5 Ways To Never Lose Your Photos

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The following post on Ways To Never Lose Your Photos is by San Francisco based photographer Jim M. Goldstein. Learn more about him at the end of this post.

5 Ways To Never Lose Your Photos.jpg

Image by pinball215

The biggest nightmare of every photographer is the thought of catastrophic loss of their photographs. In the days of film, options were limited and often serious photographers would keep their negatives and slides in fire proof safes or bank safe deposit boxes. Even still several great photographers have had their work taken from them due to fire, water damage and even sub-grade storage supplies. Digital photography provides an additional level of complexity to photographers as they look to keep their photographic work safe. Now in addition to fire and water damage there is the risk of file corruption, failed drives and file format obsolescence. With increased risk comes the responsibility to be diligent in heading off such catastrophes with a solid backup plan. Below are 5 steps you can take to minimize risk of losing your digital photos.

1. Immediately back-up your photos to DVD after off loading them to your computer from your compact flash cards

Here is where procrastination can get the better of you. I have known several people who have accidentally deleted files from their compact flash cards before backing their photos up or deleted files from their computer with out having a backup. These days it’s not too hard to find a deal on a 100 disc spool of DVDs. Have one on hand and take the extra 15 minutes to burn a disc.

2. Backup your photos to a spare hard drive

Once you’ve copied your files over to your computer your next step should be to duplicate your files on a spare drive. Hard drives are a far faster mechanism to back up large quantities of files. Unfortunately their downside is that they break from time to time. As a result one should always spread out the risk of such a failure by having copies on multiple drives.

One should be mindful that there are other ways of accomplishing this step besides manually copying files from one drive to another. Hard drives with RAID setups can diffuse risk of drive failures by providing some level of automation to the process. RAID 1 will mirror content between two drives automatically while RAID 5 will spread your files across multiple drives all while maintaining enough overlap between them to restore a drive if one fails. See here for more on RAID.

3. Backup your photos to a spare hard drive you keep outside of your home or business

Maintaining a spare drive with your photos at home is only half the battle. Keeping another spare drive away from your other backups is critical especially when accounting for fire or natural disasters. For most this may seem like paranoia is setting in, but this best practice is one adopted by professional photographers and businesses alike. Whether photographs or customer information it in the end is data and best practices around data backup are the same. I have several friends that will keep their off-site backups with family or at their place of work. In either case be sure your off-site backup is far enough away from home that it won’t be subject to the same risks, but accessible enough that you can make frequent updates.

4. Upload copies to an online archiving service such as Photoshelter

Another option that has gained increased popularity is subscribing to online archiving services. These services themselves have complex drive and system redundancy keeping your uploaded files on servers in different geographical locations. These services do cost money and their is a time commitment required to upload your file. The upside to these types of services is that they are continually expanding their product offerings enabling subscribers to display and sell their work. This by no means is mandatory for people to do, but it is an option worth evaluating.

5. Update both your file and backup formats to a modern standard

One risk that is often overlooked is time. Film or prints deteriorate over time while digital equivalents face the risk of file/backup format obsolescence.  Not too long ago floppy disks were the back up format of choice, followed by CD and now DVD. In addition hard drives continue to expand in capacity and have evolving interfaces Parallel, SCSI, Firewire 400, Firewire 800, USB 1.0 and USB 2.0. I won’t even go into the niche of removable drives that seems to have come and gone. In addition file formats are constantly evolving, GIF, JPEG, TIF, PSD, DNG, proprietary RAW formats and who knows what else is to come. As a result of this changing landscape photographers must be on top of new technology trends and not just be willing, but eager to keep their archives up to date.

Photography certainly has many more dimensions to it these days and backing up photos is a critical facet to a modern workflow. Staying ahead of the game will not only help you avoid headaches at some point in the future it may actually give you a competitive edge if you expand your efforts beyond hobbyist pursuits.

So do you have your photos backed up?

This post was written by Jim M. Goldstein. Jim’s landscape, nature, travel and photojournalism photography is featured on his web site JMG-Galleries.com, and blog. In addition Jim’s podcast “EXIF and Beyond” features photographer interviews and chronicles the creation of some of his images. In addition Jim can be followed on Twitter and FriendFeed.

Read more from our category

Jim Goldstein

is a San Francisco based professional photographer. An author as well as a photographer Jim has been published in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Popular Photography and has self-published a PDF eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension – Time covering numerous slow shutter techniques. His latest work and writing can be found on his JMG-Galleries blog and on 500px

  • J F

    I use an online service called JungleDisk (http://www.jungledisk.com/) It installs as a ‘virtual drive’ on your computer, and the files are stored encrypted up on Amazon.com’s S3 service. You pay a small amount per GB transferred and per GB stored each month, so instead of spending a bunch of money on hard drive capacity that sits empty you are paying only for what you need. S3 has redundant data storage at each site, and your data is backed up across multiple sites around the country. You can also access your files through a web interface, so if you are at a clients site with a dead laptop battery you can still get work done.

    I recommend it for anyone!

  • I would like to add that if you shoot in RAW, to convert your images to DNG (digital Negative) it’s an open format released by Adobe that is being touted as a future compatible file format.

    Some Camera Raw formats eventually become obsolete and a few years down the road, if you want to look at your old raw files, you may be out of luck as they software support for older proprietary files disappear.

  • *sigh* for some reason point 5 didn’t show up for me until after I posted and I made a fool of myself.

  • I use amazon web services (S3) for doing off site backups. It’s pretty much the best and cheapest file storage around today.

  • Saul Mora

    Second on amazon s3. I use a combination of the “Backup to” feature in the Lightroom import dialog and a later automatic upload to amazon w3 with Jungle disk. That way, I have at least 3 copies, and one of those is off site.

  • One thing, which should be kept in mind is that if you lose all your local data, how long it takes to recover all that data from your offsite location.
    If your bandwidth is somehow limited, it could take days or weeks to restore all the files through the wire vs. retrieving the USB/Firewire/… backup disk from office and plugging it in.

  • Russell Smith

    Just thought I’d mention that RAID isn’t a replacement for a manual external backup.
    Don’t forget that it won’t protect you from the most common form of data loss, commonly refered to as the ‘oh !?*@ I didn’t mean to delete that’.
    RAID is good for uptime on servers but not data security.

  • I’d suggest to keep the hard drives running and not powering them on and off every day. It’s a known fact that hard drives have a tendency to fail during the boot up process though new drives have technology that should bring this possibility down to a very minimum.
    Personally I have my hard drives run 24/7 and only power them off when necessary or when there’s a power outage and I’ve never had a hard drive fail in a way that it wasn’t recoverable.
    There are also recovery services available that can get the information off a damaged hard drive. I’d also recommend to stay away from Solid State Disks for backup because if the motherboard of the disk were to fail the data is nearly impossible to recover where standard platter hard drives don’t have this occur.

  • Is there any downside of using flickr for backup reasons (pro account has access to original sizes)? OK – only .jpeg, but anything else I’m not aware of?

  • Bob

    I use SuperDuper to clone my macbook (containing all of my pictures) to 3 separate drives (rotating through one per week). The nice thing about cloning the drive instead of just copying it is that I can boot from the external drive if (when) the internal drive fails and recover all of my settings.

    I haven’t setup an off-site storage (probably at the office) yet, but probably will at some point. Also, I’m still experimenting with Mozy for online backup ($5/month for unlimited storage, yes please).

    At what point do you make the switch to a new file format? Or do you keep multiple copies of every photo in multiple formats? What about the lossy-ness of converting between formats?

  • I’ve just posted part one of a non-photo-centric backup strategy article. It may be of interest and/or relevance to folks considering their needs from a photo-only or photo-centric point of view.

    https://gallopinc.com/blog/?p=81

  • I use a two local disk backups (one automated, the other manual) and mozy.com for automated remote backups. I can restore from mozy using a download or requesting a DVD copy. I hope that’s enough!

  • Mike B.

    For the less tech savvy (i.e. parents), I know that there are services that scan hard copy photographs for a fee. ScanDigital is one that I’m aware of. The first step for a lot of older people is to make sure you have digital copies to begin with! Just a suggestion!

  • Tim

    I’ve been using Amazon S3 as I already use it to backup my web servers. For backing up my photos I use Jungle Disk which makes it a snap. It automatically checks my photo folders for new/changed files and uploads them every day.

    The key for backups working properly is automation. Otherwise there will be a time when you will forget to backup some of your photos and of course that’ll be the day the computer crashes..

    Also, it’s best to keep windows on one drive and your photos on another. Then if all else fails you can format the windows drive and do a clean install and still have your photos.

  • I have DVD, Spare HDD’s, and I have SmugMug for my backup solutions.

    http://www.petelanglois.net

  • Don’t forget the best method of all at least for the keepers.

    Archival Quality Prints

    Not technology dependant and will last 400 years on the right papers.

    I do this for all my fine art images. I store these in those 4×4 metal maps cabinets.

    I am trying to figure how to find and alternates site to also store these. A little harder as it does take up physical space.

    Niels Henriksen

  • I store all my original RAW files on my Drobo external hard drive.

    Its try though that I should use DVDs or have offsite backups of my work for true piece of mind.

  • DVDs at home
    DVDs at the office
    DVDs in safe deposit box
    2 laptops at home
    2 external HDDs at home
    About to have one HDD in safe deposit box
    Overkill. You betcha.

  • I use Picasa’s ‘Tools\Backup Pictures…’ feature – I organize all my shots with Picasa and periodically make full backups to DVDs… and it’s free. 🙂
    Cheers,
    Mungo

  • Teewinot

    Great tips! I do regular DVD backups, have RAID set up with 2 hard drives on my pc, and also use a service called CrashPlan to back up all my files remotely over the internet to a third hard drive.

  • DVDs are useless for more than a few years. Optical media (the type we burn) is fugitive and will lose data over time. Stick ro HDD or solid state media. I have a 500 gb raid and that gets backed up to an external on a regular basis. I store the external elsewhere. I used to use DVDs, but I have had a few come up with errors. They were only a few years old.

  • Captain Obvious

    Firstly, if you’re doing ARCHIVING, then get Plextor drives.

    Period.

    Ever notice that when your dvd-drive dies, and you get a new one, it can’t read the discs you’ve made?

    THAT is why to get only Plextor.

    Burn it on a Plextor, read it on a Plextor.

    The whole business of “uh-oh, it SHOULD read?!?!?!”
    -followed by weeping-

    is preventable.

    Secondly: use DVD-RW discs instead of write-once discs:
    the write-once discs write into organic-dye, which, having been damaged by “burning”, begins breaking down much quicker.

    A test, that I can’t find right now, discovered that ALL -R ( organic-dye ) discs became unreadable in 2 years.

    RW discs, however, write into the crystalization-in-metal.

    Anealed metal? blank
    patterns of crystalization? data

    Metal’s much more stabil than organic-dye, so it’s more trustworthy for data-keeping.

    Thirdly, standards-drift, among other things…

    If you NEED to keep access to your disc-data, transcribe it, every year, to a new set of discs ( but keep the older ones, for alternate-location storage ).

    If the newest drives can’t read the original DVD-r discs, by updating every year, you’ve missed that total-loss.

    If the chemistry of the glue in all DVDs was faulty for a year or two ( happened, can’t remember if it was CD-R or DVD-R ), by transcribing in *1* year, you recover your data from bit-rot before bit-rot gets fatal/discovered.

    Finally, if you’re using hard drives, know that they have to be “spun-up” every 6 months or so, or the bearings in ’em can die ( spinning ’em distributes the lubricant that floats the parts apart, in the bearing — if it gets too dry, it’ll start without enough lube to “float” the parts, and -grind- dead drive — read up on Fluid Dynamic Bearing – it’s fluid instead of ball-bearings )

    Bank Safe Deposit Boxes are good places for Blu-Ray archives & DVD archives.

    Addonics.com has multi-drive boxes for massive storage off of an e-SATA port ( use a Port Multiplier in the 4-drive box, and you get all four drives on 1 cable )

  • Sam

    The adobe raw converter will not go away over night, so there really is no reason to convert any RAW files to DNG yet: You will still be able to convert them later on.

    Or does really someone think PCs as we know them will be replaced over night?

  • Sam: not overnight and at least there will be applications that will still be able to open the old formats or we can find the old application that can open them 😉
    I keep my files in RAW and PSD when I do modifications to the images though I’ve been more inclined to only keeping the RAW and JPEG files.
    I tried the backup to DVD but the software said that there were errors on the DVD copy but still haven’t gone through the trouble of confirming this.

  • matt b

    I shot five years worth of digital that sat on a computer hard drive, and were backed up onto an external hdd in case my main drive should fail. Just over two years ago, i was burgled and the *&#%$ took both drives, meaning i lost over 90% of my work, and most of what i did still have were in stupidly small resized and compressed files for use on the web. Regardless of bandwidth or hassle factors, never EVER discount the security of storing these on another medium well away from your house or place of business. I sure as hell won’t.

  • First, DNG used to be great but now that RAAW converter are built in Mac OS X it is doubtful that one format will vanish. Even then, if you have any of the big brand SLR, a converter will always be around.

    Also, keeping your original RAW files allows better interpretation from most decoder since they have RAW specific interpreter and I am not sure that they can optimize DNG files the same way (I know they used to not be able to do so).

    As for the Drobo, you should be aware of its limitation, as outlined at the end of my post here: http://www.megapixelicio.us/2008/06/22/reinstalling-everything-and-drobo-bashing/

    The best backup is S3, if you can afford the bandwidth. Just make sure that you have an alternate backup in case Amazon vanishes overnight…

    I wonder how the introduction to the mass market of SSD will affect our backup strategy because these things are supposed to much longer than normal HD.

  • I’m not an expert on HD vs SSD but I do know that flash memory is actually not as long lasting as it’s expected and to avoid killing a bit in the flash memory the SSD shuffles the bits around which means that it must keep a table that changes constantly. If the motherboard of the drive were to fail you lost everything since only the company can apply their algorithm that shuffles the bits around to get your data back.
    One flash chip dies within the SSD and you are going to find it very hard to get the data back.
    My position on the whole HD vs SSD is that I’ll use SSD on the laptops and those devices that move quite often and HDs on the servers and desktop computers because it’s easier to get data off a failed HD the worst scenario being that the head touched the platter which is something that nothing will save you from but it’s not a very common thing to happen.

  • I back up my pick files on hard drives and one DVD for my raw files. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. But, the more places you store the better off you are. A minimum of three locations or media is highly recommended.

    Good resource is Peter Krogh’s Book http://www.thedambook.com/

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • Chuck

    To those who use Amazon to store files: How much data do you store and how much does it cost?

  • Benjamin Bielefeld

    Hey, I think that these are great ideas, as for me I have Time Machine set up to my mac that updates all my files hourly which I think is great. I also have a second external hard drive strictly for photos, edited and originals. I don’t think that I could keep up with a DVD every time I download from my SD Card. So Time Machine has my back.

  • Simple:

    1. Backup locally to a Drobo (I run Microsoft SyncToy every night and sync all my stuff to the Drobo)

    2. Use Carbonite to backup (real time) to off-site storage.

    Both of these work automagically and you never have to think about it or worry about it. Carbonite is absolutely awesome at $80/year for unlimited storage.

  • I just use my flickr account (pro, obv). It’s like $25 a year, and since I use it anyways, I just keep extra, private sets where I upload all files to archives whenever I upload them to my PC. the images are private and are there for as long as I use the service.

  • I use rewritable dvds. I do incremental backups each time I transfer photos from my sd card to the pc, when the rewritable dvd is full, I make 2 copies of it. Then, I blank the rewritable dvd, and start all over again.

    Also, I use an external usb hd, so that I can manage ALL the photos in a fast way, without start searching for photos in the dvds. I update the library on the external hd every time I copy photos from the sd card. One last thing, on the usb hd, I have my photos organized yearly. I have a directory for each year and in each of this directory, I create ~4.5GB directories, so, if I need it, I can create more backup dvds very quickly.

    Ciao!

  • Kelly

    Another vote for Carbonite. It’s online, remote storage with unlimited space. The best part is it’s automatic. There is a small application that runs on your computer and looks for new files. At least once a day it send the new files off to be backed up.

    For only $50 a year I’m storing over 40 gigs worth of files. I’m protected against computer failure, hard drive failure, water damage, fire damage, and burglary.

  • hard drives. two states. failed, or failing.

    multiple on and off site drives.

    you’re only as good as your last backup…

    dvd’s are a waste of time (hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion) … if you use dvd’s.. keep them in the dark.

  • I truly believe in backing up all my photgraphs. I use rewritable DVD’s and USB Flash Drives works real well.

  • Morgana

    I save to back-up drive as well as an online archive [Photoshelter, which I highly recommend]. 🙂

  • I keep the images on the card after uploading to my computer for 24 hours. In those 24 hours, I will have made two local backups, and one local backup (all automatic). I’m using Super Duper, Time Machine, and Amazon S3 (using JungleDisk).

  • Er, that should be “two local backups, and one remote backup”

  • DanDruk

    My wife got me a 2GB USB wristwatch, so I back up all my smaller, important files on it. Since I always have it with me, it’s tough to lose.

  • Mike H

    I have a local array of 750gb HD’s on the desktop, that get backed up to a 2TB(Raid 5) NAS on my network every night.

    Then on occasion, I sync to an external HD and take that to work for safe keeping.

    If my house burns down, I’ll have bigger problems than my photos 🙂

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but backing up 6+MB images to online services can get quite time consuming…

    Plus there is that privacy issue.

  • 1) computer

    2) external hard drive

    3) another external hard drive in another building, city, state or continent

    4) repeat as OCD tendencies deem necessary

  • Hi,
    I wonder if someone could let me know if storing DVDs in card board sleeves is a good idea.

    Gratis!
    Mahadevan Subramanian

  • Mahadevan Subramanian : Storing optical disks in the dark is always best… Just make sure the sleeve doesn’t scratch the disk 🙂

    Sime

  • My choice goes to automated online backup services, KoffeePhoto in particular. Its photo dedicated desktop software takes care of the upload of the pictures and, if needed, the restoration of the files. Nothing to care about.

Some Older Comments

  • Carl November 23, 2008 09:55 am

    My choice goes to automated online backup services, KoffeePhoto in particular. Its photo dedicated desktop software takes care of the upload of the pictures and, if needed, the restoration of the files. Nothing to care about.

  • Sime July 30, 2008 09:09 pm

    Mahadevan Subramanian : Storing optical disks in the dark is always best... Just make sure the sleeve doesn't scratch the disk :)

    Sime

  • Mahadevan Subramanian July 30, 2008 07:29 pm

    Hi,
    I wonder if someone could let me know if storing DVDs in card board sleeves is a good idea.

    Gratis!
    Mahadevan Subramanian

  • Thomas Locke Hobbs July 26, 2008 09:03 am

    1) computer

    2) external hard drive

    3) another external hard drive in another building, city, state or continent

    4) repeat as OCD tendencies deem necessary

  • Mike H July 24, 2008 10:01 pm

    I have a local array of 750gb HD's on the desktop, that get backed up to a 2TB(Raid 5) NAS on my network every night.

    Then on occasion, I sync to an external HD and take that to work for safe keeping.

    If my house burns down, I'll have bigger problems than my photos :)

    I don't know about the rest of you, but backing up 6+MB images to online services can get quite time consuming...

    Plus there is that privacy issue.

  • DanDruk July 12, 2008 12:37 pm

    My wife got me a 2GB USB wristwatch, so I back up all my smaller, important files on it. Since I always have it with me, it's tough to lose.

  • Mark Jaquith July 11, 2008 02:10 pm

    Er, that should be "two local backups, and one remote backup"

  • Mark Jaquith July 11, 2008 01:45 pm

    I keep the images on the card after uploading to my computer for 24 hours. In those 24 hours, I will have made two local backups, and one local backup (all automatic). I'm using Super Duper, Time Machine, and Amazon S3 (using JungleDisk).

  • Morgana July 11, 2008 08:41 am

    I save to back-up drive as well as an online archive [Photoshelter, which I highly recommend]. :)

  • David Sisley July 11, 2008 08:28 am

    I truly believe in backing up all my photgraphs. I use rewritable DVD's and USB Flash Drives works real well.

  • Sime July 10, 2008 06:56 pm

    hard drives. two states. failed, or failing.

    multiple on and off site drives.

    you're only as good as your last backup...

    dvd's are a waste of time (hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion) ... if you use dvd's.. keep them in the dark.

  • Kelly July 10, 2008 06:35 am

    Another vote for Carbonite. It's online, remote storage with unlimited space. The best part is it's automatic. There is a small application that runs on your computer and looks for new files. At least once a day it send the new files off to be backed up.

    For only $50 a year I'm storing over 40 gigs worth of files. I'm protected against computer failure, hard drive failure, water damage, fire damage, and burglary.

  • Lorenzo Ferrara July 9, 2008 10:55 pm

    I use rewritable dvds. I do incremental backups each time I transfer photos from my sd card to the pc, when the rewritable dvd is full, I make 2 copies of it. Then, I blank the rewritable dvd, and start all over again.

    Also, I use an external usb hd, so that I can manage ALL the photos in a fast way, without start searching for photos in the dvds. I update the library on the external hd every time I copy photos from the sd card. One last thing, on the usb hd, I have my photos organized yearly. I have a directory for each year and in each of this directory, I create ~4.5GB directories, so, if I need it, I can create more backup dvds very quickly.

    Ciao!

  • Robin Ryan July 9, 2008 02:45 pm

    I just use my flickr account (pro, obv). It's like $25 a year, and since I use it anyways, I just keep extra, private sets where I upload all files to archives whenever I upload them to my PC. the images are private and are there for as long as I use the service.

  • Bill Boem July 9, 2008 01:45 pm

    Simple:

    1. Backup locally to a Drobo (I run Microsoft SyncToy every night and sync all my stuff to the Drobo)

    2. Use Carbonite to backup (real time) to off-site storage.

    Both of these work automagically and you never have to think about it or worry about it. Carbonite is absolutely awesome at $80/year for unlimited storage.

  • Benjamin Bielefeld July 9, 2008 01:01 pm

    Hey, I think that these are great ideas, as for me I have Time Machine set up to my mac that updates all my files hourly which I think is great. I also have a second external hard drive strictly for photos, edited and originals. I don't think that I could keep up with a DVD every time I download from my SD Card. So Time Machine has my back.

  • Chuck July 9, 2008 12:27 pm

    To those who use Amazon to store files: How much data do you store and how much does it cost?

  • Rosh July 9, 2008 10:44 am

    I back up my pick files on hard drives and one DVD for my raw files. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. But, the more places you store the better off you are. A minimum of three locations or media is highly recommended.

    Good resource is Peter Krogh's Book http://www.thedambook.com/

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • Luis Murillo July 9, 2008 08:39 am

    I'm not an expert on HD vs SSD but I do know that flash memory is actually not as long lasting as it's expected and to avoid killing a bit in the flash memory the SSD shuffles the bits around which means that it must keep a table that changes constantly. If the motherboard of the drive were to fail you lost everything since only the company can apply their algorithm that shuffles the bits around to get your data back.
    One flash chip dies within the SSD and you are going to find it very hard to get the data back.
    My position on the whole HD vs SSD is that I'll use SSD on the laptops and those devices that move quite often and HDs on the servers and desktop computers because it's easier to get data off a failed HD the worst scenario being that the head touched the platter which is something that nothing will save you from but it's not a very common thing to happen.

  • Megapixelicious July 9, 2008 08:26 am

    First, DNG used to be great but now that RAAW converter are built in Mac OS X it is doubtful that one format will vanish. Even then, if you have any of the big brand SLR, a converter will always be around.

    Also, keeping your original RAW files allows better interpretation from most decoder since they have RAW specific interpreter and I am not sure that they can optimize DNG files the same way (I know they used to not be able to do so).

    As for the Drobo, you should be aware of its limitation, as outlined at the end of my post here: http://www.megapixelicio.us/2008/06/22/reinstalling-everything-and-drobo-bashing/

    The best backup is S3, if you can afford the bandwidth. Just make sure that you have an alternate backup in case Amazon vanishes overnight...

    I wonder how the introduction to the mass market of SSD will affect our backup strategy because these things are supposed to much longer than normal HD.

  • matt b July 9, 2008 08:19 am

    I shot five years worth of digital that sat on a computer hard drive, and were backed up onto an external hdd in case my main drive should fail. Just over two years ago, i was burgled and the *&#%$ took both drives, meaning i lost over 90% of my work, and most of what i did still have were in stupidly small resized and compressed files for use on the web. Regardless of bandwidth or hassle factors, never EVER discount the security of storing these on another medium well away from your house or place of business. I sure as hell won't.

  • Luis Murillo July 9, 2008 08:14 am

    Sam: not overnight and at least there will be applications that will still be able to open the old formats or we can find the old application that can open them ;)
    I keep my files in RAW and PSD when I do modifications to the images though I've been more inclined to only keeping the RAW and JPEG files.
    I tried the backup to DVD but the software said that there were errors on the DVD copy but still haven't gone through the trouble of confirming this.

  • Sam July 9, 2008 07:11 am

    The adobe raw converter will not go away over night, so there really is no reason to convert any RAW files to DNG yet: You will still be able to convert them later on.

    Or does really someone think PCs as we know them will be replaced over night?

  • Captain Obvious July 9, 2008 06:48 am

    Firstly, if you're doing ARCHIVING, then get Plextor drives.

    Period.

    Ever notice that when your dvd-drive dies, and you get a new one, it can't read the discs you've made?

    THAT is why to get only Plextor.

    Burn it on a Plextor, read it on a Plextor.

    The whole business of "uh-oh, it SHOULD read?!?!?!"
    -followed by weeping-

    is preventable.

    Secondly: use DVD-RW discs instead of write-once discs:
    the write-once discs write into organic-dye, which, having been damaged by "burning", begins breaking down much quicker.

    A test, that I can't find right now, discovered that ALL -R ( organic-dye ) discs became unreadable in 2 years.

    RW discs, however, write into the crystalization-in-metal.

    Anealed metal? blank
    patterns of crystalization? data

    Metal's much more stabil than organic-dye, so it's more trustworthy for data-keeping.

    Thirdly, standards-drift, among other things...

    If you NEED to keep access to your disc-data, transcribe it, every year, to a new set of discs ( but keep the older ones, for alternate-location storage ).

    If the newest drives can't read the original DVD-r discs, by updating every year, you've missed that total-loss.

    If the chemistry of the glue in all DVDs was faulty for a year or two ( happened, can't remember if it was CD-R or DVD-R ), by transcribing in *1* year, you recover your data from bit-rot before bit-rot gets fatal/discovered.

    Finally, if you're using hard drives, know that they have to be "spun-up" every 6 months or so, or the bearings in 'em can die ( spinning 'em distributes the lubricant that floats the parts apart, in the bearing -- if it gets too dry, it'll start without enough lube to "float" the parts, and -grind- dead drive -- read up on Fluid Dynamic Bearing - it's fluid instead of ball-bearings )

    Bank Safe Deposit Boxes are good places for Blu-Ray archives & DVD archives.

    Addonics.com has multi-drive boxes for massive storage off of an e-SATA port ( use a Port Multiplier in the 4-drive box, and you get all four drives on 1 cable )

  • tyler July 9, 2008 06:17 am

    DVDs are useless for more than a few years. Optical media (the type we burn) is fugitive and will lose data over time. Stick ro HDD or solid state media. I have a 500 gb raid and that gets backed up to an external on a regular basis. I store the external elsewhere. I used to use DVDs, but I have had a few come up with errors. They were only a few years old.

  • Teewinot July 9, 2008 05:55 am

    Great tips! I do regular DVD backups, have RAID set up with 2 hard drives on my pc, and also use a service called CrashPlan to back up all my files remotely over the internet to a third hard drive.

  • Mungo July 9, 2008 05:52 am

    I use Picasa's 'Tools\Backup Pictures...' feature - I organize all my shots with Picasa and periodically make full backups to DVDs... and it's free. :-)
    Cheers,
    Mungo

  • Chad July 9, 2008 05:07 am

    DVDs at home
    DVDs at the office
    DVDs in safe deposit box
    2 laptops at home
    2 external HDDs at home
    About to have one HDD in safe deposit box
    Overkill. You betcha.

  • Ed O'Keeffe July 9, 2008 04:56 am

    I store all my original RAW files on my Drobo external hard drive.

    Its try though that I should use DVDs or have offsite backups of my work for true piece of mind.

  • My camera World July 9, 2008 02:55 am

    Don't forget the best method of all at least for the keepers.

    Archival Quality Prints

    Not technology dependant and will last 400 years on the right papers.

    I do this for all my fine art images. I store these in those 4x4 metal maps cabinets.

    I am trying to figure how to find and alternates site to also store these. A little harder as it does take up physical space.

    Niels Henriksen

  • Pete Langlois July 9, 2008 02:50 am

    I have DVD, Spare HDD's, and I have SmugMug for my backup solutions.

    http://www.petelanglois.net

  • Tim July 9, 2008 02:16 am

    I've been using Amazon S3 as I already use it to backup my web servers. For backing up my photos I use Jungle Disk which makes it a snap. It automatically checks my photo folders for new/changed files and uploads them every day.

    The key for backups working properly is automation. Otherwise there will be a time when you will forget to backup some of your photos and of course that'll be the day the computer crashes..

    Also, it's best to keep windows on one drive and your photos on another. Then if all else fails you can format the windows drive and do a clean install and still have your photos.

  • Mike B. July 9, 2008 01:55 am

    For the less tech savvy (i.e. parents), I know that there are services that scan hard copy photographs for a fee. ScanDigital is one that I'm aware of. The first step for a lot of older people is to make sure you have digital copies to begin with! Just a suggestion!

  • Colby V July 9, 2008 01:45 am

    I use a two local disk backups (one automated, the other manual) and mozy.com for automated remote backups. I can restore from mozy using a download or requesting a DVD copy. I hope that's enough!

  • Phil H July 9, 2008 01:40 am

    I've just posted part one of a non-photo-centric backup strategy article. It may be of interest and/or relevance to folks considering their needs from a photo-only or photo-centric point of view.

    https://gallopinc.com/blog/?p=81

  • Bob July 9, 2008 01:36 am

    I use SuperDuper to clone my macbook (containing all of my pictures) to 3 separate drives (rotating through one per week). The nice thing about cloning the drive instead of just copying it is that I can boot from the external drive if (when) the internal drive fails and recover all of my settings.

    I haven't setup an off-site storage (probably at the office) yet, but probably will at some point. Also, I'm still experimenting with Mozy for online backup ($5/month for unlimited storage, yes please).

    At what point do you make the switch to a new file format? Or do you keep multiple copies of every photo in multiple formats? What about the lossy-ness of converting between formats?

  • Fuzzy July 9, 2008 01:34 am

    Is there any downside of using flickr for backup reasons (pro account has access to original sizes)? OK - only .jpeg, but anything else I'm not aware of?

  • Luis Murillo July 9, 2008 01:31 am

    I'd suggest to keep the hard drives running and not powering them on and off every day. It's a known fact that hard drives have a tendency to fail during the boot up process though new drives have technology that should bring this possibility down to a very minimum.
    Personally I have my hard drives run 24/7 and only power them off when necessary or when there's a power outage and I've never had a hard drive fail in a way that it wasn't recoverable.
    There are also recovery services available that can get the information off a damaged hard drive. I'd also recommend to stay away from Solid State Disks for backup because if the motherboard of the disk were to fail the data is nearly impossible to recover where standard platter hard drives don't have this occur.

  • Russell Smith July 9, 2008 01:27 am

    Just thought I'd mention that RAID isn't a replacement for a manual external backup.
    Don't forget that it won't protect you from the most common form of data loss, commonly refered to as the 'oh !?*@ I didn't mean to delete that'.
    RAID is good for uptime on servers but not data security.

  • Juha Ylitalo July 9, 2008 01:19 am

    One thing, which should be kept in mind is that if you lose all your local data, how long it takes to recover all that data from your offsite location.
    If your bandwidth is somehow limited, it could take days or weeks to restore all the files through the wire vs. retrieving the USB/Firewire/... backup disk from office and plugging it in.

  • Saul Mora July 9, 2008 01:17 am

    Second on amazon s3. I use a combination of the "Backup to" feature in the Lightroom import dialog and a later automatic upload to amazon w3 with Jungle disk. That way, I have at least 3 copies, and one of those is off site.

  • Sonny Parlin July 9, 2008 12:39 am

    I use amazon web services (S3) for doing off site backups. It's pretty much the best and cheapest file storage around today.

  • Ian Robertson July 9, 2008 12:31 am

    *sigh* for some reason point 5 didn't show up for me until after I posted and I made a fool of myself.

  • Ian Robertson July 9, 2008 12:28 am

    I would like to add that if you shoot in RAW, to convert your images to DNG (digital Negative) it's an open format released by Adobe that is being touted as a future compatible file format.

    Some Camera Raw formats eventually become obsolete and a few years down the road, if you want to look at your old raw files, you may be out of luck as they software support for older proprietary files disappear.

  • J F July 9, 2008 12:26 am

    I use an online service called JungleDisk (http://www.jungledisk.com/) It installs as a 'virtual drive' on your computer, and the files are stored encrypted up on Amazon.com's S3 service. You pay a small amount per GB transferred and per GB stored each month, so instead of spending a bunch of money on hard drive capacity that sits empty you are paying only for what you need. S3 has redundant data storage at each site, and your data is backed up across multiple sites around the country. You can also access your files through a web interface, so if you are at a clients site with a dead laptop battery you can still get work done.

    I recommend it for anyone!

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