Getting Started With Photography Backups
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Getting Started With Photography Backups

Backing up your data can feel like an extra chore, added to an already tedious post-photoshoot routine; it can be a daunting task, which keeps many creatives from adequately protecting themselves from data loss. That said, not backing up your data is unacceptable when you are capturing moments that can never be recreated. As photographers, we know the very real risk of not backing up our data (losing the images from a client's wedding is every photographer's worst nightmare), but until the worst happens to you, it can be easy to deprioritize. My hope is that this guide will help you make baking up your work a breeze and a habit.

Types of Photography Backups

Backups get ignored and procrastinated, leaving you and your business exposed to data loss. There are several types of backups that fall into the three following categories: Physical Media, Cloud, and Hybrid solutions. Whichever one you choose, I urge you to “set it, and check it”; make sure that it’s working properly, and then make using it part of your editing routine.

Backing Up Photos to Hard Drives

Physical backup is the saving of data onto a physical device. Physical media includes CD-Rom, Zip drives, tape and Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). Although they fall under this category, SSDs aren’t worth mentioning here because they are too expensive to be used more than a working disk in most instances.

In modern times, and with the increased affordability of HDDS, you will likely not want to implement or use tape backups, even though they are cheap. Because they are slow and cumbersome to store, tape backups have been driven into virtual obscurity.

Of all physical media backup options, HDDs are the most common data storage choice. HDDs include your desktop hard drives, NAS systems, and RAID boxes.

Tips:

  • Use Backblaze's HDD statistics when choosing a drive. Do not let brand loyalty or stigma affect your decision, choose a reliable model.
  • Be gentle with your HDDs they are spinning disks and, if bumped hard or dropped, may fail.

Backing Up Photos to The Cloud

Another common data backup solution is Cloud backup, in which you store your data on the internet to be hosted on your preferred backup service. Cloud backups are usually fairly cheap for solo-prenuers and small operations.

The two systems I recommend most to people wishing to use Cloud storage are CrashPlan and Backblaze. I prefer Backblaze due to their ease of use and intuitive design. Whichever service you choose, be sure to choose one that is established and seems like it will be around a long time. If you choose to sign on with a new cloud service or a tech startup, you risk them shutting down unexpectedly and losing access to your data in the process. Most reputable services have a contingency clause, in the event of a company shut-down, they will grant you a guarenteed period of time to allow you to pull your data before they close.

Another popular and affordable option that isn't as easy to utilize but offers large storage for cheap is Amazon Glacier. With this service, you pay only for the storage you use, and then pay a small fee to retrieve your data. The downside of this service is that you must wait 2-5 hours to access your data, and can’t retrieve it as immediately as you can with Crashplan and Backblaze.

Tips:

  • Choose a reputable company for your cloud storage backup.
  • Check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to be sure you don't overrun your data capacity.

Backing Up Photos to Both The Cloud and Harddrives

The hybrid storage option is the one that I use, and what I suggest to photographers. I am a firm believer in the rule: If your data doesn't exist in 3 places (1 offsite), it doesn't exist at all. I start with my working drive which is a RAID box using RAID 5. That drive automatically backs up to a cloud service overnight. Additionally, I have two HDDs. I keep one offsite and perform a backup of it every Sunday night. All three drives are never in the same place.

The software I use for backing up to my HDDs is called Carbon Copy Cloner. You can set it to automatically backup once the drive is connected, or set to a specific schedule. This option also provides a great safety net; it keeps your deleted files for as long as the drive as space allows. Then removes the oldest files as needed.

Education
“If your data doesn't exist in 3 places, it doesn't exist at all.”
- Kyle Ford
Getting Started With Photography Backups

Backing Up Your Photos While Traveling

I travel often for work so, while it’s not always convenient to backup my data, it’s perhaps even more critical. While traveling, there are far too many factors that are out of my control, so traveling is the worst time to take a chance with data backup. I still take the ‘three places rule’ very seriously, I just take a slightly different approach when I’m out of the office.

When downloading my images/footage for the day, I use PhotoMechanic to offload my data onto two disks simultaneously. The cards serve as the 3rd location if you don't format them when you are finished. One drive is with me at all times, the other is in a safe place while I’m working. Once my journey home begins, one drive goes into checked luggage, one into the camera case, and the cards stay on my person. In the unlikely event of a break-in, robbery, or loss, the drives are never in the same location.

Tips:

  • Buy 2 identical portable drives for storing data.
  • Never keep all copies of the data in the same location.
  • Don't leave your gear in your car.
  • Always keep one of the copies on your person, or with someone you trust.

RAID

Say it with me, "RAID is not a backup". Good. RAID or (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) important to my workflow because it serves as a disk failure tolerance. Depending on your RAID setup, e.g. (RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10) if a disk fails in your RAID array, you will have lost no data because the data is written across the other drives in parity. Once you replace the failed disk, the array should rebuild, and you should be back at full operating capacity. The danger lies when more than one disk fails, you may lose data, again, depending on your RAID configuration. Additional stress is put onto the surviving disks when rebuilding the array, and additional weak disks may fail during this process.

Tips:

  • Use Backblaze's HDD statistics when choosing a drive. Do not let brand loyalty or stigma affect your decision, choose a reliable model.
  • Research or consult a professional on building a RAID solution.
  • DO NOT rely on RAID arrays as your only data protection solution.

Data loss is the responsibility of the photographer, so practice data backup habits that will allow you to assure your clients that their photographs and memories are safe and protected. However complex or simple you choose to make your backup solution, I hope this data storage guide has helped lead you down a path of data redundancy to save you from future data disasters.

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