Doug's Backup Philosophy

January 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  But maybe you have been lucky and have not experienced a hard drive failure.  There are many ways to lose your data.  It could be a hardware failure, an accidental deletion, a software issue, malware (such as ransomware), a natural disaster, or even an accidental event such as dropping your data drive.  It is very unlikely that all possible disasters will happen to you.   And, yes each one of these is a disaster.  However, if you are diligent with your backups, you can recover from just about any disaster.   I implore that you have some form of backup of your photos.  In this blog post, I share my process and how it evolved over time to what it is today.

Let's start with some basics.  There should be three copies of every photo and one of those three should be off-site.  If you are just starting, the cheapest and fastest start is to use Local-Only backups.  If you have sufficient funds you should be using all three methods below and that is what I am doing.  Think of it this way.  I have seen requests on the Internet where some are willing to pay high dollar to recover their only copy of their files.  The cost of using all three methods below would have been a fraction of what they are willing to pay to recover.

As a real-life example, a friend's hard drive with the only copy of their photos began failing to be recognized by any computer and they thought all was lost.  I was given the hard drive and with some hard work ahead of me.  With some luck and geek ingenuity, I was able to get the drive recognized and slowly copy all the photos to a fresh drive.  The failing drive was so bad that it took about 3 days of copying to complete the job of about 3 TBs of photos.  It should have been able to be copied in a couple of hours at most.  The excitement of the recovery was awesome, but not worth the stress.

Local-Only backups:

So, let's start off simple with a backup to an additional harddrive.  This is the easiest and first step to avoid loss due to a single hard drive failure or accidental deletion of all or a portion of your files.  It will also protect your files from corruption and hopefully a ransomware attack.  If this is all you do for backups it is a start, but you should consider more.  But, for now, let's assume this is all you are doing it is better than nothing.  If that is true, here are some recommendations.

  • Backup Drive should be a removable drive that can be mobile 
  • The backup drive should only be connected to perform backups
  • The backup drive should not be stored in the same room as your computer
  • If possible create a second backup drive to store at a friend or relative's house

Benefits of the local drive backup

  • Inexpensive
  • Fast to backup
  • Ease of access to recover

Disadvantages of the local backup

  • Typically manual process
  • Human error to miss some folders/files
  • Easy to forget and backups become stale
  • Not protected from a natural disaster

Use Alternate Media

I am not going to give this method much attention due to the volume of media needed to create a backup.  In the past, data was not as large (file size and number of files).  This made using alternate media such as CDs or DVDs a viable option.  Even if you were to get high-density DVDs you will still be limited to 4 GB per DVD.  Some of my edited photos are greater than 1 GB in size.  Most of my RAW photos are 30 to 40 MBs.  So using this as an alternate media to not be a likely candidate.

So, instead of alternate media, use the same type of media to have two local copies of all your photos.

Benefits of alternate media

  • Gives you a second chance if the first backup is not working
  • Inexpensive
  • Fast to backup
  • Ease of access to recover

Disadvantages of alternate media

  • Typically manual process
  • Human error to miss some folders/files
  • Easy to forget and backups become stale
  • Not protected from a natural disaster

Off-Site Backup

With today's automatic backup options to various cloud providers, there is no excuse to not have your photos in a cloud storage location.  I am using BackBlaze.  Backblaze is automatic and will backup new files as they are added.  There are other options, but BackBlaze seems to be the solution of choice by many photographers.  Setup is easy and relatively inexpensive.

Advantages of off-line backups

  • The backups are automatic
  • Protection from natural disasters
  • For the amount of storage used it is not expensive
  • Protection from deleted files ( Deleted files are kept for 30 days after deletion - a BackBlaze feature )
    • BackBlaze allows deletion to remain for one year for an additional two dollars a month as of writing this blog

Disadvantages of off-line backups

  • Not free
  • The initial backup can take a long time to complete.  It could take multiple weeks or months depending on your network connection and amount of data to backup



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I am glad you found my blog.  I am a photographer with a passion for awesome shots.  I go to great lengths to capture many of my photos.  I will re-visit a location over and over knowing there is a spectacular photo just waiting to be had if I am there at the right time.   I also enjoy finding how to do some abstract projects (check out my time-lapse post) and will be writing about them.

Send me a note via my contact page for some projects you would like to see me try and write about.  I am not afraid to try almost any project.  Doing the obscure forces me to do things that I don't do with the typical photo shoot and helps me learn even more.