Protecting Photos from Disaster

SmugMug Online Photo Backup

I’ve thought a lot lately about how devastating it would be to lose all of my photos.  My computer crash last December didn’t help.

I’ve written about backing up photos before.  I keep all of my photos on my hard drive and then a complete set backed up on an external hard drive.

What if my house burns down?  What if we get robbed?  The external hard drive lives in the same house as my computer, so I would be out of luck if either of these things happened.  I started to realize I needed to back up my photos in the cloud.

I started looking for robust photo storage solutions.  I’m not talking about a free photo service where you can upload your photos and order prints (I  never order prints).  I wanted something that would allow me to store my photos and download full-resolution versions for free if I ever needed to.  Facebook doesn’t count – you can’t get your pictures back after you upload them.

DVDs aren’t an option for me.  I could burn my photos on DVDs and keep them somewhere else, but it isn’t scalable for me.  I have over 20,000 photos.  That takes several DVDs.  Plus, I want to be able to upload photos immediately, not once every few months or so.  Finally, DVDs can get stale if they’re not used for a while.

I’ve decided to try SmugMug on the recommendation of a friend of mine.  There’s a nominal annual fee, but I can keep an unlimited amount of photos in my account.  I can download full resolution photos whenever I want.  I can also share links with friends and let them download full resolution photos.

So far so good.  I’m working on uploading all 20,000 of my pictures.  It’s already starting to put my mind at ease.  I’ll report back and let you know how it goes!

What I Learned from My Computer Crash

Computer CrashRight after Christmas, I was curled up in bed with my laptop fixing the Features page on my blog.  Then BAM!  My computer got smacked with a virus* and became immediately unusable.  It was very scary as I tried to figure out what I was going to lose and how to fix it.

What was surprising was that I hardly lost anything.  Some of my organizational quirks paid off and I am so very thankful.

Lessons Learned About Storing Photos

Aside from the general annoyance of spending half the day restoring my computer to its original factory settings and then reinstalling a bunch of software, it was actually pretty painless in the grand scheme of things.

Back. Up. Your. Photos.  I can’t stress this enough.  Around the middle of November, I had made a copy of my entire photo library and put it on my external hard drive.  That meant I only had to worry about photos I took from then through December.  They were still on my memory card.  No, I don’t let photos rot on my memory card.  I actually sort them into folders as soon as possible.  BUT (this is a big but), I leave the original photos on the memory card until I back up my photo library on my external hard drive.

It turns out the only photos I lost were from an event in November and a Christmas party in December where I swiped friends’ memory cards and copied some of their pictures to my computer.  I really liked those pictures and I’ll be able to get them again.  If I had tagged any December photos in my library, I lost those tags and will have to redo them.

Lessons?  I think I’m going to back up my photo collection at least once a month instead of once every quarter or so.  If I have a big event that has very important pictures, I’ll back it up as soon as possible.

What About Files and Documents?   I actually store quite a few documents in the cloud (like all of my recipe cards) and they were saved.  I’ll share my strategies about that in a few weeks.  I lost a couple wedding scrapbook sketches, but I had already finished those layouts.  I lost a few flourish designs I made for the Silhouette, but I can redo those.

Want more information?  Review my posts from last year about photo organization:

  1. Organizing Non-Digital Prints
  2. Organizing Photos as You Take Them
  3. Taking Control of Your Hard Drive
  4. Advanced Organization Techniques
  5. Organizing Cell Phone Pictures

I still get the shakes if I think about what would have happened if my photos weren’t backed up.

*Yup, I’m aware that a virus is not the same thing as my hard drive crashing.  I’m just being dramatic.