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Picture This: Back It Up

It’s easier than ever to protect your digital assets.

By Earl Nottingham

Let’s see a show of hands of anyone who has ever lost important digital photo files because of a crashed hard drive on a desktop computer or a mobile device that was lost or bit the dust. Aha! Join the club!

Now, let me also see a show of hands of those of you who, after losing those files, decided to do something about backing up those important memories — and just never quite got around to it because, frankly, you just don’t know how to do it. Yep, just what I thought.

Well, now is the time to do something about it, especially with a new crop of easy-to-use options that are currently available to protect your digital assets.

Several choices are available when it comes to backing up and retrieving digital files, each with its own pros and cons. While most home-based users generally can get by with one type of backup method, it’s better to use more than one method in case one fails. Redundancy is a good thing when it comes to important files, especially cherished photographs and videos.

An external hard drive is typically the first go-to solution to be considered for backing up files. User-friendly software provided by hard drive manufacturers allows an automatic backup of any files and folders you select at predetermined intervals. If your computer’s internal hard drive should fail, it is easy to access and restore your files from the external backup drive.

The downside of an external drive attached to your computer is that it might succumb to the same fate as your PC in the case of a (heaven forbid) natural disaster or fire. In this case, having a redundant off-site backup is helpful. This is where “the cloud” comes in.

In case you’ve missed it, the cloud is the latest trend in computing and allows users to access, work with and save data on a remote and secure network server. In other words, the files you typically work with and save on your home computer are now up there — somewhere — in the cloud, where you have full access to them. The market is now full of popular cloud-based backup/storage sites such as Carbonite, IDrive, iCloud and Dropbox.

Additionally, service providers such as Verizon and AT&T now offer cloud-based backup to their subscribers, which makes it very easy to protect those important mobile device images. Not only can you back up your files automatically, but you can also access them from any other Internet-connected computer or mobile device by logging in to your cloud account. The great news is that most of these services are either free or very affordable. As a mobile photographer, I use cloud-based storage extensively to access images while on the road.

One overlooked method of backup is the venerable CD or DVD, which allows you to copy your files to a disc that will never crash. Unlike a hard drive or cloud-based storage, a CD or DVD is a tangible method of storage that you can hold in your hand and can’t be erased — although it can be damaged. When burning files to a CD/DVD, make several copies and keep them in different locations such as a fire-proof safe or bank safe deposit box. Although disc technology will inevitably evolve, it should be easy to transfer your files from older discs to newer methods for the foreseeable future.

Finally, a word of caution! Many people use inexpensive USB thumb drives as storage for their important images. While these drives may work fine for temporary storage, the risk of losing or erasing one is far too great to be considered a single backup solution.

It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” your computer’s hard drive or your mobile device will tank. Don’t play a game of digital Russian roulette with important files and cherished images. Back them up now!

 

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For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page

 

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