Dear Lifehacker, My wife and I have a digital camera, and we love taking pictures. At last count, I have 20GB of pictures on a hard drive on my main computer. I have these backed up to a home server, but I am still worried. What if both hard drives fail, or there is a fire or a power surge?I have investigated cloud hosting, but this gets expensive at larger amounts of storage (I'd want 100GB to be safe). How should I back up my memories for peace of mind? Thanks, Happy Snapper
Picture by Bryan Gosline
Mild paranoia is a necessary element in any backup plan. You've already taken a sensible first step by backing up the contents of your computer to a home server. However, as you suggest, that won't help if your house burns down and both drives melt inside it.
Backing up online is definitely a sensible precaution, but as you note, it isn't free. That said, it needn't be ridiculously expensive. Backing up with CrashPlan (one of our favourite ways to back up automatically and continuously) costs $69.30 per annum. That's not free, but you'd pay just as much to purchase a spare backup drive, and it's a small price to pay relative to the amount of photographic effort you've already put in. There are other alternatives too, which have similar pricing approaches (BackBlaze costs from $US5 a month; a 100GB Dropbox account is $US10 a month; Google charges $US5 a month for 100GB of Drive/Picasa storage).
If you really don't want to spend any money, you could try spreading out your backup amongst multiple online services (Dropbox, Skydrive, Box, iCloud and others). But going with one service that works continuously is a much more reliable alternative.
For additional peace of mind, consider picking up a pair of basic USB drives (easily done for under $100), doing a backup onto one and then leaving that drive with a friend or relative. Every three months, do a fresh backup onto the other drive and then swap the one that's being stored. That way, you've got a local backup, an online backup, and a spare physical backup.
If readers want to recommend other digital photo backup approaches, we'd love to hear them in the comments.