Going digital has created some challenges managing and backing up the data we have collected. We have spotty cellular coverage in Port Joli, so sending our data over the cellular network wouldn’t be reliable. This means that we must store our data on the iPads throughout the day and then backup the data at night. The only problem with this is that we are relying on the stability of the iPads to protect our data. If they malfunction or are damaged in the field, we could conceivably lose some information; however, I view this as no more risky than using a digital camera for fieldwork.
We use a hierarchical system to store our data, managed through a combination of PDF Expert and Dropbox. Every form is labeled with an alphanumeric sequence denoting the unit and level, and whether it is a “draft”, “complete”, or “flattened” document (flattened to preserve any maps – see previous post). All of the day’s notes are stored in a general documents folder in PDF Expert; every crew member also has a special folder that is networked to a Dropbox account. When we return home in the evening, completed forms, maps, and draft forms (unfinished forms) are copied by each person to their specific Dropbox folder, and then they sync, or “push” these changes to the Dropbox account.
This process is streamlined within PDF expert, as the app is designed to work seamlessly with Dropbox. The app notifies you when you have changes to be synced and when all of your changes are up to date within Dropbox. Syncing is achieved simply through the push of a button.
My field laptop is also networked to the Dropbox account through their downloadable software. I don’t even have to sign in; the account is always active when I am online and it notifies me when someone has modified or uploaded data to their folder. From there it is an easy task to download the day’s files from Dropbox to the laptop’s hard drive. This creates a triple backup system – the files are stored on each crew member’s iPad, they are archived in Dropbox, and finally they are backed up nightly on the project laptop. This is about as secure a digital management system as we could hope for.