With camera technology continually increasing its Megapixel resolutions, pictures get brighter and sharper in quality. Prices are also very affordable whether you get a small point and shoot camera or a digital SLR that are aimed towards the average photographer. Camera phones even take really nice quality images as well and can be used to capture great moments. Pictures are usually keepsake items that people will want to keep. With film, there is a piece of photograph that you can hold on to unless you lose it. With digital photos, if you have the copy saved somewhere that you can easily retrieve then it should technically always be there but if you lose that digital image, it is gone forever. As cameras continue to take pictures at higher resolution and megapixels, the file sizes continue to grow. If you take pictures in RAW, the file sizes are significantly higher as well. If you take a lot of pictures, storage will be a concern if you plan on keeping all of those images. In this article, I want to cover some of the options for storing your photo images that will hopefully prevent some people from losing their images and thank me later on.
There are many ways of storing your digital images similar to any digital file. You can save it onto a DVD/CD, save it onto a hard drive, or store it online. I will cover some of the pros and cons of these choices.
Saving images onto DVD/CD
This is my least favorite choice for several reasons. First, the size of each disc is pretty limited. CD-Rs hold up to 700MB while DVDs can hold up to 7.4GB if it is a dual layer and 4.7GB if it is a regular single layer. CDRs are only suppose to last around 5-10 years before it becomes unreadable. Depending on the brand and type of CDR and how and where you store it, it can even be less. DVDs should last about 30 years so those may be a little more reliable than CDs. With different technologies, hardware and software devices, compatibility can be a concern as well. Having your images on a bunch of discs can also be tedious to look through and also to store. With any other storage choice you make, you should try to have images stored in two places because if you damage or lose your disc, everything on that disc is gone and unretrievable. This is however, the cheapest solution to storing files if you already have the CD/DVD burning functionality available to you.
Saving images on hard drive
There are many different alternatives to storing images on a hard drive. For the average user, they will most likely store the images on the default hard drive on their computer or laptop. That is actually a pretty risky place to store your images if you value those images and do not want to lose them. Unfortunately, hard drives are not very reliable and are very prone to fault due to viruses, power failures, damage, etc. If your Operating System dies due to viruses or trojans, everything on your computer is pretty much screwed. There are ways of recovering them, but it can be painful to do so. A good alternative is to have a separate hard drive specifically for your images. This can be good for other important files and music as well. Your main hard drive will be for your OS while your second hard drive will be for your files. If you have one hard drive, you can partition it into several partitions. This will be helpful if your OS dies, but if your hard drive dies, you are still screwed. Depending on your technical expertise, it is pretty simple to install a second hard drive for your desktop. For laptops however, this would not be possible and an external hard drive would be the solution. This is also a good solution for desktops as well since you can easily access the files from the external hard drive from any computer. An external hard drive is good for moving and copying files between different computers since it is easy to carry around. It is also easier to setup than to install a second hard drive for your desktop. Depending on the size of the hard drive, the price is pretty decent as prices continue to drop as hard drive sizes continue to increase. Internal hard drives are extremely cheap nowadays while external hard drives may cost a little more but still relatively cheap.
Saving images onto a storage server or NAS
This is my recommended solution but can also be the most costly. Having a separate storage server or Network Attached Storage device is a good place to store your important files, music files, or image files. This is similar to the storage solution to some offices and companies as it is more reliable and easier to access from multiple sources. Having a device just for file storage makes the device less prone to online attack from viruses and trojans since it is only used for file storage and not anything else. If you have multiple computers or laptops that you use, it is also good as a central location for accessing your files. Having RAID technology is highly suggested for a NAS/Storage server but it is not required. RAID stands for redundant arrays of independent/inexpensive disks/drives and is basically a way of making sure your data is spread out on different hard drives to make it as reliable and redudant as possible. There are also different levels of RAID, such as 0,1,5,10,etc. RAID 1 is the most popular and is also known as mirroring. How it works is you have two drives and all the data gets written to both drives so that if one dies, the other one still works. For a typical person, if you have a separate storage server setup with two mirrored hard drives, your images are pretty safe and you should be able to sleep fine at night and not have to worry about losing your files unless you have a natural disaster. RAID 5 consists of at least 3 hard drives. Without getting technical, files get written to the 3 drives randomly so that if one drive dies, you are still pretty safe since you have two other drives.
Saving images online
Storing images online is another solution that gives you many different choices. There are storage solutions online where you pay a monthly fee and you can store everything online. This is good because you do not have to worry about losing your data since the company will make sure that it is safe and reliable. It is also good because if a natural disaster occurs or if something happens to your computer, you will still have your files. Depending on the service, they most likely have a similar solution to the storage server/NAS solution I mentioned above where they have a redundant backup for your images or files. You can also access your files from anywhere that has internet access. The bad thing about this is however that you do not have complete control over your files. The monthly or annual fees may also add up and may be comparable to the other storage solutions above. Photo storage websites are another good solution to keeping your images. Websites such as Flickr, Smugmug, or Picasa allow you to store your images on either a limited amount of space or timeframe or unlimited if you pay for membership. This is good because you can also share your images if you choose with your friends/family or even the public.
My suggestion is to try to make sure you have a backup. Storing it in two places guarantees that if something goes wrong with one, you always have the other. Burning your images onto CDs/DVDs is good if you are giving them to someone. Burning your images onto a DVD as a backup is an acceptable solution but would not be the best solution. A better solution would be to purchase an external hard drive in addition to storing your images on your computer. An even better solultion would be to have a storage server or NAS strictly for storing your files, music, and images. With all the different options that I have mentioned, the more redundant place you put the files, the better. If you have the images stored in 4 different places, you should most likely have at least one place where they are safe! Of course you also have to make sure you update it often.
This is how I store my files. I have a secondary 1TB hard drive on my main computer where I store all my files, music and images. I have a 1TB NAS storage server as my redundant solution for my files, music, and images. It uses a hardware RAID 5 with four hard drives. In order to keep them synced, I either manually copy the files over every so often or I use RSYNC. Depending on how your storage server, there are many different manual and automatic ways of making sure both places are kept updated and consistent. I also have a Pro Flickr account for all the good images that I have or want to share with everyone. If my house were to burn down, I would lose both my computer and NAS, but at least I would have my Flickr account online.
I hope this summary will help give people an idea of storage solutions.