Backing up your family photos

It’s a while since I have posted about backup strategy but it’s such an important topic I thought it was worth a revisit.

If you are like me you probably have all sorts of data around your house, across multiple computers, phones and devices. While everyone is different, I think most people would agree  that in the event of losing their data “en mass” the most devastating would be the loss of their family photos.

While the risk of losing photos due to water damage, sunlight, or general wear and tear is a lot less, the biggest risk nowadays is hard drive failure. I have seen many examples of people taking their dead hard drive to their designated “techie friend” in the vain hope that it could be recovered. Sometimes it can, sometimes it can’t, and often even if it is possible it involves significant cost.

Companies are pushing bigger and bigger hard drives, NAS devices, USB sticks etc upon us, and it’s great that we  can now store years and years of data on these, but in actual fact the situation (and risk) is getting much worse. Where you used to have your photos stretched over 4, 5 or 6 devices, now you can fit them all on a single hard drive… so why not? The answer is simple, if that device fails you lose EVERYTHING!

Yes it is possible to have 2 hard drives and backup everything twice, but in reality how many people do that?

NAS devices also allow you to configure them in RAID mode, where you can use two disks together and the data will survive if one fails. The problem is you can also configure them where they use the full capacity of the two disks (RAID 0), which looks on paper to be great…. more disk space than you can shake a stick at. The problem is you’re back to losing a lot of data if a disk fails.

The other issue is how often you actually backup your data. Most people find that when they have a failure it’s been “quite a while” since they last backed up.

The best situation is to backup automatically. To have a system where you don’t have to think about it. There are services such as CrashPlan which offer this service if you have a reasonable internet connection. It’s great as it keeps your data safely off-site, so if you has a flood or fire you can always get your data back. CrashPlan also allows you to setup your own servers (or peer to peer with a friend) so you can backup to those instead (or as well!).

The ideal situation is to backup to multiple places, having several copies of data in multiple locations. This is a lot to consider for a lot of people, so that’s why I often recommend CrashPlan, as it is simple to use and doesn’t cost the earth. If you don’t want to go that route then by all means continue to use hard drives, but please consider buying a second one, using that as well, and keep it in a different location to the first one.

If you have any comments or questions please leave a comment.

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