Managing and Storing Your Digital Files and Photos

Our digital data, which includes files and photos, is becoming so massive and important to most of us that we have to add in methods of managing it, organizing it and storing it.  Protecting our digital data is highly important if we wish to pass it down to generations after us, namely our children.  I wanted to show you all my recommendations of how to do this currently.  With technology ever-changing, we have to keep up with new ways of doing things to preserve our memories, but this is the best way that I have found for what is available to us today.

Just face the fact that you have to set aside a time in your schedule to manage your data.  You will need time to sort, organize, store and definitely backup your data.  If you don't, then you will risk losing your digital data upon the occasion that malware, ransomware, natural disaster or a thief captures your data.  Are you ok with losing everything?  Most of us aren't and it would be devastating, especially to lose our photos.  You can replace a lot of things that you lose or have stolen but you can't replace memories that were preserved in photos.  You must set aside a weekly, biweekly or at least monthly time to do your downloads, organizing and backing up to keep up with all your ever-growing data!

Most of us have our files and photos saved on our desktop or laptop computers and some only have them on a device, such as a tablet or phone.  I recommend that everything be on your computer as a first line of managing those files and also to organize them.  It is a lot easier, in my opinion, to use a keyboard and a mouse and a larger screen to manage the files, then it is to use a smaller screen with just your finger maneuvering through the process.  However, more importantly, is that your phone can easily be stolen and isn't a safe place to store your data.  I recommend you download your data, specifically photos, to your computer for the first step in backing it up.

Once your files are on your computer, how do you manage or organize them?  You create folders, just like you would in a physical filing cabinet.  Envisioning your digital files in comparison to physical ones in a filing cabinet will probably help you grasp how to manage the data.  Let's start with the main folder called "Pictures" - this would obviously be where most people store their photos - then, "Documents" would be where most people store their other files.  Under each of these, you would create folders with various categories and this is personal preference, but for example, I have mine organized as such: Google Backups; Extended Family; Weight Loss; Inspiration and Ideas; Graphics; Blog Pics; MISC, etc.  Inside each of these folders, I further break it down into categories.  For instance, for Google Backups, which is my downloaded copy of Google Photos, I prefer to go by folders of years and then months.  This makes it easy for me to find the pictures and videos I took during a certain year or month.  For Extended Family, I use categories such as: My Family and Husband's Family - and from those subfolders, I further break it down into Older, Old, and vacations or reunions.  I think this way of organizing pictures will help my children in future years find whatever they are looking for.

For documents, I use categories such as: Finances; Homeschool: Christian: Articles; eBooks; Manuals; Recipes: Songs, etc.  Again, these categories have subfolders to organize even further.  What if you have files that you just don't have time to sort?  Simply make a folder on your desktop called "Sort" and throw the files in there and set aside a time to go through each file and organize it where it goes.  Also, make sure you regularly keep up with clearing out your downloads folder in the same way.

Now, that we know how to manage, organize and have a first layer of storage of our data, let's talk about backups! 

You have your main storage on your computer but that isn't enough in the times we live in.  There is too much risk that your hard drive could fail, that malware or ransomware could wipe it out or hold it hostage and that natural disasters could destroy it or a thief could steal.  You simply have to have another place to backup your main storage to.  That is where an external hard drive, such as WD's Passport, comes in.  It is so easy to plug in and backup your data and have that extra drive storing your data as insurance.  But, this too can be stolen or destroyed, so it isn't enough and you need something outside of your home to backup those files you just can't live without or rather, don't want to live without.  I have a method of using OneDrive, which is Microsoft's cloud storage, as an offsite backup.  If you don't already have Microsoft 365 that includes 1T per user OneDrive storage, I recommend you get it for $69 a year for an individual or $99 for up to 6 users or family.  Put the files you want backed up outside of your home, in the cloud, in your OneDrive folder and then you will always have a copy of them in the event one of the above risks happens and you need that backup to restore your data.  My word of caution for using OneDrive is this: only put data here that you are ok with getting stolen.  A Microsoft account can be hacked, let's just be honest, so choose carefully.  I prefer to put things like homeschool curriculum PDFs or files that I don't care if someone would steal necessarily in OneDrive.  For other data, that I don't ever want in the hands of someone else, I use iDrive.

IDrive is also an offsite backup storage but in a much more secure way.  IDrive is very secure and encrypted and only you have the key to unlock your files.  Even if you lose your key, iDrive can't even access your files, it is that secure!  You can safely store ALL your data here with a very minimal risk it will ever get hacked or stolen.  Also, they will send you a drive in the mail to put your data on and give you free shipping to send back as well.  I definitely don't want to spend the time backing up 1T of data in the cloud from my internet connection, so I use the drive instead and send it to them and from then on, I regularly upload any new files I added to my computer to add to my backup.  They offer a great yearly price for your first year and the following years aren't going to break the bank for what you are actually getting in return!

There is one last part of my method and that is Google Photos.  I absolutely love Google Photos and really, all Google products!  Google Photos is a great way to have an easily accessible, easily searchable way to have your photos and videos on your phone or other device to edit and share with others.  You can get a 2T plan for just $99 a year (which even includes their VPN to use) and have all your photos at your fingertips wherever you go.  Unlike OneDrive or iDrive, Google Photos isn't a good backup in the event that you get malware on your computer because Google Photos mirrors your files and as soon as they are changed, your copy in Google Photos is changed, as well as deletions.  So, Google Photos is simply a handy tool to have if you love sharing photos, making animations or doing some of the easy editing it offers.  If you have a lot of photos and videos you need to upload to Google Photos, you will need to download their Google Drive backup tool and then take the time to upload them.  You could just choose only the photos and videos that you want to have that copy of to share or you could upload your entire collection.

In summary, here is my method for managing, organizing and storing your digital data:

  • Desktop/laptop computer as main storage for all data
  • Backup all data on external hard drive
  • OneDrive cloud backup for certain data
  • iDrive offsite cloud backup for all data
  • Google Photos for photos and videos for ease of accessibility and sharing

Assuming you already own a computer and external hard drive, doing all of the above, currently costs you only $258 a year, that calculates to being only $22 a month and well worth it for your insurance for your digital data!  Just realize that unless you make this a part of your expenses each year, you will run the risk of losing all your data, possibly forever.

*If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get unlimited photo storage and up to 5GB of video storage.  This is actually a great way to have another cloud backup of your photos, since you are already paying for Prime, might as well use it.  However, I'm not familiar with it for sharing, so I didn't include it in my method above.

I don't get paid for anything I blog about or share on this blog, I make no money and am not an affiliate for these products.  I simply share things I love and recommended!