A few weeks ago my photo backup plan was put to the test. For the first time in over 20 years of regular computer use I had a hard drive failure. The drive that bit the dust was my external hard drive that I stored a backup of most of my photographs along with my music files. Fortunately I had a backup of all the files that were on the doomed drive.
I Got Lucky
Even though I didn't lose any files, I was extremely fortunate in that the drive that failed was one that had every single file backed up to the "cloud" courtesy of CrashPlan, which I've used for the last couple of years for cloud backup. Where I got lucky was that CrashPlan was my only backup of those files. If CrashPlan had somehow not worked properly I would have been very upset at a minimum and completely depressed and suicidal at the extreme. Needless to say I don't want to tread that thin line of near-disaster in the future. That means that I needed to update my photo (and other valuable data) backup strategy.
What The Experts Say About Photo Backup Strategies
The experts at the American Society of Media Photographers suggest that professional photographers adopt a “3-2-1” backup strategy. They define the core goals of their robust, and redundant, strategy this way:
- Keeping at least three copies of any important file (a primary and two backups). That means that for every photograph that is stored on your primary [working] drive you should be keeping at least two additional copies on some other type of backup device.
- Storing these backup copies on at least two different media types to protect against different types of hazards.
- One copy of each file should be stored offsite and stored offline.
Well, I'm not a professional photographer but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night :-) Pro photographer or not, it was easy to see that my old "strategy" needed to be upgraded. I've done parts of their recommended strategy off and on but never on a consistent basis. And consistency is the key because you never know when something bad will happen to your data. It was time to make some changes.
What My New And Improved Plan Is
Based on my brush with "data death" I am now doing things differently than before. I have followed the recommendations of the "3-2-1" strategy and have equipped myself to be able to follow through on that strategy. Here's what I have changed:
- I purchased an external hard drive docking station and two hard drives (2TB each) so that I can backup to one external drive each day and once each week (Sunday) to the other.
- I will make a backup to the second external drive once each week and then take it to work with me. I will then rotate the drives each week. This way I will always have have one onsite backup, one cloud-based backup, and one offsite backup that will be no older than 1 week.
- I have setup scheduled backups using SyncBack Free, which I have used off and on for the last couple of years. I'm also trying out Comodo Backup just to see what the differences are. Both are very good (and free) options.
- I use CrashPlan to backup my files to the cloud on a continuous basis.
- I have invested in a copy of SpinRite which helps keep hard drives running well and can recover data from misbehaving drives.
Here's what I purchased:
- One Anker® USB 3.0 & eSATA to SATA External Hard Drive Docking Station for 2.5 or 3.5in HDD, SSD [4TB Support]. Cost $39.00
- Two WD Green 2 TB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache - WD20EZRX Total cost $170.00
- One copy of SpinRite: Cost $89.00
Total one time cost for equipment and software $298.00 The monthly cost of CrashPlan is $5.00 ($60.00/year).
The feeling of security and comfort I get from knowing that my valuable photos, music and other data is backed up......Priceless!
Why Not NAS
Some of you may be wondering why I didn't get a Drobo or some other type of multi-disk box. Well, before buying my new 2TB drives I investigated setting up a NAS (network attached storage). While a NAS would be sweet, I don't really need one, at least at this point. The reasons for this are:
- My total image/music/user files adds up to just under 1TB, which can be easily handled with the 2TB drives.
- I don't do a lot of streaming to other computers. Music is the only thing I stream and the total size of my FLAC music files is 150gb so I just have it on a 1TB internal drive.
- A quality NAS-box can get expensive by the time you add enough drives to adequately cover your data safety needs. At this point I can better spend my money on new camera equipment. I'm sure that I will get a NAS within the next couple of years once my image/music collection grows and at that point I'd probably get one of the Synology units (most likely a 4-drive setup).
Hopefully my experience with near data disaster and resulting re-commitment to data and photo backup has got you to re-evaluate your own data backup strategy. As photographers, we take so much time and effort in capturing and presenting our images, shouldn't we also take some time and care in doing what we can to preserve those precious images?
Happy Shooting (and backing up)!