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.

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 depends 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:

  • Synology
  • Backblaze
  • Google Photos
  • Offsite Hard Drive

Cloud Storage and Shifting Goalposts

The fear I had pushed to the back of my head finally came to fruition when Google changed their storage policy.

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.

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.

Final Thoughts

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 still 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 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 is a legacy and my gift for future generations to come.

Stay out of trouble! Backup your files with RoboCopy

robocopyApologies for making a reference from the social-satire/sci-fi film that is RoboCop (1987) in my post title. It just had to be done when talking about some tool called RoboCopy. For those who aren’t aware of what RoboCopy is, where have you been? In all honesty, I myself never heard of it until a few days ago.

RoboCopy is a command-line run tool that allows you to copy files from one directory to another. One of its most popular uses for RoboCopy is it’s ability to copy large volumes of files quicker than carrying out a manual copy and paste through a GUI, making it ideal for backup jobs. So you could easily write a backup script to run via a Schedule Task on a daily basis.

I managed to backup around 80Gb of files in less than an hour. What’s even more impressive is that I could run numerous RoboCopy scripts at the same time. Currently, I have only run two scripts simultaneously just to be on the safe side.

Prior to RoboCopy, I was using another command-line tool: XCopy. For my backup purposes XCopy did exactly what I wanted it to do until I came across a misleading error message: “Insufficient memory”. You would think this message would mean the destination directory to where your files are copying to is full or not enough memory resources. In matter of fact this error only happens when the fully qualified file path is longer than 254 characters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get around this error due to the nature of how my directories are structured. Luckily, RoboCopy doesn’t have this limitation.

One of the major strength’s of RoboCopy is the number of useful options you have at your disposal. A few example’s are:

  • Moving files.
  • Exclude certain files and file types.
  • Detailed logging that tells you new the files that have been copied or over-written.
  • Parameterised scripting.

Example Script

@ECHO OFF

ECHO PROCESSING BACKUP ...

robocopy \\work\Projects\ F:\Projects\Backup\ /mir /sl
/log:"F:\Logs\Projects-%date:/=%.log"

ECHO BACKUP COMPLETED!

The script I have provided is what I use to backup files through a Schedule Task that runs at the end of every day. This script mirrors the source drive exactly. So any files that have been deleted, updated or created will have the same effect on the backup drive. In addition, a log file is created when RoboCopy is running.

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