How To Back Up Your Digital Photos For Posterity

A digital camera is a fantastic tool for capturing the images of the important people, places, and events in life. The cost involved in shooting pictures is very reasonable due to the lack of film, the ability to delete unwanted images, and the opportunity to share and enjoy images without printing when desired.  The creativity allowed by editing images from a digital camera is also a boon to home photographers. However, there are some harsh realities that need to be considered by those who create and store these digital images.
Hard drives sometimes fail.  Viruses can invade and wipe out all traces any files stored on a computer. Fire, flood, and other disasters can destroy the hardware in which precious photos are stored.  For anyone who places significant personal or emotional value on the photographs they take with their digital camera, making a second copy of such images is the key to assuring that these memories live on for many years to come.

The hard drive on any computer is limited and files sizes of most digital images are huge so extended storage there is not really possible. Certainly the memory with a digital camera is extremely limited and the portable media often used is important but not often a good choice for long term storage due to their vulnerability to failure.  Luckily there are other options that make a better choice for long term storage.

• External hard drives:  A good external hard drive will have a significantly larger memory capacity than the hard drive on a computer and should not be exposed to as many risks when used exclusively for the storage of images from a digital camera. 

• CD: Storage on a CD is a very affordable option.  The discs themselves are inexpensive and most modern computers have a CD burner.  The storage capacity of a CD is reasonable at about 700 MB per disc.  When stored properly in hard plastic cases, the life of a CD should be a few generations at a minimum. Because these discs are a back-up, it is wise to store them in a separate location; perhaps in a fireproof safe.

• DVD:  Storage on DVD is also an affordable option although many computers don’t possess a built-in DVD writer. Stand-alone DVD writers are a good option in such instances. The storage capacity of a DVD is significantly greater than that of a CD; approximately 4.7 GB can be held in a single layer format while some offer a multi-layer format with even greater capacity.  The drawback to multi-layer format discs is that because more images are stored on a single disc, destruction or failure can result in an even more catastrophic loss.

• Online Server: There are a number of services online that can store photos submitted by users for a very small fee. Obviously, if a fire, tornado or other disaster strikes home, these photographic images will not be affected. Flickr is only one of many such services.  A growing number of home photographers now set up web sites where they can store and share their photos providing even greater security from physical threats.

All of the above options are good methods for storing images captured with a digital camera.  However, it is generally recommended that rather than employing a single strategy, two methods be used so that each is indeed a “back-up”.