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Backup, Backup, Backup. Once That’s Done – Backup Again.

A recent story in the Edmonton Sun reminded me how important it is to make sure you are backing up your photographs. In this particular example, a commercial photographer in Edmonton had his studio broken into and all of his hard drives stolen. Here is the story. http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Edmonton/2009/01/05/7919136-sun.html

After reading about this, the first thing I wondered was why this company didn’t have an off-site backup? The golden rule when it comes to backups is that if you don’t have a backup in two different physical locations – you do not have a backup. Having a local backup is important to protect you in the event of a hardware failure, data corruption, accidental deletion, etc. However, a local backup is not enough to protect you from things like break-ins, fire, flood, or other acts of god. Thus the reason for the second backup which is stored in a different physical location.

For those who are curious, here is my backup strategy. I have a main desktop PC where I do most of my photo editing. I also have a laptop that I take on the road and use when I meet with clients, etc. In my desktop PC, I have three separate drives where I store all my photos. After a shoot, I create two folders organized by date – one on my main drive and one on a removable drive. I then import my photos using Lightroom 2.0 and use the automatic copy feature to place a 2nd copy on my removable drive.

Once this process is complete, I have a Windows Home Server with 1.5 TB of storage space. My main PC is setup to automatically backup every night so any photos I upload that day are backed up to the server automatically. On my WHS, I use the folder duplication feature to ensure that the data is backed up across at least 2 separate drives. I now have copies of my photos on 4 separate drives. Time permitting I will also burn a DVD of the most important images – particularly any client work that I’m being paid for. That takes care of my local copies.

For my offsite backup, my current method is a bit of a mishmash that needs some work but I make sure my photos always exist in two separate locations. First, I backup the jpgs of my most important stuff on Flickr and to my own website. Then, I have two removable drives plus a hard drive toaster with a 1 TB drive that I use to backup my Raw files. Every few days, I update these removable drives with the folders I’ve added since my last backup. Two of these drives come with me almost wherever I go – usually to my office or I carry them with me in my laptop bag. The third drive I leave at my parent’s house and then bring it back home to update it every month or so. I realize that this isn’t ideal but I figure the odds of the house burning down or being broken into on the same day that I have that drive at home is pretty slim. Having said that, I have just signed up for Amazon’s S3 service and will be setting up my WHS to do a backup of itself to Amazon’s web servers. Then, if disaster strikes, I will always have a copy up in the cloud that I would be able to access.

Am I being anal about backups? Perhaps. But I’d rather be overly anal than wind up losing a client’s photos or my own personal photos. Once those images are gone they are gone forever so even if you are not earning money from your photography, ask yourself how valuable are those moments to you and can you afford to lose them?

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  • Thanks for sharing your backup strategy, Bruce. I import to my desktop (now using Lightroom), making a duplicate on a removable drive. For offsite storage, I use a service that provides unlimited data at a very low cost (carbonite.com) and backs up as files are created. There are also free services that may be suitable for some. However, as we discussed at the Social Web Meetup last night, a concern with online storage is the retrieval of it. Some takes considerable time, or there is always the danger of a company not being in business. Your extra offsite copies, while seemingly overkill, are not excessive–particularly with clients involved. Amazon’s S3 service was also mentioned at the Meetup, as a much faster solution.

    These back up abilities are the power of digital. We lost wedding and baby photos from a studio in Mexico that was struck by fire. With traditional film, the options now employed were not available. I am not a professional photographer, but your comments are a good reminder to all. Personally, I feel a need another offsite storage location, in case of loss at home and a failure of the online service. Photo DVDs are on hand to get this started right away.

  • Great! Thank you!
    I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Sincerely, Timur Alhimenkov