We live in a digital world and the conundrum of simplicity versus reliability is going to continue to be an issue. What I’m talking about will become a little more clear in a few minutes.

Friday night as we headed to my sister-in-law’s football game, she is on dance team, my son whipped the digital camera out of the diaper bag as he climbed into his chair in the back of the van. As we drove down our street we heard him say something to the effect of “I want to take video.” When we realized he had the camera and was furiously pushing every button he could, we managed to coax him to give the camera up by placing it next to the baby in the car seat as neither of us could reach him in the way back of the van. As the camera slid into the carseat, a horrifying screen became apparent on the camera. The screen was a blue screen and only showed these words “xD No Pictures”.

Panic quickly filled the car as my wife practically tried to dive into the middle row of seats to get her hands on the camera and confirm her worst nightmare. It seems that in his attempt to film a video, my son had managed to format the memory card. Our last recollection of copying pictures off that precious little device was sometime roughly 2 months ago. With a daughter that is just 5 months old, that meant roughly 40% of her recorded life had been quickly zinged away into the neverworld of file deletion.

As I work to diffuse the quickly escalating situation in the car, I thought to myself “I’ve worked in IT for 10 years now. I’ve recovered files from just about every situation. This should be easy.” As we pull back into the driveway 5 minutes later, a worn and tattered bunch quietly dreading the outcome of my attempt at data recovery, I can’t help but fear that I won’t be able to recover the data. These are pictures, arguably the only important thing besides home video that I own. It’s times like these that possessions really take a backseat and things come into perspective.

As I quietly got started on the data recovery attempt, my wife checked the main computer at home to find that we had in fact backed up more of the pictures than we remembered. We were down to roughly 4 weeks of pictures. So in the event that I failed at the task at hand, the loss would be minimal. Substantial, but minimal.

I spent the next 4 hours running programs that range in price from $40 solutions aimed at consumers on up to OnTrack’s Easy Recovery Professional that carries a price tag that most small businesses would scoff at. None of them able to recover the data despite claims of being able to recover files from formatted xD cards. In fact, many of these programs were written specifically for the task at hand and they failed one after another.

As I threw in the towel and explained the bad news to my wife, I began to wonder. Why was it so easy to wipe any trace of data off this card? My 3yr old managed to do it in just a few clicks. In all my years of IT, I’ve never run into such a massive roadblock. As digital cameras fully replace their film based counterparts, this issue is going to become more and more common. With storage at an all time low, it begs the question of why there is not more inherent data protection in these little consumer devices. I mean, a digital camera stores photos; memories. These memories are cherished by many over all their worldly possessions, yet they can be wiped away in a mere instant.

The thought crossed my mind that it would be so very simple to build a redundant flash memory device capable of protection data from accidental deletion. Furthermore, why would camera companies make it so easy to delete that much data and make that data completely unrecoverable?

In the past, I’ve lost important data due to lightning and various other hardware issues, but none as important as now. If you are reading this and wonder if there is light at the end of the tunnel, I have good news. SharpCast is here to help preserve your memories.

SharpCast is primarily a photo printing service much like Snapfish and Shutterfly, but they have an additional service that is amazing. The SharpCast photo organizing service has a built in synchronization function that allows you to backup all of your photos as soon as you add your images to the software. There are 2 levels of service, free and premium. The free service level backs up your photos at a lower resolution, but still high enough for printing, and backs up the full resolution image for 30 days. The premium version of the service permanently backs up the full size images and only sets you back about $65/yr.

So just how does SharpCast save you from a disaster like mine? Lose your laptop or computer in a disaster? No problem, just download SharpCast, reinstall the software on a new computer, login and all your photos come flying back down. You can even share your photos with other people. The software even auto-generates web based photo galleries for non-SharpCast users.

As great as SharpCast is, it doesn’t really protect you from camera issues or small children, but if you become routine with backing up your photos to your computer and immediately to SharpCast, there is no reason that you’ll have to wince and cry over lost digital photos ever again.