One of the first things that comes to mind when faced with some sort of a disaster (fire or flood, for example) is the safety of the people we love. If one’s family and friends are well and within arm’s reach in the case of such a tragic event, people often tend to think of… photographs. Wouldn’t you? After all, photographs ensure the memory of our children, parents, siblings, friends and the greatest days of our lives remain no matter what. Consequently, it is a good idea to always have a safe copy of all or at least the most important photographs you may have. If you have been storing images on a single computer, DVD or other simple storage, there is no way to make sure that your photographs are 100% safe – all types of storage unfortunately fail, it is just a matter of time! There is a way, however, of eliminating the possibility of loss almost entirely. In this article for beginners photographers, I will provide you with several inexpensive basic backup ideas. Even if you choose not to follow this particular backup strategy, it should give you a decent starting point and help you figure out a way that suits you better. It is worth noting that we do not recommend these tips for professional photographers, as they should take more serious, reliable and faster means of backing up their work.
1) Keep a Copy at Home
In addition to storing photographs on your hard drive, it is a good idea to have a copy of them on an external drive somewhere at home. This is in case your computer suffers from some sort of malfunction, data loss or physical damage. Storing copies of your photographs on the same disk isn’t a backup – if the disk breaks down, both originals and backup copies may be lost. Also note that it is a good idea to store original copies on a separate internal hard drive rather than the one used by the operating system. This way, if you ever need to format your computer you’ll know all the important files will remain untouched.
The Western Digital external hard drive pictured above provides a very safe back-up system. It has two separate drives that can be set up to mirror in RAID 1 mode. This creates drive redundancy – even if one of the drives fails, your files will be kept safe on the other one. The drive is called “Western Digital 8TB My Thunderbolt Duo Dual-Drive Storage System” (click here for B&H link). In a mirrored configuration, you lose half of the storage, but gain redundancy. 4 terabytes should be more than plenty for most people out there – you could probably back up all of your photographs, personal files and even home movies! If the price is an issue or you feel like you do not need that much capacity, there are also much cheaper dual-drive options with less space from a variety of manufacturers.
Even if you’ve never encountered any data loss before, don’t think the chances of it happening are all that low. One of our team members, Bob, has had some serious PC problems before. Read his article to find out the whole story. If you have suffered from similar accidents, you will find some good advice there. Nasim also once had a set of drives fail and he lost a month worth of very important photos, since he forgot to back them up.
2) Keep a Copy at Friend’s/Parent’s Home
Even if you have a copy of your images at home, it doesn’t save your from bigger accidents, such as fire. Both internal and external drives may get damaged. It is a good idea to have another copy somewhere outside your home or workplace, just to be safe.
3) Keep a Copy on a Cloud
A cloud is online storage. Cloud services are very accessible these days and finding one that suits your needs is quite simple. I am sure you have probably already heard of Dropbox, which is the most popular cloud storage platform today, with 2GB of free space to start with. Another great new cloud storage platform is Copy and they are giving away 15GB of free space right now. There are a number of other options out there to choose from. If the free storage is not enough, you can subscribe for a monthly or annual fee to significantly increase your storage limit, or you can invite your friends/family to add even more space to your account. Some cloud storage providers allow you to purchase unlimited amount of storage! Prices generally range from a couple of dollars to $10 per month and up. Storing your images on a cloud in addition to solutions provided earlier helps minimize the chance of losing photographs down to a negligible percentage. It also grants access to your images wherever you are, all you need is access to the Internet.
Read our “Cloud Storage for Photographers” article to find out more about Cloud services.
4) Preserve Folder Structure and Naming
Having your back-up images organized identically to your working files helps simplify back-up and restore process. Thus, it is a good idea to preserve the folder structure and naming methodology among all sources. Have trouble figuring out a basic folder structure? Read our article on “organizing pictures” for more help.
5) How Often Should You Backup?
There is no general rule – the more often, the better. Getting into a habit of backing up your photographs as soon as you move them to your computer may be a good idea. This way, you’ll also save a bit of time since you’re copying images anyway. Also, it will help you keep track of what’s backed up and what isn’t. If you use a specific software tool to manage and organize your photographs, such as Lightroom or ACDSee, you’ll find options on import that will allow you to make a backup copy to a predefined location automatically. Should you choose otherwise, I strongly advise backing up your images at least once a week.
6) Final Words
Perhaps you think having 4 copies of photographs is verging on paranoid. It sure won’t be easy updating all these sources. Just think about how well you want to ensure nothing ever happens to your family or business photographs. That will help you answer the question whether you need to take all these precaution measures or just a couple of them to feel safe.