I remember the sick feeling I had. I remember nearly vomiting from the anxiety that followed the “click, click, click”. I was twenty-seven years old and as an IT guy with a Photography habit, I was very familiar with the hallmark noise a hard drive makes when it has spun it’s last bit, byte or gig of data. This time however, the data in question was twenty-five hundred pictures from a wedding I had shot three weeks prior. My knee-jerk reaction was that I had lost everything from a very important day in someone’s life for which I was responsible (and paid to) memorialize. When my heart dipped below 160 bpm, I realized there was a good chance all the data was still on the card’s I’d shot with.
I had only been accepting money for my photography for a short time before this incident. Although I had been shooting for many years and even selling my print work to various area restaurants, hotels and coffee shops, it had always been on my terms. If I lost something, I lost it. I had also only recently transitioned from film to digital. My career in IT left me no excuse for not backing up my data and going forward that is exactly what I did. I have over 700 shoots backed up these days in three different locations including an “offsite” backup location (more on that below).
Whether you are technically savvy or not, there are some very easy ways to make sure you never have to experience the pit-of-your-stomach-loathing that is losing someone’s work. Even if you are not a professional photographer or a photographer at all, backing up what is important to you should be… Important to you.
The phrase “Local Backup” is a fancy term for keeping a copy of your data in the same place where it actually lives, in the case of my photography, it lives in my studio. This can be as in depth as a RAID based NAS file-server like I use (If you aren’t technical, that is gibberish) or simply another hard drive with an exact replica of your primary photography work drive. There are also many programs out there which allow easy backups of directories on a schedule so you never have to worry about whether you remembered to back up. OSX (Apple’s Operating System) includes “Time Machine” which is invaluable to the non-computer-geek photographer. Other applications also mimic this functionality and a quick search on Google for “Backup Utilities” will generate hundreds of websites that provide software for local backup scenarios on both Windows and OSX. If you are a photographer who uses Lightroom (and why wouldn’t you), during import you can simply check a box to “Make a Second Copy” to a location, that being your second hard drive. Should your primary drive fail, you now have your backup to copy all of your work from once you restore your primary, buy a new computer, etc.
Remote backups refer to backups that do not live where your primary data lives. This means if your computer is stolen or an earthquake swallows your home where your local and primary backup are, your data is still safe. There are many ways to do this including an example of a photographer I know who keeps a second backup drive in a safe deposit box and updates it once a week. That is a bit extreme and there are easier examples. Data storage is cheap these days and there are several companies that offer remote backups for less than $10 a month. CrashPlan and Backblaze are two. I use the former. You simply install a client, tell it what directories you want to back up and it begins it’s initial backup. As things change on your drive, it uploads them. Simple and a cheap piece of mind.