Backing up images

One advantage to keeping all your original, working, and output images in a folder structure (also called a directory tree) is that they're easy to back up that way. Yes, you heard me right — back up your images! Digital photographers work in a digital world, and digital data is vulnerable. We rely on our computers and hard drives for the well-being of our images — and computers crash. As manmade things, machines are practically guaranteed to fail at a certain point. Computer techies like to say, "There are two kinds of people: Those who have lost all their data, and those that will."

Figure 4-4: Back up all of your original images; you'll be glad you did!

To protect your images, back them up. The best method is to copy your image folder directly to a backup device such as an external hard drive (the device shown on the left in Figure 4-4). These devices are becoming very affordable, and easily attach to your computer via a USB or FireWire cable.

Backing up your images to an external hard drive is a good short-term solution — but you still need to archive your images to make sure you can access them over the longer term. Computers today come standard with CD-writable optical drives (known casually as burners) that can write to blank CDs easily, storing more than 500 megabytes of data. DVD-writable drives (refer to Figure 4-4) are becoming popular. Now, a standard compact disc (CD) can store 700MB, but storing one 512-megabyte memory card per CD may be convenient. If archive CDs start to proliferate, remember: One DVD can store more than 4.5 gigabytes of files.

Figure 4-4: Back up all of your original images; you'll be glad you did!

Whatever type of optical drive you have at your disposal, I strongly recommend that you copy all your original images to a CD or DVD immediately after you download those images to your computer.

Don't stop at one copy; make two. One copy should be kept close by, the other taken to your safety-deposit box (if you have one) or stored in a fire safe in your home or office. Making two copies of your original images will help guarantee that you can recover all that work in case your hard drive crashes, your computer fails, or a meteor lands on the office.

Protecting your images with quality media

You can purchase blank CDs or DVDs inexpensively now, and great bargains are available at your local computer or office supply stores. Whether you're using CDs or DVDs to archive your images, be aware that optical discs are not all alike. CDs and DVDs, like many things, are available in different levels of quality.

There are some cheap discs on the market, but they may be cheap for a reason: They may scratch easily, or may be susceptible to quicker chemical deterioration than other discs. When buying blank CDs or DVDs to use for archiving your images, buy a name-brand premium disc (such as Delkin Archival Gold or Verbatim Datalife). These discs are said to hold up for many years, even decades if they're carefully handled and stored.

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