Friday afternoon with the promise of an eventful weekend looming I started scrolling through my “Chill Essentials” playlist to get me in the mood.  I was looking for a particular song and much to my surprise it was greyed out.  Still not certain what that means … all I know is that it was (and remains) on my playlist but I am not able to play it.

First I was angry, then I went old school and reminisced about my CD collection that I left behind when moving because they take up space etc etc. thinking about how that could never have happened because my CDs were really mine (and physically in my possession).

Then I started reflecting on what it really means to live “in the cloud” today.  Files, emails, music, banking, passwords, you name it – everything is stored “in the cloud.”  Which is convenient and so 21st century until you realize how vulnerable and exposed you really.  I am of the “plan for the worst and expect the best” school of thought but even I did not have a digital demise plan.

When my father passed away I wanted to get into his yahoo mail account to inform his friends.  Didn’t have the password.  Tried pleading with Yahoo and got the privacy spiel.  No luck.  Our real world social connections are linked to our digital life in the cloud.  Cut the cord and that’s it.

Another worst case scenario example … for convenience sake (and to save on postage and cutting trees) banks are all about their online statements.  Which means unless you save your statements as pdfs (which are also probably then saved to the cloud) or print them, your bank balance is determined by the digital read out.  Assume one day your balance shows as 0.  When push comes to shove it’s the banks’ word against yours as to how much money you have (or allegedly had).  Yes, this is an extreme scenario which is very unlikely to play out but still … it’s the principle of the matter.

And now for the grand finale … photos.  If you are of a certain generation the only photos you own are digital ones.  Whether stored by Apple, Google, or some other provider it is imperative that you realize you are basically entrusting one company with a lifetime worth of your memories.

Realistically “the cloud” isn’t going away and more and more of our “real” life will be piped into our “digital” identity to be stored in some server farm in Greenland or some other suitably frigid or highly air-conditioned place.  But accepting reality doesn’t mean you can’t be more prepared for it.

This is my digital demise plan:

  1. At the end of every calendar year I download copies of all the photos from the year onto an external hard-drive.
  2. Quarterly I download pdf statements of my bank accounts to my external hard-drive.
  3. All essential digital documents are saved in one “essentials” folder that is backed up to my external hard-drive
  4. I created a doc file that is saved in pdf form (and a hard copy is printed and stored in our bank’s safety deposit box) which provides the usernames and passwords to login to all my digital services (from email to iTunes etc).  *No, I don’t write the complete password on it, only the password prefixes with the base replaced by *******.  The base needs to be remembered mentally by people you can trust.
  5. My hard-drive is copied onto another hard-drive and both are stored in separate sneaky places (that my wife knows about).

How about you?  What’s your digital demise plan?  You know you need one because to quote my Mom, “All things have an end.  Only sausages have two.”