When we travel, we often rely very heavily on technology to help us preserve the memories of the trip we are taking.
From photos to diary entries, trip notes to budget tracking, technology pops its head up all over the place to help us out.
But what happens when things go wrong? What if our laptop or camera is stolen, or the hard drive fails, or we get some kind of virus that wipes it all out?
Here are some ideas for how you can keep everything safe, should the unthinkable happen, ensuring that all you lose are some physical items rather than your precious memories.
This is based on both my personal experience travelling across multiple countries with hundreds of gigabytes of data to keep safe, as well as nearly ten years of IT experience.
Options for keeping your data backed up when travelling:
This is a really simple way to back stuff up. Just email it to yourself. Most of the large email providers now provide large amount of storage as well as large file attachment allowances.
The advantages of this option are its simplicity, as getting access to email whilst on the go is pretty easy.
The disadvantages are that emailing yourself your entire photo collection for example whilst on the move is likely to be impractical.
For quick and easy document backup, this is a tough one to beat. Just make sure that your email provider doesn’t have a strict rule about deleting data after a period of inactivity.
Best for: small, regularly updated files such as a diary or budget tracker
2. Cloud based storage
Whilst sending yourself e-mail works on the same principal as storing your data in the “cloud”, it is not purpose designed for this so isn’t totally convenient. When I refer to the “cloud”, what I mean is some kind of online storage facility.
There are a number of options for cloud based storage. Usually you download a program, point it at the folders on your hard drive that you want to keep synchronised, and it will do the rest for you automatically.
Dropbox is my favorite option, offering an initial 2GB of free storage, which you can then expand if required.
A number of services offer specific storage for photos, including Google’s Photo albums. Here you can get 15GB of free storage (part of your overall Google storage), which again, can be expanded for a fee.
If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you get access to unlimited photo storage as part of that service, which is a fantastic value-add.
Finally, if you’re looking for a dedicated set and forget it backup solution, I use and recommend Backblaze. They offer a number of packages, and you pay a fee for unlimited backups of as much data as you can throw at them. Personally I use Backblaze to backup all my unedited files, and Dropbox for my edited work.
The downside of these solutions, as with any cloud based system, is that the initial backup of all of your files and photos can be very time and bandwidth consuming, and thus may not always work out so well on the road.
It is, however, a decent option for archiving your key documents and absolute favourite shots from your trips against disaster.
Best for: Key documents and your favourite shots from your trips, as well as long term archiving
3. Local backup onto multiple disks
In many cases, and in particular if you shoot a lot of digital video or photos, you are just going to have far too many files to make anything other than a local solution impractical, at least whilst you are on the road. In this case, I would recommend a backup solution involving at least one external hard drive.
Personally I use two external hard drives for backup, as well as keeping my data on my laptop hard drive. I have had a number of external hard drive fail on me during trips and having multiple copies of everything has saved me from losing anything.
Setting up a regular backup schedule isn’t too difficult to do, and if you do it regularly, it will take you no time at all. I use the free SyncToy from Microsoft which allows you a great deal of control over the way you back up your data.
More options on offline backup can be found in this excellent lifehacker article.
I also chose ruggedized and waterproof external hard drives because hard drives are sensitive creatures and encasing them in rubber should help stop them from becoming damaged.
My personal recommendation for external hard drives that have worked for me on a number of trips are:
If physical size matters more to you than storage space, then a selection of flash based usb drives could be your solution. Plus, when they get full, they’re easy to pop in the mail and send home, keeping your data safe for when you get home. I use and recommend the
Best for: Keeping everything backed up as you go
That’s it on keeping your data safe whilst on the move. Do you have any tips on this subject, or horror stories you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below, or over on the site’s Facebook page. You may also like to check out my travel photography gear guide.