Recently, my computer’s hard drive crashed and I lost everything, including 11+ years of digital photos and videos (plus countless documents and software). Those photos and videos were priceless to me because they chronicled every life event involving me, my wife and our three kids. It was easily 10’s of thousands of photos and 100’s of videos.
It could have been a disastrous event but it wasn’t.
The reason? I had everything backed up.
Over the years, I have developed a digital back up plan and it’s saved me more than once.
Creating a plan could save you too because your hard drive will eventfully fail. It’s just a matter of time.
It’s not hard and it’s not all that expensive. It just takes a little bit of time.
Below are the steps I take to protect my photos and videos.
1) Back up all files on external hard drives
I own three different external hard drives that I can plug into my computer via USB and copy whatever files that I want. The drives are pretty small and range in file capacity from 500 gigabytes to 1 terabyte. They are relatively cheap as well. I paid less than $100 for each of them.
I keep one of the drives in my backpack, another at home and I give the third one to my mom for safe-keeping at her house.
I update my files on all three drives on a regular basis, especially whenever I download new pictures/videos from my camera.
2) Use free online cloud storage from Dropbox and Google Drive
You can get 5 gigabytes of free cloud storage from Dropbox just for signing up. After signing up, you can download the software on your computer that allows you easily drag and drop files into your Dropbox folder. Those files are available from any computer, mobile app or tablet. It’s a great way to share files between devices. Plus, the Dropbox mobile app will automatically back up photos taken on your smartphone.
I also use Google Drive to store my files on the cloud. If you have a Gmail account, you can get 15 gigabytes of space. That’s a lot of space to store your files. If you upgrade to a Google Apps account, you get 30 gigabytes of space. It works similarly to Dropbox. All you have to do is drag and drop files.
I keep a lot of my files on Dropbox and Google Drive and never save them on my computers. This allows me to access them from anywhere (which is really convenient).
3) Manually download photos and videos taken on my smartphone (or tablet) to my computer
As I mentioned above, you can back up photos and videos automatically using the Dropbox mobile app or you can also use Apple’s iCloud (they give you 5 gigabytes of space for free). I’m sure there are tons of other free and paid options out there.
If you go with the free cloud services, you might not have enough storage space. That’s why I still manually download photos and videos from iPhone onto my computer (which are then automatically backed up in either steps #1 or #4).
4) Use Carbonite to automatically back up all the files from my computer
Carbonite is a secure service that automatically copies all the files on your computer(s) to Carbonite’s servers. It costs $60 per year per computer or you can upgrade to a business plan that allows for the backing up of multiple computers. It does take some time to back up all the files but once they’re backed up, you can access them at any time. When you add new files, Carbonite automatically backs them up as well.
I opt for the plan for only one computer because I use my desktop PC as the primary hub for all of my files and documents. I share files between that PC and my laptops using our home wireless network or Dropbox/Google Drive (as mentioned above).
I had Carbonite on my computer that crashed but I let my subscription expire because I thought I didn’t need it. Lesson learned. Fortunately for me, I had everything on external drives. When I got my computer back yesterday with a brand new 2 terabyte hard drive, one of the first things I did was renew my Carbonite subscription.
As you can see, it’s not that hard or expensive to have a good solid back up plan for all of your digital assets. Plus, it’s worth the peace of mind knowing that you’re protected if something happens to your computer.
Preserving memories is what it’s all about.