Daily memory card backups without a computer

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Mountain shadow in Krimml, Austria. A photograph recorded on slide film in "pre-memory card times" and when daily backups were impossible.

Capitalism and consumerism sometimes bring to light extraordinary products of questionable utility. Just recently, I have come across an electronic fork that records how much and how fast you eat and warns you in case of hasty devouring and gluttony (if you really need to see it, THIS is the link). In contrast, a device that secures and protects the images of millions of photographers by creating backups independently of a computer, a memory card copying machine, does not seem to exist at all!

Consider the following: In the year 2012, 10% of all photographs that have ever been taken in the history of photography were recorded (for example, according to TIME). I am certain that only a small percentage of these digital images were backed-up and therefore an enormous number of photographs are certainly lost every day due to memory card malfunctions, theft, loss or other accidents. On a global scale, such losses are completely insignificant, but for the individual photographer it may be devastating and saddening. I still think with melancholy of the photographs of an entire roll of film that was "lost in development" many years ago!

At the moment, I am searching for a reliable backup solution that is independent of a computer. Usually, I take rather few photographs and could easily suffice with two or three memory cards for an entire trip. However, I feel uncomfortable having all photographs on only one card all the time. I would like to regularly backup the photographs to a second location (not an online storage service). The perfect solution would be a small device, similar to a card reader, which creates backups on a second memory card or a USB flash drive. Unfortunately, such a memory card copying machine does not seem to exist.

The solution that I have now come up with is rather simple and straightforward. It requires the following three steps for each memory card:

  1. The memory card is backed-up daily to a tablet (Motorola XOOM, rooted, but I do not know if rooting is necessary for all tablets).
  2. From the Xoom backup, two additional backups on two different USB flash drives are made.
  3. As soon as the memory card is full, the backup on the tablet is deleted and the card as well as the two USB memory sticks are stored at three different locations. 

For this approach all you need is a tablet with USB OTG support (which I will take with me most of the time anyway), an USB OTG cable, a card reader and the USB flash drives. The backups are created with the FolderSync App (other apps may also work, but I have decided on FolderSync and it works perfectly) and the whole procedure worked flawlessly on a recent short trip. I am hopeful that this will be acceptable and reliable on longer trips as well.

Do you have better solutions? Or has somebody found a memory card copying machine? 

2013/05/11 by Florian Freimoser
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