What’s Your Backup Plan?

As someone who enjoys a great photo of my kids much more than an expensive piece of jewelry or fancy new gadget, there’s one thing that used to keep me awake at night with worry … the fear of losing our thousands of digital photos to fire, computer malfunction or other similar trauma.

I had visions of trying to grab my babies in one hand and my bulky computer tower in the other while fleeing from the house in the middle of the night. Not a pretty picture. And not the best backup plan.

So finally, after one such sleepless night a little over a year ago, I finally decided enough was enough. With all of the technology at our disposal these days, there really is no excuse for not backing up those irreplaceable photos, not to mention the digital scrapbook pages we spend hours putting together or the valuable digital products we spend our hard-earned money hoarding.

I now have a system, which I thought I’d share with you today. My system may not work for you, but hopefully my sharing it will help get you thinking about something that would work for you so that you don’t become one of the many who have lost their valuable files because of the all-too-common computer crash or other mishap. I’m also hoping that if you do have a system in place that works for you, you’ll share it in a comment so that others may be able to learn from your example.

Kristin’s Backup Plan

My approach to backing up my photos and digital scrapbook-related files is relatively straightforward. All of these items are saved in multiple locations – on my computer hard-drive, on an external hard-drive, burned to CD-ROM, and/or uploaded to an online storage service. That may seem a bit extreme, but this way I figure I have my bases covered for a variety of possible circumstances.

Specifically, here’s how I handle each type of file…

Digital Photos

1) I’m a Mac girl so all of our photos are downloaded into iPhoto and then automatically sorted into “Smart” albums (folders) by month & year. My iPhoto file is stored on my external hard drive (EHD). Every couple weeks, I export my recent photos into a temporary folder on my computer desktop (hard drive), just to make sure I have a backup in case something happens to my EHD before I get to the next two steps.

2) I maintain a free account at Shutterfly.com and this is my primary online backup source for our photos. At least once a month, more often if I’ve been taking tons of photos, I upload every single photo to one folder at Shutterfly. For instance, every single photo we took in 2009 now lives in one Shutterfly album titled “Yearbook 2009″. These photos have not been edited in any way and I would probably not print directly from this file without sorting, weeding & editing first. It simply serves as an emergency backup file in case I ever need them.

3) Next, at the end of every month, I burn all of that month’s photos on a CD. These CDs are labeled and stored in a nice little box right on my desk next to my purse. In case of fire, that’s the box I’ll grab (along with my kids…LOL).

Digital Scrapbook Layouts

1) I create all of my scrapbook pages in Photoshop and save them as PSD files while still in progress. Each page is saved into an “Albums in Progress” folder on my hard drive and sorted by specific album (ie. Skylar’s First Year, the Story of Us, All About Me, etc.). Once a page is complete, I immediately save both the full-size layered PSD file and the flattened PDF file in that same “Albums in Progress” folder, plus save a copy of the flattened file in another folder  on my hard drive labeled “Layouts to Print.”  At the same time, I also save all of these files in folders of the same names on my EHD. That way, I always have at least two copies of everything. It takes up more storage space, but the peace of mind is worth it to me.

2) At the same time that I’m uploading my pages to my favorite online galleries (which is generally as soon as I finish a page because I love the immediate gratification!), I also upload a full-quality version to my free Shutterfly Share site. This serves two purposes – one, it helps me maintain an ongoing portfolio of all of my scrapbooking which is shared with friends and family, and second, it creates a reliable archive of all of my layouts at their full file size & quality.

3) At least once a month – and more often if I’ve been scrapbooking a lot – I upload any pages in my “Layouts to Print” folder to my favorite printing service, which is generally Scrapping Simply or Scrapbooks To Share. Even if I don’t order prints right away, they are safely stored off-site and will be ready for me when I am ready to place an order.

The one thing I don’t do yet that I probably should start doing is regularly burning all of my scrapbook layouts on CD. Somehow I need to squeeze that into my routine…

Digital Scrapbook Supplies

This is probably the weakest link in my current backup plan.

1) As I download files, I save them to my desktop and then immediately move them into a single “New Digi Scrapping Files” folder on my desktop, plus copy them into an identical folder on my EHD. I tend to want to scrap with my new stuff, so having this folder right there where I can see it makes that easy.

2) Once that folder starts to get a bit full, I move everything out of it and into my more permanent “Scrapbooking Files” folder on my hard drive. There I organize everything the way I want it, then copy the entire folder onto my EHD as a backup. Then I empty out both of my “New ….” folders so I can start filling them up again with new purchases.

This is another group of files I haven’t started consistently saving on CD, primarily because they take so much room. Once I get the hang of burning such files on DVDs, that’s what I plan to begin doing.

That’s my system. As I mentioned, it’s probably not the best system for everyone and may not work for you, but at the moment it’s good enough to help me sleep a little easier at night.

So … now it’s your turn. How do you protect your photos and digital files?

Or DO you?

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Comments

  1. Dianne says:

    I’m glad to see someone who’s probably even more OCD about photos. I’ve always heard horror stories about people losing their digital pix, so that has set the stage for my habits (which could still be improved).

    I upload my pix from my card via Adobe Bridge. I choose the setting to automatically copy them to my external hard drive at the same time. So right off the bat, they’re on my laptop’s hard drive and my EHD. Anything edited for my blog is uploaded to Flickr and/or Photobucket. I used to regularly burn back-up CDs, only my CD/DVD burner no longer works in my laptop. :-(

    I have since gotten an account with Mozy and they run the back-up of my computer files (pix, docs, everything I choose) twice a day, so everything is available online.

    I recently heard that thumb/flash drives are NOT very reliable for backing up files, although that was where I had been storing my digital scrapbooking supplies once they were unzipped on my laptop (since I can’t burn CDs). I’ve been thinking that I should get another EHD for scrapbook supplies and pages I’ve made.

    So things are in three places – laptop hard drive, EHD, and Mozy. If my burner worked, I’d probably over-save and have CDs, too. LOL! Thanks for sharing your system. I’m always up for a well-streamlined system. I like that you keep your CDs by your purse. My EHD is usually near my laptop and I’d probably try to grab both on my way out the door in an emergency. :-)

  2. Dianne says:

    I’m glad to see someone who’s probably even more OCD about photos. I’ve always heard horror stories about people losing their digital pix, so that has set the stage for my habits (which could still be improved).

    I upload my pix from my card via Adobe Bridge. I choose the setting to automatically copy them to my external hard drive at the same time. So right off the bat, they’re on my laptop’s hard drive and my EHD. Anything edited for my blog is uploaded to Flickr and/or Photobucket. I used to regularly burn back-up CDs, only my CD/DVD burner no longer works in my laptop. :-(

    I have since gotten an account with Mozy and they run the back-up of my computer files (pix, docs, everything I choose) twice a day, so everything is available online.

    I recently heard that thumb/flash drives are NOT very reliable for backing up files, although that was where I had been storing my digital scrapbooking supplies once they were unzipped on my laptop (since I can’t burn CDs). I’ve been thinking that I should get another EHD for scrapbook supplies and pages I’ve made.

    So things are in three places – laptop hard drive, EHD, and Mozy. If my burner worked, I’d probably over-save and have CDs, too. LOL! Thanks for sharing your system. I’m always up for a well-streamlined system. I like that you keep your CDs by your purse. My EHD is usually near my laptop and I’d probably try to grab both on my way out the door in an emergency. :-)

  3. I would consider trading up your CDs for data DVDs, assuming you have a DVD burner on your Mac. They’re not much more expensive and hold quite a bit more.

    My system is convoluted right now. Nothing lives on our internal HDs except music. That is backed up to EHDs. All the photos and scrap supplies live on an EHD that is backed up to another via the desktop. I scrap from two computers so its really the only way to be truly portable.

  4. I would consider trading up your CDs for data DVDs, assuming you have a DVD burner on your Mac. They’re not much more expensive and hold quite a bit more.

    My system is convoluted right now. Nothing lives on our internal HDs except music. That is backed up to EHDs. All the photos and scrap supplies live on an EHD that is backed up to another via the desktop. I scrap from two computers so its really the only way to be truly portable.

  5. Kim Bahr says:

    I agree, far too many people don’t take precautions with backing up their computer files.

    My process is as follows:
    After each day’s shooting, the photos are downloaded to my computer HD, duplicated to an external HD and burned to a CD or DVD. Nothing has been sorted or edited at this point.

    Each folder on the computer and external HD and the DVD are labeled as
    YYMMDD followed by the name, or event and nested inside are folders for Orig files and edits.

    After the above steps are completed, I reformat the card from my camera and replace it in my camera bag so it’s ready to go for the next time.

    Files that are in process of being edited are kept in the edits folder until they are completed. After completion, they are also burned to a disk and backed up to an off site storage system.

    As for digital scrapbook files, I back the files up to CDs or DVDs immediately after download and leave a working copy on an external HD. I do keep the files organized by artist or creator so I can keep any previews and license info together with the files.

    Hope that all makes sense.

    It really doesn’t make much difference how you back up as long as you do it in at least two different physical locations and at least one non-mechanical method.

    Kim

  6. Kim Bahr says:

    I agree, far too many people don’t take precautions with backing up their computer files.

    My process is as follows:
    After each day’s shooting, the photos are downloaded to my computer HD, duplicated to an external HD and burned to a CD or DVD. Nothing has been sorted or edited at this point.

    Each folder on the computer and external HD and the DVD are labeled as
    YYMMDD followed by the name, or event and nested inside are folders for Orig files and edits.

    After the above steps are completed, I reformat the card from my camera and replace it in my camera bag so it’s ready to go for the next time.

    Files that are in process of being edited are kept in the edits folder until they are completed. After completion, they are also burned to a disk and backed up to an off site storage system.

    As for digital scrapbook files, I back the files up to CDs or DVDs immediately after download and leave a working copy on an external HD. I do keep the files organized by artist or creator so I can keep any previews and license info together with the files.

    Hope that all makes sense.

    It really doesn’t make much difference how you back up as long as you do it in at least two different physical locations and at least one non-mechanical method.

    Kim

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