April 23, 2009 by Andy Johnson

Protect Your Family Photos

My wife and I have a 3 year old son and a 16 month old daughter. We take a lot of digital photos—A LOT of them. Every time we look at them together on our computer we’re reminded of how quickly time flies. Those photos are so precious to us. To lose them would be a tragedy.

Seeing a photo of our son dressed up in his first Halloween costume, or our daughter sitting in the yard for the first time trying to hold her legs up in the air so they don’t touch the grass, makes us thankful for every moment we get to enjoy with our kids. It’s funny how a single snapshot in time can bring back a flood of memories. Photos are like memory pegs that help us relive the past.

But in a different way than the tangible paper photos and albums we enjoyed as kids, these digital photos require some preventive maintenance to keep them safe. Having one copy of a digital photo just isn’t enough. We recently had two sets of friends who both experienced loss of photos when their hard drives crashed. And they didn’t have backups. Not fun folks. But figuring out a backup strategy can be a potential pain in the rear. Do I use an external hard drive? Do I use DVDs? How often do I backup? Do I need to buy backup software?

Thankfully there are a handful of companies that have stepped in to make this process of backing up pretty brainless. These companies allow you to backup your photos, and everything else on your computer for that matter, using the internet. You pay a small monthly fee and the software works behind the scenes as it securely copies the contents of your computer to an offsite location. Although this isn’t a review of the following services, I have tested a few of them and I chose Backblaze as our service of choice. It seemed to work the best with our computer (a MacBook Pro) with the least amount of set-up, and no noticeable performance issues. But I recommend test driving a few and finding the one that works the best for you.

Price: $5/month
Storage: Unlimited
Comments: Was a cinch to set-up. Backs up your entire computer by default (with the exception of some of your computer’s system files). Is continuously working in the background. Unlimited storage is always comforting. I haven’t experienced any performance issues, while other products seemed to slow down our computer a bit. Besides being able to retrieve backed up files from their web site, they also offer to mail you a hard drive of your files for an extra fee. Another plus to this service is the ability to backup external drives that are connected to your computer for no extra fee.

Price: $4.95/month
Storage: Unlimited
Comments: You select the folders/files you want backed up. You choose how often you want Mozy to backup those folders/files. It does the rest. The Mac interface is very pleasing and easy to use. A bit more complicated than Backblaze, but Mozy seems to have a great reputation and is extremely popular. At the very least take the free account for a test drive.

Price: $4.95/month
Storage: 150 GB
Comments: Similar to Mozy, you pick the files/folders you want backed up, along with the schedule, and iDrive does the rest. I really wanted to like iDrive, but the scheduling interface was too confusing and unpredictable. And it noticeably slowed down our computer. I tried it on another computer and got the same results. The computers were both Macs, so if you’re using Windows it might be worth trying iDrive for yourself.

Price: $54.95/year
Storage: Unlimited
Comments: I must admit I haven’t tried Carbonite yet, as they just released their Mac version recently. But like Mozy this service is very popular. It appears to be similar to Backblaze in that there are no backup schedules to set. It automatically backs up your new and changed files as needed. There’s a free trial available so I’ll need to give it a spin in the near future.

The importance here is that you have SOME kind of backup for your photos. The type of services mentioned above are nice because they’re easy to set-up and they work in the background. If something should ever happen to those precious photos, because of mechanical or even human error, the $5 a month you’ve invested will be well worth it. So keep on clicking away as you capture those precious moments, and rest easy at night knowing that your photographic memories are well protected.

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