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What is the best way to store digital photos

We all like to take pictures with our digital cameras and copy the precious files to our computers for easy access and online posting. Eventually, we’ll end up with thousands of photos on our computer hard drives. So what is the?

The ultimate solution is to back up your files *multiple* times – keep the original files on your computer and copy them to an external hard drive, then copy the same data onto a cloud storage server. This method guarantees redundancy and the possibility of data retrieval from pretty much anywhere in the world. Most backup tasks can be automated, if you’re on a Mac, use TimeMachine for automated backups to your external hard drive. If you are on a Windows PC, use back-up/Restore Center for the task at hand.

Get an external hard drive

This Seagate 3TB seems to be in the sweet spot $/TB at the moment:
Seagate Expansion 3TB Desktop External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STBV3000100)
Pick your own (bigger is better)
browse backup harddrives on amazon

Add Hard drives to your desktop computer

I’m using a bunch of 3TB Green Drives for data storage and back-up in my NAS:
Western Digital Caviar Green 3 TB SATA III 64 MB Cache Bare/OEM Desktop Hard Drive – WD30EZRX

Get Network storage

I recently installed a Synology DiskStation 1513+ to replace my aging & slow Drobo:
Synology DiskStation 5-Bay Diskless Network Attached Storage (NAS) with iSCSI/DS1513+ (DS1513+)

Read a brief review of the Synology 1513+ DiskStation

Get a portable/laptop hard drive

portable external storage

Get cloud storage

crashplan backup software

Shop CrashPlan is a good bet in my opinion and really easy to use, they even have a family plan for multiple computers in one household and a “friends” option to back-up your buddy’s files… Set it up once and everything runs on auto pilot. Dropbox is a great alternative if you have only a few Gigabytes to back-up.

Sleep well at night

original article from 2008, I would think optical media is outdated by now, as everything lives in the cloud.

What happens if that computer hard drive fails? Nothing! The family pictures will reside in digital nirvana! The good part? There are data recovery services. The bad part? There are data recovery services, but there is no guarantee of the results, meaning some of your photographs, and a good part of your paycheck, will be gone forever.

The only solution is to back up your data. It is relatively easy to do so and ultimately keeps you sane, letting you sleep safely through the night.

Optical media like CDs and DVDs are the obvious choices to back up your data, since they are cheap and seem to be safe–but they’re not necessarily safe. The chemical compounds of CDs and DVDs will disintegrate after a few years. I experienced this myself the hard way. Recently, I tried to retrieve family photos from a DVD that was less than five years old and I got nothing but an error message and a few corrupted files. Go figure.

Some manufacturers offer “archival quality” optical media for big bucks, but your best bet is to pick up an external hard drive from amazon any brand (Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital) will do. 2TB drives go for $179 or less -as of this writing- and prices are dropping by the day. Copy your digital photos to that drive. Immediatedly! Your back-up is accessible right away and your work is pretty safe. To be even safer, make your computer work for you and set up automatic backups. Mac OS X comes with Time Machine and Windows Vista sports a Backup/Restore center.

The worst-case scenario sounds like this, though: your house burns down; home owner’s insurance pays for your loss and you get to sleep in a fancy hotel for a few nights, but your computer is in ashes. The new external, back-up hard drive is a piece of charcoal and the DVDs have turned into a chunk of 21st century junk–every digital photo you ever captured melted into oblivion. Digital nirvana. Your family’s memories just got barbecued. You’ve got zip. Nada–unless you have a print. No wait, that got burned too.

To avoid all of this, another copy of your digital photos at a remote location sounds like a great idea, but this scenario may turn into a logistical nightmare… I mean, who wants to get off their sofa on a Sunday afternoon to shuffle disks around town?–online storage service to your rescue! After shopping around for solutions, I opted for Amazon Simple Storage Solutions, namely Amazon S3, to backup my digital photographs and scans of negatives. Why Amazon? you may ask. On one hand, I don’t want to backup my photographs to a photo-sharing website like flickr or smugmug; I only want to backup the data, since my portfolio is on a website already and nobody needs to look at my bloopers. On the other hand, Amazon has been around the block for a while and I trust their services. More importantly, they save my data securely on their datacenters at a measly 15 cents per GB a month!

How do I get my stuff on Amazon S3?

Jungle Disk is the perfect vehicle to backup your data from your computer to your Amazon S3 storage and vice versa. Once you’ve entered your S3 “access key” and “secret access key”, provided by Amazon, your Jungle Disk shows on your computer like an external hard drive and you can copy your photos back and forth… Everything Jungle Disk does is encrypted and on top of that, Jungle Disk can do automatic back-ups for you – neat feature. Your photos are safe now, so it’s time to get back on the sofa and finish that movie on cable TV.

*** A lot has changed since I wrote this post back in 2008 and there are now plenty of easy to use cloud storage services, crashplan is one of the ***
I have since moved my data to Sign Up for crashplan which offers excellent backup software and unlimited storage for less than the cost of a hard drive

Buy an external hard drive from Amazon today to save your digital files

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About Markus

Markus Hartel is a (street) photographer, graphic designer and educator living and working in New York City.
You can purchase prints, or book a one-on-one street photography workshop directly on this site.

17 Responses to “What is the best way to store digital photos”

  1. […] We all like to take pictures with our digital cameras and copy the precious files to our computers for easy access and online posting. Eventually, we’ll end up with thousands of photos on our computer hard drives. So what is the best … AKLaGRC 840Read More… […]

  2. There is another option to backup data to cloud storage powered by Amazon S3. Check out CloudBerry Backup http://backup.cloudberrylab.com/ . It is one time fee and the rest what you pay for Amazon S3. Besides, there is no proprietary data format and you can access your data using other Amazon s3 tools. Supports all Amazon S3 regions and Reduced Redundancy Storage.

  3. TntDrive says:

    You can also consider using TntDrive ( http://tntdrive.com ) to store digital photos on Amazon S3. It allows you to easily mount Amazon S3 Buckets as a Windows Drive. So, you will be able to work with your photos as easily as if they were on your hard drive!

  4. […] what is the best way to store digital photos | Markus Hartel … Sep 10, 2010 … It is filed under learn from markus and tagged with backup digital data, store digital photos. … […]

  5. […] what is the best way to store digital photos | Markus Hartel … Sep 10, 2010 … what is the best way to store digital photos …. The Ultimate Exposure Calculator · Tina Manley … […]

  6. Malena says:

    I have a question more than a comment. So I really like the idea of storing my photos online so I did what you suggested and signed up for Amazon S3. When I first started I thought this would be perfect, however upon using the product I realized that I have no idea what I am getting charged for and for how much. I am sure it’s not a whole lot but I keep running into errors when uploading. I had a few uploads in process and then my internet encountered a problem and closed. Then when I realized I could do a folder under a bucket I was transfering photos and then there was an error but didn’t tell me why or what to do next. On top of all the errors I have no idea if I was charged for uploads in progress or ones that were finished plus the whole process was taking forever. I have spend an hour trying to upload and in the end gave up because of so many errors and the time it was taking for only a few photos. I ask if there is another more user friendly online company to store photos. I am not picky just want more of a user friendly and quicker process. I do want something that is secure and I can trust like Amazon. I don’t want to spend days or months uploading my photos online. I just am looking for something that will hold all my photos in one place. I have quite a few photos but I am not a professional so I don’t have tons of them. I agree that Amazon would have been great except I don’t like it. Any ideas or help would be great! Thanks so much for a great blog!!

    • mhartel says:

      it’ll take a while to upload large files… Amazon S3 has been good to me over the years, although I’m paying a little over $50 a month for a few hundred GB of storage.

      I’m just in the process of uploading my data to crashplan, which will take a few days, even with a fairly fast wideband cable connection. But crashplan is only $89 for 2 years, so I’m saving a few hundred bucks in the long run. S3 file uploads are faster though…

  7. failla says:

    Do you have to have a program like Jungle Disk to use S3? I’m not savvy on all of this, just want to figure out as much of this as I can before I sign up for anything!

  8. Jmt says:

    Microsoft Skydrive has 25 gb free online storage and you can open extra accounts

    • Coneyislandmermaid says:

      I noticed Microsoft Sky Drive has an issue with content posted. I put vintage era illustrations up- and they deemed it as nudity! Unreal- after that I decided I would store nothing with them since I had an art collection from true classic painting to illustrators like Vargas and if left up to BIG BROTHER at Microsoft they would deem tons of my collections as nudity- or worse :-(
      Be aware of what you wish to store. Apparently fine art is a problem

  9. Coneyislandmermaid says:

    Oh yeah- and there was a warning that if my content was not removed promptly I would lose my entire account. Rather than argue with whoever is doing this * screening process*- I just took down the images I had started putting up. I am just thankful it was only a handful and not a large collection.

  10. sorry to hear – that proves my point once again – I wouldn’t touch anything made by Microsoft with a flagpole…

  11. […] what is the best way to store digital photos | Markus Hartel … Sep 10, 2010 … Copy your digital photos to that drive. Immediatedly! Your back-up is accessible right away and your … […]

  12. JOHN CRAIG says:

    My solution : I bought a 2 T digital storage, a good fireproff and waterproof safe. I put it on my basement (bolted in the concrete floor), bought an other small fireproof case (put that digital storage in it and then in the safe). I will change my digital storage every 5 year since this is the usual time before it break down. Might song very complicated but THIS IS THE ONLY WAY THE SAVE YOUR PICTURES, FILMS AND MP3 FOR A LIFE TIME.