Today we’re gonna talk about the best backup method for photographers!
The best backup method for photographers is based on the three, two, one philosophy.
Three, two, one helps you remember two things.
First is the reminder that your data is always vulnerable.
The idea is that three is two, two is one, and one is none.
Hard drives fail, data gets corrupted, cloud services disappear or change their terms, houses burn down, data gets deleted, things happen.
So, if you have three sets of photos, you really only have two, because at any time, one of those sets could fail.
And if you have two sets of photos, you really only have one,
and if you only have one set of photos, you really have none, because it’s only a matter of time before that set fails.
Now the other thing three, two, one helps us remember is how this system actually works.
It goes like this.
You should have at least three sets of your photos, with two of those sets stored locally.
The local sets are your working set of photos, and a backup of your working photos on a separate drive,
and finally, you should have one set of your photos stored off site.
Three sets of photos, with one stored off site, puts you in a position where it’s unlikely, though not impossible, for all three sets of photos to be lost at the same time.
If your working hard drive fails, you can restore from the backup drive.
If your house burns down and both local drives are destroyed you can restore from the off site backup,
and if your offsite backup is lost or destroyed you can create a new offsite backup with your local set of photos.
Now let’s look at how to implement this.
The first step is creating your second local set of photos. To do this you need an external hard drive, and backup software.
As far as hard drives go, the most important thing is the storage capacity.
I’d recommend something that is at least twice the size of your current photo library.
So if you have 1TB of photos, get a 2TB drive. This will give you room for your backup to grow, and it gives you space for versioning and safety nets.
As far as the backup software goes, I recommend that you choose software that offers these features:
Backup scheduling. This is a must. As much as possible, the backups must occur automatically so that you don’t even have to think about it.
A safety net. This archives changes to your backup so that you can go back and recover deleted files.
And file Versioning.
Similar to the safety net, but what this does is archive files that have been changed, so if you need to, you can recover a previous version of a file.
When you set your software up, the most important decision to make is how often the backup is updated.
I have mine scheduled to update nightly, and if your computer is set up with the backup drive permanently attached to it, I’d encourage you to set yours to update nightly as well.
However if you use a laptop, or even a desktop where you routinely disconnect the drive that has your photos on it,
then nightly might be a bit much, because you’re going to have to remember to connect both the working data drive, and the backup drive to the computer for the backup to be able to run.
Whatever frequency you choose, if backing up requires you to connect one or more drives to your computer, I highly recommend you set a repeating alarm or reminder so that you do not forget.
With the local backup in place, the next step is to get the offsite backup going.
The best possible scenario for this is a cloud based backup solution.
I use and recommend Backblaze for this, because it’s cheap at five dollars a month for unlimited backup, it runs in the background keeping your backup up to date, it’s available on windows and macOS, and they make recovering your data very easy.
If you’re going to use Backblaze or something similar, this can actually be easier to set up than the local backup, because all you have to do is sign up, download the software, tell it what to backup, and then forget about it.
However, not everyone has internet connectivity that allows for cloud solutions.
In that case, you have to roll your own off site backup solution.
If you have to roll your own, what I recommend you do is get another external hard drive that will be kept off site, ideally a place you go to at least once a week.
When you get that drive, create the initial backup on it, and schedule that drive to update on the same frequency as your local backup drive.
Once the backup is completed, take the drive to its offsite location, and then at least once a week, swap the off site backup drive with the local backup drive.
Each time you swap, the off site drive will become the local drive, and will be kept up to date, and the new off site drive will protect your data until the next swap.
And since you’re doing this manually, I again recommend that you use a repeating reminder or alarm so that you don’t forget to keep this up to date.
This three, two, one system is the exact method that I use, and it’s been great. I’ve had two drive failures over the past decade, and in both cases my recovery was a cinch because I had this system in place.
If you implement this for your backups, it will make it very unlikely that you’ll suffer a permanent data loss.
However, even with a three, two, one system in place, there is a non-zero chance that you could lose all of your data and backups, which is why I wanted to share some additional steps you can take if you’d like.
One step I take is to use dropbox as a repository for all of my finished work.
It’s not a full backup of my photo library, but I keep a dropbox folder with all of my finished edits in it, and if I somehow lost all three sets of my photos at once, I’d still have my finished work that I could recover from dropbox.
In addition to that, I am subscribed to Adobe’s creative cloud photography plan, with 1 terabyte of cloud storage.
I don’t have my full photo library on Adobe’s cloud, but all of my new photos go there, providing me some additional redundancy for my photos.
Another option if you have the internet connectivity for it is a service like Google Photos.
I DO NOT recommend Google Photos as part of your three, two, one system for a few reasons.
First is that it’s a “free” service, and there’s never any guarantee that services like that will stick around.
Second is that Google Photos compresses photos down to 16 megapixels. For some that’s not a big deal, but for others, this would be a huge issue.
Finally, recovering all of your photos from Google Photos is a pain in the ass. You can do it, but it’s not a pleasant process.
But, as an additional layer on top of your three, two, one setup, Google Photos is great because it’s one more instance of your photos that you can go to if you have multiple catastrophic failures, and it’s easy to use.
You just download the google photos software for windows or mac, set it up, and let it go.
Apple’s iCloud photos is a similar option, though you have to pay for the storage space to use it.
Alright, I’ve put all of this together in a free guide that you can get at this link right here, and if you have any questions about creating a backup system that works for you, let me know in the comments.
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