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How Can I Preserve My Digital Memories (Photos, Movies, Music)

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Think about the growing data space demands we have at our own homes. Precious memories are now stored digitally. We have smart devices and cameras taking videos which are commonly now all high definition (HD) resulting in very large data files. They are in different file formats. We have also larger and larger megapixel photos being taken by cameras and smart phones. We purchase digital copies of movies now instead of optical discs (DVDs). Our music is now all digital as well, no more discs (CDs). This results in huge amounts of data that now needs to be stored at your home. Most people have not given any thought to how valuable this data is and what would happen if it was lost.

I have personally been contacted by many concerned people who have lost all of their irreplaceable pictures. Recently someone took many pictures at their daughter’s wedding and left all of the pictures on the camera’s memory card. They took that memory card into Walmart to get some prints made directly off the memory card. A few months later they went to access the card again from their computer and the card could not be read. They had not made any copies of all the electronic photo files… all was gone. We sent the card to a data recovery business and unfortunately nothing was recoverable. They were devastated!

Even if you did make a copy of all your data (home videos, movies, music, photos), where do you store them? What happens if there is a fire in your home? How much backup and archiving should you do? I feel if something is irreplaceable such as personal videos and photos which are worthwhile memories, you should have an offsite copy. This could be as simple as having an additional copy made onto optical discs or portable external hard drives.

I feel it can be very valuable to have an outside opinion from someone knowledgeable in IT. Similar best practices found in the business world can apply on a smaller scale to our homes. Discuss with them your current electronic needs (music, photos, videos), what you do, and suggestions for how to safeguard this data. For example, there are a number of online Internet-based backup providers. Several even provide free backup services up to certain amounts (e.g. www.mozy.com, www.idrive.com and explore.live.com/skydrive).

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16 Comments
  1. I have been scanning all of my pictures into my computer, one album at a time. I plan to have all of my pictures transferred onto dvds, as well as memory cards. Once I get every one of my pictures scanned and transferred, I am taking them to my safe deposit box at the bank for safe-keeping.
    I do not recommend having all of your pictures in your home. Sometimes, bad things happen and it would really stink to lose everything. Something like that would be hard to get over.

    ~*Kerri’s friend has a forum*~ http://www.globaldiscussionforum.tv/portal/#.Ub0Dd3Eo7IU

  2. Thank you for your feedback! I am glad to see you taking precautions. It is a lot of work but well worth the results.

  3. I upload all my pictures online. I put them in private albums on Facebook. I also upload them to my Dropbox. Google now offer Picasa which stores your photos online and you can edit the images just like Instagram. The only concern is that your pictures remain private! Make sure you read carefully before uploading your pictures.

  4. I’ve begun to upload all memorable photos to sites like Dropbox or keep them as email attachments. In the past, I’ve had bad luck with portable hard drives crashing spontaneously and misplacing memory cards. Obviously, I’ll be in trouble if those sites crash or go under, but I have faith Dropbox and Google will be around for quite some time. I remember reading awhile back on your blog how Flickr accidentally deleted a users account and erased 4-5 years worth of photographs, hopefully nothing like that happens to me or anyone else. It just shows how we’re too trusting as human beings in handling our data.

  5. We have lost lots of old photographs to floods. So, when we got a free printer (those all-in-one kind), I’ve started scanning all the pictures I can and then upload them to SkyDrive as soon as possible. Aside from photos, movies and music, I’ve found it convenient to have soft copies of important documents for backup.

  6. I’ve been giving this a thought for sometime now. I’d lost data in the past. And I know how devastated I was during the time considering the fact that I lost some old pictures which I’ll never get back again. Although, I now make more than two back-ups of my valuable media files but the problem is they are mostly located at the same location. So, like you stated, “what if my house got burnt?” or “what if something I can’t even think of at present happened?”

    I think what I’ll be doing in the nearest future is make back-ups of my important files and store them on an external hard drive then keep it in a safe deposit box. I’m also considering an online storage facility and as many other options I can think of. Nevertheless, its never guaranteed that something mysterious won’t happen to the back-ups in other locations.

  7. I learned my lesson a couple of years ago when my computer was infected with a virus and I had to wipe everything and reinstall the operating system from scratch. Every file that I had on there was lost, because I hadn’t backed it up anywhere. This included over 1,000 songs and I don’t even know how many pictures. Years worth of memories that I couldn’t recover. I bought an external hard drive after that, and now I make sure to back everything up to there, and also use cloud storage online. I definitely would never want to go through losing everything again.

  8. Thank you for this post. It has reminded me of the times when I lost “everything”. Since then, I have done many things to back up my stuff but there isn’t one place where I have “everything”. I have back ups on external drives and DVDs but I have to organize everything to eliminate all doubles and put them up in cloud storage or something. I have many printed pictures that have no soft copies though. I think I should invest in a scanner.

  9. These days I have all of my computer files backed up on Carbonite. Before that I used Mozy; the free service is great, and even the paid service is reasonably priced.

    But in the past, yes, I have lost data. Over the years two of my desktop computers crashed; the first back around 2001 and the more recent in 2006. I lost several family photos from the 2001 crash which I had not backed up. In the 2006 crash, I lost a few photos and some music files, but the majority were backed up.

    Finally learning my lesson, I was now prepared for what seemed inevitable. So when my laptop crashed in 2008, everything was backed up! That was a huge relief. It was worth all the backup fees; I was using Mozy at that time.

    So yes, it is an important reminder. We need to backup everything all the time. We just never know what will happen or when.

  10. Yeah, it is a lot of work. But as you said, it’s worth taking these precautions. I once lost all my memories which were stored on the hard disk. It was such a pity. I am going to follow these advises to avoid any accidents like this in future.

  11. What I do to preserve my personal files is to have copies on each and every computer at my family’s and friends’ . It comes almost naturally actually, because I just send my pictures to my mom, or ti my mother or to my friends to see and they keep it, and I do the same. Of course this does not imply to all of my friends but only the best. My best friend has proved a life saviour several times – she sent me back all of the stories I’ve written when I lost them once.
    We also have a 500 GB of external memory

    • That’s a great idea. I’m glad to hear that your stories were saved! It’s a simple solution and a way to add redundancy to your backups. Our family does this as well, although when I did lose photos, I came to realize quickly that not everyone had all the photos I had.

      Your story reminds me of years ago when people would save newspaper clippings if someone they knew was in the local newspaper, and they would ssend them to that person. This kind of system translates into the digital age, and could help someone who had not adequately prepared for a computer disaster.

  12. I usually back up my data including personal photos, movies and music to an external hard drive. That way there is a second copy of anything important that I need. External hard drives are really not that expensive when you consider the life savers that they can be. I highly recommend doing this as I have had several computers self-destruct without any warning (mainly laptops that overheated or had faulty screens).

  13. I think you can store your stuff in the cloud memory like dropbox because you will always have access to it no matter your location and device that you utilize. If you store your photos and videos on a device or item then the chances of it staying preserved are very slim.

    • The only problem I find with storing files on the cloud is that files can be leaked if the company like Dropbox or iCloud is hacked, or if your password is guessed. The other problem I find with cloud storage is that an internet connection is needed for getting the files, and the service needs to be up at the same time. If Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive goes down due to some cause, your backup may be lost. But like always, it’s not a “backup” unless you’ve got 2 or more copies in different locations.

  14. I think it’s time we get some consultations working on this area. Not everyone knows how to preserve digital memories, tips and tricks, things to avoid and what to expect from current technology. Some would argue that they are too busy living the life to be dealing with this, but it’s quite important to have someone knowledgeable on the job.

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