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Backup Strategies: Cover Your Ass!

A few weeks back, Amazon’s web services had a major outage in their Virginia data center that took down some of the web’s heavyweights like Netflix and Instagram. People took to social media with pitchforks in hand immediately denouncing The Cloud and its ability to keep your data safe. One such pitchfork welding photographer stated how he has never trusted the cloud and he only backs up his data on site, but that was not the kicker. The kicker was one particular comment where someone stated that handing off your critical data to a cloud service for safe keeping was a kin to asking a complete stranger to watch your home and family for the weekend. I actually screamed at the computer when I read that; something to the tune of: “No! It’s more like asking the Secret Service to watch over your home and family for the weekend!”

Think about this, data centers have teams of individuals whose sole job is system integrity and data safe keeping. They are designed to loose hard drives without losing data. Have you ever lost a terabyte of data because one local drive (that only lived at your house) died one crummy day? 99% of you are shaking your head yes right now. It happens. It is part of the technology world. What’s important to understand is that you are not a trained IT guru and whether you have a great backup strategy in place or not, having some extra safe keeping added to your backups will give you piece of mind of recover from a serious data lose.

Backup is a numbers game meaning the more places you have your data, the less chance you will have of losing anything. The other key is automation. You must setup systems to do this without you thinking about it otherwise, it will not get done.

One of the best methodologies out there right now is the 3-2-1 system. This means that you have 3 copies of your data (1 primary, and 2 backups), the data is on 2 different media types (hard drive and DVD), and 1 copy is off-site. If you have read Peter Krough’s The DAM Book, this method will sound very familiar to you.

On top of this methodology, you also have two very distinct types of important data: Creative Assets (Images, Video, Audio, Designs, etc.) and your critical working machine hard drive. Losing one or both of these can set you back weeks to get up and running again without the proper system in place.

The big question is whats the best way to keep all of my data safe that requires smallest amount of thought from me? I use Dropbox.com, Carbon Copy Cloner, BackBlaze.com, iCloud.com, TimeMachine, Evernote.com, Google Apps, ShootQ.com, LessAccounting.com & Photoshelter.com to handle all of the heavy lifting around my office. Let me explain.

  • Dropbox keeps all of my important business files like logos, financial data, proposals, tax return scans, bills, faxes, budgets, etc. I don’t keep much in the way of creative assets here because I have am still using the free plan. Make it a habit to save files in your Dropbox folder instead of your Mac’s Home folder.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner makes a exact bootable copy of my main working machine each night. This give me the ability to get back up and running within 15 minutes if I have a major hard drive crash. Once you setup the software, it takes care of the rest.
  • Back Blaze is simply amazing. It takes all of my data and uploads it to the Backblaze. Once you install it, it scans you hard drive and starts the upload. The initial upload can take a week or more, but this is the single biggest advantage to the cloud. If something happens at my house, I still have every piece of data saved online including my entire Image Archive. There are no limits to the amount of data you can store and its cheap! Set it and forget it. It even throttles its bandwidth usage to keep your internet connection moving along.
  • iCloud takes care of syncing my Contacts and Calendar data between computers and devices as well as adding an additional location online where this crucial data lives. I also take advantage of Photo Stream to keep my iPhone images backed up. Using iPhoto for only iPhone images, I know I always have another copy of them on my Mac Mini. Simple. Set and forget.
  • Time Machine is used to keep my Laptop backed up locally. I use it mainly because it works well over wireless and I never have to think about plugging in my computer into a drive or a wired network connection to get a solid backup. Again, set and forget. See a pattern here?
  • Evernote keeps all of my documents and allows me to be as paperless as possible. I have Gmail attachments saved directly to my Evernote account as well a PDF copies of Bills automatically added. I use a Doxie portable wireless scanner to keep all new documents up to date and online. A lot of stuff that I keep on Dropbox is also safe in Evernote. This one takes a little bit of maintenance to keep the files in one place, but it works great.
  • Google Apps manages my email which allows to me just flat out not think about it. It’s actually shocking to me to say this, but I trust Google with my email. They keep the stuff safe online and I keep a copy in my Mail app that gets backed up too using Carbon Copy Cloner and Back Blaze. I don’t even think about this one at all.
  • Photoshelter houses all of my toned high res images. Their geographically redundant infrastructure, incredible e-commerce features, and simple photo distribution tools make the service a no brainer. Every image on my photography website is hosted with Photoshelter. I upload one hi-res image and put it where ever I need from there. No resizing for web, no worrying about proper color. Photoshelter handles it all.

With all these Software products, I’m sure a few of you are saying “I can’t afford all of that and I don’t have time to set it up.” The only two items I pay for in this list are Back Blaze and Photoshelter. If you only do one thing on this list make it Back Blaze. It about $100/year and well worth if for that kind of piece of mind.

There are other options of course. I know a couple of photographers here in Atlanta that each co-locate a Drobo at one another’s office. These Drobo’s sync themselves over the Internet and these photographers always have off site copies of their images. One important caveat here: do not use consumer Internet for this! Regular Comcast cable Internet has data caps and they can be very expensive when you go over. Make sure to use a Business Class Internet connection if you go this route. I would still recommend the cloud but this is a great option too.

Finally, if you happen to forget some data on your office computer and you are out of the office use Back To My Mac that is part of iCloud to remotely access your computer and data while away. This is my failsafe that allows me to really be location independent.


About the Author

Will Godfrey is an entrepreneurially-minded photographer who studied at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara prior to pursuing a career that embodies the confluence of photography and technology. Will has worked as a freelance photographer, a technology consultant and an assistant to some of the world’s top commercial and editorial photographers. His latest venture, Modern Furniture Collection, makes modern classics from designers like Mies van der Rohe and Charles and Ray Eames available to new generations through top-quality design at sane prices. In 2012, Will began pursuing his MBA at Georgia Tech’s Scheller School of Business with a focus on technology and innovation management.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!