Our Memories at Risk

Our (digital) Memories at Risk

The thought dawned on me the other day that the rapid adoption of digital devices to run our lives has put our memories at risk. A risk that I think is higher now more than before, not that it was great pre-digital though. With one careless flush, we can quickly send our address book, emails, photos & videos, and more into the ether. Out of all of that the thing that scares me the most is losing the memories captured in the photos & videos.

If you are around my age you may remember family memories on slide film and VHS. While you could easily record over a birthday party with VHS, or have your slides damaged in a multitude of ways, at the least families had a physical copy stored somewhere.

Now what do we do in the digital world?

As the year wraps up, today being the last day of 2016, I’m prepping to archive our year in photos and videos. So I thought I’d explain what I do to protect my growing families memories.

Mindy and I jumped on board with iCloud Photo Libraries and the Photos app in macOS/iOS as soon as they were available. We had a similar strategy before this existed, but it’s been really great in a multitude of ways. So let me tell you about them!

Safe Keeping

This would be my number one concern with these kinds of digital assets. I don’t want any chance that our memories from the years could vanish. To protect our memories we use a common practice for data safety called the 3-2-1 strategy.

Three copies of the same data, two of which are on different local devices, and at least one copy offsite. To accomplish this here is our setup.

1. To have three copies of the same photo we begin by having the original at the point of origin, most often our phones. If it wasn’t taken on our phone then it’s often imported to the phone. This is copy number one.

2. Then with the magic of iCloud Photo Library this will sync over wifi to our other devices, a MacBook Pro & MacBook. This could be considered copy number two (and two and a half).

3. To then wrap up we use a combination of Time Machine and a service called Backblaze. Time Machine is set to backup both of our computers to a network drive, and Backblaze then backs up both of our computers off site continually.

To be extra safe we backup our backups to Backblaze’s storage system called B2. It makes it easy to be billed by one company for our offsite needs, and they’ve been the cheapest so far.

Not to forget these are also uploaded and stored via iCloud, thus these would all be copy number three offsite.

Ease of Use

The other critical part of this safe keeping is that it should be painless to use. In our case it only requires one manual intervention at the end of each year to archive that year of memories. Archiving them yearly keeps our storage costs down as well as our phones lighter. It’s hard to tell what kind of storage we’d need on our phones if we kept a continual library going, I don’t know if phones would keep up!

Nonetheless, on January 1st of the new year it’s an easy process to make sure you have that years photos in one library. All we do from there is copy it to a new spot on the network drive and then let B2 automatically back it up offsite for us.

Then you can start a new Photos library and set that as the system one to use with iCloud.


The last wonderful thing with an iCloud Photo Library is that it is easy to share our photos with family and friends. We live at minimum a six hour drive away from our closest family, so sharing our favorite memories to a photo album everyone can view is amazing.

It immediately notifies family members that we posted a photo, and with our first kid on the way I can imagine this being a big hit when family can’t be together. Hopefully we don’t overload everyone with baby photos.

It even works in the other direction too, allowing anyone that’s a part of the album to share a photo to it. It’s been a fantastic way to share a little something more than a regular phone call. Though those are still of course important, this just adds to it.

We enjoy this strategy, solution, whatever you’d like to call it, but it’s just one of many. What do you do to make sure your digital life, in particular the priceless photos, are safeguarded? If you aren’t doing anything then take this post as an encouragement to doubly protect your memories.

The digital world makes it very easy to lose them, but to also protect them for the future.