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Let’s be honest. Photographers today have it a lot easier than our film-based colleagues did only a few years ago. The shift to digital photography and cheap memory cards has meant endless photographs can now be taken and stored for almost no cost. Go back to the 1970s and show a photographer a 16gb SD card the size of a postage stamp and break the news to him that you can store 2000 images on it. No doubt he’ll probably weep with envy.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to become complacent when it comes to backing up and storing your precious files securely. The thought of keeping all my images in just one location, quite honestly, scares me. And by ‘just one location’ I’m not referring to one laptop or one hard-drive, I’m including ‘one house’ in that too.

Best way to back up photos securelyThink of that photo album you have, full of pictures of you as a child. If you’re anything like me, it’s most probably the size of a desk drawer. If something was to happen to that album, I’d be losing a significant part of my life and my childhood memories. If I could click my fingers and have digital copies of all those photographs to keep somewhere safe, I would. Instead, I’ve had to make do with physically scanning them individually in to my PC – a pretty brutal undertaking.

The same fear applies today with my current catalogue of digital photos. If I was to lose my laptop and with it my tens of thousands of images from years of professional photography, I’d be devastated. For that reason I’m rather pedantic about backing up my images securely and on a regular basis.

So what’s my procedure? Firstly, at least once a month I back up the contents of my laptop’s hard drives (including my documents and my music) to an external hard drive. This drive is then kept at the opposite end of my apartment, well away from my laptop.

In addition to this, I have a 3tb Network Attached Storage (NAS) device attached to my router. This essentially creates personal cloud storage within my apartment. My laptop is synced to this through my WiFi network meaning all files, plus any changes I make, are automatically backed up in real time. These files can then be accessed by any device connected to the same network, with the bonus of secure remote access from anywhere in the world where there’s an internet connection.

How often to back up my photos

In addition to this, I back up all my most important edited images on to my 50gb Dropbox cloud storage account as soon as I’ve something new to add. Backing up to Dropbox (or most cloud storage accounts for that matter) is so simple. The icon resides in my taskbar, and it’s as easy as copying and pasting my latest folder in to it.

Put simply, there’s no excuse not to back up your images on to an external hard drive and keeping this updated – even if it’s once a month. A 250gb usb drive can be acquired for under £40. A 1tb Network Attached Storage device can be found for under £100. Plus, seeing as you can get up to 5gb of cloud storage for free (see Dropbox, Google Drive, plus hundreds more), there’s also no reason not to play it extra safe with your most prized images.

One additional alternative regarding online storage is to set up a Flickr account. A recent overhaul to Flickr means you can now upload 1 terabyte of images (approximately 200,000 high resolution jpegs) for free. You can even choose to keep your photos private, away from public view, essentially using it as a form of cloud storage.

The best thing about web-based storage such as NAS, Dropbox and Flickr is that you can access your collection where ever there is an internet connection. Plus, you can send hyperlinks for albums and slideshows to friends and family.

How often you back up is a personal choice. Obviously the more frequent, the better. The important thing is to actually back up.

Think of the five minutes of effort (if you can even call it that) once a week/month compared to the gut wrenching feeling when you realise your sole storage drive has failed and you’ve just lost the lot.

Author – Oliver Pohlmann

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