Joel asks “What’s the best way to back up my digital photos?”

01/24/2013
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After losing many of his family’s photos when his laptop hard drive died, Joel wants to find a good way to back up his important files. Should he burn the pictures to a CD or DVD? Use storage space? What are his options for backing up large amounts of files and, more importantly, precious memories? The hosts of Deemable Tech, Ray Hollister and Tom Braun, help him out in this week’s Ask Deemable Tech.

RAY: Hi, I’m Ray Hollister,

TOM: I’m Tom Braun,

RAY: and we’re the hosts of Deemable Tech. On the show, we answer your questions about computers, tablets, mobile phones and the Internet, like this question:

Joel asks: Hey guys,

I have a question about backing up photos. I had a TON of photos on my laptop – all the important ones (wedding, kids, etc). A couple of months ago the hard drive on my laptop died and I ended up losing a lot of my photos.

I bought an external hard drive and I upload my photos to that drive, but after having my laptop’s drive crash and burn, I’m concerned about my external hard drive doing the same thing.

I would like to backup my photos to something more secure like the cloud, or more stable physical media.

The problem I run into is space. I *could* upload all my photos to Dropbox, but it would cost. Same with Google Drive. Is there anyplace I can upload 20+ gigs of photos for free?

Alternatively, I was considering burning DVDs as “permanent” storage for the photos and then placing the DVDs in a lockbox to protect them from damage.

RAY: Thanks for your email, Joel. Unfortunately, that is a problem that a lot of folks are facing. Hard drives are just not capable of safely storing files for longer than a few years. And, while there are plenty of photo sharing sites out there, most of them are focused on social sharing. There are a handful of them though, that will allow you to upload that many files, but there are usually trade offs. Flickr, Photobucket, and Snapfish offer unlimited storage for free, but they limit the size of the individual file that you can upload.

TOM: Cloud storage sites like Google Drive and Dropbox all have storage limits too. Even burning your stuff to a DVD isn’t a foolproof option. The shelf life of CD-R and DVD-R discs are generally about 5-10 years, even if you protect them from damage.

What he really needs is a backup system, right Ray?

RAY: That’s right, Tom. Now, we’ve talked about this on the show before, but it never hurts to be repeated. All of your files should be backed up in at least two places, and all of your precious files, like your family photos, for example, should be backed up in at least three places. So, what I would do if I were you, Joel, is get another external hard drive that you only use for backing up your files. There’s a great program called CrashPlan that you can use to automatically schedule your backups, so that you always have a current copy of your files saved on your backup hard drive. That way, if your external hard drive with your pictures on it crashes, you’ve got your other external backup hard drive with a copy of those files on it, so the files aren’t lost.

TOM: Also, you should get a cloud backup plan like Carbonite or CrashPlan+. They’re not free, but because their servers are backed up repeatedly, they are your safest bet from losing your data. If your laptop crashes, and both of your external hard drives crash, say from a flood or a lightening bolt, you’ve got somewhere else to go to get your files.

RAY: That’s right Tom. And lastly, for your really precious files, go ahead and burn that DVD. That will give you your third backup of your files. You’ll need to check that one every 3-5 years and make sure it’s still good, but that way, in case everything else fails, they’ll be one final option to save your precious memories.

TOM: Now, this all might sound paranoid, but it’s not. The fact of the matter is, the question is not “Will your hard drive crash?”, the question is “When will your hard drive crash?” It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time. So, how important are those files to you?

RAY: To hear more answers to questions like Joel’s listen to our show at Deemable dot com, that’s D-E E-M A-B-L-E dot com. There you can listen to all of our previous episodes and subscribe to our podcast.

TOM: If you have a question for Deemable Tech give us a call us at One Eight Eight Eight, Nine Seven Two, Nine Eight Six Eight, or you can send us an email at questions at deemable dot com.

RAY: For Deemable Tech, I’m Ray Hollister

TOM: And, I’m Tom Braun.

4 Responses to Joel asks “What’s the best way to back up my digital photos?”

  1. 08/15/2013 at 12:44 AM

    dear concern
    How do i archive my photos in a gold platted DVD -R . do you think this is more safe than HDD, ?

    • 08/20/2013 at 12:38 PM

      There are gold plated DVD-Rs that claim to last 50-100 years, but I won’t believe it until I see it.

      The best way to back up your digital photos is with redundancy. Have an external backup drive for emergencies. Have an online backup for the real emergencies, and then sure, try a gold plated DVD-R.

      • 08/20/2013 at 1:01 PM

        can you please explain further abt redundancy, if any text about its operation is good for me, can you name some device has this redundancy execution.

        • 08/20/2013 at 1:14 PM

          Good question, Hamim. By redundancy I mean you want to have your files backed up in multiple places. CrashPlan+ and Pogoplug both have services that will backup your files on an external harddrive and online.

          Unfortunately, I don’t know of any system that will backup your files in more than two places. Most of your files don’t need to be backed up more than twice, but we do recommend that really important files be backed up in three places. For those files, I would try those gold plated DVD-Rs, and/or regular DVD-Rs.

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