CC photo: HULK SMASH by jk5854
One thing I have become very paranoid about in recent years is backing up my photos. The thought of losing all of my photos is something I don’t like to think about. There are too many memories associated with those photos and also just too many photos that I absolutely love to look at.
This paranoia has led me to a pretty decent routine regarding my photos (although it is not foolproof yet):
My main computer is an Apple MacBook Pro with a 250 GB harddrive, which is constantly at the edge of being full, therefore I don’t store my photos on my internal harddrive but have a dedicated external harddrive for my photo library – a small external that does not require me to have an external power source and that I can take with me easily (I’m carrying my MBP around with me almost everywhere anyway). To keep those photos save I make a back-up of them on the harddrive I do my regular backups of my laptop to (gotta love Time Machine and the backup functionality of Aperture).
When I am home in Germany I usually edit my photos at an iMac I bought specifically for this purpose (love the 24“ working space). On that computer I have my photos stored on the internal drive and do regular backups (every time I load new photos on the iMac I do a backup) onto a large 1TB external harddrive, which consists of two 500GB drives that are set up as RAID 1, so that both hard drives have the exact same content without me having to do anything – with RAID 1, all data is automatically mirrored onto the second drive. That way I have 3 copies of my library from the iMac – since that is my main photo library I wouldn’t want to have less backups.
When I’m back in Germany I also plan to buy an additional external drive onto which I do a backup and store it at my friend’s place. Why?, you ask? Well, currently all my backups are stored next to each other – which means a fire would kill all backups, theft would probably have the same result. I know, it is highly unlikely that something like that happens but it can happen…
Some of you might remark that online backups are an alternative for this but that is currently only true to a certain extent – while I have my favorite photos on Flickr, facebook and Picasa, it only covers parts of my photos, not all of them plus, I would lose the RAW versions of the photos.
I’m talking about all of this because the last months has been one long line of dying and crashing hard drives for me (kind of spooky, too). First my external drive that I use with my laptop died – luckily after I had transferred all pictures to the iMac since my second external had become too full to hold the back up of my road trip. Then the internal drive of a friend of mine died – she didn’t have any backups of her data! Luckily she didn’t use anything that cannot be replaced, but still – don’t let it happen, please! Yesterday my mom told me that the iMac was not booting anymore – apparently, from what I can tell from a continent away, the registry got corrupted when she did a hard reset because it had stopped responding – thankfully I have two full backups of my photos because the sad truth is: Harddrives break and die – or registries get corrupted (which oftentimes does not mean that you lose data but you might lose some). Don’t depend on luck, please!
If you want to read in more detail about different options for backups, Brian @ Epic Edits has written a whole series in his blog about photo backup. Starting with this article.