5 Ways to Keep Your Personal Photos & Videos Safe

You don't want to lose this stuff.

Keeping your personal photo and video library safe is important. No one wants to go through the horror of losing many years worth of digital photos and videos if you lose or break your phone or something happens to your computer. Why risk losing all of those precious memories and moments? I have some great solutions you can use to make sure your photo and video library is safe.

First Things First

You need to make a backup of your photos and videos, now. It is fine that you have one copy of your photo and video library on your computer, but you should have one somewhere else as well. Don't put this off because you will regret it when it's too late. You should try to have them in two places at all times. There are different ways you can do this, and we will discuss it here.

The amount of space you will need to create a backup of your library will range greatly. This all depends on the number of photos and video that you take. Some of these solutions might not work for you because of the size of your library, but for most people these options should be fine.

1. External Hard Drive Backup

One relatively cheap way to back up your photo library is to get an external hard drive. A 1TB (terabyte) hard drive costs less than $100, and you will not be sad you spent so little on such a simple solution. I recommend keeping the hard drive in a safe place after you've backed up your photos. I don't suggest leaving it plugged into your computer all the time.

Here are a couple of portable external USB hard drives that I recommend:

All of the above portable hard drives come with great ratings. I have a couple of the Toshiba drives that I use personally, and I have never had a single problem with them.

2. Online Backup

Online backup might sound scary because it puts your stuff online, but with Backblaze your stuff is secure. What Backblaze does is, once installed on your computer, it will continuously backup your computer to the Backblaze cloud, this includes your photo and video library. It is quite cheap at only $5/month per computer, and even less if pay for a year upfront. Storage is unlimited. Yes, you heard that right, unlimited backup storage for only $5/month.

When you start your initial backup you are asked to create a Private Encryption Key that will encrypt your backup, so not even Backblaze can see your files. Keep this encryption key somewhere very safe. If you ever lose it, you will not be able to get into your Backblaze backup, ever. Period.

If you ever have an instance where you need to restore your files, there are multiple methods for getting your files back from Backblaze. You can log into their web interface to download individual files or folders for free. You can have them send you a USB Flash Drive (up to 128GB) filled with your files for $99. You can also have them send you a USB Hard Drive (up to 4TB) full of your files for $189.

Backblaze is a service that I use personally, and I highly recommend it. It gives me peace of mind knowing that my photo and video library is not only backed up at my home but that it is also backed up in a Backblaze data center that is nowhere near my home, just in case something happened there.

Some great online backup solutions are:

  • Backblaze offers unlimited backup for $50/year.
  • Carbonite offers unlimited backup for $59.99/year.
  • Mozy offers 50GB of backup for $5.99/month, or 125GB for $9.99/month.
  • Crashplan offers unlimited backup for $5.99/month or $59.99/year.

3. Online Storage

Online storage is similar to online backup in that your data is in the cloud, but when I talk about online storage, I mean services like Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive. Online storage is a great option for backing up your photo and video library, but the pricing can be a bit higher compared to something like Backblaze.

Dropbox is a great service that makes it easy to not only sync files between different devices, but also as a way to store your photo and video library and keep it safe. Dropbox costs $9/month or $99/year for 1TB of space. You can sign up for Dropbox for free and get 2GB of space to try it out. I use Dropbox personally, and I pay for the 1TB plan.

What I like about Online Storage is that it allows me to access my photos and videos from all of my devices. I can go to Dropbox's web interface to get a file. I can install Dropbox's desktop app to get it on my desktop or laptop. I can also install the app on my phone or tablet to get to my files as well. Dropbox provides me with a lot of additional benefits over just using it as a place to backup my photos and videos.

Some great online storage solutions are:

  • Dropbox offers 5GB of space for free, and then $9.99/month for 1TB or $99/year for 1TB.
  • Box offers 5GB of space for free, and then $10/month for 100GB.
  • Google Drive gives you 15GB for free if you have a Google account. 100GB is $1.99/month and 1TB is $9.99/month.
  • Apple iCloud gives you 5GB for free and is set up for anyone that has an Apple ID. 50GB is $0.99/month, 200GB is $2.99/month, and 1TB is $9.99/month.
  • Microsoft OneDrive gives you 5GB free to start. 50GB is $1.99/month, 1TB is $6.99/month and Office 365 is included.

All of the pricing is current as of the publishing date of this post.

4. Burn CD, DVD or Blu-ray

You can burn your photos and videos to disk. This is cheap and easy to do, but I do have some concerns about the future of using this method. There are a couple of things to consider when selecting this method of backup:

  • Some computer manufacturers have begun to move away from including DVD and Blu-ray drives in their computers.
  • The lifespan of a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray has been predicted to be anywhere from 20-100 years.
  • They can get scratched and become unreadable.

If you plan on creating a backup using one of these, and then tucking it away somewhere safe like a safe deposit box or something, then you will probably be fine. I would suggest keeping it somewhere that it won't be moved around a lot.

5. Physical Copies

Last, but not least, you can print your photos. There is something special about a good, old fashion, physical photo. The current cost is about $0.20/photo.

Additional Option For Video

If you have the time on your hands and are a bit more savvy, you can upload your videos to a service like YouTube or Vimeo. You can set your video to be private, so it isn't out there for the world, or not.

My Personal Solution

The solution I use is a combination of a few of the things above. Let me walk you through it.

First, I have a Drobo 4-Bay Gen 3 that has about 6TB of storage in it. It is a sort of backup in itself because it has four large hard drives in it that combine for more storage. I can have multiple hard drives in my Drobo fail and still be safe, but I do not solely rely on this.

The Drobo is attached to a home server that lives in my basement. All of my photos and videos are on this Drobo storage drive. This server, in turn, has Backblaze running on it constantly keeping it backed up to the cloud. My Dropbox is also connected to this server, and I use it to send photos to this server.

My Photo & Video Backup Process

I import photos from my iPhone onto my laptop. My laptop dumps the photos into my Dropbox and uploads them to the Dropbox cloud. Dropbox on my home server syncs with my laptop and downloads the photos and then places them on my Drobo storage. Backblaze sees the new photos and backs them up to the Backblaze cloud.

In my process, I also organize my photos into folders based on year, month, and day using an app called Hazel. This makes it easy for my family to access and view the photos.

The AppleTVs in my home are set to display the photos that end up in my photo library, so all of the TVs in our home end up being digital frames if they sit for long enough. Everyone that comes to visit seems to enjoy going through all of our memories and laughing at how goofy we all are.

Something to Consider

The backup options I've discussed here don't have to apply to your photos and videos only. You can do the same thing with your personal documents. In a future post, I'll discuss how you can go paperless and stop being a paper hoarder!