Backing Up Your Image Files
If you work with digital photographs, you should make duplicate copies on a second drive or on other storage media (a process that is also called backing up). While this seems like a difficult task, it can be quite simple. Backing up involves keeping your pictures in clearly named folders, copying them to clearly named backup folders, and using software that simplifies your task.
There are quite a few ways to back up your images. Bottom line: you should have at least one duplicate copy of important picture files on a separate hard drive or other medium. It is important to put your backup copy on a separate device because your primary device can fail. If it does fail, you will not be able to access your data. A separate device also allows you to move that device to another place if necessary. This adds another measure of safety.
The basic means of storage are:
Optical disks: CDs and DVDs. CDs come in two types, R and RW.
The R type can be written to but data cannot be erased from it. The RW is rewritable and data can be erased from it. CDs typically hold about 650 megabytes of data and DVDs up to 4.7 gigabytes.
Magnetic media: Hard drives and removable disks. You can either install a second hard drive into your computer, which will typically become drive D:, or attach an external hard drive through the USB port. Removable disks are available in 750MB size. External hard drives are available in hundreds of gigabytes, as are internal hard drives.
Thumb drive or memory card: For temporary backup, these cannot be beat. However, they cost much more than other media per gigabyte and they have a limited capacity.
The best storage for quick and easy backups is an external hard drive. This is true for two reasons: it can be quite large and it can be quite fast. Once you have set up the backup software, it takes only a couple of minutes each night to back up your latest data. With large external USB hard drives costing about $100, it is also cost effective.
Removable media such as DVDs and magnetic disks take longer and fill up quickly. You then must organize and catalog the disks, which adds another chore to your photo storage.
The capacity of hard drives and thumb drives will go up considerably in the future, and the cost will come down. When the market decides on a standard for writable DVDs, these will become more common and will probably become the permanent backup storage of choice. Stay tuned.
While backing up pictures might seem a difficult chore, it is really quite simple with the right software. There are a number of ways to back up, but the simplest and easiest is to back up your data every day in a form that can be read by any computer.
If you use an external USB hard drive, for example, you will back up your data every session. In the event that your principal hard drive fails, you can simply plug your external USB drive into another computer, which will then have access to all your pictures. As with most software, you might need to spend an hour or so at the beginning learning how to set it up. But after that, all you need to do is press a button or two and your principal hard drive will be backed up in a couple of minutes.
Once you have organized your folders into a simple system, you should make an exact copy of your source (primary) folders. A manual backup is often easier than an automatic one and gives you more control. Simply do it at the end of each session.
Here is how typical backup software does its job:
You select folders on your principal drive that need to be copied on a regular basis. They can be entire folders or subfolders or sub-subfolders, and you can select a number of different folders at a time. Your principal drive is often called the source drive by the backup software.
You create a folder on the external drive or removable medium or internal hard drive. This is often called the target drive or the destination drive by the backup software.
Once you have made a few more choices, you can then simply press a couple of keys and the backup software will quickly scan your source folders and your target folders and make a backup. This can be done rapidly because the software is looking for only those files that have been changed since the last backup. This ability to quickly locate the recently altered files speeds the backup process considerably.
The software will offer you other choices as well, such as whether you want an exact copy of each folder each time. This means that newly changed files with the same name in the same folder will overwrite old files with the same name in the same folder. You can also decide to keep all your old copies in addition to the new files. Furthermore, you will want to choose whether you want an automatic backup or a manual backup.