How to Backup your photos in 2014

How do you back up your stuff?  More importantly, your photos?

Are you one of the many who have 5,000 photos or more on your computer?

Don't worry, many of us are the same.  We have photos everywhere and we often tell ourselves that we will find the time to organize the photos that we have taken and we promise that we will get it done too!  After all, we know that backing up our stuff is important, but often we don't realize how important till it's gone.

This happened to me back in Feb 2007.  My then, 2-year old son, was running around and was almost impossible to catch.  Like most parents, I did my best to take lots of picture of him, and I had a lot of pictures too.  How many?  Try 2000 or so.  The only problem was that I didn't totally understand how to back them up.  I thought my computer, my trusted device would be around forever.  Even so, I had read up on backing up photos, so I tried...and failed.  Long story short, the backup drive I had purchased, worked for the 1st month, but then one morning just stopped.  I contacted the Manufacturer and went through the troubleshooting steps with them, but had no luck.  Also, as my return period to the local retailer was only 14 days, I was outside of my timeframe that I could return the drive.  So now, I have a $200 Paperweight!  And worse, my pictures, and other things on the drive, were GONE!

My 2006 Macbook Pro...I thought my stuff was safe!

My 2006 Macbook Pro...I thought my stuff was safe!

After several days, after calming down, I re-evaluated strategy.  I found out that ALL Hard Drives with a Spinning Disk will fail at some point.  It's just when is the tricky part.  A hard drive will tend to fail within the first 6 Months its uses or the last 6 months its used.  The part in the middle, is the time that it will last the longest.  Some companies will claim that the time in between is around 4-6 years.  That sounds Ok, right?  Wrong.

As time has gone on, and our technology has gotten better, most of us are accumulating more "Stuff" and need more room to store it.  Our computers are doing more than ever before, and staying on longer than ever before.  Our computers staying on are running their hard drives longer and longer.  So this means that our hard drives will tend to fail at a faster rate than ever before.  

 

So, what can we do to protect ourselves?  Back to my story.  In 2007, after my 1st drive failed, I bought another one (different brand), and even purchased the extended warranty on it.  That drive worked fine.  In fact, I still have it! It's not used very much as it now lives out its days inside of a file cabinet.  I also started to use a service online called Picasa.  Picasa, before Google Acquired them, was a basic service that you could upload your pictures to and have them.  I got the account for free and used it for a couple of years till more services became available.  So at that point I had a copy on my computer, a copy of my pictures on my backup drive, and a copy online.  I felt that I was getting somewhere...finally.

Logan in 2009

Logan in 2009

In 2008, I found out that my son was moving around so quickly, I was getting lots of Blurred shots from my 1.3 Megapixel Point and Shoot Camera.  I decided to save up and look at getting a DSLR.  I had a lot of trial and error with learning that camera, but I also saved a lot of shots, because, well I wanted to.  I also upgraded my hard drive.  I kept my existing hard drive as a secondary, and upgraded to a RAID drive.  




The Drobo 2nd Gen..Easiest RAID for most of us.

The Drobo 2nd Gen..Easiest RAID for most of us.

So, What is RAID?

RAID means Redundant Array of Individual Disks.  The easy explanation?  Hard drives usually have just one drive in them.  While, a RAID has several drives.  In my case, the one I got housed 4 drives.  What makes this appealing is that the data is stored across all of the drives at once.  The RAID uses technology that will safeguard your stuff in the event that one of the 4 drives malfunctions.  It keeps 1 of the 4 drives as a spare.  So, when one of the drives ultimately fails, your stuff is still there.  In fact, you simply replace the drive and it repairs itself.  Pretty cool?  I though so. The only downside to the RAID, was the cost.  They cost 2-4 times more than a traditional hard drive because they essentially have a computer within them to help manage the data protection.  I think that they are worth the money for the safety sake.

So now I had a backup of my backups on the RAID drive along with a copy on the older drive.  I also had them online.  I felt pretty secure.  The one thing I learned was that I shouldn't put all of my stuff in one area, and to to spread out the backups over several hard drives or online services.  Today, I pretty much use the same setup, except I now use a slightly different RAID drive, and because hard drives have gone down so much in price, I have lots of them.  I also no longer use Picasa.  I now use this website, along with a SmugMug website to store my photos.  Essentially, I now have backups of my backups.  If all else fails, I feel confident that I can go to one of them if I am missing something.

The technology today in 2014 is amazing.  Spinning hard drives have been replaced in my computers with SSD's (Solid State Drives).  These drives have no spinning parts to fail, and will work for a longer and more efficiently than their predecessors. I adopted the mindset that when I take a picture, I put it in 3 places.  

  1. My External Hard Drive
  2. My RAID drive 
  3. My websites  GuillermoPhoto and  SmugMug 
My Computer Hard Drive shown with the other 2

My Computer Hard Drive shown with the other 2

I shoot my images in RAW (large file size), so I my hard drives are used for them, but my final images are kept on all 3.  Believe it or not, I try to keep it simple.  I even use a device called a Time Capsule that backs up our Laptops.  The Time Capsule is a wireless hard drive on my local home network that my Mac Backs up to once every hour when the computer is on, or even when the lid is closed and it is in "Sleep Mode".  This is great as there have been times that I misplaced a file and used the Time Capsule to recover it.

To sum it all up....I, like most of us, use technology constantly.  There are a lot of products that can help back up your stuff from your computer.  I encourage you to use at least one external hard drive, and one online backup.  If you don't use them for photos, use them for general backup.  Your documents, PDF's, programs, video and your music is valuable to one person, you.  Protect yourself out there.