Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Backup your photos on-the-go

When I'm on holiday I will take a lot of photos and maybe a video or two. I enjoy photography and my pictures are dear to me, I worry that I may lose my photos somehow. The memory card may fail, or my camera might be stolen, for example. I'd like to make a copy of my photos while away from home. This article explains some different solutions I thought of and the solution I use today.

Backup to the cloud?
My camera has WiFi, I could backup my photos to the cloud via my smartphone. However, when in another country it's unlikely I'd always have reliable and fast access to the Web. My camera produces large files that take time to upload even on a fast connection. Typically the hotel WiFi is slow or in some hotels they charge for WiFi. Using a mobile data plan is expensive, especially when using roaming. This all means that the cloud isn't the best solution.

Backup to a laptop or tablet?
The next possible solution is to copy the files from the camera's SD memory card somewhere else. I should carry a PC on holiday? It would be a solution, if I had a small laptop or tablet with enough storage. But it is an expensive solution and I would prefer not to carry a laptop or tablet with me on holiday.

Backup to a portable hard drive?
I searched for a portable hard drive that has an SD card reader built-in and where it doesn't require a PC to work. This would be a good choice as every evening you could put your SD card in the drive and it would copy the files. I found the Western Digital My Passport Wireless does this (at the time of writing in 2015). It looks like a great product. The only downside is the cost and maybe the size. It's small but I found another solution.

My solution
I found a small adapter called the 'Hama 00123950 USB 2.0 OTG Card Reader for Smartphone/Tablet, SD/microSD'. It has two USB ports, one for plugging into a PC, the other a micro-USB for tablets and smartphones. It also has two card slots, one for SD and one for micro-SD. It's tiny and it cost me under CHF 8 (about USD 9).

But how to use this adapter? Of course there are a few options but as an example here's how I use it to backup my photos when in holiday:

For my camera I use a 32gb SD card. I bought a 32gb micro-SD card to be my backup storage. I have a Sony Xperia Z1 Compact smartphone, Android 5 and it has a micro-SD slot.

Every evening I take the SD card out of my camera and plug it into the adapter.

I plug the Micro-SD card into my smartphone.

Both the camera's SD card and the micro-SD (card for backup storage) can be accessed by my smartphone.

I use File Commander (any file manager app should work) to copy my photos and videos from my camera SD card (appears as 'USB external storage') to my backup micro-SD card.

Copying files from External to SD storage using File Commander.

When it is complete I check my photos are all there on my backup micro-SD.

Go to Settings / Storage, unmount the USB external storage and the micro-SD card.

I store my micro-SD card in a safe place in the hotel room, my suitcase or the hotel safe. During the day I will be out and about taking photos secure in the knowledge that at least all my photos up until the day before, are safe.

NOTE: In my scenario I have a smartphone with an SD slot. If you don't, you can't copy your photos directly to your backup micro-SD card. Instead you could copy your (latest) photos o your smartphone's internal storage. You could unmount the camera SD card and plug in another memory card, copy from your internal storage to the backup memory card. Or use any USB flash drive of course. It's not so elegant a solution and you should take care about how much free space you have on your smartphone.

The adapter and micro-SD card cost very little yet they are an effective on-the-go backup solution. What's more, this solution is light, you don't need to take a tablet or laptop with you.

The adapter is also useful in general, to plug your SD card into a PC or other device. It doesn't have any cables, it's very compact.

I store the adapter and micro-SD in a small plastic box (this was an old box from when I bought some screws).

You could also have multiple micro-SD cards to make multiple backups. If you use many memory cards in your camera (video or raw files fill up SD cards quickly) you could have one micro-SD backup card for each SD card you use. If you have WiFi on your camera you could copy from the camera to your smartphone storage or to an SD card in the Hama adapter. Using this Hama adapter opens up a whole range of possibilities.

This is my solution as of the time of writing, June 2015 but maybe you have found a better one? Please write in the comments below!
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