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01-07-2009, 08:18 PM   #1
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Archiving Your Photos: What's Your Method?

I'm just curious what you guys use to archive your old photos, how you intend to make them future-proof, etc.

All I have are two hard drives that contain the same photos. I have soured on DVD ever since I saw perfectly burned DVDs go kaput not even 5 years from the time of creation - I really don't want to burn an ever-increasing number of DVDs every couple of years or so. I'm looking to set-up a RAID system, but I thought that maybe with prices of SD cards going down, it'd be better to top off a couple of those and store them.

Share your own stories. We might be able to learn something new from one another.

On a related note, there are digital-to-film transfers for movies. Would you know if a similar service (or a DIY workaround) is available for still photos? I certainly would be interested to "analog-ize" my digital photos.

01-07-2009, 08:51 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinzer Quote
I'm just curious what you guys use to archive your old photos, how you intend to make them future-proof, etc.

All I have are two hard drives that contain the same photos. I have soured on DVD ever since I saw perfectly burned DVDs go kaput not even 5 years from the time of creation - I really don't want to burn an ever-increasing number of DVDs every couple of years or so. I'm looking to set-up a RAID system, but I thought that maybe with prices of SD cards going down, it'd be better to top off a couple of those and store them.

Share your own stories. We might be able to learn something new from one another.

On a related note, there are digital-to-film transfers for movies. Would you know if a similar service (or a DIY workaround) is available for still photos? I certainly would be interested to "analog-ize" my digital photos.
Uh you mean print your photos?

Also using SD cards as a storage medium might work - it may just be hard to find something reliable. The issue with hard drives is the fact they consist of moving components that can and will fail over time (although research suggests that the longer a HDD runs, the less chance is it will fail)

HDD's are pretty cheap too these days, setting up a RAID is a good idea, since the chances of more than one drive failing at the same time are pretty slim (unless its the raid enclosure that causes them to fail!)
01-08-2009, 06:36 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vylen Quote
Uh you mean print your photos?

Also using SD cards as a storage medium might work - it may just be hard to find something reliable. The issue with hard drives is the fact they consist of moving components that can and will fail over time (although research suggests that the longer a HDD runs, the less chance is it will fail)

HDD's are pretty cheap too these days, setting up a RAID is a good idea, since the chances of more than one drive failing at the same time are pretty slim (unless its the raid enclosure that causes them to fail!)
Not necessarily print, just stick them on negatives. It's probably a far-fetched idea, though.

Question: if the RAID enclosure fails, can I just stick the drives in the failed enclosure into another RAID enclosure with all data intact? Obviously, I have zero knowledge about RAIDs and all.
01-08-2009, 07:23 AM   #4
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I think the best way to store digital images is as photographic (not inkjet or dye sub) prints.
At least then the image is stored on a proven, long lasting technology.
I just went through my back up CDs and transferred them over to hard drives, and had a few discs that wouldn't read any more.
There is, in my opinion, no foolproof dead simple way to archive digital files. Multiple redundancy is the way to do it, and maintaining a file system and updating the hardware that goes along with it is necessary.
As of last weekend, I am no longer depending on CDs, and have transferred as much of my old files onto hard drives.
At the moment, my back-up strategy consists of a mirror (RAID 1) using two drives in my computer, controlled by the motherboard, plus an external mirror using two separate eSATA drives hooked up to a RAID controller card in the computer plus a Drobo storage box.
At some point, I'll take my previous computer, which has room for 4 drives in the box and turn it into a dedicated storage unit. I haven't researched the most reliable RAID method for this, but a my gut tells me that a dual mirror is the way to go with 4 discs, as up to three discs can fail, with data recovery still possible.

01-08-2009, 07:47 AM   #5
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Wheatfield is right in there should be no single point of backup of data that you want to keep.

The trick is, of course, to find a way that isn't so complicated that you end up not doing it.

Personally, I've settled on a 3-prong approach:

a. near-instant automated backups over my wireless network using Crashplan
b. regular, periodic backups to a local USB drive with Time Machine (OS X)
c. scheduled, periodic backups (quarterly, annually) to DVD media

If I can convince my brother to let me, I'll also be able to slowly push data over to his multi-terabyte home setup across the ocean using Crashplan. If not, I'll be looking at possibly backing up data to "the cloud" from one of the many providers out there as well.

Hope that helps.
01-08-2009, 10:12 AM   #6
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It looks like Crashplan just made their basic version free (ad-supported) so there's even a better reason to take a look.

Personally, I'm just a very satisfied user who thinks everyone should take a few minutes out to consider their backup option.

Cheers.
01-08-2009, 10:27 AM   #7
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I have one HD dedicated to photos, plus all my drives get backed up to a exterior WD MyBook drive weekly.

On the road, I either use my laptop or a stand alone hard drive (Foci Photo Safe).
01-08-2009, 10:47 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinzer Quote
Not necessarily print, just stick them on negatives. It's probably a far-fetched idea, though.

Question: if the RAID enclosure fails, can I just stick the drives in the failed enclosure into another RAID enclosure with all data intact? Obviously, I have zero knowledge about RAIDs and all.
Depends on the system, and I would think it's more common for a drive to fail than an enclosure (but anything can happen). Look for one that has user-replaceable drives...then you should be able to replace drives if they fail or put the old drives in a new enclosure if that fails.

01-08-2009, 11:08 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinzer Quote
Not necessarily print, just stick them on negatives. It's probably a far-fetched idea, though.

Question: if the RAID enclosure fails, can I just stick the drives in the failed enclosure into another RAID enclosure with all data intact? Obviously, I have zero knowledge about RAIDs and all.
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. My roomate had three hard drives fail on him (one donated by me, and the other two were his) before he figured out that his RAID controller on his motherboard was fried. It took the drives with it. None of those drives were repairable. That said, a dedicated RAID unit or card (separate from the mainboard of the computer) would stand a better chance against time.

How redundant do you want to get? I think the best system I've seen is the Drobo robotic backup system. It's like a RAID, only a lot easier to maintain. You put two or four hard drives into one, and the box automatically keeps identical backups on the opposing drives. The system even lets you know when there's an issue, and you can upgrade the size of your drives by pulling half of the pair out, and installing the new larger drives, letting it copy itself, and then replacing the other half. No mucking around. Hard drives are a medium that can fail, certainly, but I still think that redundant hard drive backups beat everything else.

Wheatfield has a point: prints will last longer than any other medium we know of. The only issue with prints is you're limited by the technology available to produce them and re-create them. Most minilab equipment is digitally based now, and only prints at 300dpi. So if you backup all your images to 4x6 paper, if you wanted to rescan said image and turn it into a poster ten years from now, it'll look like garbage because you reduced the original negative/file to a tenth of it's former resolution.

My vote would be go with multiple hard drives. That's what I plan on doing with my film, actually. I'm going to keep my negatives archived, but at the same time, have high-resolution scans of them on the computer to access them (or send them to be printed) quickly and easily.
01-08-2009, 11:11 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Jester_rm Quote
Depends on the system, and I would think it's more common for a drive to fail than an enclosure (but anything can happen). Look for one that has user-replaceable drives...then you should be able to replace drives if they fail or put the old drives in a new enclosure if that fails.
So far, I can't say enough good things about the Drobo. It just sits there, quietly ticking away, and no problems so far. I've had mine since last summer.
I don't know how it works as far as storage capacity goes, I have 3x750gb drives in mine, and it is listing 1.36TB of storage space.
01-08-2009, 01:02 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinzer Quote
I'm just curious what you guys use to archive your old photos, how you intend to make them future-proof, etc.

All I have are two hard drives that contain the same photos. I have soured on DVD ever since I saw perfectly burned DVDs go kaput not even 5 years from the time of creation - I really don't want to burn an ever-increasing number of DVDs every couple of years or so. I'm looking to set-up a RAID system, but I thought that maybe with prices of SD cards going down, it'd be better to top off a couple of those and store them.

Share your own stories. We might be able to learn something new from one another.

On a related note, there are digital-to-film transfers for movies. Would you know if a similar service (or a DIY workaround) is available for still photos? I certainly would be interested to "analog-ize" my digital photos.
My process is as follows.

For Film, and slides, all are stored in archival quality pages, and have all been scanned with a 10MP Minolta Dimage II scanner (it was a 20,000 frame 5 year project)

For digital images, I burn DVDs when I get sufficient new shots for 1-2 more disks, and back up my images weakly using Laplink, which only overwrites modifications, and adds new files, so it is relatively quick, to a USB hard disk stored in a secure (and fireproof) location
01-08-2009, 02:38 PM   #12
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Use magnetic tape drives... they're slow but proven to work as backups. Large companies still use them and with good reason - they're no different from VHS cassette tapes, i'm sure everyone has them lying around still and they still work for you guys after how many years?

Of course, the issue is storing them, they can be quite large depending on how much data you want to store on them and i think they should be in dry and cool places (but everyone here has a (D)SLR so im sure there's SOME place that fits that criteria available).

And they're slow because data is read in sequence - so you start reading from the beginning of the tape and want to get to data in the middle or at the end and the reader has to go through the whole tape (like FF'ing on VHS).

Of course my suggestion may be a little farfetched - i think magnetic tape drives are quite expensive since they're not really meant for normal consumers :P
01-09-2009, 12:38 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
I think the best way to store digital images is as photographic (not inkjet or dye sub) prints.
At least then the image is stored on a proven, long lasting technology.
I just went through my back up CDs and transferred them over to hard drives, and had a few discs that wouldn't read any more.
There is, in my opinion, no foolproof dead simple way to archive digital files. Multiple redundancy is the way to do it, and maintaining a file system and updating the hardware that goes along with it is necessary.
As of last weekend, I am no longer depending on CDs, and have transferred as much of my old files onto hard drives.
At the moment, my back-up strategy consists of a mirror (RAID 1) using two drives in my computer, controlled by the motherboard, plus an external mirror using two separate eSATA drives hooked up to a RAID controller card in the computer plus a Drobo storage box.
At some point, I'll take my previous computer, which has room for 4 drives in the box and turn it into a dedicated storage unit. I haven't researched the most reliable RAID method for this, but a my gut tells me that a dual mirror is the way to go with 4 discs, as up to three discs can fail, with data recovery still possible.
Your method sounds good. I'm not that versed with RAID, though. I guess I'll have to do more research on this. It looks expensive, though, at least the prices I'm seeing in the Drobo website.

QuoteOriginally posted by legacyb4 Quote
It looks like Crashplan just made their basic version free (ad-supported) so there's even a better reason to take a look.

Personally, I'm just a very satisfied user who thinks everyone should take a few minutes out to consider their backup option.

Cheers.
Crashplan sounds good. I'll have a look-see at that in addition to the RAID option.

QuoteOriginally posted by drewdlephone Quote
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. My roomate had three hard drives fail on him (one donated by me, and the other two were his) before he figured out that his RAID controller on his motherboard was fried. It took the drives with it. None of those drives were repairable. That said, a dedicated RAID unit or card (separate from the mainboard of the computer) would stand a better chance against time.

How redundant do you want to get? I think the best system I've seen is the Drobo robotic backup system. It's like a RAID, only a lot easier to maintain. You put two or four hard drives into one, and the box automatically keeps identical backups on the opposing drives. The system even lets you know when there's an issue, and you can upgrade the size of your drives by pulling half of the pair out, and installing the new larger drives, letting it copy itself, and then replacing the other half. No mucking around. Hard drives are a medium that can fail, certainly, but I still think that redundant hard drive backups beat everything else.

Wheatfield has a point: prints will last longer than any other medium we know of. The only issue with prints is you're limited by the technology available to produce them and re-create them. Most minilab equipment is digitally based now, and only prints at 300dpi. So if you backup all your images to 4x6 paper, if you wanted to rescan said image and turn it into a poster ten years from now, it'll look like garbage because you reduced the original negative/file to a tenth of it's former resolution.

My vote would be go with multiple hard drives. That's what I plan on doing with my film, actually. I'm going to keep my negatives archived, but at the same time, have high-resolution scans of them on the computer to access them (or send them to be printed) quickly and easily.
I'm not sure what method the local labs here use nowadays, but I'm thinking they have also shifted to digital already. I'll have to see if there are still archival print labs still in business here, but I'm not optimistic on this one. Like you said, digital prints of today doesn't fare well with re-scanning and printing big later on, so it's really best to have the negatives, slides, and original digital files handy.

Thanks for the motherboard RAID controller anecdote. I was thinking of doing this, since it seems that RAID enclosures are still too rich for my blood, but in my whole computer life, motherboards are most likely to fail first than any other PC component, so entrusting the RAID system to the motherboard sounds iffy to me.

I'll probably be trying to look at value-for-money RAID enclosures, and do multiple hard-drives with manual copy and paste of files for now, until finances can afford a dedicated RAID solution.

QuoteOriginally posted by Vylen Quote
Use magnetic tape drives... they're slow but proven to work as backups. Large companies still use them and with good reason - they're no different from VHS cassette tapes, i'm sure everyone has them lying around still and they still work for you guys after how many years?

Of course, the issue is storing them, they can be quite large depending on how much data you want to store on them and i think they should be in dry and cool places (but everyone here has a (D)SLR so im sure there's SOME place that fits that criteria available).

And they're slow because data is read in sequence - so you start reading from the beginning of the tape and want to get to data in the middle or at the end and the reader has to go through the whole tape (like FF'ing on VHS).

Of course my suggestion may be a little farfetched - i think magnetic tape drives are quite expensive since they're not really meant for normal consumers :P
Magnetic tape, eh? I haven't seen any consumer electronics store carry that, so it really must be an expensive option as you say.

QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
My process is as follows.

For Film, and slides, all are stored in archival quality pages, and have all been scanned with a 10MP Minolta Dimage II scanner (it was a 20,000 frame 5 year project)

For digital images, I burn DVDs when I get sufficient new shots for 1-2 more disks, and back up my images weakly using Laplink, which only overwrites modifications, and adds new files, so it is relatively quick, to a USB hard disk stored in a secure (and fireproof) location
This Laplink sounds something like the WinMerge tool I'm using in the office, only automated. I'll have a look-see at that LapLink you use. Fireproof - I hadn't thought of that yet. Good catch.
01-09-2009, 08:42 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by vinzer Quote
Your method sounds good. I'm not that versed with RAID, though. I guess I'll have to do more research on this. It looks expensive, though, at least the prices I'm seeing in the Drobo website.
The Drobo wasn't cheap to be sure. I am hoping that this expense will be justified by having the thing be reliable and long lived.
01-09-2009, 09:52 AM   #15
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Six physically separated Hard Drives in two locations...
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