How I Protect My Memories with Backup

by | Digital Photography Tips | 6 comments

Nearly five years ago I shared how I back up my photos. A lot has changed since then! In this post I want to review the various approaches I use, together, to keep my digital files safe.

Backing up is important because it’s not a matter of if your computer or device will fail, but when. For me, my biggest potential loss came from an entire can of soda being spilled on my open laptop.

This was seven years ago and I wasn’t not backed up at all. They were able to recover the contents of my hard drive, but the computer itself was beyond repair.

I was required to provide an external drive for the data recovery, which then became the first drive I ever used to back up. (And it still works today!)

How I Protect My Memories with Backup

My system today has two key parts – a local external drive and off-site cloud storage. For the best protection, you want to keep local and off-site copies as well as automate the process.

(Note: I use a Mac, but equivalent scenarios are possible for PC computers as well.)

Part 1 – Local External Drive

I have a 1 TB Seagate drive set up with Time Machine on my Mac to automatically back up my entire hard drive as well as a sister external drive that I use for my business files.

I’ve had good luck with LaCie and Seagate drives, but less-so with Western Digital. (I recognize that this seems to vary widely.)

Part 2 – Off-site Cloud Storage

For too long I was no longer using cloud storage. While Mozy was a good option at first, we didn’t have enough Internet bandwidth to support everyday use of Xbox live by my stepsons as well as cloud back up.

Today both boys are both out of the house and our cable Internet is 20 times faster. I use CrashPlan and absolutely love it. Like Time Machine, CrashPlan works in the background to keep all of my files up to date.

Part 3 – Bonus Storage

Those two key layers of backup are for all my files. I keep another layer for my edited photos: Flickr. While I don’t love (or really even like) what they’ve done to Flickr, I feel invested in using it as a personal photo backup and to share images with family.

I also photograph all of my paper layouts and maintain an archive within Lightroom. These are backed up via my regular system and I do post most of them to online galleries as well.

While I’ve never needed my CrashPlan backup, I have (very gratefully) restored files via my local backup several times. With this system in place, I have peace of mind that should the worst happen, my memories will not be lost.

For further reading, check out Protecting Your Memories 101

Do you back up? What kind of approach do you use?


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  1. Tina C

    I use seagate also, I found out I had one mishap with it and it was my error that’s cause I thought it was done and wasn’t so I ended up with a corrupt file did a format and now I have a new backup took 2 days but I got it 🙂 I’ll have to look into the online site. My pictures are backed up either with snapfish or shutterfly

  2. Kim Edsen

    Jennifer, do you have any tips for photographing your layouts as a means to back them up? Would you be able to print them out as usabe 12×12’s or is this more a matter of being able to keep the stories preserved?

    I have heard about people scanning paper layouts for preservation but this idea is intriguing to me – thanks for sharing!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      It is best to take layout photos where there is clean, even, and diffused light. You don’t want to direct sunlight. My covered front porch is a favorite spot. Sometimes I’ll even hang up a white sheet if the sun is too low.

      You want to position your camera directly over the middle of the layout and shoot straight down. It may take some practice to know what “lined up” feels like.

      When my photos are taken, I crop them to exact squares and do any editing to better match reality – white balance, brightness etc.

      I would be able to print them as 12x12s and one of my long-term goals is to create 10×10 photobook collections of my layouts.

  3. Lisa Jacobe

    I have a Western Digital 1 TB external that I’ve had for at least 4 years (I think longer), and I backup to Backblaze for $5/mo. Very cheap for peace of mind. I also would like to send my favorite photos and layouts to someplace else for safe keeping. I had thoughts of Flickr, but I’m scared to go see what they did. I haven’t been there since changes were made and I’m hearing about many people not being happy.

  4. Sarah

    I won’t tell you anything new, but this is just the same with everything in life.
    You would think history teaches us anything, but no.
    Hate all you want but the world is changing, and none of us have no control whatsoever over it.
    For instance, If only Barack had enough balls to put Putin to his place, but it seems like it’s not happening, welcome third world war.
    A very deep post, thanks!

  5. Gab

    I really need to do something with my photos – I have them all saved onto CD and DVD!


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