Storage: Storing your digital images

Once your photo collection has grown to a considerable size you will need to look at different storage options. Being digital means that you can easily store your images on various media, but it also comes at a risk. If your storage device gets damaged or corrupted you could lose your digital photographs forever. That is why itís important to choose the most suitable and durable storage media.

It is always advisable to regularly make backups of your digital photographs. Below we will discuss the various storage media and how they can be used effectively to organize and store your photos.

Hard drive storage

This will be the first stop for most digital photographers. Once you have taken your images you will need to transfer them to your PC to be able to edit and share them with others. Storage on a hard drive is both cheap and easy

Hard drives offer large storage capacities making it easy for you to store your entire collection of digital images on one device. They are also relatively cheap offering an extremely low cost per gigabyte of storage space. Having your images on your hard drive makes it easy to edit, delete and add new images on a regular basis.

There is a downside to hard drives though - they are mechanical devices. This means that they are susceptible to mechanical failures. The magnetic tape used for storage also degrades over time and in the long term could cause data to become corrupted.

To prevent data loss in a situation where your hard drive fails, you can consider adding a secondary hard drive to your PC, which you can then use as a backup drive for your data.

You can also consider purchasing an external hard drive. An external hard drive is just a normal hard drive that is mounted in a portable chassis. It connects to your PC using a USB or Firewire cable and allows you to store and access your data just as you would on your normal hard drive. Itís very easy to transport and should be an ideal option for offsite storage of your important data.

Optical Storage

Optical storage refers to storing your images on optical media such as DVD and CD. Most computers will have either a CD-writer or DVD-writer. This will allow you to create your own CD or DVD containing all your photos.

A CD-R or CD-RW disk allows for the storage of around 650MB of data, the equivalent of around 250 high-resolution JPEG images. For long term storage CD-R media is preferable. CD-RW disks are rewriteable and you could accidentally delete your images. Once a CD-R disk is written to, it becomes read-only preventing accidental deletions

Single-layer DVDs provide 4.3 GB (4300 MB) of storage space. Thatís around 6 times the capacity of a CD and the equivalent of around 1400 JPEG images. Dual-layer DVDs provides around 8.5 GB of storage. However you will need to have a Dual-layer DVD-writer to make use of Dual-layer media. There are various formats for DVD writers, the most popular and most widely recognized are the +R and ĖR format.

DVD disks can only be read in a DVD-drive, but they offer the advantage of allowing you to display your images on the TV using a normal DVD player (provided the DVD player offers support for JPEG images). With DVD drives becoming the new standard in PCís it should be a very good option for your optical storage needs. DVD media is only slightly more expensive than CD media, but the larger storage capacity makes up for the price difference.

DVD or CD?

Deciding on which media to use, will depend on your available hardware. CDís are widely used and most people will have the capability to access the data on your CDs. If you are planning on sharing your images with friends and family a CD might be the better option, because some of them might still not have access to a DVD drive.

For your own archiving and data backups a DVD offers larger storage space at a slightly higher cost. If you invest in a DVD-writer and the DVD media, you will be able to store larger amounts of data on a single disk, cutting down on the clutter multiple CDs would cause. Itís much easier using a single disk instead of 6 CDs!

Storage strategy

Finding the best storage strategy for your images will take a bit of experimentation. It is always wise to have multiple backups of your data and to make these backups on a regular basis. You can go about this in different ways, but I would suggest making use of at least two different backup media to ensure data redundancy.

Now this might sound complicated, but itís actually pretty easy to do. Once you have downloaded the images to your hard drive you can immediately safe a backup to your secondary hard drive (either in the form of a second drive in your PC, an external drive, or a drive on another PC). This is your first line of defense. If something happens to either disk you will have the backups available from the other disk.

Optical storage is best for long-term storage. Once you have finished editing your images and decided which ones you want to keep itís time to write them to either CD or DVD, depending on your preference. For very important images you might want to consider making two backups of the CD/DVD. You can then place the second disk in a safe place (preferably off-site) while you make use of the other disk.

Points to remember:

Itís very important to make backups on a regular basis to ensure that you wonít lose any new images you have taken. Take good care of your backups. Even CDís and DVDís can be damaged, so you might consider making backups of your backups as well.

  • Make regular backups. Thereís nothing so gut wrenching as realizing you have lost some of your newest images, because you havenít backed them up yet.
  • Have at least two copies of your images on various media (one magnetic one optical)
  • Make backups of your backups. This ensures better data redundancy and more peace of mind.
  • Take good care of your backups. Make sure that your backups are stored in such a way that they canít be easily damaged or scratched.
  • Once better storage media becomes standard, move your backups onto the new media. Itís a good idea to upgrade to the newest storage media as it becomes available (such as from CD to DVD). It not only ďrefreshesĒ your data but adds data redundancy.

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