I learned this morning that one of my seascaping comrades has recently suffered a complete data loss due to a corrupted disk, which unfortunately had the only copies of all of his images on it.
In light of that catastrophic event, it's a timely reminder to discuss data backup strategies.
I take backing up quite seriously, and I have adopted an approach that provides disk-based and geographical redundancy.
My PC is a Apple MacBook Pro (17") with a 750GB hard disk. All of my image (and other) data is stored on it. In my home office I keep two LaCie d2 Quadra 1TB external hard disks, which have a FireWire 800 port offering faster data transfer rates.
I keep a third external hard disk off-site to ensure geographical redundancy in case my local external disks suffer loss, theft or damage. My off-site disk is a 1TB Western Digital My Passport Essential SE.
My approach is to manually back up my data to my two on-site drives, generally every week or two. This method might sound cumbersome, but it works for me, and I employ a very structured filing system, not only for my image data, but for all of my data.
My off-site disk is also backed up weekly, and I use Time Machine to back up my entire system.
The end result is that I have four copies of all of my data, some of which goes back 17 years. (The current value of that 17-year-old data is questionable, but I am sentimental.)
In the past I used CD media, and later DVD media, but as my volume of data increased, and as image file sizes and the byte count of individual photoshoots also increased, optical media quickly became cumbersome and insufficient, and that was when I invested in external hard disks.
The other issue is that I don't trust optical media. Sure, hard disks can fail, too, but the key is not to rely on one disk. Hard disks are much more convenient to use, a lot faster, and they store a lot more data.
My key advice on data backups is:
- back up regularly (weekly or fortnightly is good);
- back up to multiple storage devices, never relying on one alone;
- keep your data in at least two geographically separate locations; and
- use the most effective and reliable storage media of the day, and update when needed.
In conclusion, remember this:
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have had a hard disk fail, and those who are going to have a hard disk fail.
I cannot stress enough the importance of making multiple backups on a regular basis. Never rely on one disk alone; always keep multiple copies, and preferably one off-site.