Intro by Skip Cohen
Over the years I've heard so many ugly stories from photographers about lost images. In the "old days" it was lost rolls of film, often the photographer's fault, but when breaking the news to the client, it was always blamed on a mistake at the lab! LOL Then there are those gut-wrenching moments when your computer crashes and you weren't backing things up the way you should have been. Today, it's a lot tougher to shift the blame to anybody beyond the face in the mirror!
I've written a lot over the years about having backup gear and a backup for yourself should a family emergency, or health issues prevent you from an assignment, but we've never talked about the best ways to back up your images and data on your computer.
Thanks to a good buddy of so many of us, Dave Doeppel, offered to share a guest post. And, while some of it is a little over my head, I have a deep appreciation and respect for the process. But I'm not the one whose entire business is built on a foundation of client images and thousands of photographs!
It's not that complicated a process, but sadly too many of you treat it as if it's something you'll take care of tomorrow. Well, "mañana" isn't a skill set. Sure it would be great if there was a button you could push and you'd be protected, but to Dave's point at the end of his post - whatever you do, make it automated. If you need to rely on doing something manually to get files backed up, chances are it won’t happen. Protect yourself and never lose your data.
Dave needs to be on your radar. Just a click on his headshot, and you're there!
I talk about this a lot. At least once a week I hear a horror story about a photographer who has lost critical images. Then I discover they have no backups, or they thought they had backups but couldn’t find the missing files. I will only add that as a photographer, you do have one possibility for losing files that probably cannot be avoided, complete destruction of your camera with the cards still in the slot. Beyond that there are so many ways of protecting your images.
First off, and this is been a sore point for the latest mirrorless options, Dual Card Slots. Barring internal camera malfunction, this gives you an immediate secondary backup of your shoot. That at least gives you two copies of your images. It’s just the beginning.
Those images need to go somewhere. Where? That’s the question. Here is where many photographer’s and other creatives start having problems. Obviously the images need to be transferred to a local hard drive. There are many many options here. RAID, NAS, DAS, Simple external drives, SSD etc. Many think that if they store images on a RAID or other system they are backed up because a RAID has redundancy built in. There are different flavors of RAID and some will survive a hard drive failure and some (i.e. RAID 0) will not. You also have a single point of failure in the drive enclosure itself. If you lose a RAID enclosure, you lose access to the data until it is either repaired or replaced. You cannot take those drives and access them in any other system. So no you are not backed up just because you are using a RAID.
Your images are also just one singular piece of what should be included in your backup strategy. Your operating system, applications and any other data you have should also be backed up. So what is a good strategy for backing up your systems? Dropbox? Smugmug? Google Drive? Backblaze? These all can work to some degree but let’s go back to the basics here.
A solid backup strategy is something called a 3-2-1. 3 copies of all your data, 2 copies are local and on different media if possible, 1 copy offsite either in the cloud or another physical location. There are many ways to accomplish this. Another factor of backups is that backup media is rotated in and out. In the IT world we call this Grandfather-Father-Son. It is a common rotation scheme for backup media, in which there are three or more backup cycles, such as daily, weekly and monthly. The daily backups are rotated on a daily basis using a First In First Out system. The weekly backups are similarly rotated on a weekly basis, and the monthly backup on a monthly basis. In addition, quarterly, half-yearly, and/or annual backups could also be separately retained. Often some of these backups are removed from the site for safekeeping and disaster recovery purposes.
There is a huge difference in using a Synchronization/Collaboration service like Dropbox or Google Drive when you compare it to running an actual backup program. Both Mac and Microsoft do have some built in backup functionality, Apple has Time Machine and Microsoft has File History. Both create running backups with versioning. Not quite the same as a GFS backup scheme but not terrible. There are many options for backup software. On the Mac side I prefer to use Chronosync. For PC’s Acronis is one of the top backup software providers.
So now you have 2 copies running locally, your primary working data and a backup. That just leaves offsite. If you have decent unmetered internet bandwidth a cloud backup is great. Something like Backblaze. If not then your best option is just to add in additional hard drives to your backup scheme and store them offsite. Some will use a relative's home or a safe deposit box.
The last thing I will add is whatever you do, make it automated. If you need to rely on doing something manually to get files backed up, chances are it won’t happen. Protect yourself and never lose your data. Whether it is images for a client or your own precious family photos, backup your files today!!!!!
About Dave Doeppel - Dave is an award-winning Professional Photographer who specializes in Pinup and Boudoir. Back in the 70s, he developed an unwavering passion for photography as he was rolling and developing 35mm film. He hasn’t looked back ever since.
Throughout his creative career, Dave has helped countless fellow photographers hone their craft. He has also served as a speaker at numerous National Photo Conferences, including but not limited to WPPI, Shutterfest and Imaging U.S.A. Today, Dave is on a mission to educate emerging photographers on the ins and outs of the art of photography and the technology they need to be successful.
Where's Dave? Upcoming Events
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.