Solutions for Backing Up Your Digital Photos

by Caroline Cohoon | April 18, 2013

By Caroline Cohoon

Protecting your data is always important and often a source of frustration. Chances are, you’ve lost photos/ music/ documents in the past to a hard drive failure or computer crash. Maybe you’ve even lost data to theft, or a natural disaster. A few years ago we had horrible wildfires in the Central Texas area and it made me think twice about my backup plans. I had important photos and files stored on an external hard drive (in my house) and some things burned to DVDs (ALSO in my house) and I realized a fire would take EVERYTHING.

photo back up, back up drives, photo workflow

I opened a safety deposit box at the bank. I figured that $50 a year would be money well spent to protect important papers, jewelry and yes, my backup files. For a while, I was using gold DVDs to save images. Those quickly filled up by small box, they are bulky, expensive (about $2/ disc last time I purchased them) and they only hold 4.5 GB of space each. Gold was important though because it was more archival than cheap aluminum discs those can fail after only 10 years but gold ones should last at least 50.

However, technology steams forward and meanwhile, CDs and DVDs are becoming about as obsolete as the floppy disc. Many new computers don’t even come with optical drives to read them! This made me switch to using an external hard drive for backups. A whole Terabyte of storage available that fits in the palm of my hand (AND in my safety deposit box) and cost less than $100.

This seemed like the perfect solution. Then I met a customer who had just lost ALL her photos when her external hard drive failed. This was a well-known, respected brand name drive but just like when your computer drive crashes, externals are prone to that as well. I began to become paranoid, do I need a SECOND external as a backup for my backup?

An online advertisement featuring 32GB USB thumb drives for only $25 each caught my eye. They were a brand name with a good reputation in memory, and after consulting some computer engineers I was assured that a flash drive is much more stable than a hard drive; "No moving parts," they said. So I bought 4. It’s not anywhere close to a Terabyte but it’s enough to save my most important things, and it’s one of the most secure options for backup storage. Imagine if one of these were to fail, at least it would only be a fraction of my total data rather than the whole lot at once.

I saved my files to the thumb drives by theme and labeled each one so if I needed them later I wouldn’t have to guess what was what. Now, these take up the LEAST about of space in my box at the bank and they are really easy to save to, access, and update when needed. Sure, I could sign up for "cloud" storage somewhere, and I do for things that I need regular access to. However, I’ve found this method much more cost-effective for the files that I don’t ever really need to look at on a monthly basis. Also, when you hear on the news about some big company’s "cloud" servers being hacked, you don’t have to worry that your information is compromised!

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