So, you’ve read all about the 3-2-1 Backup Method and are a new backup evangelist, right?
Everyone has a friend who has lost all of their digital files due to a hard drive crash.
Hard drive technology has advanced so much in the past few years, but no hard drive will last forever.
Repeat after me: “It’s not a matter of if it will crash, but when it will crash.”
Bottom line: you MUST backup all of your photos.
Let’s do that now.
When I built my desktop computer for my business, I installed two, identical hard drives within my computer enclosure.
One was the main, operating hard drive.
One was the backup hard drive.
For backup #1 of my personal photos, I have an automated backup program set up to copy all of the photos in my personal folder on my operating hard drive over to the backup drive.
The thing I like about having the second, internal hard drive, is that it’s really easy to transfer files…I just pull up Windows Explorer and can see both drives. No juggling with external hard drives, finding the cords, plugging them in and waiting for the device driver to be installed.
But, if you are working with a laptop or a non-expandable desktop computer, external hard drives are just fine.
I used external hard drives to serve as my backup system shortly after I bought my first digital camera through the first two years of my business.
The basic idea is that you want to have a mirrored copy of your photos on another hard drive, and it’s updated on a frequent, continuous basis.
(The program I use for automating this will be covered in Part 5 of this blog series.)
Step away from the CD burner…
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned CDs or DVDs at all.
That’s on purpose.
CDs and DVDs have their place, but in an on-going photo backup system, it’s just not practical to use them.
External hard drives are cheap, durable and can be written and re-written and organized…and they hold a ton more photos than a DVD.
File transfers to a hard drive (internal or external) are faster, and you don’t have to worry if your computer burned the CD correctly.
CDs can get scratched.
New computers are getting so thin that they’re starting to come without DVD drives.
And don’t get me started on trying to figure out how to store the CDs, once you get past just having 3-4 on hand.
It gets ugly really quick.
Just trust me…go with hard drives.
A peek into my compulsiveness: Backup #2 & #3
I’m a little fanatical when it comes to photo backups, so I also have an automated backup going from my hard drive to my Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) that I use for my client files, which is set up in a 5-drive RAID system.
I don’t pretend to know how a RAID exactly works…I’ve paid a fantastic network professional to set everything up for me, teach me the dumbed-down version of how to use it, and be on call to answer my silly questions like, “OMG, why are the lights flashing? Is that bad?” (no).
But basically, it’s a ginormous amount of storage and a redundant system so that if one or two hard drives fail, the files are still there.
In my eyes, it works via magic and unicorns.
(Luckily, my network guy knows quite a bit more about it.)
The NAS/RAID box also has yet ANOTHER external hard drive attached to it that backs up the entire RAID system.
That all said…
A NAS/RAID system is probably not necessary for the average family.
I have a LOT of photos, y’all.
I only mention it here because I know people are curious what I do.
Hey, what about those prior year photos?
If you’re keeping track, you remember how I talked about keeping my current year photos on my desktop hard drive.
My prior years photos live on the NAS/RAID system (which is backed up via that huge external hard drive).
I can easily access them via my home network, but I don’t need to get to them every day.
This was all getting confusing to write out, and I’m sure it’s even worse to read through this boring stuff, so I drew a map of my whole backup system:
But my system is overkill for the average family…
You do not need a NAS/RAID system to properly back up your photos.
And, if your computer hard drive is almost full, you still have options.
If you’d like to go with my current year/prior years storage system and get the majority of your photos off your computer hard drive, all you need are two external hard drives.
If you’re starting from scratch, I’d recommend purchasing two identical drives and get the biggest you can possibly afford so you don’t have to buy more in a few years.
There are 4 TB drives on Amazon for $122 right now. That will last the average family many, many years.
Fun fact: I fill 4TB about every 2 years.
So, get two external hard drives.
Attach one to your computer (or, if your main computer is a laptop, make it easily accessible to attach it on a regular basis). This hard drive serves as the backup to your current photos stored on your computer. You’ll also want to move all of your prior years photos over to it.
Once you get your first external hard drive set up, then copy all of your prior years photos over to your second external hard drive.
Store your second external hard drive somewhere…don’t leave it plugged in (to prevent wear and tear). You only need to access hard drive #2 once a year to update the yearly archival backup.
Oooo—-and slap labels on your two drives so you know which one is #1 and which one is #2.
I’m a sucker for labels.
Wow, that explanation was even more of a snooze fest, so I made a map for you too:
If you set this up, you have at least two copies of all of your photos—whether current year, prior years, or whatever—and they are stored in two different places.
(Don’t forget to dump them all in the same place on a regular basis, like we talked about yesterday!)
Once you have this set up, you have a really, really good start to your backup system, but it’s not quite good enough.
We’ll talk about off-site storage next in Part 4: Get it Outta The House!