One in five photographers fail to routinely back up computer data, admitting they are too lazy or it takes too long, show the results of a new poll.

More than 25% of photographers across Europe have fallen victim to data loss on a computer or smartphone, according to the findings of a survey of 1,800 photographers by the Royal Photographic Society and data storage specialist Verbatim.

Hardware failure accounted for 52% of those who experienced data loss on their computer; software corruption, 13%; accidental damage, 7%; a computer virus, 3%; and theft, 1%.

The news comes more than a year after photographers were warned they risk sleep-walking towards a digital ‘Armageddon’ and advised to print images they want to preserve – or treasured photos may be unavailable to future generations when digital storage media wears out or becomes obsolete.

A third of those surveyed suffered problems accessing data stored in a cloud, and 5% said they had completely lost their cloud-based data.

Dozens of respondents reported losing photos, including wedding pictures. One photographer lost more than six years’ work, while another was forced to wave goodbye to precious family photos.

More than 10% admitted they had not backed up the contents of their laptop or mobile in the past year.

‘With the average respondent estimating they store around 220,000 photos on computers, smartphones, tablets and data storage devices, nearly 400 million images are in danger of being lost by the survey’s respondents unless they take precautions,’ claim organisers of the poll.

‘A third of photographers never back up their mobile phones or tablets despite nearly one in ten confessing they had accidentally dropped such devices into the bath or down the toilet.’

Commenting on the results, RPS director general Michael Pritchard said: ‘One would naturally assume that photographers would be more careful than most to safeguard against data loss. However, the results of this survey reveal that backups are not being done routinely and that data loss is more prevalent that one might expect, even among professional photographers.’

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Verbatim’s European marketing director Rüdiger Theobald said: ‘While it is crucial to remember to do regular backups, it is also vital to follow the accepted best practice of data loss prevention: the “3-2-1 rule”. This rule can be summarised as making at least three copies on two different types of media with one of those devices kept in a different location to the others.’

‘Each of those measures is meant to ensure that at least one backup of your data will survive if calamity strikes your computer, tablet or smartphone.’

Theobald warned: ‘It’s not wise to rely solely on online storage providers because there’s no guarantee that you won’t lose your data. Online backup services are a great addition to local backups, not a substitute for them.’

‘What is also apparent is that people do not pay as much attention as they should to considering the likely lifetime of the media they use.’

‘The average external hard drive and USB/flash memory sticks are very useful for portable short-term solutions although their lifetime is usually limited to less than a decade.’

Verbatim claims that its 100GB Blue-ray disk has a lifetime exceeding 1,000 years.

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