I’m a photographer but I’ve also worked professionally in IT for 14 years and when it comes to protecting digital data I’ve learned many lessons (Murphy’s Law is real!) that can really be boiled down to:
- Things Break Down !
- Shit Happens !
This means that hardware, software or human failure (often all 3 at once) will happen sooner or later and that data loss is inevitable. ALL computers fail. ALL hard drives fail. ALL software fail. It’s simply just a matter of time – so protect your precious digital data!
Many photographers coming from shooting film and slides may not think much about how important backup is and end they up loosing years of work when their hard drive inevitably fails one day.
I’m here to tell you: backup NOW! And your photography business (or any other business) needs a backup strategy!
Last Saturday my custom built super fast main graphical workstation decided to commit Harakiri and self-implode with no warning. The PSU failed and apparently took the motherboard with it (we go down, we go together!). No amount of swearing or shouting from me brought it back to life so as I wait for the shop to fix it I am reduced to my laptop and external storage but still have access to all files. I do backups every day so I fortunately lost very little (probably nothing ‘cos the internal HD will probably be fine when I get the PC back).
Actually this is the very first time one of my own personal computers has imploded on me. Lot’s of stuff has failed at work, but none of my own. Well I’ve owned computers since I was 14 and knew it had to happen one day. Fortunately I was prepared.
Backup – what you need
You need at least two full backups, one of them stored at another external location:
- An external drive where you do backups every day! Preferably you want either a clone of this backup or two generations. Your backup hard drive will fail some day as well!
- Another external drive or DVDs with backups backed up as often as you can manage – and stored at another location than yours! This is called the off-site-backup and is needed if your house burns down!
Backup – what I DO
I’m used to enterprise arrays like the HP on the right and wouldn’t mind a fiber channel virtual array in my home but I need to sell quite a few photos before that happens 😀 Even if I had an array like this I still would need at least the 2 full backups I explained above. Big arrays fail as well from time to time.
This is my work and backup strategy
- Live copy 1: Internal SATA hard drives is the primary storage and work area, working with huge RAW and TIFFs I need the speed of an internal drive (until I can afford that fiber channel array!).
- Live copy 2: An external USB drive is sync’ed at least once a day using Microsoft’s fine SyncToy tool. Someday this will be a networked RAID drive and it will be sync’ed in the background automatically very often.
- Another external USB drive holds daily differential backups using Acronis TrueImage. This is cloned often so I have two clones of this.
- I burn DVDs about once a month with the new data and a friend of mine stores them (he’s my “off-site-storage”). Some day I think I will move this online somewhere, maybe to Amazon S3.
Your files ARE your photos – the core of your business
I recently added live copy number 2 (see number 2 above). After my PC broke Saturday and I had to waste time restoring from backup I realised I can’t afford to wait for this restore. I needed my files now, I had photos going out to a client and suddenly I had to restore before I could access them. So … live copy number 2 now exists! If my PC blows up again I can almost instantly continue working from live copy #2 ! The big enterprise arrays can do this automatically – cloning disksets – but in a small business we have to invent our own way of doing it.
Protect your photos – protect your data! I hope you already started on that backup strategy! Feel free to comment or email me any questions. I hope it takes another 14 years before one of my own computers fail but knowing Murphy I am actually super careful with my laptop at the momemt…it would be so Murphy to make my laptop fail as I wait for my main workstation to be repaired!