Back That Thing Up

My grandmother kept all our old photos in meticulous scrapbooks.  All organized by date and trip, annotated with park admission ticket stubs and stories of our adventures.  She had no backup for those scrapbooks.  The scrapbooks were the only copy of the memories, stored safely in her basement closet.  

Had anything bad happened to her home, the history of all her grandchildren would instantly disappear.  

A local newspaper shared the story of a family who lost their son and had a hard drive full of photos and videos before he passed.  The drive failed and they were going about trying to salvage the data when the drive was in the trunk of a car that was stolen.  Any hope of getting the final memories of their sons life were instantly evaporated.

They had no backup before the drive failed, they certainly had no backup before the drive was stolen.  It’s a sad story, but one that’s entirely avoidable.  For my grandmother to have employed the backup we can do today with a simple click, she would have had to make three copies of each book, keep one with her, one with us and one with the library – just in case.

Backing up our modern media is easy, in most cases it’s free and if you’re not doing it now, you’re in danger of losing everything, in a second.

Here are 6 of the methods I use to back up my media:

Carbonite –  $54.95/yr – I have carbonite installed on my Macbook.  It works in the background, constantly updating my hard drive whenever I’m connected to the internet.  It’s unlimited cloud based storage, so even if my laptop is stolen, or the drives fail, the data is with a third party and recoverable.

FlickrPro – $24.95/yr – Each time I dump photos from my cameras, I pick my favourites and post them to Flickr.  Usually they’re public to share with family and friends who subscribe to my stream, but you can also privatize your Flickr account if you just want to use it as a private backup for your images.

YouTube – Same as with Flickr, except YouTube is totally free.  If you love to make little movies of your kids rolling over, skipping stones or eating spaghetti, you should be dumping them all to YouTube (or Vimeo, or Viddler or any other video sharing site).  As with Flickr, you can keep things private you don’t want in the public domain, but it’s an easy (and free) off site backup of your memories.

Facebook – Dumping your photos is another great way to back them up.  Now that Facebook has a “download my stuff” button, getting the images off the site is much easier.  The only issue is with privacy.  The menu tree with Facebook can be complicated, so make sure you’re aware of what you’re putting online and who can see it.

Time Machine / External drives – Time Machine is built in to OSX, so if you have a mac, you have no excuse not to back up.  It’s as simple as plugging in an external drive and hitting the backup icon.  There are automated backup programs built in to Windows as well. The thing to remember is to keep the external drives away from the computer.  If your house is broken into and they take the laptop, chances are they grab the external drive if it’s right next to it.  Try to keep them in different locations.

Printing – my grandmother’s way of archiving photos is still one of the best ways to do it.  Print your favourite pics off and hang them on your wall, put them in scrapbooks and send them to relatives.  

Some people I follow online have a rule of three when it comes to backing things up.  They don’t count a file as “existing” until it exists in three different places.  That means cloud storage, external storage and local storage.

How are you backing up your memories of your kids?



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  1. Kevin December 5, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Mozy also works well, similar to Carbonite.

  2. Derek K. Miller December 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    While the solutions I propose there are a bit out of date, you might enjoy my old backup nightmare story from about a decade ago.

    One thing people should ask: what happens if your website(s) die? If you’ve written a blog for a long time (more than 10 years, in my case), is all that writing backed up?

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