While some of us have been using digital cameras for 20 years, most have come to digital photography more recently. Either way, you probably have digital photos that number in the hundreds, if not the thousands. And you may have scanned (or plan to scan) your legacy prints and negatives into a digital format. This is your digital legacy, the history of who you are, where you’ve been, who you’ve loved, and what you’ve done. So you should put a little time and effort into protecting and storing them both for your own enjoyment and that of your children, grandchildren, etc.
Belt and Suspenders
My general approach to storing the digital assets that are important to me is overly cautious. So I pursue a two-pronged strategy. The first is to store all my photos, movies, and important documents on hard drives and flash drives. The second is to store them in the cloud.
If you’re going to use local storage – that is, storage that plugs into your computer – you have a variety of choices. A desktop hard drive like the Seagate Backup Plus Hub or the Western Digital MyBook have up to 8 TB of space and can store all the images on your computer, with plenty of room to spare for videos, music, and documents from every device you own. Other models like the Western Digital MyBook Duo, which has up to 16TB of storage, will plug into your home network so you can store not only what’s on your own computer, but also photos on other devices attached to your network such as laptops or tablets. This is a convenient means of storing photos for the entire family. You can also go smaller with a pocket sized hard drive like the My Passport line from Western Digital, which can store up to 4TB, or the Backup Plus line from Seagate to carry up to 2 TB, which will probably be adequate for most users.
One word of caution. All of the drives discussed above have moving parts, and that means they can fail. So we suggest having your data backed up in more than one place. There is a great alternative to these disk drives in the form of Solid State Drives (SSD’s) from companies like SanDisk, Lexar, Samsung, and others. These use flash memory to store your data. They are more expensive than traditional disk drives, but they have no moving parts and require no power to maintain storage. We’ve been using the SanDisk Extreme 900 with 960GB. You can get it with double that. We’ve also tried the wafer-thin SanDisk Extreme 500 with capacities up to 480GB. We’ve also been happy with the Lexar Portable SSD, which has a maximum capacity of 512GB. Another advantage to these drives is that they can be quite small and thin. That makes them easy to move around. We advocate taking one of these drives and just sticking in your family safe deposit box with all your other valuable papers. You should update it periodically as well.
I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now
The suspenders part of my belt and suspenders approach is cloud storage. This involves opening a cloud account with any of dozens of providers such as Google, Apple, Dropbox, or Microsoft. Their services are found under the branding: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud. There are many other providers, and you can get a sample of those, along with pricing here. Chances are that if you have a small number of images, say a few hundred, you may be able to get away with a free subscription. If you’re up into the thousands you’ll have to pay money to keep them in the cloud. One advantage to cloud storage is that you don’t have to worry about the care of a physical device. Another is that you can easily share photos with the rest of your family, or with anyone else you designate. And you can give them access only to those files you want them to see.
Here too, we offer a word of caution. The last thing you want to do is go to a cloud service that may evaporate in a year, or two, or three. I have a high confidence level in top tier names such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. Beyond that, I suggest you do your own research. We found a pretty good article that details how to use cloud storage.
Bottom line – we strongly suggest that you store your photos and videos on a physical storage device such as a hard drive or flash memory. And at the same time, you should be copying those same documents to the cloud.
Finally, we must speak about storage and the increasingly insidious plague of “ransomware,” when a malicious email or web link allows pirates to encrypt every file on your computer and demand payment for the key to decrypt them.
If you have an external drive attached to your computer or home network and are attacked with ransomware, the files on that drive will likely be encrypted as well as those on your internal drive. And if you use cloud storage accounts, you may have installed an app that links folders on your computer to your cloud storage and keeps them in sync. But in a ransomware attack, the linked local folders will be encrypted, and since they sync
to the cloud, so will your cloud storage.
In other words, for safety, disconnect your external drive when not in active use, and don’t install the synchronization app on your computer for cloud storage, access it only by logging in from a web browser. Or add an extra pair of suspenders, and use a cloud backup program, such as Carbonite or SOS Online to backup your external drive or local cloud sync folders. While some cloud storage services allow recovery of older files, cloud backups keep weeks or months of files, so if ransomware strikes on Tuesday, you still have good files from Monday, or earlier.
Next in our Thanks for the Memories series: options if you don’t want to do it yourself.