I recommend backing up your photos to at least two locations, and that one of those locations is a personal online storage account like OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox.
Personal magnetic based storage devices like hard disc drives and solid state devices including USB sticks can become compromised and inaccessible in the long term (i.e. 5-10 years).
You can make a distinction between two different types of storage:
- mechanical – moving parts like spinning discs; and
- solid state drives (SSD) – no moving parts.
If a mechanical drive is unused — if you were to copy your data to it then store it away — you can reasonably expect your data to last for many years. A hard drive stores its data magnetically, and as long as you keep it away from another strong magnetic source, it is fairly stable. However, the magnetism can diminish over time, putting the data at risk, but this can be restored by powering on and reading or writing the data. You should do this every few years if you’re using a hard drive for long-term storage.
An SSD is not a good option for long-term storage. How long an SSD can store data without power depends on a number of factors including the number of write cycles that have been used, the type of flash memory used in the drive, the storage conditions and so on. A white paper produced by Dell in 2011 (PDF link) stated that it could be as little as three months to as much as 10 years.
I don’t provide printing services to my clients, simply because it’s so easy for anyone to print their photos at the supermarket! And if you needed something more specialist than that, printing extra large, framing options, etc. then you’ll be doing what I would do – searching online 🙂 I’ve never had to do this myself, I’ve been quite content keeping them digitally and in a simple printed album.
Sarah and I choose a big album book for our wedding photos, I think it held 300 5×8 photos. We choose all of our faves on a laptop, copied them to a USB and printed them off.
To recap, my wedding photos are in 3 places:
- An external hard drive;
- A OneDrive folder online in my personal account (shared with my wife’s email so she can access if she wants to); and
- Physically printed and in a photo album.
Bases are covered if the laptop exploded, hard drive dies, or house went on fire.