Pro Photo Tip: Why we need to backup


When it comes to photography equipment most of us, both pro and amateur will not give a second thought to spending money on the latest and greatest piece of gear. We want the most megapixels, the fastest shutter and the best display. Hey if we can get GPS, and WIFI all the better.

Gone or the days of spending money on film, processing and printing for all but the most art motivated photographers. As far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing. No more are the caustic chemicals going down the drain doing who knows what kind of damage to the environment.  

Without film we now store our images on hard drives and the cloud or for some people right on the card it was shot on. If you are like me you have most likely had a hard drive fail. Suddenly what was working perfectly in the background starts to sound like a traffic light signal switching, making a series of clicks and clacks and then boom it does not show up on your desktop any longer. Many hard drive companies offer a warranty for a few years. That’s great to get you a new hard drive but what of your files? If you are lucky you can send it to some company that can recover those precious files however, it may cost you over $1000.00. I speak from experience.

When I moved from LA to NY in the summer of 2005 my main hard drive crashed and it took with it all my work that had been digitized.  I was gutted but more than that I felt really really dumb. I’m a professional photographer, how could I have been so indifferent to my years of work. Leaving it vulnerable to a crash. It’s not like I was not aware that a hard drive could and would crash. It had happened before with smaller drives holding less important information.

It cost me over $1500.00 to get my files back and when they came back they were not organized in a way that made sense to me. Instead of the names I had given these 10’s of thousands of files they had new names and strange numbers. It literally took me weeks to go through it all and put it back together. Many of the files were fine but there were quite a few that were forever corrupted and unusable.

From that moment on I made a vow to backup my work in a safe and reliable way. I spent some time looking around. I had heard the term RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) being thrown around. A RAID system essentially breaks up all your files in to 0’s and 1’s and then splits them up to multiple drives so everything on one drive is also on the other drives. Meaning that should one drive go down the info will be backed up on the other drives (you need to have multiple drives working together) at least two and potentially many more. Since I’ve had my RAID system I have had hard drives go down but instead of freaking out, I simply remove the damaged drive (usually it just slides out) and replace it with a new one (often covered by warranty). In no time that new drive will up to speed. All the while there is no interruption in my ability to access my work.

So the bottom line is you NEED a RAID system to protect all the work you have created. Being backed up on the cloud is fine but it takes forever to upload large files and you are paying a monthly fee to access this info. It’s like a lease that when you stop paying they take your car away. You may like that you can access your files anywhere on the planet as long as you have Internet access and I agree that is great. Guess what? You can get that in a RAID as well; it’s called a NAS (network attached storage) It works exactly the same way as the normal RAID system but it’s plugged into your home internet so as long as your computer is online you will be able to access this info from anywhere on earth as long as you have an internet connection.

I have been extremely lucky in my career to be associated with some great brands. One of those brands is called DROBO they make the most simple to use and elegant RAID systems I have ever come across. There are many great units on offer from them and they are offering 10% off any of their products with the coupon code: david10 this is a great deal for a great product from a great brand.

I hope this little note helps you to better understand what a RAID is and how it can help to protect your work. You’ve spent too much time and energy creating images that are important to you. You know your hard drives will crash it’s not a case of if but when. When it happens you can either freak out or simply replace it, safe in the knowledge you have lost nothing.  How much is that worth?

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