Don't let storage ruin your vacation

In the spirit of the vacation season, I wanted to share some thoughts on an experience I had recently while on a holiday in the northwest U.S. and southwest Canada. If you ever get a chance to visit places like Banff and Lake Louise Canada, or drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, you will see what I mean. I did the awesome drive on the trans-Canada highway from Calgary to Vancouver Canada, and I was awed by the natural beauty there. I took hundreds of pictures and videos using my trusty smartphone. As I was in the middle of capturing my walk along a beautiful trail leading to a spectacular waterfall, the camera app suddenly stopped. I found that I had run out of storage. 

glacier_park_small.jpg

Entrance to Glacier National Park (taken with Motorola Droid MAXX)

Since I was in the middle of nowhere, I had to wait until the next day and waste gas on a long drive into town to purchase another 64GB micro SD card. Since I was in the middle of nowhere, the SD card was much more expensive than if I had the time to buy one over the Internet and have it shipped.

That actually made me realize that next time I am going to take along extra storage just in case, and make sure my next laptop comes with a multi-card reader so I can download everything. That thought made me realize just how useless all those new ultra-book laptops and tablets are which come with only 128GB of SSD storage!

Then I realized that these are my memories I may want to share with my grandchildren, so I need to back it all up somewhere safe. During this one trip alone, I went through 2 x 64GB microSD cards worth of storage, plus the 16GB internal storage of my smartphone. Printing all the pictures out for safe keeping would be an option only if I owned a printer ink company and had a forest of trees to make into paper. I like trees, so that is out. This all made me realize that all the fantastic benefits of digital media over traditional photos and video tape need to be taken into consideration along with the age old practice of buying film for a trip.

Although the amount of film you can put into a camera is limitless, once the pictures are developed, they can be saved almost forever without further expense. In the digital age, we need to be cognizant that as your storage media ages, you will need to continually transfer all your images and videos to new media, and also keep a backup copy in case of media failure.

For an interesting read on how Instagram is managing all this, look here: http://instagram-engineering.tumblr.com/

You also need to make sure you keep track of all your media, or you will end up with multiple copies of the same image everywhere.  As an example, the sync feature on my phone sometimes adds additional copies of music, photos, and contacts on both my phone and system, so after a sync, I need to manually delete the all duplicates.

Yeah, I know, I should just use the cloud to store everything, right? That option may be viable for some, but I tend to take a lot of video along with the pictures, so until someone provides terabytes of capacity and unlimited bandwidth in the cloud at the cost and convenience of a USB drive or home NAS device, that is not going to be an economical solution for me.

The interesting part of all this is during my trip almost everyone I saw was using a smartphone to take pictures. This is all great news for the phone providers as they continue to add new capabilities and take market share from others like GPS and camera makers, but it’s even better news for the makers of dense disk drives and cloud providers looking to provide solutions for the public to store and backup everything in this digital age.

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