The Importance of Backups

Don’t do what I do… do what I say! I know, I sound like a dad here. But it’s true. I like being out at a game on location rather than behind a computer. The problem is all the photos I previously captured are sitting right there on a hard drive. The problem? Hard drives fail. Sooner or later it’s gonna happen. It happened to me last week. I prefer to be out shooting a game but my backup strategy was not sufficient.

Thankfully, I have a Drobo, which is an array of four hard drives, so when the one failed I just had to replace it with a new one. That was what I thought until I did this and another drive in the array started to show a red light, too! My first reaction was sheer panic, thinking my whole array and over 450,000 photos were now in serious risk of being lost. Holy cow!

A reset of  the Drobo was called for and resolved the quirky issue. However, it sure made me think long and hard about the quality of my backup procedures. I am still thinking about it and am making definite actions to be sure my backup protocol is as foolproof as possible. Losing photos is not something I want to experience. Yep, I am sitting behind a computer now. It is not my favorite place to be but it is important for my backup plan to be successful.

Here is what I am implementing in my backup strategy. First, as I have in the past, I upload photos from my cameras to my MacBook Pro and a SanDisk external SSD. Then, when I get back to the office, I will copy the folder of photos onto two external drives that are mirrored to one another. Then I will copy the photos to my Drobo. This will provide three backups, which is highly recommended. I then reformat the SanDisk SSD to reuse. As time moves forward and the mirrored drives become full, I will move one of them offsite in case of fire or theft.

My file naming procedure is different from most photographers I talk to who just use the year and date for their shoots. I prefer an abbreviation as a prefix and the date in this format: YYMMDD. So a football folder looks like this: FB171104 and a Women’s Soccer like this: WS171104. Then each photo is a sequenced number behind the same filename scheme. My reasoning for this is that I can locate all the folders and photos from the same sport at a quick glance. I do not remember what I did on a specific date let alone which sport was being played that day. The date is important but not the most important to me. This file naming sequence has worked for me for over a decade.

My 16TB Drobo will soon be maxed out. I am preparing for this by getting ready to purchase a 24TB G-Tech Raid. My Drobo has worked well, but it is not the fastest drive to work with in my opinion. I am pleased with its redundancy but am willing to try something new and better. The G-tech seems like the next step for me.

Are you backing up adequately? Can you find the files you need when you need them? Are they safe and secure?

Update on My Drobo

My new Drobo has been in active use for over a week now and I am very happy with it. I first heard about the Drobo on TWIP–This Week in Photography, a weekly photo podcast. These guys were raving over the Drobo and I was slowly but surely running out of backup room on my external hard drives. So I saved my money and just purchased my own Drobo.

I spent the past week moving my photographs from the external drives to the Drobo. This would have been an easier chore if I had maintained a consistent folder-naming scheme all along. But alas the end is now clearly in sight and I expect to have the transfers down in a few short hours.

I only have two 1TB hard drives installed in my Drobo and it is already 67% full! I will have to install a third drive into my Drobo in the near future. One nice feature on the DataRobotics website is what they call the Drobulator, which is a virtual calculator which allows you to see how much storage space you will gain with different hard drives. I used this to determine my next cost-effective and best storage space-addition drive will be another 1TB drive.

The Drobo was very easy to set up and install. I just installed the two hard drives into the unit, attached the power cord and the USB cable, and then installed the software. Now the Drobo Dashboard gives me a constant status of space available and other important information from the Drobo. I just watch the lights on the unit, which will turn yellow when it is time to add additional storage. I also receive email messages from Drobo whenever the unit has a message for me. Pretty neat!

I have not always been faithful at backing up my photos so I find the Drobo to be extremely helpful and even vital in my workflow. To maintain proper backups I strongly recommend the Drobo. It works well and is easy to use.

My Drobo & Organizing Photographs

My new desktop computer is up and running with my Drobo attached and running properly to store and backup my photographs. My first step in the process is to back up my photographs by copying them from two external drives to the Drobo. This would not be a hard task if I had adequately managed my photos in the first place. Different folder-naming schemes was the main problem and this is taking time to resolve.

I now see the advantage of sticking to one naming convention!

How do you organize your photographs? What folder naming scheme do you put into practice? Can you find photos from a specific shoot just by the way your folders are organized?

These questions and more are important to answer. I am forced to answer them now and find specific ways to maintain my consistency in naming my folders because I want things well-organized on my Drobo. It will take some more time, but in the end I believe the effort will be well worth it. And next time this should all be much easier!

Backup Strategy

A photographer’s backup strategy is crucial. Without such a strategy we risk losing important photographs that can never be recovered? Sound scary; it should!

I’ve had one hard drive failure many years ago. It was only 20mb in size, believe it or not (I did say it was many years ago!) and it only contained documents that I had backed up to 3.5″ floppy disks. About a year ago, I had another hard drive problem. It did not fail, but it did cause me to lose some files–mainly my email messages, calendar, and some other personal management software. Much of it was backed up, but I did lose all of my email messages. But thankfully, I’ve never lost a photograph, at least not yet.

My previous strategy was to use external hard drives to backup my photographs. As time passed and more and more photographs began to be stored, I purchased a second hard drive. This worked until this year when one of the drives became completely filled. So now I have some photographs that are not being backed up. Yikes!

So, my newest strategy included purchasing a Drobo, but then I also had to upgrade my desktop computer. The new one just arrived today! What timing, too! It is raining cats and dogs outside and while I have many projects to do around the house, this project is a great rainy-day project.

I put the desktop pc together and attached the Drobo. I also made sure to install McAfee on the new pc, too. Then I hooked up my biggest external drive and started copying most of my photographs to the Drobo. The dialog box says that it is copying the photographs, but it is going to take a whopping 14 hours to complete!

I will still have quite a few folders to copy over to my Drobo from my second external drive and then my laptop. It will take time, but I will finally have a solid backup strategy in place once again. The only problem with my strategy is to implement an off-site strategy in case of a fire, tornado, etc. Then I will have a solid backup strategy and will be able to sleep at night.

What is your backup strategy? Is it solid? And are you using it faithfully?

Wondering how best to proceed…

Sometime next week I will be receiving shipment of a new desktop computer that I will devote exclusively for my photography. I will attach my Drobo to it so I can have all my photographs on the Drobo and my Lightroom catalog on the pc. Currently my photos are on two external hard drives and a few on my laptop.

My question is how to best proceed in moving the photographs over to the Drobo so that Lightroom can find them. Since I’ve done quite a bit of editing already on some of these photos, I am thinking that importing the catalogs is the best way to go.

Have any of you done this before?

I was waiting for the new pc because with Windows 7 I can view the Drobo as one complete disk. With Windows XP there was a 2GB limit for each drive. But now I have to find the best way to get everything over the Drobo and as efficiently as possible. If you have any thoughts on how best to proceed, I’d love to hear from you!