Backups! We all need them, we hardly make ‘em!
Over the years, as a digital artist, I have on occasion lost bodies of work. I lost them when building a new PC, I lost them when my drive crashed, fell, burnt, and I even lost them while watching in horror as I mistakenly said yes to “are you sure you want to format drive D”?.
Data keeps piling up, and to keep everything archived we need at least double the amount of drive space.
Luckily I don’t do animation anymore so my projects aren’t that super large anymore, but I have been photographing and editing work for a couple of years now and the data pile keeps growing. Next to that I kept running out of space locally, and kept buying new drives for my Drobo to accommodate my expanding archive. The problem with new drives to store your projects is that you need to copy your data over and over, you get sloppy, you forget projects, you ignore folders, and in the end you lost some precious pictures in the transfer process.
I’m a creative artist, and even though I have OCD tendencies, I get bored with tedious tasks and mistakes are easily made. I needed a better backup plan to safeguard my body of work, without having to spend too much time on this task.
Now there are numerous ways to maintain a backup, but I’m going to share one that has been working for me the past few years, and makes me feel secure about my data.
here’s my hardware setup:
I have a Laptop to carry around and work on. It has all my running projects on it and all my new photo’s are created on its mere 500 GB drive. At home I have a Mac Mini that works as a home theatre pc under my television. I have a Drobo connected to it, which houses a rough 8 TB of space. This Drobo is seen as a single drive and holds all of my media, from movies, music, and all of my photo’s, both personal and my professional work.
The Drobo is almost hassle free when it comes to disks dying and replacing disks with newer and bigger ones. But still, it is a piece of hardware that can (and probably will) die on me eventually.
On the fly backups
So how do I get my data from my laptop to my mac mini/Drobo and from there into the cloud, for off-shore backups.
For this I use a number of tools. Let’s start with data transfer from laptop to mac min/Drobo. I need my pictures folder to always sync back home. Here’s where BitTorrent Sync comes in. This little free app runs on both my laptop as on my mac mini/Drobo. On my laptop I just add a folder, in my case my entire “Pictures” folder. It then asks me if I want the other end to have read permissions or read/write permissions and send links via mail etc. Just leave it and close this dialog.
You can repeat the “preferences thing” for each folder you want to sync.
In the lower region of the preferences pane, is a fly-out menu called “View Key”, click on it and you’re presented by two keys. I choose the Read & Write Key, as this will allow me to change things on both ends.
From here I go to my Mac Mini/Drobo and open BitTorrent Sync.
I’m presented with the same windows, I select the “Options” button (the cogwheel on the right) and click on “Enter a Key”
I fill in the key I copied and I am asked to select an existing folder or create a new one.
I create a new folder on my Drobo inside my main Photo folder and I’m done!
BitTorrent Sync starts looking for files and starts sending them from one end to the other. If I change one thing inside the folder on either end it will update on both sides. So be warned when throwing stuff out!!
How to backup into the cloud?
I need a cloud based backup that is scalable and can grow with me instead of forcing me to delete stuff, at the most inconvenient times. For this I found Chrashplan to be my ideal partner. For a mere $59,99 a year I can have a backup running without limits on size.
Within Crashplan I can select different folders I want to backup from one drive or computer. So what I did was select my main Photo folder (which is different from the one I sync my laptop with) and it done, every time my mac mini/drobo is connected to the internet, crashplan communicates to its servers and syncs all the data to the cloud. If for any reason my house should burn down, I always have my latest version resting safe in an unknown location, from where I can safely restore my files again, once I have a new house, and a new mac mini/drobo 😉
Crashplan even comes with an iPhone app that will allow me to see my backups and even show and download compatible files, like JPG’s of projects I’ve done. This way I can always show clients some of my latest work, even if I didn’t bring my updated portfolio.
Below is a video of the whole setup. It’s a bit less boring than a step by step tutorial because you can listen to me snif. For this video I’ve used a folder with all my PDF’s as an example. And of course all the software has already been installed and is in use.