Up for Discussion – Backing Up
This post today is written by me and has come out of something that recently happened to me. It was something that was scary and has reminded me of how important it is not to keep all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Today’s Up for Discussion is going to address how important backing up can be.
I started taking photos seriously with a DSLR, I don’t know about 5 years ago, when I was taking photos of cycling. My daughter was cycling, so I started taking photos of her and a few other people, then it progressed to me taking photos nearly every weekend at some cycling event or another. During the weekends it could be nothing for me to take two or three thousand photos. I think the most I ever took in one day was three thousand. I was also selling them, so I had to have a back up of all my photos. I became very concerned about it. About 10 years ago I had a hard disk in a computer die. My husband, Dave, had never felt my stuff was worth backing up, so he never put anything into place. It isn’t a good feeling, I think it is a bit like being robbed, for months you remember new things you lost. He changed his tune after that.
So for the cycling photos, he bought two external drives, one the main one, the other the back up. Then they started filling up, so he did some investigations and decided to get a NAS. Now don’t ask me to explain what it is, but it sits near the tv, has 4 drives in it, and is connected to the network, so anyone in the house can have access to it. I can see photos from it from either computer. When I am done with photos, I back them up onto the NAS, the images go on one disk and then they are automatically backed up onto another one. It has been a great system, though I have worried about something happening with the NAS, like the house burning down, or it being stolen. I have been trying to decide what to do.
We have 4 TBs of storage in the NAS and we filled them up. Not just with my photos, but other things as well. That is what caused the problems, we think. We had purchased some more space in it, but Dave had been waiting for me to get things done first, and I was slow, I admit it. Then when he finally started looking at the NAS, he made an announcement, “the NAS was dead”. Who said men aren’t melodramatic? I told him it better not be because I had 5 years of work on it, and I didn’t want to lose any of it. He was a bit flippant about it, I have to say, not really sure he takes what I do seriously.
After putting in the other disk we had purchased, and a bit of mucking around he was able to get all my photos from the back up and it looks like I didn’t lose anything. I think sometimes being married to a programmer can be more of a burden, they can do things in more complicated ways, and really if something happened to him, well, I would just about lose everything any way, I don’t know how to do things on the NAS.
Now, sorry, it is a long post today, but the end of it is that I really need to make sure I have better back up systems in place. I had quite a few sleepless nights last week, and I don’t want that to happen again.
I have been thinking, that while I have the NAS, I need to look at other things as well, so I don’t have all my eggs in one basket. I have now purchased a 4TB external drive, and my photos are on it as well now. I am going to leave that with a friend at her house. Then in about a month I will purchase a second one, and then start swapping them over. That way if something happens here, then she will always have a fairly up to date drive with my photos on it. So far I have filled over 2TB. I think I also need to be pickier about what I save. I shouldn’t save everything, some of the photos are no good and I know I will never use them.
The other thing I have been looking at is the possibility of using some form of internet storage. I haven’t made up my mind, though if I do, I will just start it from now and possibly only put photos that are really important to me.
I thought I would ask some people here on the internet what they thought. I asked 4 guys who I think take a lot of photos. I also thought that sometimes men and women do think differently about this and it might help to get a different view on it.
I asked Victor Rakmil.
My back-up system is relatively straight forward. Here’s the explanation:
“I put effort into taking my photographs and processing them. I worry about the possibility of losing them. To solve the back up problem I use external mobile drives, not my computer hard drive. I import my photos into Lightroom in the DNG format, with copies in the original Nikon NEF format, to a second external drive (that way if by chance DNG is no longer a viable format I have my original Raw files). As I work on my files I copy the DNG drive to a third back-up drive and put that drive in a safe place. In the end I have three copies of all of my photos. With one set off-site. Which reminds me, I have a drive to copy and take to the bank. :)”
Victor also gave me a link to a page talking about this and it had a survey asking people what they do. Photo Backup Survey
I asked Robin Kent.
On the subject of back-up, my approach is not particularly exotic, but it is one way to protect one’s image files from various disasters. The cost of storage is relatively cheap today which helps because the size of my inventory is approaching4 Terabytes. My starting point is the computer platform which has three internal hard drives, and four external drives. I no longer use a NAS solution, although I do have an Ethernet network with NAS capability.
One of the two internal drives is a 512 MB solid state drive (SSD) where Photoshop resides and processing occurs. All image files, whether processed or not, are stored on the second internal hard drive, a 4 TB hard drive which is the Master Drive. At this point I have 1 copy of my inventory. From here the tactic is to create additional copies in case the prime drive fails.
The Master Copy is backed up using the standard Apple Time Machine back-up software. This is the Back-up drive (3rd internal drive) and would be used if a file restore is needed. However, some experts feel that the Apple system is not totally reliable, so I don’t consider this drive as one of my copies. I also have a simple back-up software application with an automatic schedule to make copies each day of my image files on two separate external 4 TB hard drives. It adds new files since the last copy and records any changes made in existing files. So at any given point in time, I have three connected copies on-site, two of which are no older than 24 hours.
The third step is off-site storage. Mechanical failure is not the only danger, only the most likely one. It doesn’t matter how many copies you have in your building if something happens to the building. If I happen to be here when that event occurs, I could quickly detach the two external drives and leave, not something I could have done with my rack-mounted NAS drive. But chances are I won’t be here. So I have two additional 4TB drives which are stored in a separate location (my wife’s office) office about 10 miles away. They are refreshed once a month.
I don’t use any of the “Cloud” services as a back-up solution because they are not reliable, nor secure despite their claims, and are subject to policy changes at any time.
I ask Benjamin Rowe as well.
Backing up files can become an obsessive compulsive, although there is no perfect solution, anything can go wrong. I happen to work with two computers and part of my back up process lets me share the files across the two.
On my main computer I import my raw files to my second drive. When I have finished editing those files are archived on to an external hard drive. DNG copies of my raw files are also backed up on my cloud storage where I have access to them on my laptop. Also once I have finished editing I export full size Jpegs to a different cloud storage service and burn them onto DVDs.
When traveling I pack two external drives; one that I can download images to while out shooting and another that I can copy the files to. I will also download them onto laptop for organising and editing. Backing up also takes place on my phone with all my pictures being backed up to the cloud and then once a month backed up to a hard drive. In case drives fail I have a recovery program that I can use to help rescue my files.
I tend to use different drives as well as different cloud storage services because if one fails there is another. I haven’t started using multiple drives backing each other up automatically, but I can see myself doing that in the future. What I need to work out is how to have access to files when there is no electricity.
Finally I asked Ray Laskowitz.
I was exchanging emails with Leanne when she mentioned that she almost lost five years worth of work when her backup system failed. Luckily, her husband is a computer analyst so he’s been able to help her recover her files.
That’s scary. Very scary. And, I completely understand. I’m a Hurricane Katrina survivor. No. I didn’t go through all the scenes you may have seen on your news stations. I left a day prior to the storm making landfall. Even back then, I backed up my work on multiple sources. At the time I used external hard drives and CDs. I packed the hard drives into small Anvil cases and packed them securely in the car. I thought that was the right thing to do. It wasn’t.
Every one of of those external hard drives broke. I didn’t lose the data. But, the software that provides the connection to the computer was damaged. The computer could not find the hard drives when I tried to mount them. I was able to retrieve the data at a rather large cost.
I vowed that would never happen again.
Here’s what I learned. External hard drives are great… if they are portable. There’s a big difference between external desktop models and a small portable hard drives. Desktop hard drives are essentially the same hard drives that are used in a desktop computer. They are meant to stay in one place. Portable hard drives are very similar to the ones the are used in laptops. They can to be moved. I learned one more thing. Bigger is not necessarily better. For instance, according to statistics kept by the folks who monitor such things, 4 TB hard drives are almost three times likely to fail than 1 TB hard drives. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it has to do with the heat they generate as well as length of time in hard service — being used every day.
I also looked into RAID and NAS systems. They actually have pretty high failure rates. That’s fine if a hard drive breaks since they are supposed to be redundant. But, if the main link breaks, you run into the problems that Leanne had.
Of course there are CDs and DVDs, but they corrupt a lot faster than anybody anticipated unless you use gold media. That’s costly and you still really should back up your files twice. Besides, hard ware changes. You should reborn discs every few years.
Of course there are clouds, which are really just offsite servers. I use them, but don’t really trust them completely. Electricity can fail. Internet service providers can fail. I use them. But, not exclusively.
I mix and match. I use two portable 1 TB hard drives at the same time. Once they are filled — not to their maximum storage capacity because that can cause problems too — one goes offsite to a safe deposit box, the other stays with me. I also use two clouds only for master files, one from Apple. The other from Adobe.
It’s about workflow. There is no one correct workflow. What you organize depends on what photograph and how you work in the field. I download my RAW files to both portables. I put a third set of files on my desktop. Those are the ones I curate and edit. Those files become my masters. They also are uploaded to both portables and the clouds. Once that’s done, they are the files I experiment with… the ones that you might see on my blog, Storyteller. They go onto both hard drives as well.
When I’ve finished with everything, I have two sets of RAW files. Three sets of masters and two sets of experimental files. The funny thing is that I come from the film era. In those days, we had one set of “files.” Negatives and slides. Collections were big and bulky. They were very hard to move in the event of some disaster. Today, we have multiple back up methods. Use as many as you need.
Thank you to those guys, they have similar things, and some things are different.
I know this has been a long post, but it is an important post, and it is something that all of us photographers should be thinking about. Do you want to risk losing everything? Do you have a backup system in place? Is it good enough? I will try and answer questions, but I am hoping that Victor, Ben, Robin and Ray might pop in from time to time and answer questions. I might even be able to get Dave to give some advice, you never know.
The photos I have put in this post are some of the ones I would have lost if I had not been able to recover my images. They are some of my favourites, and some you have seen a few times.