How to Properly Back Up Your Photos and Avoid Disaster

One of the most important habits every photographer or filmmaker should develop is a strong backup strategy that guarantees the safety of your files in the event of a hard drive failure or natural disaster. If you have not created yours yet, check out this helpful video tutorial that will show you how to properly ensure the safety of all your files. 

Coming to you from Gordon Laing, this great video tutorial will show you how to properly back up your photos and videos. One of the most common mistakes people make is making multiple backups, but keeping all of them in the same physical location. While this will protect you if a hard drive fails, if there is something like a fire or flood, there is a good chance you will lose your data. This is why all good backup strategies advocate so strongly for an offsite backup. If you have decent upload bandwidth, a cloud service can work well. I use Backblaze, and at $6 a month for unlimited storage, it is hard to beat. Whatever you choose, make sure you stay on top of backing up your work. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Laing.

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Naruto Uzumaki's picture

From a long term cost standpoint, if you have close family or friends who are willing to share some NAS storage, and have a decent upload speed on both ends, then a good solution is to have a FreeNAS setup in both homes, and share the storage, when each user having a password protected storage pool.
After that, set up a VPN and have 1 NAS sync with the other using Rsync or any other method that you like.

That will allow for each home to be an offsite backup for the other.

While cloud storage is always an option, the functionality is often much lower,and the costs add up and they are not as convenient to access.

My current setup is 3 local backups (Windows file history on each PC, backing up to storage pool of 4 8TB drives, and then a backup to the local NAS which is synced with another NAS setup remotely.

For very important data, I do cold backups to bare drives via an external hard drive dock. Those are then stored in a fire/water resistant safe.

The main issue with many cloud storage solutions, is when you need to backup 20-30TB of data from multiple devices, including your smartphone (using foldersync pro to automatically backup images and other user data to the NAS when the phone is on the home network and is being recharged).

While it takes more upfront work, in the long run, a lot of money is saved, since you can start cheap and gradually expand the storage over the years whenever there is a good sale on new hard drives.

Stu Eddins's picture

Not a bad plan at all. One item to consider if you haven't already taken precautions: A safe is designed to 'sweat' if caught in a fire. You might consider putting electronics in a plastic zip bag before placing in a safe.

Marcin Gil's picture

Most of the IT admins have simple rule: 3-2-1. 3 backups, on 2 different medias, 1 off-site. So if you have a NAS with at least RAID-1 and a cloud/remote NAS backup - you have all these :)
I use Synology NAS and my smartphone backup is (a bit overkill maybe): have an automatic backup from phone to OneDrive (works everywhere, even if I'm 2 weeks away from home) and NAS downloads these during the night. NAS in then backing up everything to Synology C2 cloud backup.

I'm not a photo pro though, so I don't have that kind of data size in transit that you might have.

Thomas H's picture

I am also using Backblaze, and in addition at home I use an affordable RAID5 setup from Qnap. This Taiwanese firm (I guess the Chinese will now send out 5 million soldiers on a sharp ammunition exercise, costing 1 Billion, to protest it) makes some excellent small appliances, which are hard to beat in their price and quality. I got from B&H for a modest $150 a 4-bay enclosure TR-400, surely not "the fastest knife in the drawer," but for a home use perfect. I packed 4 x 16 TB drives in it, made a RAID-5 virtual drive of it, and Cobian Reflector backs up my photography to it every week. I will probably die before I will run out of space.

Barry Strawbridges's picture

My setup is this, My media is stored locally on my editing computer. I don't edit directly from a NAS.

- I have a 6- bay NAS dedicated to backing up all my photos and videos from my editing machine. The other bays on that NAS will also image the same "media" drive.
- I have another 6-bay NAS that images the boot drives for my Windows machines and acts as a Time Machine for my Macs. Those get backed up weekly.
- All of hose NASes get backup'ed to three 8-bay NASes. The only purpose for those two NASes is just to wait to copy those backups. Those 8-bay NASes sit idle otherwise.
- I also have some spare 2U HP servers that I'll occassionally boot up to throw some random backups on.
- I also use Backblaze to back up my editing machine.

Daniel Grossman's picture

Maybe it's just me, but I've had a Samsung T5 and a Samsung T7 drives fail on me. Fortunately, I didn't lose any data because I backed them up before the failure but the failures did cost me time and I was unable to back up while on the road. Again, that's just me but I am looking for other portable solutions besides Samsung.

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

One option that I like to use, is a VPN server. Most NAS devices as well as mode modern Co sumer routers have a built in OpenVPN server feature.
Enable the server, and then when on the go, connect to your VPN, especially if where you are staying has good upload throughput. Then your hack up software can continue to automatically backup to your NAS even when away from home. It is also useful for public/ hotel WiFi which is monitored.

PS if the home router is lower end, it is best to have the OpenVPN software running on the NAS or other device rather than the router, as lower end ones will perform slowly, topping out at around 20Mbit/s.

Daniel Grossman's picture

We Thanks. I am going to have to look into it. I'm not a pro but I hate to lose images nonetheless.

Michal Krause's picture

One important (but often overlooked) thing when considering a backup strategy, is how long your backup system keeps versions of changed files. It can easily happen (and it is pretty common actually) that you won't find out that your files were damaged or deleted immediately but after some time. If this time is longer than the retention period of your backup system, you won't be able to recover your precious data. It's a weakness of the basic Backblaze plan too (amongst other cloud services) – it keeps older versions or deleted files only for 30 days, which is too short in my opinion. Backblaze allows you to extend version history to 1 year (it may or may not be enough, it depends on your needs, your contracts with clients and so) or forever, which is definitely better but also much more expensive. If you want to manage the retention period on your own, you may prefer to use separate cloud storage (Wasabi, Backblaze B2, Amazon S3) and a backup application supporting cloud backup.

There are many backup tools and strategies, but you should always pay attention to how long the selected backup system keeps older versions and deleted files.

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

Many backup applications including windows backup/ file history, offers version history be default. Same with many NAS devices and software for DIY solutions.
with a NAS solution, you can often apply different rules to different backup pools, for example, keeping unlimited versions that do not expire for text documents and PDFs, and 1 year for everything else.

Then if some versioning gets out of hand, you can have it erase every version older than a date you pick.

Windows file system can do some of this, you can set version limits and time limits, though for more granular rules, you need a DIY solution such as FreeNAS/ TrueNAS.