Best Digital Storage Practices
Updated: May 13
So you have your photos in digital format. You take lots of photos or scanned in a bunch of prints, maybe had a few photo restorations done and you have a (digital) pile of photos in a folder or two. On your phone or desktop or tablet or laptop, you’re holding a behemoth of photos. What do you do now?
First, what are you storing? Photos can be stored in many different formats and file types and we can look at those quickly here.
Image file types
JPG -- A very versatile format, jpg can be compressed to a smaller file size (helpful for storage and the web), but compression does affect the quality. Every time you save a jpg the quality may go down as it is compressed.
PNG -- Lossless in quality and can use transparency, but is a bit slow to read and write files. A bit bigger than the jpg format to keep the quality.
GIF -- Can be used with animation and transparency, but is limited with colors.
TIF -- Another lossless file, this keeps all data in-tact; meaning no compression or dithering. However the web generally does not use this kind of image file.
RAW -- Must be converted into another image type to see it, but there are advantages for photographers to use this file type in their work.
Best image file practices
Name files and folders with dates to find photos easily and stay organized.
Be even more specific with photo groups and include event names on folders for quick searches.
Try to keep all your photos in one place and distribute from there so you know nothing is missing.
If you alter photos in any way editing or repairing, always keep a copy of the original file.
If you have photo editing software and time, make use of metadata to add more information with some of those really special images. This is extra information that is embedded in the image file or contained in an associated file and can include such facts as what camera was used, where the photo was taken, and copyright information. (https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/image-metadata)
Storing Photos Securely
You’re worried any electrical surge, loss of power, or clumsy moment near your bathtub could lose all your memories! Maybe you’re nervous about hacking, an unscrupulous individual invading your devices and clearing or corrupting your pictures. How can you protect the photos in something like a phone?
As with anything else, it’s always good to have a safety net. My mom always got multiple prints of her photos in case one copy got lost or torn (by me). It’s no different in the digital world. If you drop your phone into a lake or leave it on the bus and need a new one, you’ll want to be able to recover the data, including your photos, from the device. You can download your apps again and get your friends' numbers back, but those photos are harder to retrieve if you don’t have a contingency plan!
You have some many options, and generally they’re easy to implement and can keep going in the background without much work on your part. Things you can set and monitor, rather than babysit. Luckily there are apps and services, as well as manual options, that can make sure you always have your photos safe from destruction or loss. The three main options are Cloud Services, Redundancy Storage, and Apps.
Flash Drives/Hard Drives
The easiest and safest way to save your photos is to copy them to an additional drive. If you do this often it is a quick process, that doubles as a security measure. Leaving photos on an external drive in a safe, clean location keeps them safe from corruption (flash drives are generally a very safe option from the hardware side), and they are not connected to the internet so they cannot be hacked or stolen.
Flash drive -- (Also called a thumb drive or a jump drive.) Small enough to fit on your key ring, flash drives use flash memory and are usually smaller storage capacity but quite quick to access.
Hard disk drive -- Flash drives can be smaller and might be easier to lose. Another option is an external hard-disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive. Hard-disk drives utilize a spinning disk inside to read and write the photos (it spins like a CD). These tend to be cheapest for their storage capacity, but also are a bit slower and easier to break. They also may require external power.
Solid state drive -- Similar to HDD, solid state drives are a little bulkier than a flash drive but are similar speed. They are more reliable technology than a disk drive would be, but come with a high price tag since they are a newer, faster technology.
Computer/Tablet -- Another way is to store the photos on another device. You may already do this automatically depending on how you set up your phone, for example, but it’s easy to set up or continue. When you plug your phone or digital camera into your desktop or laptop computer you can copy the photos over into a folder and save them there too. To protect from snooping, you can even lock the folders with a password, or hide them from view.
Another good way to save photos to multiple places is to sign up for a cloud service from your favorite tech company. There are several choices available including Google and Apple. You can integrate them with your computer or phone, so if you take photos with your phone for example, they can save to your phone directly and/or to the Cloud automatically. You can set how often the Cloud service updates as well, to several times a day or a few times a month to make sure that your photos are securely stored off your device in case it gets lost, stolen, or broken.
Cloud services vary in what they offer, but typically they will have a certain storage tier for a free or low cost, and tiered options for more storage if you need it, for a flat rate or a monthly access fee. You can also access your high quality digital photos from multiple devices with a secure login name and password.
Some apps or services you may look into are Google Photos, Flickr, iCloud, Amazon Photo. If you already have a Google phone you can check and see if you have activated your connection to Google photos, if you have an iPhone you probably already linked your Apple account to their iCloud service, and if you have Amazon Prime, you may already have access to Amazon Photo too.
One thing to keep in mind is some services are harder to implement than others. It’s more difficult to work with Apple’s iCloud if you are used to Windows or Android. Some also make it difficult to see what photos are saved on your computer and what photos are saved in the Cloud. You’ll want to look into them to find what you prefer.
Another concern for digital photo storage is securing photos and folders from prying eyes! We’ve seen celebrities in the news after their private photos were stolen and leaked and while we aren’t as popular or sought after as actors and actresses, we still want to make sure our photos remain ours and protected from anyone we don’t want accessing them of course!
Three things help do this for you. Good passwords, two-factor authentication, and encryption.
Passwords -- Good passwords are generally a mixture of numbers, letters (capital and lowercase), and symbols and are eight digits or more. It’s tricky finding a password we can easily remember while also making it tough to crack for others. One thing is for sure, “password” is the most popular password because it’s so easy to remember, but it’s also the first thing people try when they want to break into people’s computers!
Let’s look at an example of a secure password that you can remember but using the rules we stated above (mixing cases, using numbers, etc.) to make it tough to guess. Maybe you have a tabby cat named Susan that you adore. Just using the name Susan or SusanCat might be easy for someone to guess, but using a sentence like “Susan The Tabby Cat” would be more secure and still easy to remember. And if we implemented more rules we could make it even tougher to crack! We can change the S letters to 5, and the T letters to 7 and add a period or exclamation point at the beginning or end. So even if someone knows your cat’s name they’d have a hard time guessing a password like 5u5an7he7abbyCa7!, and computers working on a long password with all those characters would have a tough time too!
Two-factor Authentication -- Two-factor authentication is becoming more popular as the default method for many sites and services, and if not default it’s often available to enable by choice.
What is it? It just means that instead of only requiring one thing to access your files and photos the app or service requires two things to confirm you’re supposed to access the photos. Think of it as two locks on one door. Your cat-based password might be one of the security features and typically the second feature is a PIN that might be emailed or texted to you, or updated in your phone every few minutes.
This means if someone were to find your password and tried to log into your Cloud service, they’d be met with a locked screen requiring a PIN that you have on your phone, or a confirmation button that asks if you’re trying to login. They’d be stuck!
Encryption -- For extra important documents and photos you may want to use encryption tools to further secure them. Like a safe behind a locked door, what this does is makes one more obstacle for hackers or a nosy ex-friend trying to access your stuff. If they get into your computer or cloud service and access your information, they’d need another program to see the pictures.
There are apps for every platform, and some examples include FileVault (Mac), BitLocker (Windows), Droid Crypt (Android), Kryptos (iPhone). Some cloud services, like DropBox, also encrypt the data they have, including yours, so if their servers are compromised the photos you store there will still have some protection.
Popular cloud storage sites
5G free 50G $.99/mo 200G $2.99/mo 2TB $9.99/mo
Pro Very reliable and fast for apple products
Pro easy to sync to apple products
Pro security is great, you get alerts when it is accessed by a new device
Pro easy to see when it was last backed up
Con Not as customizable as other cloud services
Con still works in tandem with your computer storage, cannot differentiate what stays on your hard drive and what is in the cloud
Con is required in some cases to move app data from one device to another
Con music library and contact lists not always synced well
Con can't exclude certain photos from syncing
5G Free 2TB $52.12 First year 5TB $74.62 First year Pro Backup any device Pro Secure and easy to use Pro Mapped Drive backup Pro File sync Pro File share, facebook and instagram backup Con No unlimited storage Con Offering only two price package Con Overage charges of 50 cents/ gigabit monthly Con Poor upload and download speeds of data Con 10 GB limit on uploads
-pCloud https://www.pcloud.com 500 GB $4.99/ mo, $47.88 yearly or $175 lifetime 2TB $9.99/mo, $95.88 yearly or $350 lifetime Pro Rewind system to not lose files Pro Share files from multi platforms easily Pro User friendly app - mobile Pro Easy collaboration Con Extra cost for certain features like Crypto and Extended File History Con Consistent notifications to upgrade your account Con If they believe there is a copyright infringement on your files not in your "vault", they will block your account without giving you notice Con No two factor authentication Con Long sign up process
-Microsoft one drive https://products.office.com/en-us/onedrive/online-cloud-storage 5GB Free 100GB $1.99/mo 1TB 6.99/ mo or $69.99/year 6TB $9.99/mo or $99.99/year Pro Paying for the upgraded accounts allows more features like the full office 365 Pro Easy organization and sharing Pro Close collaboration with Microsoft office apps Con Privacy concerns that Microsoft has reserved the right to scan save files for "objectionable content" Con Microsoft Windows is the number one targeted platform for hackers Con Some files can get altered when they are synced to one drive, but it is unclear how common this issue is
-Amazon photos https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Photos/b?ie=UTF8&node=13234696011 Unlimited with Prime membership ($119/yr) 100GB $19.99/yr 1TB $59.99/yr Pro Automatically detects photo uploads and places in specific folders Pro Desktop application available for easy access to files Pro Easy to edit user permissions Pro Syncs with desktop well Pro Affordable and well trusted Con Not very user friendly Con Not easy to manage devices Con If you end your Prime membership, your files are no longer yours Con Not very popular across file sharing communities Con Not easy to find potential duplicate uploads
-Google drive/ Google One https://www.google.com/drive/ 15GB Free 100GB $1.99/ mo or $19.99/ yr 200GB $2.99/mo or $29.99/yr 2TB $9.99/mo or $99.99/yr (plans go up to 30TB) Pro High device compatibility Pro Offline access available with Google Chrome Browsers (for viewing, not editing) Pro Easy sharing and collaboration Pro You can easily control levels of permissions and privacy for documents Pro More features available for the higher tiered plans Con File size limits for documents, images inside documents, and certain file type conversions/ compression Con Unpredictable third party apps Con Google has access to your files, not a lot of privacy Con Difficult to downgrade plan unless you are already under the free limit of 15GB
-Dropbox https://www.dropbox.com 2GB Free 2TB $9.99/mo 3TB $16.58/mo Pro Easy to sync your files Pro Easy to file share Pro Access to previous versions of files through "History" Pro Easy to access through computer and mobile Pro Can earn extra space from referrals Con Some organizational issues with older versions of files or deleted copies Con Cannot edit documents in real time Con Lack of high level security Con Limited search function Con Not able to read all file types for in-browser previews
-Adobe creative cloud https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/plans.html?promoid=NV3KR7S1&mv=other Depends on the plan you buy with each software product Ranging from 20GB $9.99/mo to 1TB $52.99+/mo Pro You can still pay per device rates or for your account to access across multiple platforms Pro Software updates are included in the monthly plan Pro Helpful for libraries of files you use in their software Con Downloads are not portable from computer to computer, you must access from the cloud Con Annual plans do not give a guaranteed price for your next contractual year Con Not all apps are updated at the same rate, you may feel you are overcharged if you haven't received an update in software in a while Con Not very competitive pricing if you are not going to use their software applications
-Flickr https://www.flickr.com 1,000 photos or videos no matter the size, Free; Unlimited starts at $4.92-$6.99/mo depending on how often you are billed. Pro Partner with other companies to give you perks like software access and free photo books with their upgraded plans Pro You have permanent backup Pro Very good organizational tools Pro Visitors can comment and make notes or slide shows like other social media sites Con No tool for batch downloading Con Editing images can cause there to be issues with links or captions Con Uploader is difficult to use on Mac Con Ads in free accounts Con No control over layout of your profile page
1GB $7.99/mo Unlimited $12.99/mo Pro Lots of available editing tools and effects Pro Easy to use Pro Mobile friendly Pro Can organize libraries Pro Great customer service Con Basic does not support PDF Con Sometimes program glitches causing you to lose your work Con No bulk uploading or downloading Con Mostly geared towards businesses and marketing
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