How to back up and preserve your wedding photos for the long term
Most people are not great about backing up their data, and this is sadly true when it comes to incredibly important files such as your wedding photos. People tend to be a lot better when it comes to protecting or keeping a physical item safe. An album is a great option when it comes to “backing up” your favorite photos in a way that can be shared and passed down easily. If you don’t have an album, feel free to reach out and I can get to work on one for you!
Now, let’s assume you’ve already got your amazing album that’s made to withstand the test of time. What can you do do keep your wedding photo files safe? Another physical option is to download and copy your files onto a USB drive, and keep that USB drive somewhere safe. All hard drives (mechanical/SSD) are known to lose data or become corrupted over long periods of time in which they are powered off (aptly called “bit rot“).
You can order a USB drive with your gallery loaded onto it from the store attached to your gallery, but this by itself, is not the end-all-be-all of storing your files for the long-term. I would recommend making a few more copies on USB drives from SanDisk (who I use for my camera’s memory cards, and is a company I generally trust) and keep one of these drives at a relative or friends house, just to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
3-2-1 Rule, or how to actually back things up
From Backblaze, who I use for my whole-computer set-and-forget cloud backups.
A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite.
We’ll use “kitten.jpg” as an example for this scenario. Kitten.jpg lives on your computer at home, it was a picture that you took of your cat in 2012. That’s one copy of the data. You also have an external hard drive that you use for backing up your computer, if you’re on a Mac, you might be using it as a Time Machine drive. As part of its backup process, that external hard drive will back up kitten.jpg. That’s a second copy, on a different device or medium. In addition that external hard drive, you also have an online backup solution. The online backup continuously scans your computer and uploads your data offsite to a datacenter. Kitten.jpg is included in this upload, and that becomes the third copy of your data.
Three copies, two devices, and one off site. Not hard, but almost no one does this.
Let’s assume you’ve got a copy on your computer, an external hard drive, and on a few flash drives sprinkled around your home, and one at your closest relatives homes. What’s a good, final way to really make sure we’ve got these files backed up? Cloud Backups! Many of which are free, and paid ones are cheap. If your gallery from me is still online, when you download the gallery, you have the option to also save it directly to Dropbox or Google Photos. Do both. If you don’t have either of these services yet, right now is the best time to start. Sign up, and hit the corresponding button!
Google photos is great for a few reasons. You turn this on, download an app on your computer and it sucks up all the photos on your computer and does cool organization things as well as backing them up. It also will down-sample your photos, which is probably unnoticeable, but you’re still losing quality and that’s not good in general. But it’s worth the price, as this is free if you let them optimize the files. If you want to keep the original files in Google Photos, it counts against your storage total, which is very cheap to upgrade to the next tier, but is not free. Dropbox is also great. Almost everyone has Dropbox already, and understands how it works. It’s a folder that syncs. Put your photos in a folder inside your Dropbox, and they’re backed up online. Again, if your storage is almost full with them, its a few dollars a month to upgrade, and make sure your files are safe. BackBlaze is more of a general computer backup, not photo specific. This will back up EVERYTHING on your computer including your wedding photos. This will save your ass big time if something happens to any files on your computer, as you can easily restore a single file, or all of them. All for $7/mo. One of the best deals of all time. Start using this well before you think you need it.
Another option is annual cloud backup through your online gallery. After your gallery has been online and is approaching it’s expiration, you can pay to keep it online for as long as you’d like. This will allow you to browse, order, and share the same gallery that I delivered your photos to you in. If you do not see the option for this in your gallery’s store, let me know and I will add your gallery into the new system. I hope this helps in the overly technical realm of long term file storage. If you have any questions, please let me know! I’m super happy and willing to help make sure your backups are set up correctly.
I am also considering offering backups via Permanent.org. You pay once and the photos are hosted “forever” (i.e. the lifetime of Permanent.org, which I believe should last, but who can truly know). If you want to try this, I will do it for cost (~$30, one time) for the first three couples that choose this option. Check out Permanent.org to see their business model (a non-profit endowment) and if you want to give it a shot let me know.