We get asked a lot about how we backup our photographs so I thought I’d share a quick outline of our process with you. Our method isn’t necessarily the best way but it certainly gets the job done, it’s safe (we’ve never lost a file since using this system), affordable, and it’s very easily expandable.
When we were putting together the framework I poured over three articles on Chase Jarvis’ site: How to Back Up Your Photography: The Basics, Important: Storage and Backup Solutions For Your Photography, and Complete Workflow and Backup for Photo + Video. But we didn’t need anything that robust, so we took his ideas, stripped them down to the basics, and sized them perfectly for our studio.
For the purposes of this discussion I’ve divided our images into two types: Raw Files and Processed Files.
- Compact flash cards are downloaded via Capture One Pro to our Western Digital My Book external hard drive called Archive. These files live in a folder all their own called Raw Cold Storage and are organized in sub-folders by date. Whenever I need a raw file this is where I come looking.
- I then use Folder Synchronizer to make two exact backups of this drive on identical Western Digital Elements hard drives: Archive Backup 1 (to protect against a hardware failure on the Archive drive) and Archive Backup 2 (which is stored off site, you know, just in case).
- The raw files on the Archive drive are processed using Capture One Pro and saved locally to my Macbook Pro until they are retouched and all work on them has been completed.
- My laptop is constantly being backed up to an external Lacie drive using Time Machine. That means that even though these processed files haven’t yet entered the archive system there are still duplicate copies of them available in case something happens to the laptop.
- Once I’m finished with the processed files I manually move them to the Archive drive. Here there is a second set of folders outside Raw Cold Storage, organized by date, for all our image and document files.
- Folder Synchronizer will then backup the Archive drive, yet again, to Archive Backup 1 and Archive Backup 2.
By the time the whole process is complete there are three copies of every image file, one on each of three hard drives: Archive, Archive Backup 1, and Archive Backup 2. I know it’s a total mishmash of hard drives, it’s a combination of things we already had and new additions for our ever expanding catalogue.
Even if you’re not a photographer you can use this basic idea to create a backup system of your own. Backing up is important. The two best pieces of wisdom I ever heard were:
- There are two types of people in the world: Those who’ve lost data and those who will.
- If you’re going to the trouble of saving a file then back it up.
Let’s start a discussion, do you have any questions about our system? How do you backup your files? Do you use external hard drives, DVDs, or the cloud? What are some of your favourite tips? What are some things that you find work really well? What are some things that you’ve found that haven’t?