Preserving Digital Memories
The older I get, the more obsessed I have become with preserving life’s memories through photos and video. With so many companies offering their storage solutions, we’re living in an age where storage is no longer something that comes at a premium. There are a wide variety of pricing and feature tiers for all, benefiting us as consumers. If you have full trust in the service provider, they are suited particularly well for the majority of consumer needs. But as a consumer, you need to be prepared to shift with potential service changes that may or may not work in your favour.
For many years, I have always been conscious that I’m a photo hoarder and believe that there isn’t a bad photo one can take with the help of advancements in phone camera technology. If you ask any of my work colleagues, they’d probably tell you I have a problem. When we go on any of our socials, I’m the first person to whip out my phone and take pictures as they make nice mementoes to look back on and share.
On a more personal note, during last years Diwali I came to the sudden realisation as we all sat down to my mum belting out her prayers that this will not last forever and it dawned on me that these are truly special moments. Being an Indian who is culturally inept in all the senses and cannot speak his native tongue, I would be comforted knowing that I'll have photos and video to look back on many years to come. From that moment, I decided to make an active effort to capture smaller moments like these. Maybe the pandemic has shown me not take things for granted and appreciate time with family more.
I got a little serious in my crusade and took things a step further by acquiring as many family photos as possible by purchasing a photo scanner to digitise all prints for safekeeping. Prints fade in time, not in the digital world.
Photo Backup Strategy
Whether I take photos on my phone or my FujiFilm X100F camera, the end destination will always be my Synology NAS where I have the following redundancies in place:
- RAID backup on all hard disks.
- Nightly backups to the cloud using BackBlaze.
- Regular backup to an external disk drive and stored off-site.
As expected, my phone gets the most use and everything by default is stored within my Google Photos account using free unlimited storage. I then use Synology Moments that acts as my local Google Photos where my photos are automatically stored to my Synology in original quality.
My camera gets mostly used for when I go on holiday and events. I store the RAW and processed photos on my Synology. I still upload the processed photos to Google Photos as I love its AI search capability and makes sharing easy.
At the end of the day, the layers of redundancy you put in place depend on how important specific photos are to you. I like the idea of controlling my own backups. I take comfort knowing my data is stored in different places:
- Google Photos
- Offsite Hard Drive
Cloud Storage and Shifting Goalposts
The fear I had pushed to the back of my head finally came to the forefront when Google changed its storage policy.
Well that sucks! So does this mean Google will stop mining photo data for their own uses once on a paid plan? Glad I back up all photos in high res to my @Synology! #GooglePhotos https://t.co/CBcED1zkT0— Surinder Bhomra (@SurinderBhomra) November 11, 2020
The recent news regarding the changes in Google Photos service gives me a sense of resolve knowing I already have my local storage solution that is already working in parallel with Google Photos. But I can’t help but feel disappointed by the turn of events though. Even though I can to some extent understand Google's change in their service, I can't help but feel slightly cheated. After all, they offered us all free unlimited storage in exchange to allow them to apply data mining and analysis algorithms to improve their services. That's the price you pay for using a free service. You are the product (this I have no grievances with)!
Now they have enough of our data, they can feel free to cut the cord. We all know Google has a history of just killing products. Google Photos may not be killed, but life has certainly been sucked out of it.
It may come across as if I’m solely bashing Google Photos, when in fact this is a clear example of how companies can change their service conditions for their benefit and face no repercussions. We as users have no say on the matter and just have to roll with the punches. It just seems wrong that a company would entice so many users with a free service to then strip it away. This is a classic monopolistic strategy to grab market share by pricing out its competitors to now demand money from its users.
For me, Google Photos provided a fundamental part of the photo storage experience by making things easily accessible to family and friends. No longer will I be able to invite friends/family to contribute to shared albums unless they opt for the paid plan. Now when you’re surrounded by iPhone users, this creates another barrier of entry.
This has cemented my stance more so to ensure have control of my assets and service, which is something I have been doing.
If I have carried out my photo archival process correctly, they should be accessible to future generations for many years to come and continue to live on even after I’ve expired. This should be achievable as I’ll continue to maintain this time-capsule as technology continues to evolve.
The most important take-away: If you strip down my approach to the barebones, I’m not giving in to the monopolistic behaviour of the tech giants - Google, Apple or Microsoft. Just using them as a secondary thought to compliment my process. It’s just my NAS doing the heavy-lifting where I set the rules.
These priceless heirlooms are a legacy and my gift for future generations to come.