Joan Coxon 19th June 1926 - 14th December 2014Neil's Mum

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that I recently lost my Mum who passed away just before Christmas.

She was 88 - not a bad age and not a bad life she had lead, but still too soon for her and the family who remain.

Sorting her belongings afterwards was a difficult job. Things that were such a integral part of her life. Things that she had kept since she was a little girl. Things her parents and grand-parents had given her. Indeed every card and letter and note I had ever given her! What a shock it was to see how bad my writing and artwork was at the age of 6!

What really hit home were the stories that all of her belongings told.

I was lucky that she had completed one of our own Dear Mum, from you to me journals for me.  An early design admittedly, but an amazing read and comfort for myself and my family during the difficult and sad period after her death.

She had described her life, her happiness, her sadness, her relationship with me.  I laughed at her stories. I cried too. And I saw another side to my Mother that I had not seen before.

What really hit home though was how lucky my family was.

My Mum had left this journal for me - her story. She had also left photo albums that started in black and white and evolved to modern day digital photos, but at least she had printed these new images and spent time putting them into these beautiful albums. We had these real tangible parts of Mum's life.

We found two old computers of hers - yes she was quite savvy when it came to technology. One we could use and access the files. The other was too old and not easy to use anymore.

They made us think about what she had stored on those hard drives. Were there more stories or images stored ready to be printed? Had she been even more technically competent and uploaded her 'stories' to some cloud-based storage system?

Well what if she has? We don't have access to and can't find any information on which service she had used. Any 'cloud' based images belonging to my Mum are now lost forever. All the digital images stored on her very old computer are not easy to access although we may well be able to get to them over time with the right help. We would then need to access that recovered back-up device with 1000s of digital images on it. Find the time. Decide which to print. Decide which to share on Facebook where people might see them for a day ... or maybe two. Or decide which or to back up to a cloud-based storage service only to ...

No - you get my meaning.

There is a lot of talk at the moment from the most senior people in our digital companies warning that our digitally stored files may not be as safe as we might have assumed. We lay our history, our stories, our past, in the hands of organisations who may well get it wrong. I am sure they would never act maliciously but mistakes and accidents happen.

"Dear Neil, we regret to inform you that all of you precious digital photos have been deleted ..."

In this modern digital world when our tweets last for an hour or so - or our Facebook posts last for a day or so ... I have certainly had a strong reminder that you can not beat the physical item.

I have photos that I can flip through and show my family and friends ... I have a journal that tells my Mum's story in her own hand-writing.

I know what I prefer ... they are among the most precious things I own.

Perhaps I had better back them up ...