We received a great question from a reader named Brent lately, all about backing up his digital life.

The Question

Hi Photofocus,

After your repeated suggestion to backup, backup, backup, I’m finally ready to make the online plunge. I would greatly appreciate your recommendation for an online backup service.

I work on a 27″ iMac with 2.93 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 2T hard drive.

That’s my home/freelance machine and the machine all my music and my Lightroom catalog is stored on. I want to backup all this data to the cloud so that I can, on occasion, grab some of those file from my office iMac with matching specifications.

I realize the initial backup could take a week. I’ve got high speed internet service.

– Brent

The Response

The answer I am going to give you, is it depends. There are several factors such as:

  • Are you looking for a pure offsite backup thats strictly data
  • Do you want to be able to browse files for selective restoration (such as a corrupt file or accidental deletion).
  • Do you want to stream files from the cloud?

Youve asked about photos and music, plus you likely have business and personal files too. Let me tell you how I handle this. Your budget may be smaller than mine… so add these options as they make sense.

  • Local Backup. I have my photo library on one Drobo. I have my music on another. These units are set so two of the five drives can fail with no data loss. Both of these units backup to an 8-bay Drobo unit. Files are constantly being verified and scrubbed for corruption (plus the unit emails me if there is a drive failure). All in all, more expensive than single drive solutions, but worth every penny to me.
  • Cloud Data Backup. The entire contents of my computer and my entire Lightroom catalog are backed up using Crashplan. Their unlimited backup plan is $4 a month. Just be sure to update the uploader preferences to take advantage of your bandwidth.
  • Photo Backup. Im using Mosaic (and yes they sponsor our site). But I used them before that and really like their stuff. They make backing up easy with a simple Lightroom plugin. Even better is the Mobile and Web app that lets my browse my entire uploaded collection quickly.
  • Music Backup. I use three services. I like iTunes Match as it makes it easy to sync between multiple computers and download files again. I love Spotify to browse my music and share it between my devices easily. I also buy music from Amazon, so those files are automatically backed up by their cloud service.

While this may sound like a lot… its really not. The local backup is essential. The Cloud option is dirt cheap… but slow. It may take a month for the first backup if you have a lot of data. The services for photos and music are really about convenience. I love using my smartphone and tablet. Having my music and photos there (without filling up the storage) is essential.

There are competitors on the market for all of these… but this is how I solve the very problem you ask about.