So in our first installment of Spring Cleaning Your Photos, we established a system for getting all of your pics from your various digital devices nicely organized onto one central computer. But here’s the rub: It’s not a question of “if” your computer’s hard drive will fail, it’s “when.” So that brings us to Spring Cleaning Your Photos Part 2: Backup.
External Hard Drives
These are your first and most important lines of defense in the quest to preserve your precious digital photo files. “Passport” or transportable external hard drives have much more memory and are more reliable than flash drives.
I strongly urge you to invest in at least one main external hard drive for your images – Western Digital makes great models for PCs and iMacs alike. I recommend at least 2TB of storage ($99.99 for PCs, $139.99 for iMacs). Remember that 2TB is equivalent to 2,000 GB or 2,000,000 MB. So let’s say the average file size for one of your photos is 3.5 MB – this hard drive has the capacity to hold more than 570,000 photo files if you use it for nothing else!
You should consider, however, owning two external hard drives: one for backing up copies of all of your computer’s existing files and one for moving photos and videos OFF of your computer’s hard drive to free up storage space and keep your computer moving quickly.
A special note to Mac users: The easiest way to use your external hard drive for overall backup is in conjunction with Mac’s Time Machine program. Essentially, Time Machine creates a backup of your entire hard drive at a moment in time so that if something goes wrong with your computer, you can revert back to when your files were in tact. The external hard drive will contain not just your backup photo files but of all your computer’s files. Just be sure to backup to your external hard drive regularly. You can even schedule the backup to happen automatically.
Up in the Air
There are many great online storage options available, all of which allow you to access your photos across multiple devices. Keep in mind that your photo files (and especially your video files) take up a lot of storage space. A quick look at the most popular options, divided into two categories:
1. User input required: You, the user, will need to remember to adjust your settings correctly and/or upload the files directly that you want to protect for these options. Smartphone and tablet apps are available for all to facilitate backing up across your devices.
Google Photos: This one is brand-spanking-new (just announced last Thursday) but the buzz is pretty exciting: free unlimited photo storage with easy interfacing across all your digital devices, plus cool features like photo searching by content (i.e. a search for the word “dog” turns up all your dog photos), location-tagging, one-click exporting to a hard drive, and tons of photo and video editing capabilities. But there is an important downside: Photos taken at a resolution higher than 16 megapixels will be down sampled, likewise for videos above 1080p. To avoid this, you can sign up for the Google Drive service and get 15 GB for free, 100 GB for $1.99 a month or 1 TB for $9.99 a month.
iCloud: If all your devices are made by Apple, this is an excellent option as it can allow you to access every photo and video you take from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or on iCloud.com. But take note: You only get 5GB of free storage and that will go very quickly. Monthly prices for higher storage are 20 GB ($1), 200 GB ($3.99), 500 GB ($9.99) and 1 TB ($19.99).
Amazon Cloud Drive: Amazon recently announced a new perk for their Prime customers (who pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping, Amazon Prime Video services, Amazon Music services and more): Unlimited photo storage plus 5 GB for videos and other files free. If you’re not a Prime member, you can get the same deal for $11.99 a year. If you want unlimited everything (photos plus videos and other files), the cost is $59.99 per year.
DropBox: Allows you 2 GB of space for free so that you can access and share your files from anywhere. DropBox Pro gives you 1 TB of storage for $9.99 a month.
Shutterfly and Snapfish: These online photo storefronts offer free, unlimited secure photo storage. Shutterfly goes a step further with a promise to never delete your photos. Plus, once you have your photos uploaded, it’s very easy to order prints and products and share albums with your friends and family.
Lyve Home: This newer option is a wifi-enabled, touch-screen 2 TB smart drive ($299) that syncs with all of your devices and platforms via the internet. It uploads pictures and videos directly from SD cards and USB ports as well as Dropbox, Google Drive, iPhoto and your desktop photos. It works in conjunction with the free Lyve app, which displays photos and videos from your computer, tablet and phone in a single, organized collection. It’s the only photo app that works across iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Macs and Window PCs. We haven’t tried this one ourselves here at Diane French Photography, but we’re hoping to in the future!
2. Set it and forget it: Similar to Mac’s Time Machine program, these options create a backup of your computer’s current files, but to an online cloud instead of an external hard drive. Once you install them and set up automatic payments, they will sync automatically as long as you are connected to the Internet. Make sure you understand what, exactly, is being backed up. Some might only be set up to handle the files that are on your desktop. Smartphone and tablet apps available for all.
Mozy: Back up your digital life to the Mozy cloud. Personal user plans start at $5.99/month for 50 GB and $9.99/month for 125 GB.
Carbonite: This option offers unlimited automatic and continuous cloud backup as long as you are connected to the internet. The basic plan is $59.99 per year per computer.
CrashPlan: Offers a free plan that features automatic backup to local hard drives and other trusted computers. Adding unlimited cloud storage, continuous backup and mobile file access starts at $5 per month. Expanding to unlimited backup for an entire family starts at $12.50 per month.
The Best Approach
My final piece of advice would be to take a multi-layered approach to your backup. I, myself, have one external hard drive constantly attached to my desktop for continuous syncing with Time Machine. I also own multiple external hard drives for moving my photo files off of my computer to free up storage space. For my all my session, I also have online storage for my final images. As for online storage, I encourage you to explore the options above and use at least one to help provide additional insurance for your images. With a combination of two external hard drives and at least one of the online storage options above, you should never be without your most treasured pictures.
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