How secure are digital images? - Not very...


We all have tons of images on our phones, tablets and computers - capturing holidays, birthdays, weddings, births and lots of great family memories. But I have two questions for you to consider:

  1. How often to do actually view them?

  2. How secure are they?


How often do you view your images?

If like me you have a smart phone that has a good camera (well, good compared to phones of old), no doubt you have them synced with the cloud ('“what the hell is that?”my wife keeps asking. Have tried to explain but she like lots of people doesn’t fully understand it is storage, often on the other side of the world).

I will be upfront and say that I probably have over 12,000 images stored on my phone, laptop or Mac, a lot of these are synced through the cloud so I can view them across multiple devices. Every now and then having easy access to them is great. Say when out with friends or family and you are recounting an event and you remember you have a image of it. If like me you then spend 5 mins trying to find and share, you will no doubt notice when you go to show it the conversation has moved on. If we are lucky we get it pretty quickly and we can then spend time sharing and chatting about it. (I recently did this with a group of friends, we had a great time laughing at images from over the past 15 years).

Whilst having images on phones etc. is great, it is no substitute for having them printed and on display to see every day. Above are a collection of pictures we have of family and friends that hold special memories for us. Seeing them every day is a great reminder of those we love (even more when they are no longer with us). I really believe that we need to print and frame more pictures to ensure that we get the joy from seeing them daily, and also, as I will discuss next, to ensure that we can actually keep them.

My Images are secure - they are in the ‘Cloud’.

This was the response I got recently when discussing why you should print pictures and not rely on digital only. There are some facts that make only storing images digitally very concerning. Here are some of the risks worth considering:

  • Computers - Hard drives fail everyday (that is why you should have back ups), I have heard numerous stories of people losing files, images etc. when the hard drive failed and they had no back up. Storing all your precious memories on computers with no back up will lead to you losing them one day - guaranteed.

  • USB sticks - how long will we be able to access them? Those of us old enough will remember floppy discs (for the youngsters, these were the way to store digital data back in the 80’s and 90’s), know how quickly they became redundant. I am pretty confident that in ten years (or less) having access to USBs will be difficult - if you don’t think so just look at the number of devices using USB-C (no way to access USB sticks, without a dongle). Also they can fail like hard drives, and are easy to lose.

  • CD’s/DVD’s - Did you know that over time CD’s and DVD’s deteriorate? I didn’t until recently when someone shared a story of them creating a photo book for their daughter’s 21st and they could not access any of the images on a CD. Also like USB sticks they are becoming redundant (many devices have no way of playing CDs now, and that will increase).

  • The Cloud - Ah yes the cloud ,the place where we pay to store all our memories and know we can get them whenever. Well only if you have access to the internet and as long as the provider is putting in place proper backup and contingency plans. As the cloud grows, it will also be a target for those take pleasure in disrupting our day to day life (remember the viruses that hit health organisations across the world?).

During this discussion a very important question was raised that made me stop and think. What happens when someone dies? Who has the passwords to the devices, who knows where things are stored? Which cloud? Where are the CD’s ? How do I access the computer?

For me that reinforced the reasons why we should print those special pictures, not just so we can see them every day, but also as way to ensure that they are available for generations to view. After all, our ancestors did not have digital storage and that is why I have so many pictures of them to help us keep their story and memory alive.

My plea

Please don’t leave those special images on the computer, on a CD or USB, or in the cloud. Get them printed, look at them and keep those memories alive. Get down to your local framer and get them properly framed (not all frames are created equal - see here for more info). Not only are you doing your bit for your family heritage, you will be supporting your local high street.