Monday, October 26, 2009

Backup Scheme

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

I have a plan for file backup and I thought I would publish it here. My motivation is that I would like to see if everyone in the group says, “Whoa there. You are about to make a monumental mistake because….”

So here goes. I want at least two copies of everything. (My natural scaredy cat nature is to have three or four copies, but I just can’t deal with it. So, two it will be.) Favorites, Classics, whatever I am calling them at the moment pulled from each year will rate three of four copies, including a spot on the C drive. The first copy of everything will be processed then moved off to a desktop external drive. For the second copy or backup, I am going to experiment with those small, portable drives, such as Western Digital’s Passport.

Why the small portable drives, you ask? Space for one thing. Too much of my desk top is already devoted to the book-type hard disks. On the other hand, the possibility of storing those drives in another room doesn’t appeal to me either, because I hate crawling around under the desk plugging in the power sources and rigging the things up to the computer. I have had a Passport for a couple of years and have found it handy and reliable. It takes up little space, and all I have to do is plug it into a USB port and ta dah! I’m ready to go.

For the moment at least, it looks like a practical plan. Of course, one drawback is the cost. The price per gigabyte of storage space is lower with the larger drives, but I’m thinking that storage space and convenience of set up may win out. By the way, I also believe that the little portable drives are slower. That means that I wouldn’t want to use them any more than necessary.

Please wave me off if you know something I haven’t brought up. Otherwise, I’m headed to Best Buy next week to pick up a couple of those little guys and jump into this experiment.


  1. Anita,

    You are definitely on the right track. I would recommend exactly what you are doing with a few minor suggestions. The Passports are fine drives, I use them when I am traveling and haven't had a problem yet (I think I have 6 of them kicking around now). If you want to go the cheaper route and get the larger external drives, then here's a tip. Get one that allows you to unplug the wire from the back of teh drive. That way you can just leave the cables all plugged in and when you set the drive down on the desk to run your backups, all you have to do is grab a couple loose cords and put them in the back of the drive. IF you have a whole bunch it can get messy but it worked for me when I went that route.

    The last thing you might want to consider is some form of Write Once, aka DVD/CD/Blueray back. The advantage of this is, once you write to a disk, you can't change things. So, if you get a virus that infects your main archive and then you back that up, your backup is infected as well. If you have a DVD copy somewhere then you always have a copy that you know is clean. It's tedious, especially in the beginning to go back and do all the old files. I just spent a couple days last week burning about 200 DVDs from the past summer but it can be a life saver. Storing one or both off site at a friend's house sure is nice too.

    My archive is backed up as follows:
    Main Archive (HDs)
    Backup (HDs)
    DVD1 (My office)
    DVD2 (Parents house in a different state)

    I like the ability to know I have a copy of my entire archive in a different state as I have lived in hurricane prone areas most of my life until the last few months. To know a natural disaster won't wipe out your archive and your backup at your neighbors is quite nice. After all, in my case, my photos are my lively hood. Better be safe than sorry.

    This got long but hopefully it helps! Let me know if you have any questions.


  2. In addition to focusing on what your backing up to, be sure to consider how your backups occur. Data is often lost because backups didn't happen when they should have.

    Are you using a software package to back things up or are you manually copying or doing multiple saves? It's best if backups happen regularly and "automatically"--removing the human element. Even the most dedicated person can forget.

    I leave my main computer on 24/7 with automatically scheduled backups each night. If a scheduled backup doesn't complete I get an email letting me know. I also have Lightroom set to automatically making copies of the RAW photo files as I import them.

    As Drew mentioned, It is best if you have some rotational scheme to keep a copy off site but that's often hard to do.

    Just something else to think about. ;-)

  3. ...Oh, and another lovely photo of the lower valley trail. It looks to be a great place for a walk!

  4. Jesse: When it comes to backup of valuable items and every photograph we create is of valuable, I just don’t want to ever loose any of it.

    For a backup strategy, since every hard drive will fail the only unknown is when, I recommend the following approach.

    RAID 1 (computer card) mirrored drives of C: (Main Drive). This means you have 2 C Drives and if one fails, I had one fail, the other C Drive keeps the system operational. Just replace the bad drive and system automatically duplicates the drive over and goes back on ticking.

    This saves having to reinstall all software on new drive unless you have a backup program that is run daily.

    Costco has a reasonably cheap 2 Terabyte drive that can be mirrored (RAID1) to give you duplicate drives and as above if one fails then it still works.

    I also keep one other eternal hard drive, which is only connected either by power or usb when making backups. It is kept in another part of the house in case of lightning or small fire.

    And if you are really (or is it overly) concerned like me, then I keep one in the safety deposit box and rotate through the unit above.


  5. Anita, You are the same basic path I have chosen, except where I branched a bit with the purchase of a Mac computer. This left me with a Mac desktop and a PC laptop to back up. With one exception I have able to use the EHD drives on both platforms.

    I have had very good luck with the WD Passport drives (3, I like redundancy), but poor luck with the WD MyBook dual drive Raid1 unit. One drive failed in it and the whole unit quit responding, which was a real concern as it was my main storage unit.

    I bought a ESata disk dock that uses USB or Firewire and you just pop a bare internal disk into it, much like a toaster. I tore the Raid system down to the bare drives and thankfully the one still had all my image files intact. I bought two extra internal drives and transfered the file over to them and keep one in another room of the house and one in my desk at work (which I will need to rethink as I am retiring on the 30th of this month).

    The WD Passports are a bit slow compared to a fast internal drive in the dock and using FW800, but better than the card transfer rate via USB. I found I can work in PS or LR directly from one of the drives in the dock, so I moved my working files over to them and totally cleaned the images files off of my computer's internal drive, that cleaned up almost 280 GB of disk space.

    My best in you backups, Steve

  6. Blogger commenting was acting funny earlier, so I don't know if it accepted my comment or not. Just kept going to a blank comment box again.

    Anyway, hope this isn't doubled... I was not going to add much to what the others have stated - you seem well on your way to a good discipline. That's the hardest part - the discipline! It is best to have it automated as much as possible as Earl suggested. Not sure I agree with his 24/7 strategy though - too much energy use. :-)

  7. Drew - Welcome and thank you so much for your thougtful and detailed response to my whimper for advise.

    First, I'll take you up on the offer of quesitons. Do you use an automatic backup that is operating all the time, or do you do manual backups?

    I really need to buckle down and burn those DVD's. I have been lazy because of the tedious aspect that you mentioned. That definitely should be the next step in this project.

    I cut myself some slack when it comes to my sloppiness, since I am not making a living with my photography. Nevertheless, I admit that I would be devastated if I lost even thirty percent of my photos. I need to shape up.

    I am pleased to get a vote of confidence on Passports. I have used only one, so that's hardly a fair test of reliability.

    Thanks again and I hope you will visit often.

  8. Earl - Thanks for jumping in with more valuable info. I appreciate the help. My C Drive is configured Raid 1, so anything that comes into that drive is automatically backed up. However, when I move the files from the main drive to a backup drive, I go into manual mode and copy the files to two external drives. My decision to bring in the Passports, means one copy to a desktop drive and one to a Passport.

    You are so right that the trick is, does the backup get done. For example, I know there are cases where the final version of a file, once it has been fully Photoshopped, never got backed up. At least, in those cases, I do have a backup copy of the original RAW file.

    Which automatic backup are you using?

    Thank you for offering another stack of things to think about.

    By the way, good catch. The photo is from Lower Valley Trail—a place I haven't seen enough of in several days.

  9. Niel - Thanks a million for providing so much useful information. My C drive is configured with RAID 1. That brings me peace of mind for what is on that drive, but by today's standards my C drive is now woefully small—a total of only 500GB.

    I confess that 2 Terabytes sounds tempting. I will definitely check that out. So far, I have only purchased one new Passport. (I decided to ease into this and see how it feels.)

    I agree that it would hurt deeply to lose any portion of my photos. I enjoy immensely the opportunity to revisit the old ones and would hate to lose any of them.

    Thanks for the tips.

  10. Steve - I really appreciate your sharing your experiences. Of course, it's always great to hear from you.

    I am happy to get another vote for Passports, but terribly sorry to learn about the failure of your My Book Raid 1 unit. That's alarming. Thank goodness you were smart enough to save your files. That type of experience would have sent me to a certified technician and would have damaged the bank balance.

    You are way over my head with the "ESata disk dock", but rest assured I will investigate that post- haste.

    Thanks again for all the ideas. I will do my research.

  11. Mark - I can't say that I am surprised anymore when Blogger acts funny. It is a quirky program. (In case anyone is listening, I don't want to sound ungrateful. I'm just saying ....

    Thank you so much for your persistence. I need all the help I can get.

    You are so right about the discipline. Unfortunately, I do slip into sloppiness all too often. I am hoping that a more structured formula will help with that.

    Your turn for the question of the day. Which backup software do you use? Of course, I wonder if you and Earl are using something that is Mac-centric.

    Like you, I don't leave my computer on overnight. I like to shut down at night and get a fresh start each morning. I wonder how the statistics on this question shake out? There are strong advocates on both sides.


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