How Important is Backup by Darren Pratt

How Important is Backup?

Imagine you have shot a wedding for a friend and you lose all the pictures. Or imagine losing photos of your children or family members. And imagine losing all those prized photos taken for competitions, portfolios, exhibitions and personal projects

Think about how it would feel to know that you could never get those images back.

So how important is Backup? It really comes down to how much you value the photographs you create.

If you want to make sure they won’t be lost forever, a good backup strategy is critical.

Ways to lose your Data

Human error – accidentally deleting files, or dropping an external hard drive (there are delicate parts inside)

Hard drive failure – hard drives (except for Solid State Drives) are mechanical devices with parts that will wear out.

Disaster – Fire, Flood etc

Data corruption – power surges, operating system errors, viruses and, very possibly, an endless list of things that can corrupt your data.

Theft – there are still ‘Gremlins’ out there that will steal your stuff.

Where should I backup to?

Hard drives are ideal data storage solutions for backing up data. They are affordable, convenient to use and offer a range of different capacities.

How many copies should I make?

You need at least 3 copies of your data stored on 3 different hard drives, with one of those drives been stored offsite. (an offsite location being another physical location which can be work if it’s a home backup or home if it’s a work one, a friend’s house or to be really secure, and maybe overkill for most of us, a bank safety deposit box).

It sounds a lot, but you need this many copies to protect you from hard drive failure, home or studio disaster, and also give you some protection from human error.

You can of course develop backup systems that use more drives that will offer greater protection against loss of data.

What size of Hard Drive?

Modern hard drives capacity is measured in Gigabytes and Terabytes (and yes I do remember when they were measured in Megabytes).

To try and understand this, photos are measures in Megabytes

1024 MB = 1 GB

Many people think that there are 1000 bytes in a kilobyte. After all, “kilo” means 1000. In most cases, this approximation is fine for determining how much space a file takes up or how much disk space you have.

But there are really 1024 bytes in a kilobyte. The reason for this is because computers are based on the binary system. That means hard drives and memory are measured in powers of 2

1024GB = 1 TB

1TB = 1,048,576 MB

On top of this we should never fill a dive to its full capacity. As a rule you should never fill a hard drive more than 85% of its total storage capacity. So how many photos will fit on a drive.

Depending on your camera you could have typical files from about 10MB up to 70+ MB

So let’s look at using a 1TB Drive and using 10MB and 20MB examples.

Warning!  More maths

1 TB less 15% is 850GB in round figures, so total storage we will calculate for is 850GB

1024MB * 850 = 870,400MB

870,400 / 10 = 87,040 Photos.

87,400 /20 = 43,520 Photos.

So as we can see we can get a lot of files on a 1TB Drive depending on your output as a photographer. From this you can work out the size of the drives you need.

And don’t forget we need 3 of these for a resilient backup strategy.

The Backup Plan

The basic strategy or workflow would be similar to this:-

Initial Start Up:

Download new photos from the camera / memory card to the main Drive (maybe your internal drive or a dedicated drive for your photos).

  1. Copy the Downloaded files to your second drive. – Put some place safe away from the computer

  2. Copy the Downloaded files to your third drive and take this off site

  3. Safe now to erase memory cards now your images are stored in 3 places

Continuing the plan:

  1. Download new photos from the camera / memory card to the main Drive.

  2. Copy the Downloaded files to your second drive.

  3. Take the second drive off site and collect drive 3

  4. Copy the Downloaded files to your third drive – Put some place safe away from the computer

  5. Safe now to erase memory cards now your images are stored in 3 places

Drives 2 and 3 are used in a rotation, taking drive 2 offsite one time and collecting drive 3 and then taking drive 3 offsite and collecting drive 2.

Darren Pratt

January 2014

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