photography workflow – back-up plans (update)

photography workflow – back-up plans (update)

A previous article, photography workflow – back-up plans for your main computer, dealt with two ideas:

  • safe-guarding yourself against catastrophic failure or loss of your computer
  • preparing yourself for when your hard drive crashes.

I do think the ideas there are solid – making sure you’re not vulnerable to a single point of failure in your system. The comments from others supported this and also offered a lot more advice and other possibilities. With that, I slightly adapted what I was doing:

  • my bootable clone hard drive is now a fire-proof & water-proof safe made by ioSafe
  • Backblaze as an off-site / online duplication of my files
  • Using the PackRat feature of Dropbox

With all this in place now, I think my back-up plans are very solid, especially with some extra redundancy thrown in there …

Now, you may well ask what the photo of Las Vegas has to do with photography workflow … but it is just an Instagram photo from my hotel room in the MGM when I was there earlier this year for my presentation at WPPI. Instead of just lots-of-words, there’s a pretty photo to brighten all this up.

Back to the workflow stuff …

I distinguish between two parts of my workflow:

  • my computer (a MacBook Pro), on which I have my work files and documents such as Excel spreadsheets, and contracts, etc. My emails and Calendar is also on there.
  • my photographs, which I keep on external drives – two Drobos

With that, I do different things to each of those parts, to protect myself against catastrophic failure.

Everything I mentioned in the article photography workflow – back-up plans for your main computer, is still in place, but I’ve added the following elements:


1. ioSafe

As mentioned in the previous article, I have a bootable clone of my main computer’s hard drive.  Super-Duper! creates an exact copy of my hard-drive every night, just in case my main hard drive dies. A solid idea, but my external hard drive was just a portable hard drive.

When I saw reviews of the ioSafe, and that it is fire-proof and water-proof, I was hooked. There is also the option of getting the ioSafe with an SSD drive, which is indestructible. Not only is it fire-proof and water-proof, it is also shockproof and crush-proof.

Have a look at these astonishing video clips to see they mean exactly that!
video clip on Gizmodo
BBC review of the ioSafe
ioSafe website with more news

Now, that is seriously impressive!

I didn’t quite feel that I needed to protect my computer against a tank rolling over it – and with online back-ups of my files via Dropbox and Backblaze, I am fine. But I really like the idea of a very rugged hard drive protecting my data. So I now have an ioSafe SoloPro. There’s even a data recovery service built into the price of this hard drive.

For people who distrust online back-ups, something like the ioSafe will be ideal. You can even bolt the hard-drive down to your desk. No one is dragging that puppy anywhere!


2. Backblaze

For online back-up there are a number of services. I had a look at Backblaze after someone mentioned it in glowing terms when I posted the original article.

Backblaze has three immediate advantages for me:
– it’s very affordable.  Surprisingly affordable.
–  unlimited capacity.
– should you need your data, they can send it to you on a hard drive for a fee.

It takes quite a while for the initial back-up to Backblaze if you are dealing with huge volumes of data – multiple Terrabytes – but once the initial back-up is done, the incremental backups are quite fast. And then you’re all set.


3. Using the PackRat feature of Dropbox 

I wrote extensively in the original article about how I use Dropbox to keep my work files safely backed up online. With Dropbox’s “Packrat” feature, they now keep an unlimited number of any files that I may delete or change. Wonderful peace of mind.

I should also mention that any back-ups of my programs, such as Mac Mail, Calendar, Contacts, I save in a Dropbox folder. So I can always resuscitate my essential stuff from Dropbox should I lose my main computer. Of course, my Calendar and Contacts are also backed up on iCloud.

You may well say “paranoia” and say that even my redundancy has redundancy – but I am unlikely to lose data, whether by my own stupidity, or catastrophe.

As before, I’d love to hear how everyone else is doing it. Please share.


related articles

  1. photography workflow – back-up plans for your computer
  2. back-up plans (update)
  3. workflow and back-up plans for disaster

11 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    I run a combination of cloud and off site storage.

    Locally, a drobo pro has everything I’ve ever photographed/saved since 2001, that drobo pro is mirrored to an external set of drives that are then brought to the day jobs office for offsite safe keeping. Drives are rotated around once a month or two months if I get lazy, but I try not to get lazy. It’s rather easy for me though. These drives includes my Lightroom catalog.

    I use dropbox for contracts and everything I’d like to get on the go from the iPad. It’s simple and easy. Contracts, work forms, PDF and portfolio files for the iPad are all there.

    I am now using backblaze for all other documents and am working on moving all my email to GMail so that I can avoid a large data file push into the cloud.

    I’m paying for my broadband suppliers second highest tier cable speed at 8Mb upload and 50Mb download. So it helps with the uploads.

    I need to stream line this rotation, but it’s something that’s gonna take time.

    My workflow downloads cards to the local drives which are in RAID0 for speed, those drives are synchronized as well to the drobo pro every hour because I’m worried if someone went wrong with the risky speedy Raid0…

  2. 2Edgar says

    I have a very simple setup at the time because i dont have much money. I have all my photos on an external hard drive. I duplicate all the photos and lightroom catalog to a folder in my desktop, there are already 2 copies. Also for everyshooting i burn all the choosen photos to a dvd. Both the jpegs and DNGs. Then i clone my main hard drive (where there is already a copy of all my photos) to another external hard drive, so i total i have 4 copies of my photos and 2 exactly identical bootable drives. I store my dvds off site.

    Simple setup but offers a good option for my actual money

  3. 3 says

    Hi Neil, from my IT background I knew the importance of backing data up and having an off-site policy. I have two western Digital 2tb my live hard drives. They are great as you plug them onto the network and can access them anywhere. One is at my house and is where I put all my photos. The 2nd is at another house. So it’s my personal cloud storage. If anything goes wrong with either I will just swap it out with a new unit. To allow for failure on both units at the same time I will be utilising another cloud storage. But that’s not set up yet.

    I had originally thought of going down the making backups onto DVD but that would have been too awkward as not all my shoots fit onto a DVD.

    I would highly recommend the WD my live hard disks.


  4. 4Manu says

    Thanks for the tip on BackBlaze, I did not know this product.

    I’ve been using Amazon S3 + JungleDisk for 2 years now without any problem, but the price difference is quite huge !

    It’s time to change my online backup strategy…

  5. 5 says

    Neil, with your workflow being done on a Mac, I highly recommend (and am surprises you’re not using) the built-in backup software Time Machine (unless you have a specific reason not to). I have been using it for several years on two different hard drives (one that is always connected to my machine, and one which I connect once a month and store in a separate place from my computer and other work stuff just in case). It is so much easier to use than doing your own backup, and you can go back to the exact state your hard drive was in (including operating system, applications, user settings, contacts, mail, etc) with one click of the mouse (even if you get a new computer, which is fantastic). Time Machine also keeps a virtual copy of your drive for every time it updates, so you could even go back to the state your drive was in on November 7, 2010 if you had akready been using it and decided you wanted to for whatever reason.

  6. 6Neville Stringer says

    I absolutely love my backup solution – its simple, easy, no-worry and comes with an “IT” guy to problem solve and figure out setup and any issues that arise. It likely costs more than other solutions out there, but the peace of mind & simpleness it gives is worth the cost! I use: who is based out of AZ. His name is Kyle Day and he runs this business for photographers. He set me up with an 8-bay Drobo as my main working server (currently have about 4TB backed up – all work since 2003). All work is saved to the Drobo each day. Each night, all changes are saved to an identical Drobo he has in AZ (I’m in PA). He also keeps 60 days worth of backups – so, I could get back any previous backup date in the past 2 months. My working desktop & laptop are backed up up to the Drobo too. With the Time Machine option on my new Mac, this makes it even simpler. The Drobo protects from hard drive failure. Having a 2nd Drobo in AZ obviously gives the offsite protection from fire etc. If I lost my main Drobo in fire, Kyle would FedEx the Drobo from AZ and I’d have every file ever saved back the next day and be up & running again! For someone not too tech savy – not having to worry about this process or problem solving when things come up is wonderful. Kyle has always been very quick and responsive.
    Anyhow – thats my system for backup & offsite safety, and love it.

  7. 7Mike says

    I use crashplan to backup to an offsite disk of mine. Crashplan is free in this configuration, all you need is a spot to put your offsite disk that is connected to an always on computer. It could be a friends house. All data is encrypted so there are no security concerns. I have restored all my data several times, and its worked perfectly.

  8. 8Kees says

    I have used for some time now. It is meant just for photos/videos. $99 a year for unlimited storage but with a limit of 100GB upload per year which is an issue with the initial upload. Besides an online backup it also allows me to share albums with interested parties. Most importantly it doesn’t touch my original files.

  9. 9Tom says

    One concern I have about all the solutions proposed is that they are “live updated” rather than “incremental” solutions (as we normally used in the old days). The problem is this: if you delete a file or folder from the master location, that deletion gets replicated through every on-site and off-site location. This may happened accidentally and go unnoticed for months or years until you need that particular photo. (Online backup services sometimes keep old versions, but usually not for ever, and you may change services and lose them.)
    This is the reason why I continue to burn DVDs every time my new photos accumulate to 4GB, in addition to storing them on external hard drives and web services. I can always dig out the old DVD if I have made such a mistake.
    I would love to know if anyone else has an “incremental” backup solution.

  10. 10 says

    Tom .. that’s very true. It is certainly an important area of anyone’s backup system to consider.

    It is also the reason why I pay for the “PackRat” feature of Dropbox where I have unlimited undo of deletes.

  11. 11 says

    Hi Neil. just wondering what would a typical wedding would work out for you in terms of GB size? I know my average wedding is +32gb. Then there’s the edited version once the RAW files are safely tucked away. So looking at roughly 50gb. That’s a lot of uploading in the busy season.

    Love your work. Your the go to man for wedding photographers.

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