What's the first rule of any working professional photographer? Backups. What's the second rule of any working professional photographer? Backups for the backups.
While backups should be viewed as a general term including everything from camera bodies, lenses, and memory cards to a change of clothes in the car (you never know what might get spilled all over you at any given time), this article will focus on storage. Today's storage solutions seem endless. As our desktops and laptops alike shrink in physical size, at some point our hard drive capacities had begun to do the same with the boom of readily available SSD drives. Now as SSD storage costs decrease and default capacities rise, we've begun to approach a level where we have enough built-in storage to, say, hold a few full weddings worth of raw images on our internal hard drives. This is fine if you have a backup. I personally tackle backups in a couple of ways.
1. Synology's - Cloud Station Server
I run two Synology DS1815+ NAS (Network Attached Storage) in my office (new/current model: Synology DS1817+). One of them is my primary storage server, which I actively work out of, the other is my backup server, which clones all of my business data from the primary server. On the backup sever, I have Synology's Cloud Station Server package installed and running. What this allows me to do is install the Cloud Station Drive application on my MacBook Pro (the app is also compatible with PC's and even mobile devices), which acts just the same as Dropbox would, but it's copying data to my NAS in my office instead of another cloud storage provider. The main difference here being that instead of having to pay for a particular amount of data per month, my only storage limitation is that of my NAS. My Backup NAS is currently configured with 12TB of storage in a RAID5 array, of which I'm not currently maxed out so I backup my entire working folder from my MacBook Pro to the NAS. This folder being backed up is currently in excess of about 800GB. While there are plenty of options out there for having multiple Terabytes of cloud storage, I'm not going to split hairs about cost here because there is no service that— if my laptop were to fall off a cliff, could allow me to restore my data as quickly as having a local backup right here in the office. And when we're talking about 3,000+ images from a wedding in excess of 100GB+, your download time from any Cloud service is going to take several hours, if not days, depending on a multitude of variables, not the least of which are: that service's speed at which they'll allow you to download 100GB+ worth of data only to be bottlenecked by your ISP speeds, and in some areas your data caps. Local backups always win.
2. CrashPlan Pro for Business
Just because local is best, doesn't mean it's all you should have. I have the entirety of my working drives backed up to CrashPlan Pro for Business. If my laptop goes up in flames because my office goes up in flames, I have a pretty decent excuse to delay delivery of projects when I can send my clients links to news articles about how my office is now a pile of ash. Backups for your backups separates the hobbyist from the professional. With CrashPlan, if I needed to, I could go pick up a brand new laptop anywhere in the world, and download the data I need and continue my work. Albeit that download might take a while, I'm at least guaranteed that I haven't lost images from a client's wedding or portrait session.
Alternatives exist for each of these products, but the concept should remain. If you're a working professional, you need backups. External hard drives are not backups, they themselves need to be backed up even if only to another external drive. Some might say this is going too far, but for each nay-saying "Failure rates are so low on (insert anything here) these days." I guarantee you can be met with someone else who has lost either an entire wedding day, studio session, trip abroad, you name it.
I made this using a solid slab of walnut and five dead hard drives from my personal collection of failed drives. There is a fridge magnet on the far right one that just says "undo." It hangs in my office near two of the four servers.
Whether you use: Synology, QNAP, FreeNAS, CrashPlan, DropBox, Box, BackBlaze, iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive, or any other drive, cloud, or box, it is most important that you do not under-value the importance of backups. Understanding the concept of this is most important of all. If you're not in a place where you can afford the monthly services or to invest in servers, I get it— but at the very least buy another big external hard drive, copy everything over to it immediately and leave it in a locker at school or your day job. Every time you have a shoot, make it a priority to arrange and getting your images onto that backup drive as soon as possible. The minute you convince yourself that your next lens or tripod or any piece of gear is worth more to you than backing up your work, especially paid work (read those last three words in all-caps), you will be the one who's hard drive stops working. I've seen it happen too many times. Early on, before I was getting paid for work, it happened to me— twice. I learned the hard way, please let me learn this lesson for the both of us.