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How safe are your digital photos?

Photographs hold a very special place in human affections. Think of soldiers going into battle with a picture of their loved ones tucked in their uniform pocket or parents oohing and ahing over little Sophie’s first official school portrait.

No wonder, then, that we treat our photographs as objects of great value, even though it’s impossible to put a price in pounds on most of them.

Storage concerns

Unsurprisingly, how we store and protect our photos is a matter of real concern. The arrival of digital cameras generating photos as digital files has meant a move away from storage in plush leather-bound photo albums to computer hard drives, online storage and photo sharing through social media such as Facebook.

Accidents will happen

Dave Simms is Ecclesiastical's Customer Service Manager for home insurance . Every year he receives thousands of claims from people whose homes have been damaged by fire, flooding, theft and pretty much every kind of problem imaginable.

“Digital photos are a real problem for insurers,” Dave sighs. “We can’t replace photos and we can’t give money to compensate for their loss because the photos don’t have a monetary value like, say, a camera or a mobile. The only time we can give money is if the photos are from a professional shoot and we have the bill for the session.”

With insurers struggling to make head or tail of the digital photo dilemma, the need to protect them is vital. “Digital photos are a wonderful innovation but they can be lost in a second due to a corrupted hard drive or a laptop left on the luggage rack of a train, so think seriously about your storage and have multiple back-ups.”

Dave’s advice for disaster-proof digital photo storage is to save your files in a range of locations including your home computer’s hard drive, a back-up drive and online cloud storage. Here’s how.

Hard drive storage

Home PCs and Macs are capable of storing thousands of digital images, so they’re the perfect starting point for storage. However, one hard drive is not safe enough.

Dave recommends purchasing an external hard drive: you can get one with a hefty one terabyte of space for around £90-£100 from electrical retailers. That’s enough space to save up to 400,000 photos. Back up your photos to it regularly and also burn them onto CDs or DVDs as an extra precaution.

Another alternative is to install and use Apple’s iTunes application to sync your photo collection with other devices such as an iPad or iPod. Other drive-to-drive photo syncing software are available, or try something like Dropbox or SugarSync. These sites will sync files between any machines you have them installed on and also to a central server.

Online back-ups

As well as backing up your PC or Mac to a physical hard drive, use an online service such as Mozy or Carbonite. There are lots of similar services available but they all work in broadly the same way: you download the application to your machine, instruct it what you want to back up and when and then let it get to work. If disaster strikes, you can retrieve your files from a secure server.

Photos in the cloud

As well as back-up services, you can upload your pictures to whole host of cloud-based photo sharing and storage sites. Well-established and secure services include:

  • Picasa – Google’s free-to-use photo storage and sharing service, soon to be renamed as part of Google’s launch of Google+. Additional storage space can be bought.

  • Flickr – Yahoo’s very popular service has a free option but this restricts you to uploading 100MB of photos per month. Try the premium service for US$24.95 (approximately £16) per year and lose the restrictions.

  • Photobucket – this service has a 500MB per month upload limit on its free version but you can upgrade for the same price as Flickr: US$24.95 per month.

  • Windows Live Sky Drive  – a free service from Microsoft for users of the Windows operating system offering a whopping 25GB of storage space.

Don’t wait until it’s too late

Start backing your photos up and uploading them as soon as possible to protect them. Memories make us who we are and photos are a big part of that, so don’t let them be lost when an hour or two of preparation could ensure their safety for years to come.

Remember, as with all household insurance policies, terms and conditions and minimum premiums apply. Please note we may not be able to quote in all circumstances.

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.