I admit it. I'm paranoid about data loss. I want to be sure that my photos are safe even if my house burns down. They say that the first step is admitting the problem, so how do I deal with my paranoia?
I use two online services for backup. One backs up my raw files and another backs up my JPEG files:
- Mozy is an online backup service that I have configured to back up all of my important data, including my raw image files. I have configured it to run nightly (at 3:00 AM) and, unless I have put a very large number of files on my computer that day, all of my files are safely stored on the cloud by morning. The only problem with Mozy is that their largest plan only covers up to 125 GB of data and I am quickly exhausting that limit. You can buy more storage but it's more expensive than for their pre-packaged plans.
- SmugMug is specifically designed for photos. I use it to back up all of my JPEG images and to publish galleries I want to be public. For example, I make a collection for each calendar year, add my favourite photos to it, and make it public. Other galleries, such as those with photos of my family and friends, are kept private and shared via URLs. Only someone with the URL can view the gallery.
With these two services in place, all of my raw and JPEG images are online and safe, even if my house burns down. What a relief! Now I can turn my paranoia towards something else...
I’ve never been a fan of local backups because they don’t appease my paranoia. For me, the purpose of a backup is to withstand a house fire. Therefore, what’s the purpose of a local backup? So that your burnt hard drive can have a companion burnt backup? That being said, I’ve added a 1.5 TB eSata drive to my arsenal of backup services. This is exciting stuff!
In the end, I just take too many photos (in raw) to back up everything to the cloud. I still use my Mozy online backup service but that’s limited to 125 GB unless you pay extra. I could have added more Mozy storage but that approach has limitations. For example, it would take too long to get my data back if I ever need to. Secondly, I can’t just keep buying more and more Mozy storage with no end in sight. So now my backup plan has a third component:
- Windows Backup is configured to back up all of my data nightly to my local eSata drive.
- Mozy is configured to back up my most important 125 GB of data (including recent raw photos) nightly. I periodically change the definition of “most important data” as needed.
- SmugMug stores JPEG copies of all my photos. I use Adobe Lightroom to publish each of my albums. That way, I don’t need JPEG photos on my hard drive; instead, Lightroom creates JPEG photos on-the-fly.
My paranoia continues. Therefore, I have added another element to my backup strategy.
Most notably, I use Microsoft SyncToy (available for free) to help me backup to two external hard drives. I have one external drive that is permanently connected to my home PC. I configure two different types of nightly backups to that drive. The first one is the standard Windows backup (which doesn’t provide direct access to files, making it difficult to get specific image files). The second one is a SyncToy job that backs up all of my image files. I followed these instructions for that one. The two different types of local backup provide doubly-redundant protection against hard drive failure on my home PC.
In addition, I have a second external drive that I connect once a month and usually store off-site, at my parents’ house. When I bring that drive home, I run different SyncToy jobs that automatically put all of my important files on the external drive. That drive provides protection against a house fire or other catastrophe that destroys both my home PC and my permanently-connected external drive. If a catastrophe such as a fire occurred, I would use the combination of the external drive at my parents’ house and my recent files backed up online to Mozy to recreate everything.