Part of the 3-2-1 approach to setting a backup plan in motion which is referred to in a previous article is to store one set of backup photographs off site - most conveniently using an online storage service of some kind. Many services offer a free plan that is often so restrictive in either the size of the digital real estate or in the size of the files that can be uploaded or in the frequency of uploading that they are simply impractical. These free plans are often simply come-ons for the paid plans.  And paid online real estate comes with it's own set of covenants, conditions and restrictions. With few exceptions, it also comes with a monthly tariff that while initially wholly affordable comes around every month and, when viewed over a year, can be - well - surprising. And then there is the constant pressure to upgrade to the next level of service...

There are a couple of truly free services out there but again they come with a host of CC&R's.

If you don't mind the restrictions put on using a particular service, go for it! But if you have concerns, there is an alternative to the off-site component of the plan... 

While the "1" in the "3-2-1" plan is usually thought to be moving photographs to an off-site location and more specifically to an online storage site, it can also be interpreted to mean storing the photographs to a location that is "out of harm's way". 

Consider, for a moment, that interpretation as it applies to an online location. The move certainly protects the photographs from fire-and-flood perils but opens them and you to all manner of other hazards. Sites are compromised with regularity and while your photographs may remain safe, your personal data may end up in the hands of those with nefarious intent. With any breach, your photographs may end up being used for any purpose and you may never know. 

And then there is the take-over danger where your friendly, convenient and affordable storage service is bought out by a bigger player in the market and you are now faced with changed policies and-or increased fees. And beyond that, you have precious little time to find another service provider if you don't agree to the new way of doing things or the new pricing. And-then -and-then there is the prospect of your service provider simply going out of business and the scramble that ensues...

There is an alternative... or an additional solution... using a external USB hard drive and small fire resistant and waterproof safe. 

External hard dives up to eight terabytes are readily available from a number of suppliers including Amazon and discount retailers like Target and Walmart. Small fire-resistant and waterproof safes are readily available through a variety of suppliers for the size needed (relatively small) and are also extremely affordable. If you chose to go this route, you can backup all of your photographs - jpegs, tiffs, bmps and raw - on the same drive. (Be aware that some online services allow only jpeg backups!)

Like anything else, you have to do your research - just make sure the safe you select is rated for digital media and store it as low in the home as you can - if you have a basement that would be ideal. Some recommend storing the drive in a plastic bag to assure that it is not impacted by any moisture. If you have a damp basement that might not be a bad idea.

Of course having both an external hard drive backup and an online backup covers as many bases as possible!