Best Way to Store Photos: Have 3 Backups of Everything!

best way to store photosKeeping your pictures safe is critical in today’s modern age. With digital photography many users simply don’t print out their favorite holiday snaps anymore, but keep them on a computer or a CD or even sitting in albums on portable devices like iPods and smart phones. If you’ve just got your hands on a new iPhone, check out this course and learn how you can create awesome photos. But don’t forget the risk. If you’re keeping everything in one place is massive, and what would happen if you lost your phone, your computer gets corrupted or the CD simply refuses to play?

What if that happened right now? Do you have all of your treasured memories backed up?

To make absolutely certain you never lose your photographs you need to make backups. The best backups comprise a range of different solutions, on everything from your computer, to external hard drives, optical discs like DVDs, flash memory USB sticks as well as online storage. To be fully protected in the event of a disaster you should also have one of your backups stored off site. Luckily, online storage makes this easy, and by having this protection you are secured against the loss of your photos from theft, fires, floods or any other disaster that could impact your home. Check out this course on using Drop Box and find out for yourself how easy it is to start backing up your digital life.

With every type of storage option you have, each has its own unique advantages. Have a look through the following options and you’ll start to get an idea of the strategy you need to implement to suit both the size of your photo library, and what’s required to continually back up new photos as the library grows.

Your first step is to get organized. Arrange all of your photos into relevant directories, so it’s easy for you to find the pictures you’re looking for by date and location. If you have large sets of photos from certain holidays, you can also subdivide the folders further. This not only helps you track down specific pictures, but makes it easier to manage the backups onto DVDs or USB thumb drives. You can learn a little more in this course that’s aimed specifically at getting the files on your computer in order. Now onto the backup options!

CD-ROM and DVD

These are one of the most common backup mediums, because they are cheap, and easy to store in your home. The downside is the amount of space they can hold, typically only 700 MB for a CD-ROM and 4.7 GB for a DVD. If you have a large photo collection, you’re going to need a massive stack of CD’s or DVD’s to back it all up, especially nowadays when people have 100 GB+ of photos.

The risk with using optical discs is that they can lose quality if they are scratched, or mistreated, or not stored in the right conditions. In addition, they tend to age and discs that are over about 5 years of age have been known to fail. Because of this, they are a great method to backup recent photos, or for you to share large albums of pictures with your friends, but they are not a great long term option.

You should never use the re-writable functions on a disc because they can fail and not work properly on computers other than the one they were created on, and packet writing software that lets you treat a disc like a hard drive is too risky for backing up your photos.

USB

The rapid advances in flash storage mean that it’s now very affordable to buy usb drives, at a range of different sizes. They are perfect for transferring photos between different computers, and can also serve as a temporary storage for your recent photos. You could have a number of these if you needed to back up a large collection of photos, or purchase one of the larger flash drives (64 GB is quite common), to store entire collections of backups.

External Hard Drives

The fastest and most convenient way to backup your photos is on an external hard drive. They vary in size from 500 GB to over 2-3 TB (terabytes). Many of the latest computers have USB 3 connections, which makes it rapid to transfer large photo albums between your computer and onto storage. There is also a range of automatic synchronization software that will automatically copy new photos from your computer onto the hard drive. Check out programs like FreeFileSync or PureSync from Jumping Bytes to make it easy, or simply drag and drop copies of your pictures that you want to backup onto the hard drive. These hard drives are very durable, and can last a long time as a backup option.

Online

There are a range of options for storing your photos online, which is very convenient as you can access them from anywhere, no matter what happens to your personal computer or the external hard drive sitting in the drawer in your desk. This option is attractive because most hard drives will fail (eventually), and using optical disks with only about 5 years of reliable shelf life (in perfect circumstances) isn’t great for backing up all of your memories.

Online file backup services offer the ability to backup your entire hard drive, which can automatically run on a schedule in the background. The benefit is that once you’ve set it up, you can forget all about it until you actually have a problem. The downside is that this type of solution is not very good at sharing your photos, but is perfect if you’re worried about your computer crashing, or disappearing. Check out providers like Mozy and Carbonite, who offer a range of plans to suit any needs, as well as IDrive which has a great plan at $5 a month for 150 GB worth of storage in your backups.

A second option is to upload all of your photos to a site that enables you to display them online, but before you get started make sure the program you use allows you to keep your personal pictures private. The best programs to check out are Flickr, Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery. Microsoft’s option is very good, because they also give you good desktop software and you get 25 GB of free storage. In comparison Picasa gives you only 1 GB free, and on Flickr you can get unlimited storage for just $25 per year. Flickr is great, and you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. For storage you can organize your photos into sets, and further organize individual albums into collections. In addition there is the ability to create groups, tagging, commenting and geo locations, as well as the standard social sharing abilities. Photobucket is another similar service, and easily integrates with Facebook. Snapfish is also easy to use and allows you to order photo books and prints in addition to their storage services. Picasa is Google’s flagship photo product and offers a huge range of sharing, editing and storage options, that is very integrated with Google+. Using dedicated sites that offer storage of your photos as a service also gives you access to better tools in managing your pictures, and options for ordering prints or even selling them to the masses.

Social sites like Facebook give you plenty of sharing options, but lack a proper back up. It’s great because it’s easy to share your holiday snaps with all your friends, and they easily accessible because they’re in a place you regularly access and use. The downside is that the photos you upload are reduced to a width of 720 pixels so that they can be displayed effectively on a computer screen, but Facebook never saves the original files at their maximum quality. It also doesn’t give you very many options beyond tagging your friends, liking pictures or writing a comment.

If you’re just looking for options to store your photos as files online, without additional features like photo editing, social networking and printing – your best bet is to use a cloud storage solution. Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive and Drop Box are some of the most popular cloud storage providers in the market, and they typically offer a range of options from free storage, to plans that cater to any storage requirements. The advantage is that there is rarely any restrictions on particular files, and it’s simple and easy to navigate the interfaces. The ability to share files and folders is also an option, allowing you to share photos with your friends and family as well as being able to re-download the full (high-quality) versions of each file whenever you wish.

Hosting your own site is the final option, and allows users complete control over their photos without any restrictions. The opportunities for doing this are endless, but the simplest way is to purchase a domain name and a hosting plan, and then install an easy to use interface like WordPress. From here, all you need to do is add a plug-in for creating a gallery, and then make any tweaks so it suits how you want it to look. The advantages are that you have complete control, but if you decide to head down this path without any web development experience you will need to spend a bit of time at first learning how to host and create your own website. You can learn how to get started with WordPress here. You can then add an additional layer of protection by also adding a regular backup to your site, so that in the event it does crash or go offline, you can restore it and get back all of your photos.

Overall the downside to storing your photos online is that there have been many cases where users lost data, or online storage companies have gone bust and access to their files was completely lost. If your account is hacked you can lose access or simply get locked out by the company, but this happens only in the rarest of occasions. The advantages to hosting your pictures online is that you can access them from anywhere, and it’s a great failsafe in the event your physical backup is lost or destroyed. Having both of these in place for your backup protects you from whatever happens, and ensures your pictures are safe.

The best way to store your photos is to have at least three copies of everything that’s important. Whatever option you choose you need to include at least one specific backup option that is kept off site, whether its online storage or a hard drive that you have kept for you at a relative or a friend’s house. Then all you need to worry about is getting out there and taking a bunch of great photos. Check out this recent post and learn the secrets for great DSLR photography and start snapping today!