Backing Up is (not) Hard To Do

If you’re like most people you find yourself looking at your phone or digital camera and wondering what you are going to do with all those photos.  What happens if your phone, disk, device or card fails?  How can you be sure your photos and videos are safe?  The truth is there is no ONE sure way to keep them well protected and that’s why we’re strong advocates of the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy.  If you are familiar with the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy, you know you should have a copy of your files (including photos and videos) on two local devices and one remote device (i.e. – somewhere on the internet, such as Amazon Prime, Backblaze, Smugmug, etc.).  The question that most people have for us at the Gym is, “what is the best thing to use for local devices?”

Where to put it

Common options for local devices include a handful of things:  your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash drive (aka thumb drive, jump drive, memory stick, etc.), or a NAS (Network Attached Storage).  In years past, that list included CDs and DVDs but less and less people are using those as newer computers often don’t come equipped with readers for that media.  So, what to choose…

For smallish collections, a flash drive can be a good backup option.  They fail, as all hardware does, so you shouldn’t make that your only backup.  But if you have a copy of your computer’s hard drive, a copy on a flash drive and one somewhere online, you can feel pretty good about your backup plan.  These days, flash drives are really inexpensive and available sizes get larger all the time.  Figure out how much storage you need and get a drive that will hold at least that much.  You’ll need to think about how much storage you will need in the future if you are planning to continue adding photos and videos to that drive as a part of your regular backup.  As a final flash drive consideration, photos and videos can take some time to transfer if you have very many.  When you are shopping for a flash drive, you’ll see that some are labeled USB 2.0, some are USB 3.0, but don’t be intimidated by that, it’s pretty easy to understand.  2.0 was an earlier version of the USB drive, 3.0 is newer and faster, and also more expensive.  Your choice will depend on a few factors, the first being whether or not your computer has a USB 3 port.  If it only has a USB 2 port, a 3.0 will work but only at the 2.0 speed, so save your money and get a 2.0.  Next, factor in with how large your collection is; the larger your collection, the longer it will take to transfer.  So, if you have a 3.0 port, you might consider the 3.0 drive to speed things up.  But if your collection is relatively small or you aren’t concerned about speed, you can save some money by choosing a 2.0.  If you’re interested in a comparison of the different types of drive and how fast they transfer, check out this page from Kingston.

If you have a large collection, an external hard drive is a great option for a local backup.  We love them because they hold a TON of photos and videos and even a drive that will hold several terabytes is relatively inexpensive.  Just for a frame of reference, let’s say the average digital-born JPG (an image that was taken on a digital device like a phone or digital camera) image is around 2MB in size (depending on a ton of factors, your mileage may vary).  There are 1,000,000 MB in 1 TB.  So if you purchased a 1 TB drive and your average photo size is 2MB, you could estimate that you would be able to store half a million photos…and that’s a lot.  Like flash drives (and all technology) they can also fail, so don’t put all your faith in an external hard drive alone.  Also like flash drives, you will find them in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, when choosing between the two, the same variables apply.  Backblaze continuously reviews hard drives and publishes such things as the expected life cycle, annualized failure rate and the number of drive failures.  If you’re interested in the latest post, you can find it on their blog.  We plan to replace external hard drives every four years based on the findings from Backblaze.  Whatever your plan, check your backup drive periodically and replace it if it has failed.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) drives are not really new but a few new and interesting options have surfaced in the last few years that focus primarly on storage, organization and display of photos.  We use a Synology drive at our home and at the Gym.  They can be a bit more challenging to set up but once it is set up, a NAS is a thing of beauty for streaming your photos and videos to your smart TV, computer, phone, and tablet.  Some come with hard drives built in, some allow you to choose which hard drives and what size you want to invest in.  In either case, you can consider the reliability the same as any other hard drive.  Use it as one of your backups and plan to replace it if it fails.


The most important part of a good backup plan has nothing to do with which physical drives you choose.  The most important thing you can do is to schedule your backups regularly.  We all have good intentions of backing up but life gets busy, we lose track of time and before you know it, months have gone by and those photos and videos are vulnerable again.  Often, not for lack of having a drive or cloud-based storage, just because there was no time to stop and actually take the steps necessary to make the actual backup.  Some providers, like Backblaze, allow you to choose when and they backup all your files for you without you having to do anything or even remember that a backup is taking place.  You can also install software that will allow you to schedule your backup, like GoodSync, which allows you to choose from a variety of cloud storage sites (i.e. – Amazon Prime, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.) as well as sites that utilize FTP and other remote connection protocols.  Whatever you choose, it’s best to schedule your backup so you KNOW your photos and videos are all backed up.

If you never do anything else with your photos and videos, back them up!  Future generations will thank you for preserving their memories.   If you need help getting started, email us to Schedule a Personal Training session to find out how to do it yourself or let us do it for you!