What exactly are doing to go about ensuring your photos and videos safe? And where exactly are you storing your images and videos? Are y ou using a traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD), a solid-state drive (SSD), camera memory cards, or a USB flash drive? Or, are you burning them on to a DVD or Blu-Ray disk? Or, are all of your images stored on your smartphone? You may want to start safeguarding your photos from accidental deletion, file corruption, or hardware failure.

Now you have to ask yourself what you would do if you accidentally drop your iPhone in the kitchen sink or a pool? What if that R3000 Western Digital external backup HDD you bought from BestBuy suddenly crashes? These are very realistic possibilities and they happen every day. If your files are stored on just one device, your entire photo and video archive may be in grave danger and you’re at serious risk of losing all of your images. How would you feel if you lost ALL of your images and videos tomorrow?

Back in the days of film photography, life was simple because the only thing photographers had to do to preserve their images was to keep their film negatives and 35mm slides in a safe place. Today, we require a massive amount of digital storage for our HD images and 4K video files. Today’s RAW, JPEG, and MOV digital files take up a significant amount of storage space. But nearly every physical storage device is subject to failure.

Develop a Strategy to Preserve Valuable Photos 

Think about the value of your photos and videos. Think of all the time, money, and effort you put into taking those images. You certainly don’t want to lose all images, so you need to take a few extra steps to protect your precious memories. The goal of this article is to alert you to the risks associated with storing your photos on a single device and to help you develop a strategy to to start safeguarding your photos and preserving your most valuable images.

Risks of using Disk Drives to Store Photos

For years, backing up your photos on a traditional hard disk drive was the most cost effective means of storage. Over the past 5 years, the storage capacity of hard drives from companies like Seagate and Western Digital has increased dramatically, and prices are lower than ever. You can buy a massive 4TB external drive from Western Digital for just over $100. But these inexpensive hard drives with massive storage space are subject to failure.

With the recent introduction and growth of Solid State Hard Drives (SSHD), sales of traditional mechanical hard drives are decreasing. What you may not be aware of is the substandard quality and assembly of mechanical hard drives is leading to higher failure rates. Top hard drive manufacturers are now using the cheapest parts and components available, so they crash more often than you might think. So that $100 backup external drive is not as reliable as you might think and is not a good choice for backing up your photos.

Optical Discs (DVD, Blu-Ray)

Because of the risks associated with hard drives, it’s a good idea to keep multiple backups on removable storage media as well. Your best options are DVD and Blu-ray optical discs. Once you burn images on an optical disc, you don’t have to worry about them being deleted or infected by a virus.

Single layer DVD’s store up to 4.7GB and dual-layer discs can handle up to 8.5GB. So 10 dual-layer discs may be sufficient to store a collection of important photos. Blu-ray discs can store up to 25GB on a single-layer disc, and 50GB on a dual-layer disc.

USB Flash Drives 

USB flash drives are can now store 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, or 512GB. However, flash drives may not be suitable for long-term storage because the charge decays over long periods.

Ideally, they need to be refreshed every four or five years. USB Flash Drives is a good short term way of safeguarding your photos.

Solid-State Drives (SSD) 

Solid-state drives have no moving parts and are gradually replacing less reliable Hard Disk Drives. Solid-state drives do everything a hard drive does, but instead of storing data on a spinning platter using heads, your data is stored on connected flash memory chips.

The flash memory chips used in an solid-state drive are different than what is used in a USB drive. They are faster and far more reliable. However, solid-state drives can fail.

Cloud Storage 

Storing your photos in the cloud is another way of saying you’re someone else’s hard drive. There are online services that will store your photos on their servers that you can access online anytime you want. You start by uploading your images from your desktop or laptop computer. Upload speed will depend in part on the number of images, file size, and connection speed.

Once you upload your photos, you can share and access your photos just about anytime you want. Cloud photo storage has significant advantages over storing your photos on a hard drive. Cloud storage companies routinely backup their data, so you won’t have to worry about losing your images.

Cloud Storage Considerations 

If you’re going to store your images using a cloud service, you have a wide choice of options. Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Flickr, Amazon Drive and SmugMug are the most popular services available.

SmugMug has an edge over others as its specially made for photographers. It offers protection for your photos through cloud storage and you can use it to create your portfolio, photography website, or a print store as well.

Storage Redundancy 

Our recommendation in safeguarding your photos is to backup your images in triplicate and in different physical locations or mediums. Use one or more online cloud storage services. The point we’re trying to make here is that no matter what you do, or how much you spend on computer hardware, its subject to failure (even Solid State Drives or SSD’s).

Hard drives, USB flash drives, camera Memory Cards, and Solid State Drives can and do fail. Sometimes they get lost or stolen, or infected by a virus which can render your storage device useless. The best thing to do is understand the risks and store your photos in multiple locations. This is not a once and done solution. You need to get into the habit of updating your redundant storage with new images and making it part of your workflow. Redundancy is the key to keeping your digital photos safe.