Safe Way To Save Pictures And Documents

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Thread Starter
Nov 6, 2018

I'm trying to figure out a way to safeguard pictures and documents.

It has been progressing over the past several years, but this year in Wisconsin has been the worst, weather-wise. Dangerous storms and quick forming lines of multiple tornadoes, one after the other, almost every day for a while this summer season.

Initially I thought of putting my documents and pictures (both paper and on CD/tape/flash drives) in a bank vault nearby, but then I read about thefts in banks (safety deposit boxes). So I put off using bank services. It would also be inconvenient to run back and forth to get the material to work with on the computer every day.

I thought about using "cloud" services, but I keep reading negative feedback on them (including postings here)

The material I have fits in a small back pack, but is sort of heavy (unless I leave the paper out) and we have to carry our dog in fire/tornado emergencies. I think I'm afraid to give up the paper totally since my husband said that I should check the thumb drive and CD to see if they're still okay.

Would anyone have any ideas, or how do you work in this situation?

Much appreciated. :)


Malware Specialist Coordinator
Aug 27, 2003
For one thing, flash drives are typically not that reliable for long-term storage. They are really meant for transfers from one device to another for convenience. It's best to use an external hard drive but of course that can be destroyed or lost in a disaster. In that case it might be good to use both. The flash drive is small and can be kept in the area of the things you would grab in the event of such an emergency. I wouldn't bother with paper but if you can manage it then by all means go for it. You can never have too many back-ups.

Since you said you bring it to work you could leave a copy there as a back-up as well since most commercial buildings are better able to withstand some catastrophes but not all of course.

I'm not in favour of the cloud either but in such a case it just might be a good option if you go with a reliable service such as Microsoft's OneDrive. You can get the basic one for free or the next level up for $1.99 a month, depending on how much storage you need:

Johnny b

Nov 6, 2016
For the individual, it's a consideration of convenience vs security along with personal needs.
What works for me might not for someone else.

I don't like Cloud based backups. I don't like the idea of handing security off to an environment I have no control or oversight of.
First and only solid rule for me.....the computer I use for collecting family and personal/ business documents is never connected to a network. No Internet connection or home network.

I use multiple external hard drives and several flash drives.
And several filing cabinets for original paper documents.

My plan changes over time. More evolutionary than intentional as hardware wears out or improves. Or I come across a deal too good to ignore lol.

Currently, I rotate backups between 3 external hard drives. About 2 weeks apart. If corruption occurs, I'd still have a chance retrieving from a good backup and use my filing cabinet to cover recent losses.
I do use flash drives to backup financial activity, like bills and taxes. They're small and inexpensive.
One goes in a fire safe at home, another that's encrypted goes into one of my vehicles and a third one encrypted goes into a bank safety deposit box.
Those get backed up at irregular times, usually when it's convenient

Sounds like a lot of effort, but really only temporary diversions taking only minutes out of a few days of the month.

Photos, music and videos I only backup on the external hard drives.


Trusted Advisor
Spam Fighter
Nov 16, 1999
Some people and I am thinking of getting, one is a fireproof "Gun Cabinet"
See for additional information

Most are designed to survive many types of disasters and they come in many different sizes.

NOTE: I agree with Cookiegal and do not use any thumb drives, use a large USB external drive.
When a place USB drive is in storage always include the cables needed to have the drive functional.
Sep 30, 2021
Storing your data or files in multiple locations is good practice.

Start by digitizing your paper documents so that you can access them quickly and avoid the need to get to them physically (unless there is another reason for needing this type of access).

External drives for backup and backup rotation, with a dedicated cloud backup solution , allowing for data to be transferred and stored with encryption in parallel, would be the next step.

If you still need an on-premise solution, to store the physical documents, the safe or container you need should be fire and water proof.


Jan 2, 2001
I make multiple backups of important docs ie financial records, pics, etc. One of the copies is stored on an external drive that sits in my gun safe when not actually being used.
Any decent safe should be rated to withstand fire for at least 45min.

The question really comes down to how much do you value your "Stuff" A quality gun safe costs quite a bit of money and add in the cost of a quality external drive for storing the data files.
I agree long term use of a flash drive for storing docs is not recommended. They are fine as an additional backup or for moving large files however I would not depend on one for long time storage.

Johnny b

Nov 6, 2016
I picked up a relatively less expensive fire safe that was on sale long ago.
I agree, flash drives are not the best for long term storage.
I use them, but also use multiple hard drives and put more trust in the hard drives.

Flash drives are inexpensive. And they can be positioned as an after thought where a hard drive might see a harsh environment, or simply as another means in addition to a hard drive.
No matter where I drive or park, I have an encrypted flash drive with me hidden in my truck.
It only cost $5 and isn't subjected to damage from vibration or road shocks.
Will I ever need it/use it? Probably not. But it was only $5 and made me feel good :D

Just mentioning, I also do quality checks on those hard drives for degradation.
I check SMART data about every other month and on an old Maxtor that doesn't have that ability, HWMonitor about twice a year.
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