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Storage and backup solutions for a photographer

How do you protect your valuable information? This is one of the examples of a backup and storage solutions for a photographer from Aron Czapiewski
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How to protect your valuable data from loosing it? This is how Aron Czapiewski, a commercial photographer form United Kingdom protects his work.

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I am sure all of us lost some data in the past for example photo, music, movie or document. If that file(s) was important then I am sure you was not very happy about that.

I am the owner of a small company which repairs Apple devices so I have contact with lost data all the time. In most cases, it’s a hardware problem, but sometimes it has been a users fault.

Why hard drive can go faulty?

Because they have moving parts and are very easy to damage.
Standard hard drive have one or more spinning plates which spins between 5400rpm to 7200rpm.
The life of each hard drive is limited. Some drives are faulty after 100-200 hours of work. I have one hard drive which still works perfectly without any problems or bad sectors and has gotten over 13 000 working hours.

In most cases hard drive gone faulty because of bad sectors on the surface. It starts from one bad sector, but later there are two bad sectors etc. There can be only more bad sectors – they can’t be repaired and number of bad sectors will never go down.

Online you can find lots of software which can check your hard drive. I recommend use that software from time to time to see in what condition your hard drive(s) is.

 

In rare situations it can be more serious mechanical problem, for example with header.

 

SSD (flash memory) is better as a storage device. Much quicker, less power consuming and lifetime is much longer because there is no moving parts, but… Cost much more than hard drives and at the moment hard drives offer more data space than SSD.

 

I would like to share with you how my storage and backup looks like.

Here is my beast:
Mac Pro, 12 core CPU, 64GB RAM

Apple computer tower

 

Apple computer tower2

 

Apple computer tower3

PCIe SSD (very fast read/write speed). I am using SSD drive for system files, applications and some temporary file storage when I need quick operations on large files for example 2GB photoshop files.

When all post production is done, I move files to the hard drive.
Hard drive with my personal stuff.
Hard drive for my work (photos and movies).
Using this drive for testing of new software and beta operation systems – don’t need backup for this drive, because there are not important files on it and all data is temporary.
Backup hard drive.

I don’t use DVDs anymore, so if I remove two DVD drives I can add two more hard drives instead.

On Macs, there is very simple to use software for backups called Time Machine which keeps:

  • Hourly backups for the past 24 hours
  • Daily backups for the past months
  • Weekly backups for all previous months

The oldest backups are deleted when the disk becomes full.

Time machine is an automatic backup solution. Never had any problems with it, but just in case I am doing manual backups as well. I simply copy files to hard drive number 5 so I have Time Machine and manual backups on one hard drive.

OK, many people can say I have backup so my data is safe.

Well… yes, SSD and two hard drives are backed up, but that solution is not great.

What if the main hard drive and backup drive will become faulty at the same time?
I will lose my data. Of course possibility is very low, but there is still a chance for that situation.
Of course, some laboratories can recover data from very badly damaged hard drives, but it costs hundreds of dollars and we are in trouble if we need data ASAP for example our job deadline is tomorrow.

 

Another possible way to destroy your hard drive is during a storm, when lightning hit the house.

To have a better backup system I am using external storage, which works with RAID 1. There are two of the same size hard drives inside. RAID 1 works like cloning. All data which is on the first drive automatically is being copied to a second one so both drives have exactly the same data.

Apple computer tower4

So that solution is now safer because I have three copies of all important data. Of course it cost more to backup because I need more hard drives, but data are more important than a few hard drives.

RAID 1 is doing a backup from backup drive number 5.

And now very import thing. RAID 1 doesn’t run all the time, is not even connected to mains socket all the time.

Why?

Because if it’s connected to the mains socket when lightning hits the house, it can destroy all drives in Mac and RAID 1. And it won’t matter how many copies you have – if all drives will be connected to power there is always a chance they can get destroyed by lightning.

Safer?

Yes, but what if…. house burns down, earthquake or somebody steals your computer and external drives?

To be prepared for the worst situation I am also using online backup services. There are many companies who offer a very good online backup solution for a few dollars per month. I am using two different online backup companies. Why two? Just in case. One in US and one in Europe – you never know what can happen.

I don’t use cloud backups – don’t know why. I just don’t like them :) I prefer to pay for hosting and copy data via FTP.

I am not doing whole system backup for online backups. I want to have only important data on their servers. I don’t transfer data to their servers directly from my drives because what if their servers will get hacked and the hacker will gain access to my data? Or how I can be sure those companies won’t have access to my files?

Apple computer tower5

 

And this is how my storage and backup system looks like. Works perfect for me so far and I think it’s safe.I hope that this article was interesting and will help you with your backup system.

Best regards for all Photigy readers and don’t forget to backup your data :)

Aron

PS. Remember – even simplest backup is better than no backup.

1 responses on "Storage and backup solutions for a photographer"

  1. With online services like CrashPlan, your data is encrypted. So even if someone hacks their servers, the data is not readable without the key to decrypt it.

    My backup scheme consists of a Time Machine backup at my office and one at home + all work files in Dropbox and a full system copy to CrashPlan. Also my internal hard drive is a SSD.

    I think the main thing to keep in mind is: keep a copy of all files on at least to separate external disks and at least one backup online. The probability of your computer, two external disks and a online backup fails at the same time is slim to none. To be honest your setup sounds like a lot of work. Especially with manually copying files via FTP. It also sounds like a job you have to break down in smaller chunks of files and maybe lose count in the middle of it all. I would take any automatic backup solution over manual FTP transfer anytime. And you can hack FTP and web servers as well ;)

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