We all know technology is the best and the worst all at the same time, and I was hit with that reality in December of 2011 when I lost that entire month’s worth of photos. Yes, it’s sad, but no, it’s not the end of the world. What made this month a little sadder than losing photos from other months is that it was the one in which my eldest experienced his first Christmas and was baptized. Those photos are most definitely gone forever. I even had a backup system in place and I talked to multiple tech people to try to recover the files to no avail. My husband and I took that experience to truly learn what a backup system looks like.
The gold standard is the 321 backup rule: keep 3 copies of your data, store 2 copies on different storage/media, and keep 1 copy offsite.
Since photos take up so much space on my hard drive, I have a different system for those than for regular documents. To back up my photos I keep one copy on an external hard drive and send one copy to Flickr. The problem is those take action on my part; I have to hook up my external hard drive or I have to upload to Flickr, which doesn’t always happen right away. The two backups that excite me most (if you can be excited about backups, and yes, I do think you can) are my automatic backup to a cloud system called Blackblaze and my photo’s negatives. (If you’ve been keeping track, this is 4 copies. I’m okay with a little overachieving.)
First, let me sing Blackblaze’s praises. I love them! They back up my entire computer AND any hard drive I connect to my computer automatically. My favorite part is that I can restore my entire computer or I can just go into the system and search for a one-off photo or file. The layout of the interface is exactly like the one on my computer so it’s incredibly easy to find something stored on their server. I was using a similar service for years when all of a sudden they decided to shut down their site to personal users (yes, super wack). This unnamed site recommended an alternative that was expensive and I was nervous I’d never find a replacement. Enter Blackblaze. It’s cheaper than the other site I was using, has unlimited storage, and I like the interface better. If you’re looking for an automatic backup to a cloud-based service, I highly recommend trying them out.
You can get a month free by clicking here: https://secure.backblaze.com/r/02kr47
But my very favorite backup for photos are my photo’s negatives.
They’re a physical copy that has spanned the test of time. Their archival quality means they will last for generations and throughout the years, from enlargers to scanners, technology has consistently been created to be able to read the information on negatives.
I’ve been creating photo books lately to catch up on archiving my family’s pictures (more on that in another post) when I ran across 5 photos that my computer couldn’t place. I looked on my external hard drive (absent), I looked on Flickr (absent), I looked on Blackblaze (absent because I didn’t properly migrate over to them when my former site shut down. Oops.) So you know what I did? I just located the negatives of those photos and rescanned them. If not for those negatives the photos would’ve been gone forever.
I realize using film isn’t feasible or desirable for everyone, but I do think negatives are an advantage people don’t always consider. I’ve met more people scared about the fallibility of negatives than the fallibility of a memory card. But I hear waaaay more often of corrupt memory cards or disappearing files on memory cards than a disaster happening with negatives. So please, don’t let negatives scare you away from having a film photographer document you. And film photographers, think twice before tossing those old negatives in the garbage. Yes, they take up room but they’re an amazing tool for backing up those precious memories.
Ask yourself if you have 3 copies of your photos on at least 2 different media and 1 of which is stored offsite. If not, what’s stopping you? Because trust me, technology can and will fail you so be sure you take actions today so you keep your memories safe tomorrow.