Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Photo Backups, Again

I want to talk about photo backups again, because they're important. In these digital days, often the only copy of a photo you have is sitting on your hard drive... and that's not good. Back in the print days, at least you had negatives to back up your prints.

I'm talking about photo backups here, but this applies to any file you consider important, including videos, documents, emails, etc.

Experts quote the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Three copies of every important file...
  • Stored on at least two different media types (e.g. hard drive and DVD)... and
  • One offsite copy

Backing your photos up to an external hard drive is good but that is only 2 copies, on one type of media, and no offsite backup.

Offsite backup is important. What if you have a fire or a theft? Your computer and the external hard drive beside it (or in the same bag) are both toast and then you have nothing.

Here's where my photos live:

  1. My desktop computer;
  2. My home server;
  3. An external hard drive on a server in my office (offsite)

So I have three copies, on one media type (hard drives), with one offsite copy. Personally I don't think two media types are really that important, and the convenience of online hard drives trumps the inconvenience of shuffling DVDs. I have 510 GB of photos at the moment - that's a lot of DVDs.

This is my photo data flow:

  1. Take a picture with the camera (1 copy, on SD card)
  2. Import the photos into Lightroom from SD card (2 copies, SD card and laptop hard drive)
  3. Clear SD card (1 copy, on laptop hard drive)
  4. Move photos to desktop computer; Bittorrent Sync on my desktop automatically copies them to my office server (2 copies, 1 offsite)
  5. After each batch of photos, I run a batch script on my desktop that uses RoboCopy to duplicate the files to my home server (3 copies, 1 offsite)
This could be improved. I really should make a copy of the photos to some kind of removable drive immediately after step 2, because often the photos live on my laptop's hard drive for days before I get around to processing them.

Bittorrent Sync is fantastic for this application. I just move the photos to their permanent location on my desktop, and they are automatically copied offsite within minutes.

You could use a cloud backup service like Dropbox or Crashplan. I use Dropbox for sharing files between computers but there's not enough space there for all of my files. I also don't trust cloud backups with my data, but that's a different story.

I use a different method to copy to my home server because I want to be protected against accidental deletion. RoboCopy adds the files to my home server but never deletes, so if I accidentally delete a file from my permanent location, it will still be on my home server. When I do the copy to the home server, I get a log file in my Dropbox and I check it to make sure there aren't any "extra" files on my home server that aren't on my desktop.

How are you protected?

More resources:


Robert in Port Townsend said...

Excellent reminder, Steve. While fire and theft are important considerations, I lost more than 18,000 files, including the first three years of Oil-Electric stories, research files, and photographs - everything, when I replaced my hard drives, and made a fatal error in moving files from old disk to the new. I still smart over that. I send a USB drive to my sister once a month with irreplaceable files.

brux said...

I would not use a computer at your 'office'. Companies now have varying rules about what becomes 'company property'.

I usually swap one backup with a buddy who I trust and he keeps a copy at my place.

I have also started thinking of using my safety deposit box at my bank since thumb drives are the perfect size and the capacity keeps increasing.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Good point, brux. I don't do that any more - the off site copy is now at a family member's house.

If you have a safety deposit box, that would be a good choice.