Well, that recently happened to some of the folks who use RootsWeb for their online tree and research. It's technology. Stuff happens. Many times it is good stuff like more services, faster services, more databases to explore. Sometimes it is a crash that sends millions of gigabytes of stored data down the technology toilet.
If you have al your eggs in one basket, I highly recommend you read the following two articles. The first is by Amy Crow Johnson on her Professional Genealogy Services blog entitled, Why You Should Download Your Files From Ancestry and Every Other Website. In it, she discusses the LOCKSS principle (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) and why it is NEVER a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket.
The other is an article by Amie Bowser Tennant on the RootsBid blog entitled, 7 Steps To Protect Yourself From A Genealogist's Worst Nightmare outlining a very good plan for keeping your stuff safe.
I have mentioned before that I am a fan of multiple, redundant copies. Yep, it is a pain in the tookus to keep organized but, like any good insurance, any time and money you invest comes back to you when you need to use it.
Come up with a plan that works for you, the type of technology you are using (Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebook) and what you are comfortable spending for cloud services and/or peripheral drives.
My Plan: At any given time, I have five copies of all my family trees and everything on my laptop that is never more than thirty days old.
- I use Carbonite as my backup service which continually backs up everything on my computer.
- Once a week I do a mirror image backup of my entire laptop onto a peripheral hard drive. This has saved me untold time and money when my hard drive has crashed. (These two Carbonite services cost me $100/year and the 1TB WD hard drive was a one-time expense of $59)
- On the first day of every month I make a copy of the GEDCOM for every tree, on every website where I am cultivating a family tree, store the GEDCOM on my desktop and
- store the previous month's copy on my hard drive. (no cost for making/storing GEDCOMs)
- Because I use a Chromebook as my travelling laptop (and it has no internal storage), each Friday I also make a copy of my all the files on my Windows laptop onto a separate, portable, hard drive (about the size of a credit card) that I can take with me in case I need to access that stuff from my Chromebook. (A 350 GB WD hard drive was a one time cost of $29)
Yes, this takes some time, thought and a bit of cash - but I never have to worry about losing anything because Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, FamilySearch.org or some other online service experiences a tech crisis. I have a ToDo program that alerts me when I need to a download, backup or copy and it has now become a habit I hardly even think about.
You worked hard to build what you have - make sure you keep it safe.