Backup Strategy

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NRU Heed
NRU Member
15 Mar 2012
Falkirk, United Kingdom
Andy and I were chatting in-game about PC back-ups and I was trying to explain what I do but it was worse than trying to do it on Twitter! I thought I had done something like this before but couldn’t find it and things have changed a bit anyway. I’m going to talk about photos here as they important as memories and are often irreplaceable. Some of the more techie folk will be doing this already but hopefully there may be things of use.

I suppose a good place to start is why backup. In the “old days” if you took a photo you would have a negative but also had a print too. You could get reprints but if you lost the negative you were done for. If the negative got scratched you could still get a print done.

As most “normal” people have a phone as their main camera it is important to get those photos off the phone and stored elsewhere at some point. If you lose the phone, drop it or something else happens to it any photos on it are gone. So at the very least plug it in to a PC about once a week and that will probably automatically copy any new images from the phone. This will give you some protection. You may lose some photos but not all of them.

An alternative to plugging-in the phone is to use an app like Flickr which can be set to automatically upload images to your account and they are private by default. There are other apps that also do the same thing.

So, now you have the images off your phone you are safe right? Well that is certainly better than before. However, whilst some of the big companies may not go anywhere smaller independent companies may get taken over etc.

Assuming you now have photos (and other important files) on you PC what sort of strategy should you have?

My first suggestion is to buy two portable USB drives. You can get a 500GB drive for about £35. Why so you need two? Well, if you copy all your files on to the drive you have a backup at that time. Now take that disk to a friend or relative that lives away from your house. Now, with the second drive copy all the files onto that too. At this point either manually or set up some sort of utility to copy any new photos or files onto that drive. If you have a reasonable amount of files not on the offsite disk then take the second disk to the friend and relative and bring home the other disk. This way all your files will be stored away from your house. NEVER bring the offsite disk back before taking the second disk offsite. If you get your PC stolen or you have a fire you will still have quick access to files.

If you are doing the above that is a really good start. You can go further though and this is what I do.

For photos on the PC I also have the auto upload app for Flickr so any new files from my non-phone cameras also get uploaded. A lot of crud gets uploaded but at least you won’t lose anything.

I also use OneDrive which gives you 1TB space (MS said it was unlimited but cannot find info on that) if you have an Office 365 subscription. I have the version that allows me to use it on up to five PCs and many mobile devices and costs about £80 a year. You can get a personal version for 1 PC that is £60. I set it up so my Mum has a copy and Iz has a copy plus a couple of other PCs. Each user gets 1TB of storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month. So you could have up to 5TB of cloud storage. You can set-up OneDrive to auto sync folders so if you set-up your main Photos folder to be synced any subfolders will also be uploaded.

I know that £80 or £60 isn’t a small amount but services like Carbonite are still about £40 a year and you don’t get full versions of Office either. I’ve tried using similar services to Carbonite and even with a 12mbps upload speed I hardly got any files uploaded after a month. OneDrive seems to be much faster in syncing. My experience with Office 365 and OneDrive has been very positive and have found it to be good value for me. Like everything personal preferences come into this.

Having an offsite backup is great but if you accidentally delete something or a hard drive goes bad you will have to go and get the disk. So another local backup is useful too so a second backup disk is a good start. But a NAS or similar drive is even better! Many of the new NAS devices will allow also enable you access files remotely too. Having a NAS device running RAID 1 (mirrored) will give you backup and protection. Where possible I would always use a wired connection rather than WiFi. A NAS device can also act as a backup for all PCs on your network and there are utilities that can perform backups that can do that automatically.

My personal backup strategy is below:

iPhone and iPads set to auto upload photos to both Flickr and OneDrive
Photos from other cameras are also uploaded via the PC to Flickr and OneDrive
Photos/Files backed up to a second drive within the PC
Photos/Files backed up to local USB drive
Photos/Files backed up to a server PC (in loft which is always on)
Server PC is backed up to Drobo (also in loft)
There is also a separate backup of photos on the Drobo
Photos are on a USB Drive stored at my Mum’s house
Photos are on a USB Drive stored in car

I know that seems a lot but photos really do mean a lot to me. The Server PC is also used as an iTunes/Music/Video server for the house and being in the loft means it is out of the way should we get burgled. Being up there also means there is no noise. Despite it being fanless and therefore pretty quiet you still get disk noise which could be heard at night when it was down in the main space.

One thing I’m looking at is the Drobo Connected Data Transporter. These devices act as a NAS but also give you your own cloud like service. What you can also do is have two of these in different locations (say one at home and one at my Mum’s house) and set them up to sync between each other. This removes some of the need to have local or offsite backup. These are not cheap but could be worth a look.

I know this is a bit long but hopefully if you are not doing any backup that you will consider having a plan. I also hope that you will have a look at what you are doing to see if you can do more. In most cases you may have to spend some money but how much are your memories worth. Given that Hardline is about £100 for the full-fat everything version a simple backup set-up could be had for £75.

Some links:

Synology NAS Synology DiskStation DS215j 2 Bay Desktop Network Attached Storage: Computers & Accessories
Drobo 4 bay Drobo DDR3A21 4 Bay USB 3.0 Storage Array: Computers & Accessories
Drobo Transporter: Drobo Connected Data Transporter Private Cloud Storage Enclosure: Computers & Accessories
interesting post and i have to say your pics are save lol

hell, you doing a lot to keep it save and running a lot of backups.

but for sure, in time we all use digital photography a lot and you havent any "offline" backups like prints or negatives anymore you will have to use some kind of digital backup system. some years back i really had a harddisk crash and i lost a lot of data at the first view. only with some special software and even more time i get the data back and at that point i started to use not only single back up anymore.

all our pics or videos we made are double or tripple backuped. phone is easy because its always uploaded in our dropbox also. from there is doing a copy into my pc harddrive from time to time if i need to clear the phone HD. also i run a synology diskstation DS231j with 4TB raid system. in there running 2x WD red 2TB HD´s in raid system so there backup each other.
Great write up there Glen nice one, Haven't got to much time at the moment because im at my desk at work
But the Western digital My passport Drive looks interesting especially the wifi version which comes with a SD card reader and is rechargeable especially made for photographers on the go..

WD My Passport Wireless 1TB USB 3.0 External HDD - Ebuyer

Also just brought a Samsung D3 4TB external drive got this for £102 delivered, started to prep for Win10 :)

Samsung 4TB D3 Station External Desktop Hard Drive - Black: Computers & Accessories

But for my Photo's I currently use a Samsung M3 1TB USB3 drive which is a great little external hard drive
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I know of people who have everything on their phone and when they got their new one didn't know what to do. Also, so many people have important pictures of pets and family on their phones and are devastated when they lose them.

A lot of my copying is manual as I don't really trust automated actions. They should work but you never know. There are things that I kick off first thing on a particular day of the week. If I've been out taking photos then they will get backed up to at least two places before doing anything else with them - even the crap ones!

Not everybody has to do what I'm doing and I know there are other ways of doing things. I'm definitely not saying my way is the only way or that even what I do is perfect. At my last job we used to do Mainframe backups every day which were on a rotating 30 day cycle, weekly backups that were on a 6 month cycle and we used to test them twice a year by doing a full Mainframe system restore on a remote site. Cost a fortune but the alternative was losing all the business. That made me vigilant on doing backups.

Holidays are my main worry. You only have the images on a memory card and no backups. I never put memory cards in checked baggage and always keep them with me when travelling. I'm thinking of getting an on the go back up device like that in the link below for travelling with. I've got quite a few SD cards but even then, when you start doing a lot of video or timelapses with a GoPro you still can run short. You can also put films and music on it for when you travel.

WD My Passport Wireless Wi-Fi 1 TB Mobile Storage: Computers & Accessories
Meant to add this in but forgot. If you buy a device like that in the link below you get Office 365 Personal subscription for a year. So this one costs £73.50 and Office Personal would cost you £60 so the tablet only costs £13.50! Or you can use the Office 365 to extend an existing Office 365 subscription for about 9 months! There are some Windows tablets out there that are not too bad and only cost £50 with Office for a year!!

iDream 8inch 16GB Windows Tablet PC Laptop Business: Computers & Accessories

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