Skip to main content

No excuse! Portable drives and the cloud make it easier than ever to protect photos

Memory card
(Image credit: Erik Mclean on Unsplash)

I think the biggest chore in photography is data storage and everything that goes along with it. I absolutely loathe it. I’ll admit to being a naturally untidy person (you should see my desk) and that has manifested itself digitally (you should see my desktop…). 

In hindsight, lockdown was the perfect opportunity to whip my data discipline into shape – and tidy my desk – but although I spent some time organizing the best portable hard drives, an incident that happened this month reminded me I’m not doing nearly enough to safeguard my photos.

• Read more: The best cloud storage for photos

If I’m handed a physical photo I’ll cradle it delicately in my hands, minding not to crease the edges or get fingerprints on the glossy finish. So why would I treat digital data any different? It’s not unusual to find an SD card or two rattling around in the bottom of my kit bag, and I have a bad habit of putting off backing up files – and sometimes never get around to it. Well, this month I experienced data loss on two separate occasions and they had two very different outcomes.

During the first instance I was working with another photographer who managed to accidentally delete some of their images (it’s easily done). Thankfully, they were backed up via a cloud storage service, so no harm done. But when the second instance happened to me only a few days later, I couldn’t help but think some higher photography power was trying to tell me something.

For the first time ever I connected an SD card to my computer only to find it was corrupt. It happens. But this SD card had a lot of files from a lot of shoots on it and none of them were backed up. Luckily I escaped relatively unscathed because the affected images weren’t of any great importance to me, but it could have been different. It was definitely a wake-up call. 

I started thinking about all the battered old SD cards I’ve been using for years. All the times I’ve yanked them from a device without properly ejecting them. And how many of them still contain images that aren’t backed up. I started this column moaning about data storage, but it’s never been easier for photographers to safeguard their work. 

Dual card slots, super-fast external (and internal) SSD drives, cloud storage, Wi-Fi file transfer and increasingly reliable memory card formats like CFexpress have all helped to vastly reduce data loss. I’m the weak link that needs to do better.

Read more: 

Best portable hard drives and SSDs
Best portable SSDs
Best CFexpress cards
Best memory cards
Best memory card readers

Mike is technique editor for N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, and spends most of his time shooting skills articles and begging for more external storage. He's worked for a variety of publications over the years and was formerly the production editor for Wex Photo Video’s content marketing team. An avid motorsport photographer, you’re likely to find him (and his trusty Nikon D800) at racing events across the country.