Photographers, backup and protect your data!

Dilbert-backup A year ago I wrote an article about backing up your data and I reckon it’s time for an update and for my tips on backing up and protecting your precious data = photos!

All digital photographers need to realize that photos are now just binary data on a hard drive waiting to blow up! A backup strategy is needed now, before your computer or hard drive crashes! So read on and save your work!

Hal9000As I’ve written earlier, it’s just a matter of time. All computers fail, all hard drives fail, all software fail – and often all 3 at once – so you really need to be prepared to avoid a disastrous loss of data! Your computer will stop working one day and I recommend being prepared; or loose your photos forever!

Backup – what you need

You need at least two full backups and one of them should be an off-site backup, meaning stored at another location:

  1. 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!
  2. Another external drive or DVDs with backups backed up as often as you can manage – and stored at a different location than yours!

My current backup strategy

My main work area is the internal hard drive in my workstation. I backup all images using this routine:

  1. Live copy: I have an external hard drive – WDC MyBook Mirror edition – and I use Microsoft SyncToy every night to create a perfect synced copy of my internal hard drive. It’s important for my that it’s a live copy, no restore needed. If my workstation blows up, I can plug this into my laptop and keep my business running until my workstation is fixed.
  2. On site backup copies: Every week or so I use Acronis TrueImage to do an incremental backup to another external harddrive. Every month or so I also use Acronis to do a full system hard drive backup, enabling me to restore the computer to a new hard drive quickly.
  3. Off-site backup: I use Amazon S3 – Simple Storage Service – for a full off-site backup on Amazons cloud computing service. It’s brilliant – and cheap! I use Jungledisk as my backup software for accessing Amazon S3. A nice little bonus is I can access all my files online while I travel!

With this backup strategy I feel very comfortable; my photos are safe! Should my computer implode I can use my live copy to keep working right away using my laptop. Should my house be destroyed I have a full copy on Amazon S3, stored on Amazon’s storage arrays.

Backup software for your on-site copy

For Windows I really recommend using Microsoft Synctoy to simply sync all your data to another drive. It’s a brilliant little tool for doing this and once set up it’s very easy to run either scheduled or manually. When your backup is a live copy and not a backup archive it means you don’t waste time restoring; files are already available. The downside is no history of course, if you want to be able to restore a file you accidentally deleted 2 weeks ago then you need backup software. Any backup software really can do the job; even the Windows builtin NTbackup is fine. If you want a system image backup as well for Windows I recommend Acronis TrueImage as it is superb at doing full image backups of system drives.

Off-site storage? Get yourself a JungleDisk!

jungledisk My off-site storage used to be copies of RAW files burned to DVD and then stored at a mate’s place. I always wanted something easier and more up-to-date, so went looking for remote backup solutions. There are many solutions but I have found Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) to be not only an amazing service but also the cheapest! I presently have about 160GB data stored at Amazon S3, and for that I pay around USD24 per month and that is very cheap. A pricing calculator is available here.

Amazon S3 is amazing and cheap because it focuses on one thing – being a storage platform. That means there’s no interface, so you need to use the API and develop your own, or a bit easier for must of us – get 3rd party software! This is where I recommend getting yourself a JungleDisk! JungleDisk offers a very nice and very easy to use interface to S3, it’s cheap at just USD20, offers a great built-in backup and restore option and it will even mount your Amazon storage as a network drive! Jungledisk plus can enable web access to your Amazon storage, something that is very handy on the road. I once did an image file sale to a company for their website sitting in a backpackers in Broome. I replied to their email, we agreed on a price, I used my web access to my files to download the jpeg version and emailed it to them along with a Paypal invoice which they paid right away. Took all of 15 minutes, made 700 bucks before breakkie! JungleDisk is truly brilliant, read much more at

Don’t wait!

I’ve worked long enough professionally in IT to have a close relationship to Murphy and his bloody Law. It’s very real, let me tell you and Murphy was an optimist! Shit happens and things break! Don’t wait till you get to know Murphy yourself, get started on backups now and save your photos! Comment or email any questions, I’m very happy to help you protect your data!

5 Comments on “Photographers, backup and protect your data!”

  1. I couldn't agree more. Coming from an IT background I am a bit paranoid about backups.

    The last most inportant thing is that the backup logs should be reviewed regularly and tested often because theres no point in having a backup that won't recover,

  2. Absolutely on the button.I use both the external hard drive and 2 copies on dvd now.I learnt my lesson the hard way.After coming back from an assignment in the US,the computer crashed and I lost everything.I had to go back to redo everything and this time at my own expense..Never again.

I'd love to hear your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.