Posted by: David Vernon | April 8, 2010

Let’s have the backup talk… again.

Gibraltar from the Rock

It’s been over a year since we talked about backups. It’s time to beat you over the head again.

A friend recently went through the trauma of having a hard drive fail. A hard drive with ALL of her photos on it. She tried to get it reseurected but it was a total goner. She eventually tracked down some backups and was able to recover about 3/4 of her images.  That’s fortunate but the rest are gone forever.

Backing up your images – in fact having a back-up strategy is simple. Real simple. And it’s not very expensive. Let’s go through the options – I’ve changed my philosophy since last year.

Regardless of workflow, there’s a place on your computer where all your images live. If in fact there isn’t such a place – you’re a little on the crazy side. Get all your images in one folder – even if the chaos inside of that folder is outlandish – at least you have one place to go for a backup. Let’s just call it your image folder. You might have EVERY image ever in there – you might just have finished shots in there. But what you want to back up is there. You can back up JPEGs. You can back up RAW files – whatever – but you have one folder in your hierarchy that you can manage.

Next – you need a drive. When my external drive failed last year, I went out to Staples and picked up an external 1TB drive for $120.  That one terrabyte is larger then the drive on which I store all my images. I now backup all my image files – all of ’em – to that drive. Hard drive space gets cheaper and cheaper. The cost of losing the images is huge. You’ll do the math when they’re all gone. Save yourself some grief and do the math now. Get the drive. There is no box of negatives in the closet. If your files are in one place only you can lose everything. Everything. Did you hear me? Everything.

It would be nice if you could automate the backup too – because let’s face it – you’re lazy. I’m lazy. I don’t want to manage that. I use SyncBackSE (freeware or shareware versions – I’m using the freebie version) from (If you want the freeware version, use this link and scroll down towards the bottom – it’s there). It was easy to set-up, it has a built-in scheduler so I know my backup runs every single night, and it works. The good folks at Lifehacker have their 5 Best Backup Tools post for you to refer to for software suggestions.

So SyncBack copies all of my images to my larger 1TB drive daily. It’s an incremental backup, so once a file is there it isn’t copied again. The directory structure is the same and nothing is encrypted or compressed. It’s just there if I need it.

Got a Mac? Try this article on the Backing up your Mac.

Having multiple backups can’t hurt either. It used to be trendy to burn everything to CD or DVD. The heck with that. Online backups are now the way to go – they’re cheap and they get the files off your computer AND out of your house. Check out Lifehacker’s Five Best Online Backup Tools for more info there.

Want an even simpler albeit slightly more expensive solution. The rage among pro shooters these days are backup solutions from Data Robotics. The Drobo system is probably the best system out there when it comes to seamless backups and recovery. The Drobo 2nd Generation 4 Bay Storage Array starts at $399 (plus $100 for your 1TB drive) and you’re up and running. And it’s very expandable. And it works great on PCs, Macs, or Linux-based machines. This is what I would have if money were no object (or an even better Drobo system).

But but but – do backups. There’s just no excuse. Hard drives fail too often and losing your images seems like way too much of a price to pay. Good luck.


  1. I simply use an external USB / eSATA drive and backup at random intervals that are not nearly frequent enough. 🙂

    Have considered mirroring my internal drive as well as an Internet based off-site backup. But, not done anything about it yet.

  2. I’ll go one step further and say offsite backup is now a no-brainer. The price is right (Mozy and Backblaze are around $50 a year), and as long as you have a decent internet connection, it just works.

    Do local backups to an external drive, and web backup to your favorite service. Small price to pay for peace of mind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: