Without question the most important data on my computer are my pictures. As of this writing I have over 350 gigs worth of pictures, and they are the one thing that would devastate me if I were to lose computer data.
My strategy can be summed up with one word - Redundancy. But here is the long version.
These are the current ways I safeguard my data as a whole and more specifically my photos.
- My main copy on my iMac.
- Time Machine
- Local hard drive in a fireproof safe.
- Offsite hard drive in a fireproof safe at my parent's house.
- iCloud backups for my iPhone.
Time Machine is an automatic, local, backup solution for macs. You choose an external hard drive and leave it plugged into your mac. It keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours; Daily backups for the past month; Weekly backups for all previous months. When your drive is almost out of storage it automatically deletes the oldest backup. Time Machine is built into your mac already. You'll find it in System Preferences.
Backblaze is the newest service I use. It is a cloud backup solution that will back up not only your primary computer but any external hard drives, provided they are connected once a month. It can run in real time or on a set schedule. I've chosen to have mine run every morning at 2am. The advantage to that is it's running only at a time that I'm not using my computer or even my network. There are other similar services out there (such as CrashPlan) but I went with Backblaze due to the recommendation of a friend who was able to use it to recover his data (including his pictures) when he experienced hard drive failure both in his primary computer and his Time Machine drive.
SuperDuper! is a free, mac only, utility that can make a bootable clone of your hard drive. It is incredibly easy to use. You simply pick the drive you want to copy, and pick the drive you want to copy it too, and click "copy now." When you do that it makes an exact copy of your hard drive, and you could even take it to another mac and boot from it. There is a paid option to give you more control, but for most people the free, total copy, is enough. I haven't signed up for the premium version yet, but I probably will eventually. For my backup strategy, my SuperDuper! drive is usually a few months behind the current state of my iMac.
The two hard drives I keep in fireproof safes are never completely current. The one I keep at my house is usually updated when I transfer pictures from my iPhone or Jennifer's camera to the iMac. Every few months (roughly when I think about it) I swap it out with the one kept at my parents house.
iCloud is how I choose to backup my iPhone. As long as it's on a wifi network, and plugged into power, it backups up once a day. This serves to backup my pictures that i've taken with my iPhone, but not yet transferred to my mac. This is different from iCloud Photo Library, which could be used to immediately save a copy of my photos in the cloud. The reason I don't do that is it would be more expensive than I'm comfortable with to have enough cloud storage for all of my photos. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use it though. It's just a personal preference.
These are just the ways I choose to safeguard my pictures. I'm not saying these methods are for everyone. In fact I'll say they aren't because not everyone is as willing to manage it as I am. I do however believe that you should always have at minimum a local backup and an offsite backup. The local one is more convenient, but the offsite one is safer if something catastrophic happens to your house that would damage both your computer and local drives.
As they have said more than once on the Accidental Tech Podcast, it's not a question of if your hard drives will fail, it's a question of when your hard drives will fail.