I see a Fatal Flaw in our Backup Strategies

Hard drive array
Image by Shanghai Daddy via Flickr

Tonight I moved a couple of my external hard drives closer to where I sit my ass every night.  I can now start to organize my backups. I used to use Time Machine on the Mac to backup. I have at least 6 to 7 years of digital media diligently backed up onto two 1Tb drives. All my family photos, videos, music. Lots of stuff!

I also did a manual backup in the summer of 2009 as I went very mobile at the time and only had my Macbook Air. It has a small harddrive(80Gb) and couldn’t store all my data, so I burnt DVDs and used 2 other drives to store just my photos.

I want to organize my images to be available regardless of the operating system I am using. In order to properly use Time Machine, you need OSX. Well, I am a Linux user(PinguyOS), so I need to move all that wrapped up data into a format that plays friendly with Linux. That means PNG, or JPEG. I am going to have to export all my photos and try not to duplicate anything. I probably have 4 or 5 iPhoto Libraries with many instances of the same photos.

It will take me a couple of weeks to work it all out. I will try to report back once I’m done with any lessons learned…

The biggest worry I have is that back in the old days, you had 2 copies of your pictures. The original, and the negatives. You put the negatives some place safe(like a safety deposit box), and the photos in an album. You could re-create the photo with either the photo or the negative. The pictures usually lasted 40 to 50 years for future generations to see.

Now you have the image stored as 1’s and 0’s. On a hard drive or DVD that will eventually die. And, technology is changing. One day DVD players won’t exist. How are you going to retrieve the photos? Want about USB technology? That will die too. Will it be around in 40 years when your kids want to look back at your life? Probably not.

I really don’t see a PERMANENT backup solution out there that will stand the test of time like a hard copy of a picture in an album would.

Though I feel a lot better un-wrapping my photos from Apple’s clutches, I have worries with what my kids and their kids will have for permanent memories.

What do you do to backup your memories? Do you print any of your digital photos for backup?

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2 Replies to “I see a Fatal Flaw in our Backup Strategies”

  1. You should check out the backup program dropbox. It syncs files online and across multiple computers effortlessly. (doesn’t it seem like everything is moving to the cloud and server storage these days?)

    Here’s another flaw with your system. All your backups are still in the same place. If your house were to burn down, you’ve lost your laptop and your backup drives. Ideally you’d back up once a month, and store those backup drives in a safe deposit box. In my head, this is roughly the same as backing up to a server somewhere else (like dropbox)

    One caviate is: if you have terabytes of photos, you might want to try sorting through them and seeing which ones you really want to look at again… Turns out I had tonnes of blurry photos, or just rather uninteresting ones, that aren’t worth saving. Plus, I’ve noticed iPhoto seems to store duplicate copies of stuff, and I’m not a huge fan of their file system.

    Good luck! let me know how the backup goes!

    1. I use dropbox too(I have written a few articles on it too if you are interested). It is good for small backups and sharing. As much as I like putting stuff in the cloud, if I rely on a company to store my backups for 40 or 50 years, I put my faith that they will be around that long. Not likely IMO.

      I have to admit that manual backups are a pain in the ass, and I let it slide too often. Once I’ve completed this project I will have an external HD offsite and DVDs in the safety deposit box.

      Thanks for checking out the site, and taking the time to leave a comment!

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