How is your backup system right now?
I must be honest–my own backup is okay, but not great. It’s always a process, isn’t it, the effort to make things better?
First of all, the golden rules of backups are: 1. Have backups on site and off site. 2. Backup your backups. 3. Nothing is foolproof/failproof/perfect. Let’s chat in more detail about what backup options can look like so your photos are always protected.
Okay, so let’s talk phone backups:
I use the Google Photos app, which automatically backs up every photo I take. I have it on my desktop too, so it also backs up my DSLR photos. However! There are two levels of Google Photos backup: one is free and includes “optimized” images, NOT full-size photos. The other is paid according to storage used. I average more than a thousand photos a month, so I would run out of cheap storage quickly. So I use the free version with smaller photos, and I consider it an extra backup, not my primary.
(As an aside, my husband who is the computer tech of the house, did not ever finish installing Google Photos. Last spring his phone went out and he lost about six months’ worth of photos that he had never backed up to his computer. He was really bummed about it, obviously. The sad thing is that it was totally preventable!)
I also tried out Shoebox, which is another app that automatically backs up all phone photos. There are two levels of that as well, but I didn’t quite understand the difference and I never went to play with the pro level to figure it out. But I would consider this another extra backup, not a primary.
iCloud is obviously another option that many people use. That free storage can fill up quickly, though! I know a ton of people use it because it’s native to your iPhone so theoretically easy to use/setup, but I’ve never used it.
This is an important step: Regularly copy photos off your device (phone, camera) onto your computer! Plug it in and open it like a disk drive so you can transfer quickly and easily to your laptop or desktop. Do this at least once a month if not more! Otherwise you’re just asking for everything on your phone to be lost.
Now let’s talk about computer backups:
First and easily: Get everything (all your photos, documents, whatever) onto one computer. Get an external hard drive and copy everything onto that. You can get a small, portable 1TB EHD for around fifty bucks!
BUT! Hard drives WILL fail. It’s just a matter of when. Or, something may happen at your house like a fire or flood, that would destroy the physical drive. So you may want to have more than one backup. Some people have one at home and one in a safe-deposit box or at someone else’s house. (I haven’t figured out how you would keep current with the offsite hard drive. I take photos just about every day, so would I need to swap out and update that backup every week or month or something?)
The next step is the futuristic one that we’re all counting on: the cloud.
You can easily and automatically backup *everything* on your computer in the cloud! Hurray! Now, should that be the only backup? No, because what if it starts raining? (Get it? Cloud? Rain? Hahaha) But really, who knows what may happen with all of these tech companies in the future. They’re all using servers too, and there’s a possibility those could go out.
Cloud backup is my main backup. (See? I’m not perfect either. I need more hard drive backups.) I’ve been using Crashplan for years and really like it. It is now moving to small business only, though. (I have many terabytes of photos because of my business, so the bulk of my cloud backup will stay with Crashplan.)
(Many people compare Crashplan to Backblaze, another popular cloud-based backup. That is a mirror backup, so if you accidentally delete something important and more than 30 days go by, it is gone forever. That’s why I switched to Crashplan.)
I decided to separate out my personal backup with a different service. I read a few comparison articles and went with iDrive. It’s not free, of course, but at under $100/year it’s very affordable for the peace of mind!
(It does take several days (or more) to get a cloud-based backup going, so be aware it may hog some of your computer data/bandwidth.)
Next level computer backups:
RAID arrays internally backup drives to each other. You put in multiple hard drives and they each back up to another one, so if one of them fails, you have a backup right in place. Notice this won’t help you in a fire or flood, and there is a remote possibility that all of them could fail.
The super-next-level is an NAS: network attached storage, which is your own file server on your personal network. This is what my husband has and I don’t really understand all of it so I’m just passing along the message if you want to investigate further. 🙂
Dropbox is very popular. The free account is limited to either 2 or 6GB. If you’re using a big camera you’d hit this super fast. Their bigger plans top out at 1TB for $99/year. As I said, my personal photos are more than 1TB already, so Dropbox won’t work for me as a full backup. What I do love about Dropbox is that it’s super easy to go in and see/move folders and files around. (The other services all have their backups somewhere else that you can’t directly access unless you’re restoring.)
Amazon Prime offers “unlimited” photo storage backup to its members. So if you’re already paying for Prime membership, the photo storage is “free.” I use quotation marks because who knows if that will stay unlimited and free in the future.
Flickr’s free accounts offer 1TB of storage. You can set your phone to automatically upload all photos (set to either public or private) to your flickr account. They finally added a “download” option so you could bulk download everything if you needed to restore your photos. This could be a good option if you only use phone photos and you have relatives who like looking at your pictures, because they could have your flickr account link and see whatever you’ve uploaded (depending on privacy settings of course).
If you have a lot of photos and just can’t get your storage down, you can shrink what you have using JpegMini! It’s really popular among photographers who use tons of storage. It’s a program you buy once and download to your computer, and then through some kind of magic, it shrinks the size of a photo without sacrificing the quality! Last month I ran my massive personal photo folders (through 2015) through jpegmini, and here are the results. Isn’t that insane?! Even without doing the last two years, my total (which includes a few folders on other drives) photo storage went from 1.3TB to 861GB!
The Bottom Line:
Basically you need to do all of these: phone backup, computer physical backup, cloud backup. At least one of each. As many as you can. The good news is that the backup services all work automatically, so what you need to do is copy over phone images to a computer and then make copies onto a hard drive.
(The NYTimes recently had an article about this too, so check that out too. )
Let me know if you have all of your backups in place, or if you need help with one of them, or if you have any other backup questions!