It’s coming on to Christmas, and that means it’s time for an annual chore: the checking of my photo archives. Like many people, I have a large number of digital photographs and videos, and I don’t want to lose them. Each year, I check my archives and make sure that my data is still good.
Many people assume that because they’ve got their pictures stored somewhere, the pictures are fine. That assumption could not be further from the truth, and that’s why you actually have to perform maintenance on your digital files, just like you would on your paper photo albums.
Here are the maintenance tasks I would recommend:
- Empty your camera – That’s right, pull the photos off your phone, your Nikon, the memory cards you have laying around, etc. Realistically, you shouldn’t store photos on your phone for very long anyway, since they might be subject to embarrasing disclosure, or loss. A phone or camera is not intended as a long-term storage device, so just don’t do it.
- Validate your optical media – home-burned CD/DVD/BRD media use an optically alterable chemical to store data. Over time (usually 3-7 years), that chemical can degrade. When that happens, you start losing data. If you’ve backed your photos onto optical disks, you absolutely must copy them off and put them onto new disks or other media every few years or you absolutely will lose photos. Unlike the marketing hype, this media really isn’t permanent, nor does it have a 100 year lifespan. 3 to 7 years, that’s all. If you get more than that, you’re just lucky.
- Validate your hard drive media – Storing your photos on a hard disk? have you checked your hard disk? Hard drive failure is a big killer of people’s photos. Unless you’ve taken steps to prevent it, a hard drive is a single point of failure – lose the drive, lose everything, including your photos. Personally, I store most of my photos on a RAID device that uses four hard drives and is configured such that it can tolerate a single drive failure (RAID 5). That may be a bit much for a home user, but if you’re using hard drive storage, at least consider keeping backups somewhere not on the same hard drive.
- Check your on-line storage accounts and licensing agreements – Plenty of people use online services. Be aware of your user agreements and licensing! Many of those services will claim ownership or unrestricted use license rights in consideration for letting you use their service. This is particularly true if the service is free. If you use a paid service, don’t forget to make sure you’re paid up.
- And don’t forget your paper – If you’re over 20 years old, you probably have paper photos somewhere… don’t forget to check them and make sure they’re not rotting away. Maybe scan them to digital media.
Keep your data safe this Christmas!