It seems that a lot of you are maintaining your inventory and wantlists through websites that are specifically set up for such a reason, and I can certainly understand why. It’s easy to use, the information about each card is already there waiting for you, you can access your data through your phone or tablet anytime or anyplace, and it can make it easy to set up trades with other people using the same website.
There are a lot of benefits to keeping data like that in “The Cloud”… But you should be aware that there are reasons why smart-ass IT guys like me say that “The Cloud” is just a fancy way of saying “Your data is on someone else’s computer”. Everybody who has the data in “The Cloud” should take steps to maintain some level of control over their own data.
If the website goes down, goes out of business, is overrun by the undead or gets bought by someone who’s only interested in the “intellectual property”, you should have an alternate plan.
To illustrate my point, allow me to temporarily bore you with my own story… Younger readers can at least laugh at the horse-and-buggy technology involved.
I’ve been using software to track my inventory for over 20 years… The original software I used (The Card Collector) came with checklist data installed, plus you could buy quarterly updates on a CD. It worked great for most sets, because rather than having a list of numbers you needed (1974 Topps: 14, 17, 18, 24, etc. etc.), you could generate reports that also gave you the player, the team, whether it was a rookie card, plus a “book value” that I always took with a big ol’ grain of salt. The software wasn’t quite as nice with newer sets, because you’d sometimes have the cards for months before you got the CD update which contained information for that set.
Then in the mid-to-late 1990’s came a package called WinCards.
Side note: Isn’t it funny how quickly names with “Win” or “2000” in them have gone from “cutting edge” to dated? Anyway…
WinCards had a lot of nice features, but what got me to switch over to it was a subscription service that would let you download set information as soon as the data became available. By 1990’s standards, this was FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!!
You’ve likely never heard of WinCards; that’s because they went out of business a dozen years ago. Because I had much of my inventory in the software, I kept using WinCards to track those older sets.
…Until the sad day when I replaced my computer and found out that WinCards would not run on Windows7, no matter how many tricks I played. Fortunately I still had an old computer lying around that ran Windows NT, so I moved WinCards over to that computer and it became a system dedicated to WinCards. I dumped each set’s information into a CSV (Comma-Separated Value) file, moved the CSV over to my current computer, and then manually upload them into the Access database I’d created. It’s a fair amount of work, and is a task that’s still underway, but it was better than starting from scratch.
Just like WinCards was an awesome idea that didn’t last, at some point “The Cloud” will seem as dated as quarterly updates on a CD-ROM… and if you value your data at all – and more importantly, the work you put into generating that data – you need to have a fallback plan.
Now that I’m done building up the potential problem, I’m going to leave you without a concrete solution. It completely depends on the website you’re using and what utilities they have to download your data to your own computer. The important thing is to get some version of your data on a computer that you control… Even if the only thing available to you is generating downloadable reports, it’s better than nothing, which is what you’d have if the website shuts down without any notice.
I don’t mean to be alarmist about this, and I don’t want to come across like your local TV news trying to suck you into watching the 6pm news (“Could refractors be making your family sick? The surprising answer, next!”)… but if I didn’t have that old computer, I would’ve been screwed… and I wouldn’t want to see something like that happen to any of you.