What’s Your Backup Plan?

If you shoot photos, whether you consider yourself a photographer, a hobbyist, or whatever, backing up your photos is as critical as being in the right place at the right time with your camera ready to go. The fact is, accidents happen and they're unavoidable. Not to be a stick in the mud but even if you've never had a hard drive fail on you, it will happen eventually. If you don't have a good backup plan, losing all your photos to a hard drive failure can be devastating. The good news is, there are dozens of ways to minimize your risk of losing photos should your storage medium fail.

If Androidography or iPhoneography is your thing, backing up your photos can be as simple as installing the Dropbox app on your phone and turning on Auto Camera Upload. If you're shooting with a camera such as a DSLR, your options are quite a bit more involving, especially if you shoot in RAW format.

I personally use a combination of several methods to back up my photos. I start by importing and cataloging all of my new photos on an internal hard drive using Adobe Lightroom. While I'm importing my photos into Lightroom, I set the option to back up all of my raw files to an external RAID setup. After I'm done editing my photos, I export the finished photos to my Dropbox account by setting Dropbox up as a Published Service in Lightroom. This step is key in my backup plan because all of my finished photos are in the cloud on Dropbox's servers. If my hard drive fails, I can access these photos from any device that has Dropbox installed. The final component of my backup plan involves sharing my photos online through Flickr and Google+. Flickr and Google+ both preserve the full resolution photo that you upload to your account. If either my Dropbox, Flickr, or Google+ account shall ever get hacked or compromised in any way, I will still have two other redundant copies of my finished photos available in the cloud.

Now what the hell is RAID you may be asking? Good question. To give you a very basic overview, a RAID setup is where you have multiple hard drives that each contain a redundant copy of data. Building a good RAID setup can be very costly but there are affordable options available. I personally use a Western Digital My Book II. The My Book II is an external plastic enclosure that contains two 1 Terabyte hard drives. When I plug the My Book II into my computer, I configure it for RAID 1. RAID 1 means that all of the contents I load onto my WD My Book II are automatically written to both hard drives inside the enclosure. Even though my total storage space is 2 Terabytes (1 TB hard drive x2), the actual space available for backup is 1 Terabyte. This is because everything on the first hard drive is redundantly copied to the second hard drive. If one of the hard drives fails, there is still an additional hard drive containing a copy of my files.

To further drive home the point that you need a good backup plan, one of the hard drives in my Western Digital My Book II recently failed. Thankfully the RAID 1 configuration stored a redundant copy of my files onto the second hard drive. Additionally, I still had the master copy of all my files on the internal hard drive that my Adobe Lightroom catalog uses. I must stay, my experience Western Digital customer service has been stellar. Since my My Book II was still under warranty, they shipped me a new My Book II, no questions asked. Not only did they ship me a new My Book II, they shipped me an upgraded 4 Terabyte model since the 2 Terabyte model was obsolete.

I can't begin to list all of the methods for backing up photos in this blog post but I do plan on expanding on the various options in a follow up post. I admit though, my plan is far from perfect. I'd be curious to hear about the back up methods you're using. Drop a comment below and let me know what works for you.

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