Don’t lose your digital photos to disc-rot or a hard drive crash. Choose the best archival storage options.
It is a terrible feeling to go looking for that prized photo you took three years ago, only to discover the data on the CD-R is gone. The same can be said for a hard drive crash and the resulting loss of irretrievable files. I’ve heard too many sad stories from both friends and strangers that have lost important photos.
If you want your photos to be around 5, 10, 20 or more years from now, you need to back up your photos on the best drives and media. The best current approach to archiving your photos is to use both external hard drives and removable optical media (CD-R and DVD discs).
Am ideal plan is to have all of your photos backed up three times, on two external hard drives and one archival DVD or CD, or on one external hard drive and two archival DVDs or CDs. At a very minimum, you want your photos backed up twice. You want one backup at an off site location in the event of a local disaster like a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane.
In terms of an off site backup location, some people will swap storage space with a family member or friend. They each keep a set of their most important photos at the other person’s home. Or you can have back up hard drives in a safe deposit box. Or one set of photos at home and another set at an office.
After reading a number of web sites and wading through dozens of pages of government optical media tests and recommendations, here are my suggestions.
Recommended CD List:
MAM-A Gold Archive
Recommended DVD List:
MAM-A Gold Archive
Verbatim UtraLife Gold
Recommended List of External Hard Drives:
Seagate and Maxtor make some of the most reliable external hard drives. Any hard drive can fail, even from one of the more reliable manufacturers, so the best plan is to have all of your photos on at least two external hard drives. Archive your best photos to one external drive and have the second external drive mirror the first. (While you are at it, think about having another external drive that mirrors your internal hard drives.)
I have personally had very good results with Seagate and Maxtor external hard drives. There are other popular brand names that don’t fare so well in my experience and the experience of other photographers I have talked to.
I especially like Seagate GoFlex hard drives because I can move them back and forth between Windows and Apple computers without any problems or the need for special software. So Seagate GoFlex is my current brand of choice for large external hard drives at home, and small take on the road external drives for travel (I always take two on trips and back up photos to both).
MAM-A Gold discs are the best choice for both DVDs and CDs. MAM-A discs are made in the U.S. You can learn more about MAM-A here.
Taiyo Yuden is my second choice for DVDs and CDs and they are the only company making CD-R and DVD discs in Japan. They are higher in quality and much higher in consistency than the discs that are made in Taiwan, Mexico, and other countries. Taiyo Yuden makes discs for Maxell, Sony, Imation, and other companies, but not all of the discs sold by these companies come from Taiyo Yuden. Just read the label. If it says “Made in Japan”, it was made by Taiyo Yuden.
My preferred source for Taiyo Yuden DVDs is supermediastore.com and I prefer the DVD+R discs. There are fake Taiyo Yuden discs out there and SuperMediaStore guarantees their Taiyo Yuden discs as the real deal.
Verbatim DataLifePlus comes in third place. Read the labels carefully and make sure you are getting the discs with the Super AZO dyes.
In short, for long term storage of your precious images, use one of the three archival brands listed above plus external hard drives.
You can buy some of these external drives and discs at my Amazon.com photography store.
The “best of the best” photography gear, books, accessories, and online photo labs – a series of articles.