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.
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.
original article from 2008, I would think optical media is outdated by now, as everything lives in the cloud.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
A collection of New York black-and-white street photography from 2003-2013