Well they are, aren’t they…boring that is.
However it is really important to have some kind of backup in place as technology can fail at any time, often without warning, and often catastrophically. You have been warned.
I’m perhaps a little over the top about my backup strategies (yes plural) – I have multiple backups in multiple places on multiple different devices and I frequently check those devices to make sure they are working properly. My data, or more specifically, my photos are very, very important to me so I’d rather not lose them to the whims of some tech that might die on me at a really inconvenient time.
Why should we backup? The obvious answer is that if the data is in one place only and the hardware fails then there is a good chance that you will lose that data forever. Not ideal. A slightly less obvious reason is that all storage media has a finite life. This means that a hard drive in a computer, or a separate drive, can develop non-critical errors over time that will corrupt one or two files. That may seem like it is not a problem unless the corrupted file happens to be super important to you. If there was another copy of that file elsewhere, the chances of that being corrupted at the same time are a lot less likely. A third reason is the increase in ransomware attacks. This is when a virus encrypts your data and you are held to ransom by the hacker who will, allegedly, give you the key to unlock your files if you pay them some money. No guarantees whatsoever.
I’m sure by now that you are getting the message that backups are a good thing even though they are still boring!
So what do I backup to? There are many options to choose from that vary in price and convenience and really come down to what you can afford. There’s CD/DVD/BD discs, hard disks, SSD drives, tape and cloud to mention the main choices. Which you choose will depend on how much data you want to backup. CD/DVD/BD discs are great for archiving as they have a long shelf life but are less convenient for daily backups. Hard disks are a great choice in terms of cost/MB but have a limited lifespan (average 3-5 years). SSD drives are still expensive, very fast, robust from shocks but have a limited number of read write operations. Tape is only really good for larger organisations and cloud can be expensive if you have a lot of data.
I’m not going to go into loads of detail about each choice as there is plenty of info on the net about such things if you really want to know. I will tell you what I do though. The is not necessarily the best setup but it works for me.
I use backup software (Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich) and have multiple tasks run from 2 machines for my entire network. I have a bootable backup of my main machine which would allow me to boot the backup copy if the main drive died and I really had to carry on working. I have my Lightroom catalog and photos on an external drive. This drive is backed up every hour with another drive that is permanently attached to my Mac. I then backup the LR drive to a RAID array across the network every 6 hours. The LR drive is also backed up to another external drive that is attached to the Mac once a week or after I have imported a lot of photos and the immediately ejected once it has finished the task. So I have 3 backups as well as the main ‘live’ copy that I work on.
This sounds excessive and perhaps it is but my photos are important and I want to make sure they are safe. So the logic is this. The first, hourly backup, if you like, is a normal incremental backup which allows me to go back in time to previous versions for over a year (limited by the size of the drive). The RAID backup allows for another copy that is held on a redundant array of disks. This means that if one disk fails in that array no data is lost, I can replace the failed disk and everything carries on as if nothing had happened. This array is also ‘offsite’ so that if the office was to get damaged that array would likely be safe. The last backup is my ransomeware ‘insurance’. It’s not a perfect solution but it means that if my machine was ransomed then since this disk is not permanently attached to my machine, the chance of it being infected as well, is very remote. At most I lose a week’s work and I usually have the images on the camera card for longer than that anyway.
If you’ve managed to read this far then a big WELL DONE to you. It’s not the most exciting of subjects but it is really important. Don’t worry about what I’ve said and the way I do it – if you haven’t got a backup copy of your photos, do something about it quickly. Go on do it now. Don’t get caught up in what’s the best way to do it – the best way is to have a copy and then think about the the longer term later.
Thanks for reading!