Something Dave has forever been parroting at me is: “anything that’s only stored in one place is something you don’t mind losing.” He worked in I.T. for a decade before hitting the road and has seen many investment bankers lose extremely important documents over and over again, so he knows what he’s talking about.
I, however, am petty and don’t like being told what to do. When he told me my backup system was atrocious, I set out to prove him wrong.
And then I lost all of my photos from Guatemala.
Watching the sunrise at Tikal — one of the most magical moments of my life — is something I can only recapture through my memories.
How did I lose those photos? By leaving my SD card in my Macbook for days on end. When I then dropped my laptop on the floor, it landed on the SD card and sent it shattering across the room.
Goodbye to any photos I hadn’t backed up.
There was also the time my hard drive broke because I’d just chucked it to the bottom of my backpack and I lost several months of photos.
And that time I dropped my phone in the toilet and lost two weeks’ worth of photos.
So needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of photo disasters, and while it might sound like I’m blasé about it all, I’m not. It’s absolutely devastating to lose photos of your travels, and I’ve been gutted each and every time it’s happened.
So, I finally made a change and I’ve now found a system that works for lazy-yet-optimistic-people-who-never-believe-it’ll-happen-to-them like me.
You Need Crashplan in Your Life
One of my absolute travel essentials these days is Crashplan, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
For $5 a month, Crashplan offers an online backup service with unlimited storage. Unlike services like Dropbox, Crashplan backs up your entire laptop continuously in the background, without you having to do anything from your end.
You simply download the app, set it to back up either everything, or just certain folders, and then you’re set forever. It’ll now run in the background, checking for new files every few minutes and backing them up for you. It’s also super-secure with some of the strongest file encryption of any backup service.
If your laptop breaks, or is stolen, or you accidentally delete anything, you can just head to Crashplan and download anything you need.
Even better: if you delete anything from your laptop — say you’ve taken so many photos that you’ve run out of space on your hard drive — Crashplan doesn’t delete it from their storage. So it’ll be there, in the cloud and waiting for you, forever. Most other online backup services delete your files after 30 days of them being removed from your laptop.
So basically, if every single piece of technology I owned was stolen tomorrow — my laptop, my phone, my camera, my SD cards, my external hard drive — I wouldn’t be in any way screwed. Well, apart from having to replace all of that! But with Crashplan, I could buy a brand new laptop, and restore all of my data from the cloud. It might take a long time (especially if you don’t have a fast internet connection), but eventually my new laptop would have exactly the same stuff on it as my old one — including all of those travel photos.
The only downside to using it is the initial backing-up process, which can take weeks on a slow connection. I first got Crashplan while I was island hopping in Thailand and I think it took six weeks to complete that initial backup. If possible, it’s definitely worth signing up for it before you leave, so you can have everything backed up already.
Honestly, Crashplan really is one of the best things I’ve ever invested in. I’m so lazy that I always forget to back stuff up, and even when I do remember, half the time I put it off because I can’t be bothered. Knowing that Crashplan is always running in the background and backing up my stuff to keep it safe gives me such peace of mind.
Plus an External Hard Drive
Crashplan has you covered if you ever lose your laptop or accidentally delete your photos, but what if that happens while you’re travelling through somewhere like Burma, where I managed to download just three emails over the space of 14 hours?
If you’re going to be moving around lots and don’t have any guarantees about internet speeds, it’s best to have an external hard drive that contains all of your photos as well. That way if you do need to access them at any point and don’t have an internet connection, it’ll be easy to do so with your external hard drive.
Alternatively, you could bring a handful of SD cards on your trip and never delete your photos from them. Instead, when the card gets full, you could switch it out for a new one. I travel with this small, cheap case for my SD cards, which keeps them dry and protected in my backpack.
I’ve set a reminder on my laptop to tell me to back everything up to my hard drive once a month, so that I don’t forget.