How to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your Photos

October 12, 2012 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 22 Comments |
How to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your Photos Image

This is a guest post by Peter Zaborszky who runs BestBackups

When I was 20 and travelling in Europe for the summer, I had a bad experience that stuck with me. Back then flash memory cards were expensive, so I couldn’t keep all my photos on the camera, I downloaded them to my laptop every 2-3 nights. And then disaster struck. At one of the hostels my whole bag was stolen. Including my laptop. While having something stolen is frustrating and I felt like I’d been taken advantage of, the long term effects made me feel even worse. Quite a few weeks worth of photos were gone. The memories will stay with me, but photos do help me remember them!

Digital cameras have become almost the only type of cameras used now, which means that we are dependant on hard disks and computers for storing our photos as well. This is great in some ways, our photos are accessible, we can modify them, and print them as many times as we want. But, the weak link is the hard disk or computer. The scenario I’ve described above can happen, or it can happen without theft as well, what if simply your hard disk fails? According to Boston Computing, 6% of hard drives will suffer data loss in the next year. That sounds low, but considering there are thousands of readers on this blog, that means hundreds of failed hard drives among the readers. The statistic becomes even scarier if you use more than one device!

Now there are ways to avoid this, the most common I’ve heard of is having a second hard drive (usually external), where you can backup your files. This works great and has done for me too, but there are problems with it. What if you forget to back up? Or what if the external hard drive fails?

There is a second option that is becoming more and more popular. Hard drive prices have come down so much that there are now online services where you can store your data. They are become so popular that they are getting thousands of GB of data uploaded to them every day. You’ve probably heard of Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive, but there are several other (over 50) providers who specialise in this area, and can give you a better service than these well known brands. Not to mention the per GB price of these mainstream brands is higher than some specialist providers.

Some providers actually give you unlimited space, which is extremely useful if you’ve got an extensive photo collection. How much does this cost? You can get away with under $5 a month for unlimited space for some providers, which is pretty amazing.

I’ve personally reviewed almost all these providers now on my site, so I know what to look for and how good they are. I’ve prepared a list of top backup providers for photos especially for this blog, if you are interested in more providers just check out our service. So here goes:

1. Winner: Backblaze

How to Make Sure You Don't Lose Your Photos

$3.96 per month for unlimited space ($5 if paid monthly)

A 5 year old company, they have the best price in the industry for unlimited space, and their software is great and easy to use. They continuously back up your files, which means as soon as it is modified it gets uploaded to their servers. They have been featured extensively in the “tech press”, as a promising company for the future. They have a great focus on the customer and a good technical team.

Link: http://www.backblaze.com

2. ZipCloud

How to Make Sure You Don't Lose Your Photos

$4.95 per month for 75GB, or only $6.95 for unlimited space ($9.95 if paid monthly)

Easy to use website, easy to use software with the features that you need, and a reasonable price for both limited and unlimited services. They upload at intervals when you tell the software to, for example hourly or daily.

Link: http://www.zipcloud.com

This is a guest post by Peter Zaborszky who runs Best Backups.

3. SugarSync

How to Make Sure You Don't Lose Your Photos

$4.99 per month for 30GB, or only $14.99 for 100GB!

Although they don’t offer unlimited uploads, their per GB rate is the best in the industry. Their mobile support is probably one of the best in the industry, which is getting more important every day. They also support versioning, which means if you change a file, you still have access to the previous version of a certain amount of time.

Link: http://www.sugarsync.com

While these three providers are great, there are plenty of others with lots of different features. Some providers even backup your Facebook account. So while these are good, it’s worth checking out the other as well.

We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible to find the right provider at BestBackups.com, so check out our reviews there if you are interested. We also have a mailing list for special coupons and discounts.

Entry Tags

photos, photo, backup, external, cloud, sugarsync, online, drive, hard drive, lose, zipcloud, backblaze

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Your Comments

22 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Craig Atkinson

Flickr pro is $25/year and unlimited. Also allows sharing. If you use Lightroom the sync function is excellent.

3:18 pm - Friday, October 12, 2012

#2 Daf

Had a quick look as “unlimited” hardly ever is that - BackBlaze have a very open ended and scary fair use policy : http://www.backblaze.com/terms.html
They don’t specify what fair use is, but also state they can cancel the account without notice!
Not the reassurance I’d be looking for when searching for a backup provider.

5:09 pm - Friday, October 12, 2012

#3 Daf

Always sceptical of “unlimited” as they hardly ever are. BackBlaze have a fairly scary fair use policy/clause : http://www.backblaze.com/terms.html
Not only do they not say what level it’s at - but also state they can cancel the account without notice - not the reassurance I’d be looking for from a backup provider.

5:11 pm - Friday, October 12, 2012

#4 BlackBox

I don’t want to rain on your parade, but online storage is MORE vulnerable, not LESS. First of all, one of your own arguments stands - what if you forget to back up? But that’s only the beginning of the problem.

Any company that you’ve listed is not some sacred storage protected from all troubles by the powerful photography gods. Most of them are just a small office in Palo Alto renting disk space in server depos somewhere in Panama.

Have you ever thought WHY their services are so cheap. The reason is - risky “marketing strategies” implying that low prices will generate more clientelle and thus enough revenue. And if those strategies fail (should I remind you of the “dot.com crash”?), they go down like lead zeppelins. And when they go down, their storage space, for which they failed to pay, gets emptied. And your precious memories will be destroyed by a Panamanian (Malaysian, Indonesian) technician pressing the ‘Delete’ button.

Another scenario - bad business practices. How many online storage companies rented server space from 3fn or Megaupload? And how many of their clients are now crying over their lost photographs.

So my advice - if you want your data to be safe, buy a backup drive. And if your photos are REALLY precious, buy TWO. Plus some synchronizing software which is readily available on the market.

5:35 pm - Friday, October 12, 2012

#5 Tux Kenobi

Another solution, which I consider safer when you travel is :

- backup your photos to a second SD card that you have with you, wallet, hotel safe, whatever.

- upload only your trip photos to a free online storage, Ubuntu One gives you 5GB, if you take a lot of photos in your trips then MediaFire gives you 50GB for free !

- when you get home store all in you computer and always make automatic backups with your preferred software to an external drive, Deja vu backup, is a simple and effective free solution for Mac, PC and Linux. Today a good portable 1TB USB3 drive goes for less than $100 !

That way you don’t need to leave personal data floating in the cloud, only temporarily, and best you don’t need to pay monthly fees.

11:55 pm - Friday, October 12, 2012

#6 David Bump

I’m also a fan of local backups, and not just for the very good reasons already mentioned:
If you shoot in RAW, you’ll be hard pressed to upload as fast as you can shoot with the kind of broadband that is available to travelers—when it’s even available.  Home users may be challenged if they haven’t splashed out on their ISP, and they have a heavy shutter finger.
I’ve just finished the first six weeks of a full year of travel, and the local backup method I’m using has been very convenient, and I’m a lot more confident of it than any online backup.  The details are here:
http://nevermindthebumpsontheroad.blogspot.com/2012/08/backups.html

2:17 am - Saturday, October 13, 2012

#7 Matt

Amazon Glacier looks like it is worth checking into as well.

4:34 am - Saturday, October 13, 2012

#8 Fredy Ross

No way I would trust any online service no matter how big they are now. Two backups for serious photographers with external hardrives and keep track of new technology to make sure they can be read with a new computer in the future.

6:28 pm - Saturday, October 13, 2012

#9 James - United By Photography

Backing up is essential, but with many of the people I know who shoot video on DSLR, the upload for cloud storage maybe cumbersome and can exceeded certain limits. Great for RAW, Tiff and Jpeg.

Please bear in mind with cloud is access issues and wifi, due to the fact that the data flow can be restricted.

8:11 pm - Saturday, October 13, 2012

#10 Peter Zaborszky

Thanks for the feedback everyone, I appreciate it!

I think you are right about the trust issues, it is definitely something that needs to be considered in the EULA, and yes right now the service providers are not going to be the ultimate backup solution as some of them do say they can cancel at any time, so better to have 2-3 copies of everything, 1 local, 1 external 1 online, or 2 online etc.

As for renting space in Palo Alto or Megaupload, many of the services rent space from amazon, which is probably the most reliable data center right now.

(Backblaze use their own servers, which can be a good or bad thing, good as they have full control, bad as who knows what they do technically.

Let me know about any concerns, questions, I’m really interested in any feedback as I want to make Bestbackups the best site out there.

10:47 pm - Saturday, October 13, 2012

#11 MC

Cloud storage needs really high speed upload rates. As a professional photographer that shoots in RAW always i do not find this solution good for me. Its too slow.

I like to back up my files on drives that exist in front of me. Just makes me feel safer. Who knows what sort of hacking happens to these server and information is stolen etc…Back it up on a drives, put each drive in a different room or location. Thats how i get my piece of mind.

12:23 am - Sunday, October 14, 2012

#12 BlackBox

Peter, the problem with Backblaze is that they keep their data servers AND backup servers not only in the same building, but in the same ROOM. So, one big fire for man, a giant loss for mankind.

On a plus side (read about it on the Internet), they use some very, very cool protection with xxxx-bytes protection algorhythm. But because I have no idea about all this, that’s useless trivia to me.

Amazon IS cool by the amount of servers and volume of storage available. Some say, they have over half a million data servers (for comparison - the whole of China has less than 25,000). Amazon is big and strong. They are truly the PanAm of the Internet. :-)

7:58 am - Sunday, October 14, 2012

#13 Mortimer

Very good article thank you very much.

I agree with the point of view that online backup has its own serious challenges.
How long will they stay in business for?
Why would their hardware be more reliable than mine?
Do I know where the data is stored and who has access to it?
Do you realize how long it takes to upload RAW files and movies?
The price per GB online (adding telecom costs if applicable) is not that competitive compared to local hard disk space.
USB Key disks do it for me, several 64gb ones. Easy to carry with me as backups.
I use online site only for sharing, not archiving.
And even now, I find that sending pix by email to a targeted audience gives me more control.

1:18 pm - Sunday, October 14, 2012

#14 Frank

Another important issue to consider is how these services handle deleted files.

If you’re deleting intentionally - no problem. However, if you accidentally delete a file and don’t notice it for a while - then the online version will also be gone.

I use Crashplan, which can be configured to keep deleted files.

5:30 pm - Sunday, October 14, 2012

#15 Albin

I’d agree with the local storage crew, especially for travel - no way to get dependable upload speeds on the road.  A big thumb drive will hold even RAW files in a traveler’s pocket to avoid the stolen bag problem.  I’d also distinguish between sync services that permit casual access to files from several devices (e.g. Dropbox or Sugarsync) with storage proper - while great for active use or editing the human error vulnerability of sync services is much greater than for straight up cloud storage.

8:02 pm - Sunday, October 14, 2012

#16 Girl Viet Nam

I usually use Flickr, because it’s only 25$/year. In addition to its self, it’s also unlimited.

10:44 pm - Sunday, October 14, 2012

#17 Nathan Scott

Backing up is essential, but what lots of people do is that they can put those photo in there HDD or make DVD of that photos but they are not the perfect way because there are some risk of crash or breakage. What you have to do is that you have to make an online backup. There are lots of websites who gave you the free service to upload there photo into there database, So online backup is the best option for storing photographs.

7:52 am - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

#18 kevin

I agree to not put all your eggs in one basket. I dont think you should only do cloud backup or only do external drive backup. Those arguing against cloud backup because they could disappear is only valid if that’s your only backup strategy. And to those that only backup to external drives - what happens when someone breaks into your home and steals your computer and drives or a fire happens. I back everything up to external raid and then to an online service. So i have 3 copies in two different locations. If the online service goes out of business, no big deal, i got a backup plus originals and i can easily find a new online service. If i have a fire i can retrieve my files from cloud storage. Now the chances of me getting robbed and my online service going out of business in the same day is pretty small so i feel pretty safe.

3:58 pm - Thursday, October 18, 2012

#19 CompuPhillip

I have been using GoodSync by Siber Systems to back up my photos and documents for years now, it offers me a lot more control and the ability to sync to any computer, drive, or third party storage services I want. I am not limited at all by this software and am amazed the amount of power I am given even when accessing another companies cloud storage service like Sky Drive (Windows Live)and Amazon Cloud Drive. I highly recommend GoodSync 9.

7:29 pm - Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#20 PhotographyBeginnerVideos.com

If you take the wrong pictures Obama might label you a terrorist and sign an executive order to confiscate your pictures.

3:05 am - Thursday, February 7, 2013

#21 will

Great article along with all the comments it provides a lot of answers and questions?
I agree multiple copies are needed. When I’m uploading in the studio my pc is set up for raid 5. I also save edited copies to a wireless Drobo that has never let me down. I also burn each clients images to disc and up until recently used justcloud for online storage.

7:26 pm - Monday, November 4, 2013

#22 Mille L. Jessen

Excellent information to many people like to read articles to learn about these issues of great interest.Oups… my blog disappeared from Les Explorers list ; )So many people leave a coment in your blog, For this we can know that your blog is very Wonderful,Cheers for your performance, I hope you continue to post such good articles. I can learn that how can I sure that I don’t loss my photo. Thanks to share this.

5:36 am - Thursday, June 5, 2014