This past Monday, I got it in my mind to make a Public Service Announcement to my friends and family on Facebook. I wanted to share with them how we managed our family’s most precious data: Photos and Videos.

And now I’m sharing them with you, as a post on hackerspace, in the hopes that this will help you or your friends or family get their home data management in order.

Most of you reading this will already know about the two services I’m pushing (Google Photos and CrashPlan). These two services are old hat to lifehacker regulars. However, the point of my post is to show how these two puzzle pieces fit together to form an ideal data retention strategy for your family.

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I mentioned this was a PSA for my Facebook friends. As such, I posted this information over the course of 3 evenings as photos with long descriptions:


Day 1 Post - Overview

In the past week, three of my friends have had problems with either computer hard drives or broken phones with precious, irreplaceable photos. It’s one thing to sling the word “backup!” around, but I hope to help by showing you how we handle data here in our household.

I’m starting with this general overview diagram, and will follow up with 2 other posts detailing each specific part of my setup. We have mobile devices and also media from other sources like shared photo albums from family or lots of stuff shared via usb flash drive.

Our mobile devices run Google Photos which automatically backs up photos and videos so I don’t have to remember to back them up. I use a single Google account to back up all our devices so I only need to look in one place for all our photos from any device.

Media from other sources gets copied to my laptop, which also runs the Google Photos client to automatically upload photos found in my laptop.

My laptop also runs CrashPlan, which uploads another copy of my photos and videos to a buddy’s computer offsite.

Some stuff ends up on a network hard drive, but I’m starting to think that’s not as necessary as it was 5 years ago for us.

Both Google Photos and CrashPlan to a buddy are free services. More detail on each in my next posts. Just know that this system is automatic and free and protects your data while offering convenient and quick access to all your photos and videos!


Day 2 Post - Google Photos

Good Evening! In this 2nd post about photo and data backup, I hope to convince you to give Google Photos a try. If you have a gmail account, then you also have Google photos. Just click the apps button and it’ll be after the “more” button.

I have 35,668 photos/videos backed up to Google Photos. That’s roughly 350 Gigabytes worth of memories. I am allowed to back up all this data because Google offers free unlimited storage if you agree to let them compress your photos a bit. I honestly can’t tell the difference quality. And if I really want my originals, I will get them locally or from CrashPlan. (more on CrashPlan tomorrow)

The Google Photos Backup application runs on my laptop and handles the backups automatically by watching my H:\Storage\Canon folder. I created this folder back in 2001 and just kept making yearly sub folders:2002, 2003, etc.

Google Photos also runs on iPhone and auto backs up there too. There is a great feature to free up space on your iPhone where you tell Google Photos to remove the original photos from iPhone that are already backed up.

We set up all our devices to back up to a single Google account. This way we don’t have to hunt around all these accounts and remember who took what photo on which device.

Facebook has tagging. With Google Photos you get AUTOMATIC tagging... And you get it for EVERY photo you’ve ever taken, not just the ones you post to your status updates. You’re not going to upload 35k photos to Facebook. Facebook is for socializing and sharing _select_ memories. Google Photos is for _managing ALL_ your memories.

A good example: On Sunday morning, my youngest daughter climbs into our bed and randomly asks me if I remembered that they had a “door” that played music and had a key. I did remember it. But I sold that toy years ago when they stopped playing with it, so she had trouble recalling details about their door. I found the photos I took of that very door in seconds, showed it to her and watched her eyes light up in recognition.

One last thing I would like to say: With Google Photos, all iPhones in our family, while important because of their cost and utility, are nothing special. What I mean is: If I were to drop and lose my iPhone into the Pacific Ocean, I would only be crying about the money I’ll need to spend to replace the phone, but not about any photos I took and didn’t get around to backing up. My iPhone is important, but not irreplaceable.

What are you waiting for?! Give it a try today!


Day 3 Post - CrashPlan

Hello again! In my 3rd and final post about home data redundancy, I will show you some of the inner workings of CrashPlan Automatic Offsite Backup.

CrashPlan is free to download. I’ve used it since 2009. There are multiple ways to backup with CrashPlan: The paid way is to subscribe to CrashPlan Central for $60/year per computer or $149/year for all computers in your household. The FREE way is to back up to a portable hard drive or to a friend over the Internet.

I’ll be describing how I use CrashPlan the free way...

I have 347GB of data backed up to my friend Greg who lives 45 minutes away. To get backing up quickly, you can SEED your backups locally to a portable drive and then ship the drive to your buddy who then connects it to their computer to resume backups. Since my friend Greg is local, I just handed the drive to him in person.

You have privacy even though you are backing up to a friend’s computer. Backup buddies can’t see anything about what you are backing up except for the total amount of hard drive space the backups are taking. You also cannot see folder or file names of each other’s backups. Backups are also encrypted.

Restoring files is done through the CrashPlan application. You pick a computer you want to restore files for, and the friend from where to retrieve backups. For each file, you can even choose previous versions of the file to restore. This feature is just like Apple Time Machine, except your backup is stored on someone else’s machine. With offsite backups you are protected against physical disasters and burglary.

Adding friends is easy... They have an interface to manage your friends and see how much space they are using. You can also set limits of how much hard drive space each friend is allotted for backups.

The last feature I’ll mention is their email notifications. CrashPlan emails backup summaries once a week that shows each computer’s backup status. Also if a computer hasn’t been able to backup for a few days, they send a separate warning email so you can investigate.

So there you have it. Google Photos for automatic Camera Roll backups, and now CrashPlan for automatic computer data backups. With these two (free) services, your data is safe without having to actively maintain each service. Set it and forget it!


I can’t believe I typed all that stuff on my iPhone 5S... And if you’re still reading this, I can’t believe you’re still reading this.

Questions & Answers

Q: Are you getting kickbacks from these companies?
A: Nope.

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Q: I have a LOT more than 350GB. I have Terrabytes of data. How is CrashPlan going to even work?
A: If you can figure out the logistics of seeding your backup to your buddy, then the incremental backups will be fine. Or you could just start backing up with photos only and no videos. Or maybe just the most important data. I don’t back up music or movies, just stuff that is irreplaceable and can’t be re-purchased or downloaded.

Q: You’re comfortable giving Evil Companies all your data?
A: I say: It is what it is. Take it or leave it. This is a good service and a nice convenience. I can’t remember where I left my tinfoil hat, so...

Q: Why can’t I just email my important photos to myself?
A: Because that takes more effort. You always have full access to your complete Google Photos library on any device. You can even set up albums for quick access to kids/grandkids/cats/dogs/etc for showing off to friends.

My observation: With a setup like this, my phone has become a “thinphone” ... it’s practically disposable besides the whole monetarily-expensive-to-replace aspect. My devices are just tools/clients to record/consume our family’s precious memories. Our lives operate around the memories, and not our devices.

Goodness! Thanks for reading this epic tale.

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tl;dr: Install Google Photos on all devices, back up to the same account. Use CrashPlan to back up data on your laptop.