Once you’ve converted your photos, negatives, VCR and camcorder tapes to a digital format, you still have to store it. So what’s your best option?
DVDs are a good short-term alternative to storing your digital files. They are more secure than sending files via email and allow quick and easy access to your files. They are also an efficient way to get scanned photos back to your home computer from an outside vendor.
But basic CDs and DVDs shouldn’t be the only place you store your files, warns Jon Cancelino, photographer and digital expert, since they have a few drawbacks:
- Once a DVD is burned, the session is typically closed and you cannot add more files.
- A DVD has limited file space.
- A DVD has to be stored in a case, and like your old VCR tapes, its longevity is only as good as your storage system.
There are discs just for archiving photo files that can have a lifespan of up to 100+ years, such as Archival Gold disks. But as Ritz Camera warns, make sure that your files were burned on the disk without error. No one wants to revisit a disk 30 years later and realize the file wasn’t stored right.
External hard drive
According to Cancelino, an external hard drive is your best option for storing all those irreplaceable files. He recommends starting with a drive of at least 500 gig or 1 to 2 terabytes of memory space. The price on these devices has decreased by half in the past two years and Cancelino expects it will continue to go down.
Remember, your hard drive is only as good as you— schedule a monthly backup of ALL your photos and home movies on your external hard drive.
Virtual storage sites
Third-party sites like Flickr and Shutterfly have been around for many years and offer a great way to store and archive your images on a secure virtual server. Adobe offers its Photoshop.com users online storage options, and don’t forget Apple’s new iCloud. Some of these services are free while others have a monthly or yearly membership fee, usually at a nominal cost. You can organize the photos in any way that makes sense to you and even order prints directly from them. An added benefit? These sites allow you to share your photos.