Seven Deadly Backup Sins And Seven Heavenly Ways For Redemption

The End of EverythingAbout a month ago my computer’s Power Supply Unit died on me. While changing that power unit was both cheap and got me banging my head against the computer case technically effortless, it got me thinking that my pictures are not all that secured on my hard drive. Now, I do back up to an external disk, but after hearing some tips from DIYP readers, I realized that I am guilty of seven deadly backup sins. Here is a collection on those sins and matching redemption as suggested by DIYP readers. A lot of the tips were given by more than one reader. 

This is also a great opportunity to mention Brian’s excellent series about Photo backup. [Image by Dude Crush]

The Sin Of Closeness

External disk or DVD backup are only somewhat good as backup solutions. It will protect you against a PC failure and internal disk crash. But consider this, a fire sadly hits you. If your external drive is located near your PC, you risk loosing both your internal and your external drive.

Redemption: There were several options suggested:  backing up to multiple copies and keeping some off site; using an online service; backup to a remote PC at a loyal friend’s house.

The Sin Of Manual Labor

How are you backing your images up? Are you manually copying them to an external disk? Manually uploading them to a remote FTP site? Those are good solution f you are dealing with a small number of files, but as we know image collections are getting bigger with each session, arriving to hundreds and thousands of files. As the number of images increase, it becomes harder and harder to keep track of the files that changed, the files that were added and the ones that are deleted. By doing manual backups you take the risk of missing a file or an entire directory to back up. You also run the risk of missing your backup schedule.

Redemption: One option is to use automated backup software. Such software allows you to set backup scheduling, select directories to back up, and even decide that you only back up your RAW files, and leave the jpgs alone; Another option is to build your own system using windows / Linux scripting; The last option is to “backup as you go” – a lot of the online backup providers install an add on that will automatically sends any new files to remote backup location.

The Sin of Running Windows

This is kinda specific, if you are a pc boy (or a Linux kid) you are probably familiar with the rsync. rsync is a great piece of software that allows you to  manage your backup, and do multiple backups to different locations, backup to remote serves and run a backup schedule. Here is the thing – it is a Linux program, or at least more comfortable to Linux users.

Redemption: if you are comfortable with running scripts you can use cwrsync the windows port of rsync. If you like windows programs and interfaces better, you can use Synctoy – a windows syncing solution.

The Sin Of Single Copy

Having a single backup is better then having no backup at all. But only slightly. The chances of this backup going bad / online service closing / remote PC crashing are something to consider. If the unfortunate happens and your backup dies when your main storage dies (and trust Murphy – it will), you are left with nothing. 

Redemption:  use multiple copies. Or even better, use multiple backup methods. If your main backup is DVD based, add an online storage, if you are backing up on external hard drive, also back up using portable media. The more the merrier.

The Sin Of Being Hot

This sin has more to do with the chances of you needing your backup. That is if your main PC crashes, or if your hard drive dies. Or in other words it deals with poor PC maintenance. One of the major killers of PCs in general and hard drives in particular is heat. The hotter your PC is the more load you are putting on your system and on your hard drive, increasing the risk of killing your main storage.

Redemption: Take good care of your PC. Make sure you have a good power supply unit, and good fans to keep your PC cool. Some of the PC cases offer better cooling options than others, by having internal tunneling to transfer heat outside the PC case.

The Sin Of Huge Files

Large files are harder to back up. Lightroom catalog files specifically are huge. My catalog file is over 60 Megs. This would have been fine if I could have backed it up and be done with it, however, this file changes daily with additions of new images, and development of others. The fact that it is both huge and in constant change makes it virtually impossible to backup online.

Redemption: I don’t have a good solution for this one, only three work rounds: 1 – do not back up your catalogs. 2 -do not use Lightroom, this is a hard one to follow, Brian has a great review on Adobe Bridge which does not use a huge file, yet provides almost all the features of Lightroom. 3 – Back up your Lightroom catalog separately on a DVD or external drive.

The Sin Of Never Restoring 

Is your back up working? Are you sure? How do you know? Have you ever tried to restore it? If you never did a successful restore you can never be sure it works.

Redemption:  Test your backup. The concept here is that a backing up is not sufficient if you can not be 100% sure that you’ll be able to restore from your back up at the time of need. If you are using DVD, verify that your older DVDs are still operational. If you are using an online solution, randomly restore files to verify that they are properly backed up. This is true for any backup solution that you use.