If you’re good enough to get paid for your photography, you’re smart enough to protect it. You’ve probably even heard the advice (from us if not a dozen others) to always keep your data in at least three places. However, in the interests of brevity and short attention spans, the why and how of this guidance often gets jettisoned.
First, the obvious: You want to back up your data because if it should be lost in any way, you’ll never make another cent from it. You can’t repurpose what you no longer have. Even worse, what happens when your client comes asking for their original files and finds that you no longer have them?
Once you free up your computer system’s drive, then you’re back to having your data in one place: that external hard drive. And if that drive isn’t backed up through RAID redundancy, synchronization to another external drive, or (preferably) both, then you are one accidental drop, power surge, or mechanical failure away from disaster.
How do you form an effective backup strategy? Above all else, it needs to be easy and automated. A significant number of G-TEAM ambassadors opt for software tools [RMP1] to assist with making data copying across storage devices simple and, well, largely brainless. By automating your backup processes, you’re much less likely to be stung by forgetfulness or distraction. Let the software be your memory and data manager.
Next, you need to identify which storage solutions to have in your backup toolkit. In part, this will depend on which stage of the workflow we’re discussing. Creative workflow typically falls into four buckets: 1) capture, 2) ingestion, 3) editing, and 4) export. There’s also archiving, which some people lump into export and some classify as a fifth stage.
In order to separate system and scratch volumes for better organization and performance, most professionals keep their “live” work drives as external solutions, preferably on a high-speed connection. Thunderbolt connectivity is increasingly popular, although photographers will generally not need the same degree of high-speed throughout as video pros.
The “live” drive includes a backup of the earlier capture data as well as any subsequent versions that get saved during editing. Best practices for this solution should be some form of multi-drive RAID, often a four-drive or higher RAID 5, such as the G-SPEED Studio with Thunderbolt.
The details of export and archiving are extensive and may largely depend on how clients wish to receive and/or access your files. Increasingly, backup to cloud storage services is becoming a popular tertiary storage option. Restoring from the cloud can be slow, but it’s still better than having all of your backups destroyed by a natural disaster. Yet another option might be to use something like the G-RAID with removable drives for convenient archiving and removal of drives so that they can be stored many miles away.
Professional photographers in the early stages of their careers are often inclined to have one storage solution serve repeated duty across several of these workflow stages. Yes, money is often tight, especially at the beginning, but investing in a solid backup strategy should be a top-level priority. It’s about more than saving your files. It may just save your career.
To the extent possible, we should avoid mentioning third party software unless we have written permission or an agreement with them to do so.
G-Technology external hard drives serve as an element of an overall backup strategy. It is recommended that users keep two or more copies of their most important files backed up or stored on separate devices or online services. G-Technology is a registered trademark of HGST, Inc. and its affiliates in the U.S. and/or other countries. ©2016 G-Technology, a Western Digital Corporation brand. All rights reserved.