I had an important lesson in simplifying this week. And what I have to say about it may make things seem more complicated than they really are. Just hang with me, okay?
On Wednesday my External Hard Drive (EHD) crashed. I lost over 350 GigaBytes of data going back to 2007 that had been stored on that drive. I can hear the collective gasp of horror from all of you over that.
I started using that EHD couple of months after Chaos was born when I entered the world of digital scrapbooking and consequently, the world of never having enough digital storage space. Those Photoshop files and graphics are huge! And then there’s the pictures themselves. You can fill up a hard drive very quickly. I was just storing stuff on the hard drive and copying photos over to it when the thought struck, which was usually about every 3-6 months.
I felt pretty good about my system at that point.
Hard Drive Horror Stories
I was an everyday user of my EHD for several months before an article caught my eye, detailing the horror of losing a hard drive. These things can’t and won’t live forever it seems. This was a revelation and a little horrifying to me. I started to dig and found out that hard drive crashes were far more common than I had previously thought.
The hazards to a hard drive are endless – shock from a fall, liquids, old age, over heating. All are enemies to digital content. I moved from horror to outright panic. All of my scrapbook pages, photos, files… all of it just 1 and 0’s and susceptible to loss of a catastrophic nature.
The other problem that I heard about was computer drives crashing, but the most recent back-up was weeks or months old resulting in huge amounts of lost data. Yikes!
Digital Storage Options
I spent several days with my BFF Google researching the options. There are a multitude of possibilities, spanning the range from fairly simple to extremely complicated and cheap to extremely expensive.
Some people are totally comfortable with not backing anything up. If the drive crashes they’ll just buy a new computer or drive and start over.
CD’s and DVD’s
Possibly the cheapest and simplest option I found available. Most computers come with CD and/or DVD burning capabilities. All you supply is the blank disks.
Pros: Fairly cheap, easy (you can google instructions for your operating system)
Cons: You have to store the disks, preferably off-site to avoid natural disaster and accidental damage. CDs and DVDs can lose data too. Scratches and age can make them unreadable. Most importantly, you have to remember and make time to back up your files. I can’t even imagine backing up your entire system this way.
Thumb-Drives or USB Flash Drives
These can run anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on how much capacity you want.
Pros: As solid state drives these are less susceptible to crash. In fact, I don’t know if you can crash a flash drive. They can still be corrupted I think and you would still need to be careful when formatting.
Cons: They are small, which could also be a pro, but for me would be a con – I’d lose them! They also don’t currently have the capacity to back-up a full system, at least not affordably. That could change as solid state drives gain in popularity and ease of use. You need to remember to use them and store them off-site.
External Hard Drive
Slightly (or way) more expensive than CDs or DVDs. Still fairly easy to manage.
Pros: You can buy enough storage to greatly expand your hard drive capacity and make a back-up of your entire system. Some EHDs offer software to manage automatic back-ups of your data. If you are a Mac user some drives can be used for Time Machine back-ups.
Cons: Can be expensive, depending on how much storage you want or need. Will need to be stored off-site to avoid damage or disaster. Susceptible to anything that would negatively affect a hard drive.
Pros: They’re housing your data away from your house – so no risk of fire, flood or dropped media. Some offer automatic back-up that runs quietly in the background on your system.
Cons: Can be expensive. Some require manual uploads. Backing up an entire system can take days or weeks even. Some only allow the back up of one computer, or won’t back-up an EHD.
How I Protect My Data
Knowing my options led to some digital soul-searching and number-crunching. I didn’t want to become ultra-paranoid, but I needed a plan. I didn’t want to break the bank, but I felt that keeping my photos and files safe was worth some expense.
I decided to use a couple of different options to protect my digital files. My first line of defense is an EHD. My old Western Digital MyBook was a 500 GB drive (RIP) and it housed important files, archived digi-scrap supplies and back-ups of my photos. My new Western Digital My Passport Studio 1 TB drive is a complete system back-up utilizing Time Machine. It will also house some archived data once I start cleaning up my laptop hard drive.
I also use My Other Drive to host an online back-up of important files and photos. I have the 500GB plan and so far, so good. I have found their set-up easy and fairly quick. I can usually upload a month’s worth of photos in a few hours overnight. Downloads of individual files have been pretty simple and fast as well.
On the first of every month I back-up all of my photos from the previous month to both the EHD and My Other Drive. I also scan the files and any other data I have on my computer and decide if any of that needs to be backed up. I upload all of my scrapbook pages to Persnickety Prints as well as My Other Drive. I have a repeating calendar reminder that pops up and tells me to do this, so at any given time I am only in danger of losing a month of photos if my laptop dies. Knowing this, I also occasionally upload my photos after a event when I have taken lots of pictures! Simplifying my system saved me a lot of heartache!
Having a redundant back-up is why I did not shed a tear when my EHD crashed this week. I just unplugged it and began looking for a new drive. It was that simple because I had a plan.
*Please note: I am no I.T. Expert, nor do I play one online. This information is just my own opinion and my own plan.