The smart phone and digital photography has changed the way we see ourselves.
We can capture nearly every moment. As a result, many of us have hundreds or even thousands of images stored on our computers or cell phones -- a risk when you consider a recent study by Harris Interactive found nearly 30 percent of computer users have never backed up their data.
Don Benson, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, oversees the IT department at Keiser University in Melbourne. He says back up routines are taught in nearly all his classes. He stresses it's a practice home users should follow as well.
He says if you are going to back up manually, using an external drive, set a schedule. It should be daily, weekly or monthly depending on the amount of pictures you shoot.
"Unless you're getting out of your computer, getting out of your device, you're really not safe. he says."
Benson says the best alternative is to use what he calls a "cloud service" or image hosting sites. Companies set up for the sole purpose of storing your files. He says that while there may be a fee involved, services like these can be set up to automatically back up your files at an interval you decide.
"Getting it up in the cloud, what you're really doing is you're giving the responsibility to a third party," he says. "You're saying okay Microsoft or Apple or Google, you worry about doing all the back ups because I've given you my data and so they handle it."
But what about all those photos from the pre-digital generation? The boxes of paper images piled high in a closet. The ones handed down from parents and grandparents.
When it comes to preserving vintage printed photographs, Cynthia Melendez knows just how important being proactive can be.
Melendez, Curator of Collections at the Orange County History Center, oversees nearly 16-thousand images in the museum's collection.
She says moisture, humidity and believe it or not bugs can be a photo's worst enemy.
She says many of the things she does in the archive can be easily duplicated at home, preserving your photos for future generations.
She says it's important to create several layers between the outside environment and what you're trying to preserve. She says photos should be stored upright and in acid free folders.
Melendez often speaks on the subject of photo and document preservation and she provided us with her notes which you can find here.