It’s World Backup Day 2020. Today is a reminder that our irreplaceable photos need to be backed up regularly.
I’ll never forget reading a note attached to a porta-potty at the parking lot of a popular walking trail in Portland. It was addressed to the thief who had stolen a man’s cell phone, and it begged the thief to return the phone because it held the only photos of his daughter from her first year of life. Unfortunately, he hadn’t backed them up.
Stories like this are a reminder that digital files are vulnerable and we have to be intentional about keeping them safe—and backing them up is one of the best precautions you can take.
The important word for backing up is redundancy. That means more than one copy of something. For photos and other irreplaceable documents? It’s a must!
Here are my 5 favorite ways to back up photos:
#1 Use one or more external drives.
Copying your photos to an external drive will protect your digital files when your computer crashes or fails, because it’s not a question of whether your computer will fail but when, so keeping the only copies of your digital files on your computer is a recipe for disaster.
I actually use 2 drives. I keep important documents and photos on one external drive and back them up to a second external drive.
The newer solid state drives available now are so compact and they can store so much. I can hold them in the palm of my hand and yet each of these drives stores 2 TB of digital information and I can hold on.
But can’t a drive also fail? Oh, yes. We’ve had drives fail in the past. That’s why you back up your photos. It’s unlikely that both storage places will fail at the same time.
#2 Back up in more than one place.
It won’t do me any good to have two external drives if I keep them both in my house and my house burns down or a thief breaks in and steals my equipment. It doesn’t happen often but I’ll bet you know someone or have heard of someone in recent memory who lost everything in a house fire. Charlie and I know someone who lost their home to fire less than a year ago, and our cat Smokey, who we adopted as a refugee from the fires in California, is a constant reminder of what CAN happen.
So having a copy is good, but having a copy in a different location is even better. We happen to have a safety deposit box at our bank that came free with our account. So we keep a third external drive there and try to switch it out with a more current backup drive about once a month.
You can do the same thing by keeping an external drive with copies of your photos stashed at the home of a trusted relative or friend. Now that may feel like an old school way of doing it, but it does work!
#3 Keep a copy of your photos online in the cloud.
There are free online storage sites like Google Photos, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member you have free access to their photo storage as well. In both cases you can give permission to family and friends to access your photos, but be sure to read the fine print in the agreement. The photo storage is unlimited with certain restrictions but the free storage doesn’t include more than a very small amount of video storage, and your account can be deleted under certain conditions, so use these services but don’t rely on them for your only backup.
#4 Back up with companies who won’t delete your photos.
Some companies either say they will never delete your files or they guarantee a certain length of time, which is usually pretty long. For example, the website Forever.com has different levels of storage that you pay for one-time with the promise that they will keep your files for YOUR lifetime plus 100 years. You can give your family access to the photos and you can pass them on to family members as part of your estate.
Another company is Shutterfly.com, the photo book creation site. It’s free to upload your photos and they say they’ll never delete them. If you want your family members to access the photos I do recommend that you create a Shutterfly family share site. https://www.shutterfly.com/share-photos/family-websites.jsp?esch=1
#5 Create photo books online and have them printed.
Yes, you can make physical photo albums but they tend to be big and bulky and heavy and generally there’s only one copy! When you upload digital photos or scans to a photo book creation company you can create a beautiful book and make as many copies as you want.
Also books tend to be looked at more often as opposed to so many photos that never see the light of day—whether they’re heritage photos stashed away in a dusty old box in the back bedroom or digital photos you’ve accumulated on your smart phone.
But when you have a family book on your coffee table it’s much more likely that you and your family will enjoy it over and over.
And besides, when I make books I usually make copies for other family members who happen to live in different places, so that in itself creates redundancy. And of course you can also reprint a book you’ve created online if it gets lost or damaged.
So those are my 5 favorite ways to create redundancy—or multiple copies—of my irreplaceable photos. If you’ve already set up a back up system, take some time to double check it. And if you don’t have a backup system, wouldn’t today be a good day to set one up?
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