Today, the digital storage of photographs has of course become all-pervasive. Even if photos are taken via traditional means, they often end up being digitized for safe-keeping, distribution or cataloging.
Most photographers can probably recite the technical details and best use for any one piece of their photography equipment. Sadly, computers and drive storage are sometimes not viewed with the same interest by some photographers. But if you store photographs digitally, your understanding of computer technology should be just as important to you as it is about your lenses, cameras or any other piece of equipment you use to capture images.
As an example, we know of a photographer who stored all of his photos on a RAID. A tragic and unforeseen circumstance resulted in the entire RAID failing. The result was hundreds of lost pictures, significant expense, and hours of time, just to salvage some of remaining images.
Like many non-technical people, he assumed having a “geek” managing his hardware would absolve him of the responsibility of knowing much about his computer system. But the frank truth is that the disaster would have been completely averted had he assumed the same responsibility for the data and computer hardware as he did with his photographs or photography equipment.
First of all, while a RAID provides redundancy and therefore a greater level of security, it is still one piece of hardware. Obviously that means no matter what’s inside, the whole device can go kablooey and you can lose some or all of your data. Simply put, a RAID is not something to be considered “a back up” if you’re using it as your primary storage device.
Secondly, if all your data is stored in one building, that structure can get burgled or go up in flames at any time. If the loss of any specific data would send you to the verge of a nervous breakdown, and you have it stored only in one location, you’re placing your sanity on the line as if it were being risked on a continual game of Russian Roulette.
When it comes to data storage, the optimum frame of mind to have in regards to a drive failing is not “if,” but “when.”
Backing up to a hard drive and storing it in a bank vault or other secure location is certainly an option. Taking advantage of the myriad offsite, or “cloud” options is another. By the way, burning to CD or DVD media is not a good idea for long-term storage. Most consumers don’t know that optical media burned on a PC will only stay viable for five years or so, even if never used and properly stored.
Whatever you choose, being ignorant as to the way digital storage works, or any technology that is integral to your photography life for that matter, really isn’t a viable option for any serious photographer.