What if Your House Burned Down?
As many of you know, I live northwest of Fort Collins where a fire’s been raging for a week now. Sunday evening the fire got close to our home and we packed up a trailer and were ready to evacuate in a moment’s notice. Fortunately, we were not asked to leave and our home is now quite safe.
However this exercise taught me a valuable lesson: don’t wait until you have a fire to decide what you should take with you. I ended up taking my camera gear, my hard drives and my Ansel Adams’ print. I figured everything else could be replaced.
This near miss led to some valuable discussions with concerned friends about how to best backup our digital work. These days even film guys convert their images to a digital file for printing, so this topic might be of interest all. Let me simplify this sometimes complex topic and suggest five simple things you should do to protect your images.
And let me point out the obvious; backing up your work is not just in case of a fire or other catastrophic disaster, it also protects you from hard drive failure, power spikes, home flooding and a host of other big and little disasters. I know too many people who have lost everything because they didn’t have a backup.
Here are the five basic steps for backing up your work.
First, you should use a backup program that automatically runs each day. You do not want to rely on a backup plan that relies on your memory! My images are backed up automatically and I don’t do a thing. Simple, reliable and invisible.
Second, back up your primary drive to another hard drive in your office. This is the most basic protection from a hard drive failure, which is the most likely disaster you will encounter.
Third, use bare hard drives in external drive docks. This is a simple and inexpensive system that allows you to grab a drive and run in an emergency. I have about 20 drives in dual docks and I mark my essential drives with a red label so that in an emergency I can easily spot and grab them.
Fourth, you should also backup to the cloud. I have two cloud backups that continually run, ensuring that a copy of my images are safe even if a fire destroys my home.
Fifth, have an additional drive that backs up only once a month. This protects you against an accidental change to one of your images because it allows you to retrieve a file for up to a month. For example if I unknowingly make a change to my original file, within a day my backup has overwritten the good file with the bad one. By having one drive backup only once a month, I can retrieve that file once I discover the error. This gives you a 30 day protection against accidental errors that you do not immediately discover.
We have all heard the backup warnings over and over again, yet I am amazed at how many do not heed the warning. I guess it’s because our computers are so reliable and disasters so infrequently occur that we are lulled into a false sense of security. We just don’t believe that it will happen to us. But remember the old computer saying: it’s not “if” your hard drive will fail, but “when.”
Personally I just cannot take that risk, my life’s work is on my computer and if I were to lose it, I would be devastated. I refuse to allow that to happen.
Please do not put off properly backing up your work. If you cannot do everything all at once, then start with item 1 and work your way down the list, it is prioritized.
P.S. Here is specific information on the backup equipment I use:
- Drives: Any brand of 3tb, 7200 rpm hard drive.
- External drive bays: Dual docks by NexStar (available in USB and eSata)
- Software: SyncBack SE by 2BrightSparks.com
- Cloud Backup: Carbonite
P.P.S. Here is some additional information in answer to the great questions asked:
Carbonite: I use the cheap $59 a year plan that does not back up external hard drives. What I have done is install a large second internal hard drive and have all of my final images (TIFF’s) on that drive. I only back up these final files to the cloud, not my RAW or working files.
Slow Internet: I doubt anyone has slower internet that I do, I’m on microwave and I’m outside of the useful range of the transmitter. This means that my upload speeds are about 100k in good conditions and more usually 50k. My initial backup took more than a month and updates new files in its own sweet time. But that’s okay, I’m backed up and protected, speed is not an issue!
Cloud Security: Some people are concerned with the security of the cloud, I am not. It’s not like I’m Ansel Adams and people are motivated to hack into my cloud and steal my work! Actually if they want it that badly, they can simply go to my website and download the free wallpaper images. http://www.colethompsonphotography.com/Backgrounds.htm
Why 20 Drives? I have a lot of drives because I have a lot of images. I save all of my RAW files (I never delete any of them), all of my working files and all versions of my final files. All of these are backed up a number of times in different ways, for example one drive backs up three times a day. Another drive backs up once a day, another every week and another every month. Then I do all of that for my family pictures and also for my business files and documents. I have a lot to backup and I back everything up several times.