I have a theory, that says people only get concerned about data backup after they lost everything. Until that moment, you carelessly load your images onto a single hard drive, assume all is okay in the world, and only move onto the next hard drive when that one is filled. Well, someday, you’re going to lose it all.

My Major Failure

For me, it was my first year and a half of work in the digital medium. Prior to then, I was naive, only shooting film and thinking the only way I could lose images is if I screwed up on exposure or development. Aside from that, I kept my developed film in an envelope somewhere, and I had them forever. I then made the transition to digital.

When I decided I wanted to investigate photography further than a hobby, I purchased a Canon 40D. It was a whole new world for me, being able to spray out hundreds of photos, and review later to make sure I got the shot. Before I knew it, I was filling up my hard drive with photos that weren’t very good, and not very organized either, so I eventually pushed them over to an external, and then, lost everything.

The external drive I got, was a lemon. One morning, after an early morning test shoot with a model, I plugged in the external drive, to upload more photos to it. As I plugged it in, my computer made the normal Da-Dink noise and everything was normal, except the hard drive casing showed a red light instead of green. That’s when I discovered that nothing was normal.

The hard drive wouldn’t allow me to open the files it contained, and wouldn’t let me upload more photos to it. It was corrupt, and inaccessible by normal means, suddenly my budding career in photography found itself a massive mountain to climb.

A Hard Lesson Learned

I called Western Digital, and they said there was nothing they could do, without hundreds of dollars to repair it. They basically said to chalk it up to a loss, and go on with my life.

Now none of that work was particularly good at the time, so my scars have been mended over the years. However, I have the first 16 months as a photographer, completely gone, with the exception of a few photos I was able to find on flickr and other social media though printing those small of images would be impossible.


My Workflow Today

My simple error made me into a data archiving master.

  • I now use a Drobo, which has two 3TB drives in it
  • The data on the two drives is automatically mirrored (insuring that I have two copies available at any given time)
  • I combine that with my love for a service called Crashplan, that takes the files, and backs them up into a cloud service.

The best thing about this approach, once I set it up, is that its automatic. Once I copy my images to the Drobo it is automatic, so I put files into the system, and it automatically mirrors the images onto the two drives. From there, Crashplan notices the new files on the drive, and immediately starts archiving it. Within a couple hours of uploading images onto my computer, I have my 3-2-1 backup solution done for me, without adding any additional steps to my previous workflow.

I can rest easy now, knowing I don’t need to tell clients that their photos are gone forever (which I had to do before). And while I cannot dig through my archives of my first year and laugh at how I didn’t understand composition, or even the technical aspects of photography. I’ve learned a valuable lesson from it all. All digital data has a timeline, and you can extend that timeline drastically through backup solutions, or you can find yourself weeping atop a broken hard drive asking yourself “Why Me?”.