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What storage solutions are there for working with large volumes of digital photo data?

Currently, this is my work flow: After pruning unwanted photos/videos on my desktop, I upload few of them to Picasa/flickr/youtube. Once in a while, I backup my desktop to an external harddrive using Duplicati.

Since most of the media is sitting on the desktop/external harddrive, I don't see the photos often. So, I'm looking for suggestions/best practices for the following:

A) Permanent storage of photos/videos
B) Software to automate the process, prefer open source
C) Ability to view the photos from any place [laptop, smartphone, TV via Roku]



1 Answer 1


Your backup strategy is pretty bad.

  1. There's no such thing as permanent media

    Hard disks can be expected to last 3-5 years, high quality CDs and DVDs stored in proper conditions can last for decades but with cheap disc stored in your home you are lucky if they survive for 2 years, even paper degrades eventually.

  2. Automation is key - you don't want to backup "every once in a while", you need your backup to always be up-to-date.

  3. You need at least two backups, at least one of them have to be stored in a different physical location.

    True story - someone broke into my parent's house and stole the backup hard drives together with the computer.

  4. For backup that you manage yourself I haven't found anything better than external hard drives - but they have limited lifespan, you should get a new drive every few years and copy everything over to the new drive.

  5. For the remote backup I believe automatically backing up everything over the internet is the best option, if you backup to somewhere that let you view pictures over the net this takes care of the "viewing options" part of your questions.

  6. Be careful, free sites like Flickr and Facebook will re-compress your images - that maybe fine for viewing on the web but forget about printing. Also, you get what you pay for, if you store your photos for free don't be surprised if they won't be available when you need them

Here's what I do:

  • All the photos "live" on my wife's laptop (her laptop was stolen once and a good backup strategy saved me)

  • Every night the photos are copied to an external hard drive connected to my desktop PC (currently using CrashPlan but I'll probably replace it with something else soon)

  • Photos are also uploaded to SmugMug automatically using Giraffe Upload (DISCLAIMER: I develop and sell Giraffe Upload)

    I use SmugMug because they are reasonably priced and have a great track record, they also let me view and show my photos over the web (they have a great mobile site, have no idea about roku) and I developed Giraffe Upload because I couldn't find any automatic backup tool that works with SmugMug

  • Non-photo files are backed up using Jungle Disk, they have a good product but I don't use them for photos because when you pay per-GB backing up your photos gets expensive fast.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Some good points. But if you have two backups, it's useful for them to either be at very different dates, or for both of them to support point-in-time recovery. The idea is that if your primary data store has files which get wrongly corrupted / edited / deleted, it's an advantage to be able to recover to a back up which dates from before that point. If all backups are always up to date, this may not be possible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 8:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamesYoungman - I strongly disagree with you - you really want at least two up-to-date backups, keeping additional old copies is good but you want at least two current copies on different devices (backup devices fail too, I have a lot of data-loss war stories) -- point-in-time backup with unlimited history is a great thing to have - but also very expensive for photos - so it is a really good thing if you can afford it. But the most basic setup that works is 2 backups on different devices one of them off-site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 11:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The basic problem is that while people notice if a computer goes missing, data corruption is usually silent. Even in the best of circumstances, data corruption is only detected after some finite time lag. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 22:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamesYoungman - My answer tries to solve the "computer goes missing" problem, data corruption is a real problem, but since the corruption can be discovered months or years after the fact (from experience) you need to save lots of history (preferably unlimited), now, since photos are huge and the cost of backups tends to be proportional to the used storage space keeping all that history is expensive -- this question is about personal photos not pro work so cost is probably a big issue and a few corrupted photos are worth the price saving. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 10:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamesYoungman - I sell a photo backup system that costs $58/year for unlimited photos (but no history) and from my experience "normal people" would never dream spending almost $5/month on photo backup - they do think losing all the photos is catastrophic but they are completely unwilling to spend any money at all on backup (try it, talk to people and try to convince them to buy a backup solution) - so getting people to the point they can recover from "computer goes missing" big, insisting on point in time backups is a bit like insisting on low-sodium diet for people who have no food \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 10:51

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