Carbon Copy Cloner is one of my all time favorite programs that takes the stress out of ensuring data security and redundancy. It’s a simple program that copies data from one place to another exactly when you want, and exactly how often you need it to. It completely takes the guess work out of dragging and dropping blocks of data from one volume to another; it’s perfect for photographers.
We’ve all been victim to the dreaded dragging and dropping of folders onto hard drives only to manually match the exact GB’s from the source and the GB’s on the destination. If this sounds like you, then maybe it's time for you to take the manual labor out of file backup on shoots and put a program like CCC to work. If you are already practicing this, then you get 5 stars and a red lollipop. If not, keep reading.
As studio manager for a major studio, part of my job is protecting data. Carbon Copy Cloner is my go to application for ensuring that the RAW, working, and exported files of a shoot are backed up regularly and in three locations at all times. I do all of this by programing CCC at the beginning of the shoot and then just periodically check up on the program every few hours. It does a way better job than me fumbling through folders on various drives to make sure everything is copied in multiple locations. Plus it does it in the background while we are shooting or reviewing images. We don't ever have to stop and let a digital tech take over, or switch cards. The production can continue all day without stopping to dump data. Here’s how it works:
Step 1. Set Up the Source.
After setting up the initial job folder for the entire job on my Mac, I open CCC and select “choose a folder” and then select the specific location of where that folder is on my hard drive. I typically only shoot to an internal solid state drive that I keep less than 15% full. As a rule of thumb, you should never fill your hard drive past 80% full, as the drive will slow down and the risk of problems become greater. This is especially easier to do with SSD’s because they are so much smaller than a standard HDD.
Step 2. Select the Folder to Copy
In this example, I chose a capture folder I’ve already created for the job located on my internal solid state drive. Whether we are shooting medium format or 35mm, we are typically tethered to a computer so we can instantly have access to the files. The master folder includes all of the folders that I have already built inside of my master folder including all of the captures as they come in. In our workflow everything is labeled by Year, Job Number, Agency, Client, Folder Type. So 13-098-FSTP-CCC-Captures is the capture folder that we are shooting to, which is also inside the overall job folder. Next step is to setup where all of those ones and twos will be copied to. You will notice that in the above photo, the destination is on the right and is selected the same way as the source.
Step 3. Select a Destination & Customize How It's Copied
In the third step I select a destination of where I want my data copied to. In this case, I’ve setup a backup folder located on a Lacie Thunderbolt drive connected to my computer. It’s labeled as the same folder name, but with BACKUP 1 on the end. Also because it's a solid state thunderbolt connection, it allows for the fastest write speeds so the computers resources can focus on capturing files and rendering previews. In addition, if you feel like having multiple backups ready to go to multiple locations at the end of the day, simply build an additional backup to a second external drive. With Thunderbolt you are able to daisy chain drives together if you have ports to support it.
There are 3 basic options and also total customization on how you would like to copy data, which are the following:
Option 1. Temporarily archive modified and deleted items
“This low-risk collection of settings is recommended for new users and when the destination is not dedicated to this backup task. CCC will prune previously archived files until 15GB of free space is available on the destination. During the backup, CCC will move older versions of modified files and files deleted since a previous backup to the "_CCC Archives" folder on the destination. Files and folders at the root of the destination that don't exist on the source will be left alone.”
Option 2. Delete anything that doesn’t exist on the source
"This collection of settings offers a "traditional" clone without an archiving safety net — any files and folders unique to the destination will be permanently deleted. If you store files and folders on the destination that don't exist on the source, CCC will permanently delete those items. This collection of settings is ideal when the destination is dedicated to the backup task, and for users that have no need for preserving items that were deleted from the source."
Option 3. Preserve newer files, don’t delete anything
"This collection of settings is appropriate if you are restoring files and folders from a backup to the original volume. Files that are newer on the destination will not be overwritten and files that only exist on the destination will be left alone. Older versions of updated files will be archived, and CCC will forgo any pruning of the archives. This preset is not appropriate for restoring the operating system or applications onto an existing installation of Mac OS X. If you are restoring applications or the operating system, use one of the other presets instead."
Personally, I always use Option 2 which “deletes anything that doesn’t exist on the source.” This is a riskier option that opens us up more to human error, however we typically never delete any files whatsoever throughout a shoot day. Plus you can customize your second backup with option 1 as another fail safe. Option 2 is great because I like knowing that exact copies exist on the source and destination. Later on, once selections are made, and images have been dumped onto our server, we will purge our working folder of any unneeded data. If you are the type of person that edits, or deletes files as you go, you may want to select option 1, which will preserve anything deleted in an archive folder in case you accidentally delete a working file or great RAW capture.
Step 4. Schedule This Task
Next up is to tell the program how often you would like it to copy the source to the destination.
I typically select on an hourly basis, every 1 hour. You have the option to name the scheduled task on the left and have multiple scheduled tasks running at the same time. Other options allow you to wake/power up the system to run the task, send e-mails with progress reports, run shell scripts, power down the system, unmount the drive, or silently skip the task if the destination is unavailable. If there is any error whatsoever during or before copying, the system will alert you with a notification of what is wrong.
My only issue is that I wish there were an option for backing up every 15 or 30 minutes. If I feel that we’ve accomplished a lot in a short time frame on a shoot, or captured our hero shots, I sometimes have an unwarranted paranoia that the HD will crash right at that very moment. In these somewhat frequent cases, CCC has a “run” button underneath the scheduled tasks box on the left and also on the main screen you will see a "clone" button. This overrides the timer and manually allows you to copy everything when you want. I have been known to hit this button on occasion. Feel free to do it as much as needed. If you are running a slow computer, meaning an older version with a slower processor or with little RAM, you may see an overall slowdown in your computer. Check activity monitor on you Mac to see exactly how many resources this program uses during a backup.
In addition to being your own personal digital tech on site, this program will also create a disk image of your entire machine, restore from a previous backup, create a MAC OSX Mountain Lion installer onto a volume, and backup files from a remote computer via the Interwebs. These are all very handy features for anyone who owns a Mac.
This program has been a lifesaver for me and such a handy tool for helping my anxiety on shoots while increasing my organization at the end of the day. If you or someone you know is manually copying data from folder to folder on a periodic basis, please inform them that this program will do a much better job and they can go back doing something more creative.
The price for this program is perfect coming in at a mere $39.95 for a license on all Macs that you personally own. I myself have 4 so it comes out to be $10 a pop. Not a bad deal considering the amount of time I save. Plus I sweat way less on every photo shoot and really, you can't put a price on sweating less. Well, you're right, you probably could.
For Mac users only.
What Do You Use?
There are other programs like this on the market. Which ones are you using and why do you like them? What digital asset management techniques and tricks do you use that help your workflow? For example, I utilize the SD slot on my Mac with a 64GB SD card for a backup on location with little access to power.