Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to Back Up Your Precious Photos

I take a lot of pictures. When I say a lot, I mean I average about 800-1600 monthly saving about 80% of those. See my photo sites here and here. This is how I save them.

Put them into folders titled by month and then by date. Every two months I load them onto Webshots. Every 6 months I back up my photos to DVD's. Every year I store 1.5 years worth of on my computer. Over the summer I purchased a 500 GIG hard drive so that I can store a lot of them on there but right now it is storing an 11 gig movie that I need to have someone save for me on DVD's because I screwed up. At the time I didn't realize that I shouldn't create a movie bigger than 4 gigs. I am much more educated now.

This is what I should be doing

To save your photos:

You need an auxiliary hard drive and a DVD burner. Get the largest external hard drive you can afford, and be sure you have a DVD burner and not just a CD burner. Data DVDs hold 4.2 gigabytes (more than 4,000 megabytes), but CDs can hold only 650 to 800 megabytes, depending on the type of blank disks.

An external hard drive is easy to add. USB 2 or Firewire models work best, but if all your computer has the slow-speed USB (USB 1.1, the original kind of USB), that will have to do. DVD burners work best if they're internal, not external. If your computer doesn't have a DVD burner but has a CD burner, buy a new internal DVD burner and replace the older one. (It's not hard at all. The new burner will come with instructions.)

You can see where my method is heading. My system has two levels of backup.
The first is contained on the external hard drive. The second is a set of DVDs that are exact duplicates of folders on the external drive. Your normal backup is on the hard drive.

Set up your hard drive backup this way: For every photo shoot, copy every original photo (or at least every original you feel is good enough to keep!) to a folder on the external drive named for the date, such as 2006-0723. Within THAT folder, create a folder called "Edited" and copy all the edited, cropped or otherwise changed originals to it.

So on your external drive you'd have a folder called, say, 2006-0723. In that folder you'd have another folder called Edited. Originals go into the main folder; any photos you have altered in any way go into the Edited folder.
Any time you need to access a photo you took, say, a few months ago, you can simply open it up from the folder it resides in.

But the locked-up, unerasable backups are on data DVDs.

This sounds complicated, but it's not. Like Krogh, I make sure that each main folder on the external hard drive cannot be any larger than the amount of files that will fit on a DVD. Each folder is numbered using four digits, such as 0014.

This means that making backups requires no backup software at all; all you need to do is copy each folder, once it has enough files, to a corresponding DVD. Keep the folder size to 4 GB or less. (Check using a right click in Windows or Cmd-I on a Mac.)

In your burner software, name the disk using the name of the folder, such as 0014. After making the backup, write that name on the blank hub of the disk using a Sharpie or similar pen. Store all the backup DVDs in a safe place preferably a safe deposit box or fire box.

To restore your photos after a disaster, simply copy each folder from its DVD to your external drive.

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