Backups: A Professional Photographer’s Survival Guide

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Essential Guide to Backups

Bad things happen to good people, but you don’t have to lose your photos if something bad happens to you. You and no one else has to go without photo backups because of cost or time considerations. There are inexpensive and even free backup solutions readily available, and you can “set and forget” some of them and they’ll automatically create backups every time you add photos to the pictures stored on your computer.

I urge you to give serious thought to start creating backups if you’ve not already covered that base. You’re probably like most people in that your photos are important to you and some are irreplaceable. And you can be sure that if they are gone you will never see them again unless you have backups. You can’t go back in time, and sometimes you can’t even go back to a place. Even if you did, it probably would not be the same and the light would be different. Before I tell you what I do to assure that my photos are backed up and safe, I want you to know that I’m not recommending any particular products or services for backups, and that I will not gain in any way if you choose my methods for backups.

1. Make Backups Right Away

There is more than one way to do this without spending time at it. I began by using a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs) card and a second hard drive in my computer. Every time I loaded a new image file on my hard drive my computer automatically made backups on the second drive. As my photographs increased in number I added a DROBO, a free-standing assembly of two to eight hard drives connected through a USB port. One advantage of this technology is that you can increase storage capacity at any time by simply removing one of the drives and replacing it with one of higher capacity. I started out with two 500mb drives in my Drobo, and added capacity as needed. Now it has two 1TB drives and two 2Tb drives. I reformatted the older drives, sold some, and used the others on a different computer.

The RAID option may be enough in the way of of a local backups for most people. Those who have thousands of images might want to consider a DROBO for their photo backup needs.

2. Store Your Backups in Another Place

One way to assure that a fire or natural disaster will not take your prized photos is to keep a copy of your backup in a different physical location. I have a backup of my most important images on a hard drive kept in a back safe deposit box so that it can be accessed quickly if I need it. Another option is to have a relative store DVDs or a hard drive containing your digital photo backups.

3. Store Your Backups in the Cloud

The cost of online data backups has come down and there new options keep appearing. I use CrashPlan because it is cost effective, operates automatically with no attention from me, and permits making backups of multiple computers. It also offers an option for free backups — you and a friend can download the software free and make fully encrypted backups on each other’s computers. You can also backup other computers in your household in the same way and at no cost.

CrashPlan works on Macs, Windows, and Linux machines. Setup is simple and once it is done the backups occur automatically. You can also direct the software to only make backups only during hours when your computer is not in use, and you can put the software to sleep for one or more hours if you happen to need the computer while it is making a backup.

CNET gives CrashPlan its 5-Star “Spectacular” Rating in this article:
. Another review is the fastest at making a backup from Windows Home Server.

You can quickly discover other services for online backups with a web search. And while I’m not recommending any particular methods for backups, I am strongly recommending that you find a method to backup your photos and consistently use it.

I always like to hear from readers, so your comments and questions are welcome. How do you backup your photos?

© 2011, All rights reserved.

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