Gwendolyn Houston Jack
How to Store and Back Up Digital Photos
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
With so many digital storage options available today, there are a variety of ways to store a lifetime’s worth of photos all in one place. However, if you keep all your files in one storage system, you could lose everything if it crashes or becomes corrupted.
That’s what makes photo albums and physical prints so valuable and timeless. While no digital image is forever, a print allows you to look back on memories from years ago and physically hold them in your hands. After all, many of us grew up looking at our parents’ and grandparents’ photo albums. Our children and grandchildren won’t be browsing our Facebook profiles to see how we lived before they were born.
That said, it never hurts to take advantage of some of the many digital storage options available. Just keep in mind that you may want to use more than one so you run less of a risk of losing all your images.
Hard drives come in huge sizes these days, but they are likely to fail at some point. While it’s a great idea to store your images on your computer hard drive for easy access, you should also keep them on an external drive as well as a backup. Hard drives are a great option for storing photos because they are affordable, and in many cases, you can even copy the entire hard drive to another one. Just keep in mind that your data can be corrupted and, unless you carry your hard drive with you everywhere, it can be destroyed in the event of a fire or natural disaster.
In my home, I have a NAS RAID system, which allows me to store 12 TB of information. What's even better is if one of the hard drives fails, another hard drive will pick up the pieces. All I have to do is replace the failed drive and get back on the road of storage. I personally recommend the Buffalo TeraStation.
Not so long ago, floppy disks were the way to store files outside your computer hard drive. Since then we’ve moved on to CDs, Blu-rays, and flash drives. The benefit of these discs is you can remove them from your computer and store them in a safe place. But most optical discs have a limited amount of memory, which means it may take multiple to store all your photos. They are also not immune to decay over long periods of time, so you should switch out discs or flash drives over four to five years.
Keep in mind most laptops no longer include an optical drive, but you can always purchase a portable optical drive.
Storing photos in the cloud solves a lot of the problems of local storage. For example, should something happen to your computer, your photos would all still be safe and available for you to reclaim once you have a new computer. However, cloud data is not always secure and can even be hacked. Plus, if you don’t keep up payments to your cloud account, you could lose access to your files.
Photo websites like Flickr, SmugMug, and Shutterfly offer a limited amount of cloud storage for your images, while Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all have their own cloud plans that you can access. Just remember that if something happens to your account, your images are lost to you.
I personally use Microsoft's OneDrive since it's connected to my phone. It not only syncs documents, but it's syncs all my videos and photos. It's one of the best ideas ever. As mentioned in the last blog post, my Flickr account is also connected to my phone. Throughout the day, the Flickr app uploads my images and videos as I create them.
The best way to store your digital files is to take advantage of multiple storage options so that your images are in more than one place. That way, should something happen to one of our storage options, your images are still available to you elsewhere.
While it’s great to have digital files of all your images, don’t let them just sit on your hard drive or in the cloud. Instead, take time to get high-quality prints and albums of your photos so you can look back on them for years to come.