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Bulletproof Your Backups for the New Year & Beyond - PPA Today

Bulletproof Your Backups for the New Year & Beyond

It's almost February and the New Year's resolutions you promised yourself are already fading into the background of daily life. But don't worry, we still have one resolution that's never too late to accomplish: backing up your hard drive. Although it's one of those tasks that rates somewhere between flossing your teeth and checking the air in your tires, it's a necessity that can cause great regret if not done regularly.
Backing up is the first rule of thumb for protecting all your important data (like all those images!) and, clearly, it has real benefits. Yet it's surprising how many people don't do it...or do it improperly. A suitable backup means that a duplicate copy of your data resides on a different storage medium than your main hard drive. Copying your data to another folder on the same drive doesn't count because when (not if) your drive crashes, you may not be able to access any of the data.
What's Your Backup Plan?
A good backup plan starts with deciding what files you want to back up. This can take awhile if you have a large hard drive and thousands of files collected over the years. To speed up the backup process and reclaim valuable space on your hard drive, it's a good idea to do a little digital housekeeping and archive old data to semi-permanent storage media, such as DVD-R, BD-R or even CD-R. Although these media are "write-once," the expectation is that they will last about 100 years before deteriorating.
Once you've archived data to your discs, it's recommended that you verify and check the data on them to ensure that everything was properly transferred and that none of the files are corrupt. Lastly, you should make more than one set of these archive discs and store them in different locations. You might keep one at your office, another in a safe deposit box and perhaps an additional copy at the home of a family member.

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For several years I backed up by burning on to CDs and DVDs. Then I bought a new PC with Windows 7 and I couldn't open the CDs and DVDs burned with Windows XP. Luckily a friend down the street has several computers and the XP program so he copied all my discs to an external hard drive. Now I have several external HDs and I copy to them once a week making several backups.I guess I should have spent more $$$ on a Mac because its software is supposed to stay the same. But who knows?

I have researched Mozy and Carbonite, but they are too slow and several other wildlife photographers have said not to use them, but external HDs instead.

I use 3 backups after every event or job. First I transfer a copy to my working hard drive, then every day that drive is copied to a duplicate drive within my computer. That way if my main drive fails I can disconnect the failing drive and boot to the duplicate.

Second backup is kept in my fireproof safe. I use a program that synchronizes any changes from my last backup.

My third backup is a portable drive I keep in my vehicle and take with me when I travel. (Note: never move a drive while it is powered up, it risks damage and complete failure). The drive I keep in the safe never deletes any files, even if I delete them from my library, that way if I ever decide it is needed I always have a copy. On average I take 100,000 - 125,000 images a year in RAW. My library grows quickly, so I delete any files that I feel don't make the cut from my library. This keeps my portable drive and secondary backup under 1TB, however my main library is growing fast and I am nearing the 3TB mark.

In addition to all my backups I never delete my memory cards until all three of the above backups have been completed. Trust me this has actually saved me a time or two.

I own an Information Technology company in addition to being a full time photographer. I have seen many people fail in the backup department, so I kind of over do it. But the cost of recovering the data is so expensive I feel the reward is worth the effort. Ask yourself two questions, how much would it cost you to replace the data, or how long will it take you to recreate it?

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on January 30, 2012 8:22 PM.

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Join PPA Members Everywhere to Celebrate Smiles is the next entry in this blog.

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