Today is National Clean Out Your Computer Day…. yes, there’s a day for that, too. But it gets me thinking that I do need to go through my computer, see what I need, what can be backed up externally, what can be deleted, etc. It’s almost the same as when we go through things at the house, a pile to keep, a pile to trash, and usually a pile to donate or sell. On the computer, it’s files to keep, files to trash, files to store somewhere else.
The most important things to make sure you have backed up is your photos. Almost everything else can be replaced, but there is no way to go back and retake your photos. I have known people who have lost so many photos, and they are devastated. A friend of my mom’s had me help her try to restore a corrupt hard drive full of photos and was at her house, crying, because we weren’t able to recover the photos which included her daughter’s first year of life!
External Hard Drives
If all your photos are on one hard drive, they are vulnerable. The best place to start is to get an external hard drive. Prices have dropped significantly on external hard drives, so there’s no reason not to get one. Maybe a few. I have an external hard drive that I keep on my desk for easy access, and another I keep in the safe in our house. External hard drives are great because they are portable and cheap.
There are a few downfalls to using external hard drives as your backup. You have to have the external connected to your computer to be able to back up to it, so it’s only as good as your backup schedule. Externals can also become corrupted just like any other hard drive. And if the external is in your home along with your computer, and a natural disaster strikes, then both hard drives are at risk.
Like external hard drives, cloud storage is also becoming cheaper and is a lot more reliable as well. Cloud storage is storing your files on an off-site server. Usually, these services are on a monthly payment plan for a certain amount of storage space. Having cloud storage is great because it provides a backup that is always connected as long as you are connected to the internet. And it is also accessible from other devices as long as they are logged in to the same account. Cloud companies also have their own built-in backups, so they are a very reliable source for backing up your files.
As with anything, there are a few negatives to cloud storage options. For your backups to run, you have to be connected to the internet. You also have to have an internet connection to view any of the files that are on your cloud server. Cloud options also usually have a monthly fee involved, which will vary depending on who you use and how much space you need.
No matter what way you choose to store your files, make sure you have redundancy. For example, I have my photos on a hard drive in my desk. One in our safe. I keep an external at my mom’s house (off-site) and back up to that whenever I am there. I also have all my files/photos on a cloud server. This way, if one of the locations corrupts or is otherwise inaccessible, I still have the others. It’s also important to make sure this redundancy is on multiple drives and multiple locations. If you have the files in multiple places on the same physical drive, that doesn’t count as redundancy. If that drive has problems, or gets destroyed, or stolen, it doesn’t do anything for you.
Social Media DOESN’T COUNT
Do not think that because you post your photos on social media that you have them backed up! Have you ever tried to save a photo from Facebook and then print it? Not such a great quality. Photos that are uploaded to social media sites are compressed when they are uploaded. This means they aren’t uploaded at a high quality; you can only download as high of a quality as the original upload. So every time you do that, the quality is lower. Make sure you have a backup that is NOT your social media account. Those are great for sharing photos, but they aren’t a method of backup.
Set a schedule
When you have multiple places to back up to, you need to set yourself a schedule. Set a reminder on your phone or computer or put it on your calendar. The first of the month is my backup day. I get out my external hard drives and add any photos from the previous month to the backup drives. I also make sure that they are uploaded to my cloud backup at the same time. If you put it on your schedule for the first day every month, or at least on the same day, it makes it easy to remember.
One other thing to consider with your backups is your folder structure. Your files/photos will all be stored in folders wherever you have them backed up. You need to figure out a method that works best for you and think about if you are trying to find the photos. For me, I have a folder for each year and a folder within for each month. Within that month is all the photos from that month. I don’t have them separated into events, although I used to do that. It was too hard once I had kids because I had so many miscellaneous photos that had no real category.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to me. I am crazy about my photo backups because I am terrified of losing all the precious photos and videos of my children. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else, so make sure you have your backups in order!