All that remains are the poor-quality television broadcast videos. These were captured by a camera pointed at a wall monitor at mission control, Houston. The original two hours of data was stored on 45 one-inch telemetry tapes, but a four-year search for the archives has been unsuccessful. NASA suspects that the tapes have been lost forever and were probably recycled. In the 70’s and 80’s, it was common practice to overwrite old tapes with electronic output from orbiting satellites.

I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will find this all very convenient and further proof that we never reached the moon in the first place!

But this is a valuable lesson for us all. None of us could admit to having data as valuable as the moon landing videos, but it’s easy to underestimate what data you have and the consequences of losing it. Your clients depend on your technical expertise: how will it look when you lose their information because you did not have a backup plan?

Have you ever lost client data? How did you explain the situation?

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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