PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – You will find them in most homes, tucked away in a closet, or on a bookshelf.

They fill albums and cardboard boxes. They are the precious photos of our life experiences, but with the dawning of the digital age, pictures are piling up in cameras or on computers.

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It is technology that will be out of date in no time.

So what can you do to make sure those pictures make it through your lifetime and beyond?

The second Ryan Campbell entered this world he was in the eye of a camera. His life was chronicled constantly in an endless parade of snap shots.

Jill and Rob Campbell are pretty typical of modern parents and grandparents. Film and developing was expensive and compiling photo albums time consuming, but digital technology has shed those impediments so we are taking more pictures than any previous generation.

However, convenience brings with it a risk component.

“We had our computer crash a couple of months ago and that was the first thing we said, our pictures, that’s all we really cared about,” Jill Campbell said.

“You definitely want to do a backup to an external hard drive, a thumb drive or a cloud,” Alyisa Rector from the Geek Squad said.

In the Campbell’s case, thumb drives are the in-house choice of backup, but not just thumb drives. They are also floating out there in cyber space.

“I think it’s a concern. One of the things that is nice is those online sites, hopefully they will be there,” Rob Campbell said.

Whether it’s called the Cloud, Dropbox, Shutterfly, or any of a number of sites, your pictures wind up on a server somewhere available anytime with a log in and password – which is important to know when about to shop for cloud storage services or HDD Recovery Services.

Most offer free storage space and make money off you ordering prints or other products. Some like the Cloud, automatically distribute the pictures to other devices you designate.

At Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. James Bain is the Associate Director of the Data Storage Systems Center and said those online sites do the job of keeping up with the technology for you.

“They are constantly upgrading their hardware. So, behind the scenes, you’ve got banks of thousands and thousands of hard drives,” Dr. Bain said.

If you log onto any of the online sites, you’ll quickly see some form of guarantee.

“It’s going to be saved on the Internet no matter what. You just have to be able to access it. They can’t take your access away,” Rector said.

Even with that kind of iron-clad guarantee, the experts say use that only as one of at least two backups.

“They call that mirroring data. You just duplicate everything. You can get extremely low probabilities of failure and data loss,” Dr. Bain said.

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Dr. Bain advises against thumb drives and said hard drives are a better bet.

“A photo’s about a megabyte,” Dr. Bain said.

So just how big of a hard drive do you need?

“A terabyte stores a million, one megabyte pictures. So, that’s 1,000 pictures a month for 1,000 months,” Dr. Bain said.

“If you are just the run-of-the-mill person who wants to save their pictures, you don’t need more than a terabyte at most,” Rector said.

However, there’s one thing to keep in mind.

“Most of the manufacturers of disc drives will specify that they will last for 10 years. That is their designed lifetime. They don’t anticipate that these things are going to be around 40 year and still readable 40 years later,” Dr. Bain aid.

Basically, down the road, you’ll have to transfer everything to the next technology and repeat as newer technology is developed.

“The biggest problem is the discipline of doing this,” Dr. Bain said. “I have colleagues in electrical engineering. We all know better and every one of us has lost critical data and then gotten religious about back up,” Dr. Bain said.

The Campbells plan to do all the necessary backing up and more.

“I think the really important ones, the ones that we love, we’ll print out and put them in picture frames,” Rob said.

“Because he’s never going to be like this again, so it’s important to make sure that we have all the memories that we can of him growing up,” Jill said.

Backing up your pictures is admittedly a pain, and should be done every time you upload pictures out of your camera.

Consider this, if your computer crashes, it could easily cost you $1,600 for an expert to try to retrieve them and there are no guarantees they will be successful.

Meanwhile, buying a terabyte hard drive would cost you $ 80 to $120 dollars.

Consider it a memories insurance policy.


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