I just had an external hard drive (from 2013) fail. I was trying to get an image off of it, and the drive took forever to boot up, and when it did, I got a message saying that the files were damaged and/or corrupt. There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of client images on this hard drive. Did it send me into a state of panic — curled up in a tiny ball and rocking in a corner because I lost all of these images? Um. Nope. Because I have back-ups of everything.
The truth is, technology is not perfect. Hard drives DO fail. And it is my responsibility to protect my client’s images, and one that I take seriously. But I am JUST as serious about backing up my personal images. In this digital age, none of us are printing our photos as much as we should (even me), and it would be just crushing to lose photos from when my kids were little (look how cute they were!)>>
I’m sure most of my clients feel this way about their own images, whether they were taken by me or snapped on their iPhone. 20 years from now, your photographs will be the best way for you to remember things as they were now. Take good care of them.
So here is my little PSA for the day. I know there are probably many different ways to do this, and I’m not an IT person, but this is my back up system and it works for me:
1) Print them! Really. Most of us don’t do it enough. But for your personal images, you can print through MPix.com for next to nothing per 4×6. I just printed hundreds of personal 4×6’s from the entire year 2012. I intend to do the same for every other year as well, so that I have physical copies of everything. Technology changes, hard drives fail, but if you’ve ever looked at photos from your grandma’s wedding (even though they may have discolored), they are still something you can hold in your hand and talk about.
2) Get them off of your main computer hard drive. I don’t keep ANY images on my computer itself. They just take up too much space. Not to mention, I’d just have to move them next time I get a new computer (such a pain!). Go to Amazon and get yourself a few Western Digital My Passport external hard drives. These are mini hard drives (super portable too!) that plug right into the USB port on your computer. Move your images onto one of them, and then copy them on to the other so that you have an original and a back up. Then whenever you take new photos, import them onto drive #1 and then copy onto drive #2. I label my external drives with the year and “Drive 1” and “Drive 2” etc, or “Personal Photos”. I organize everything by year, and I rename files on import so that I know what they are.
3) Sign yourself up for a Crashplan account. Backblaze is another option (and there are definitely others). For $5.00 a month, you can link your computer and any external hard drives to your account and everything will backup continuously without you even thinking about it. If your hard drive were to crash, or God forbid, there was a fire, everything would be available in the cloud.
4) If you have a Mac, Time Machine is a great tool for backing up both your main drive and your externals. Connect another My Passport external hard drive (see recommendation above) that will be dedicated to Time Machine back ups. All of your files are automatically backed up every single day. Here are some great instructions on the Apple website. If you are going to back up your main computer plus another external hard drive of images, you’ll need an external drive with enough space — I’d go with a 2 or 3TB drive at least to be safe.
Could you just get away with one external hard drive and the cloud back-up? Sure. But I don’t like to keep all my eggs in one basket. Any of these cloud services could go out of business at any time (who knows, right?) so I want to make extra sure that I have back ups. Just to be extra safe, I actually have yet ANOTHER back up copy of every client’s final images saved with my proofing host. Maybe you don’t need to be as diligent as me, but it certainly can’t hurt.
Some people ask about storing their images on CDs or DVDs, and I tell them they are much better off to use external hard drives. DVDs are becoming obsolete. (Neither of my computers even has a DVD drive in it.) Not to mention, burned CDs and DVDs degrade over time. Do you really want to be de-archiving your DVDs onto new storage devices the way you have to transfer old home movies from VHS? Some people consider USB drives another option, but the truth is they are small and easily lost and they won’t hold nearly as much as an external hard drive which can cost as little as $60, depending on the size. Keep the boxes they come in and you can store them safely in that once they are full. (Just double check that your cloud storage company continues to save data once you disconnect an external drive from your computer — not all do.) That’s not to say that in the future there won’t be an entirely different technology to store our data, but for now, in my opinion, this is the best and safest option (aside from printing!).
It’s easy to build up a huge library of images, and it can seem overwhelming to reign them in, but with a workflow and the right tools in place it’s easy.
And, I’ll say it one more time — PRINT your images! If you keep up with it each year, you might be lucky enough to be sitting with your grandkids on your lap one day, flipping through old photographs with them, and feeling pretty happy that you have this tangible documentation of the past.
Ps. On that final note — if you love Instagram like I do, a great profile to follow is Save Family Photos. The website is http://savefamilyphotos.com. You’ll find such great stories on there, and maybe you can even share one of you own.