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Its not ‘IF’ its ‘WHEN’
Every hard drive WILL fail. Its just a matter of time. Are you prepared?
My philosophy is simple
- Keep at least 3 copies (with at least 1 offsite)
- Make it automated so you don’t have to think about it
Please note: I’m a Mac user and my specific solutions are based on MY experience. Similar options are available for other operating systems, but I’m not personally familiar with them. The premise, however, is the same: 3 copies + automation.
First, lets examine where we keep our originals (photos, documents, etc.)
- internal hard drive (i.e. your computer)
- external hard drive (additional drive often used for those who run out of space on their internal hard drive)
Anywhere you keep originals is COPY 1
Next, you’ll need an on-site backup. These are best for quickly recovering an accidentally deleted file or restoring your files to a new computer if your old one breaks (or you just want an upgrade).
For Mac users, the easiest way is with Time Machine. Its built into the Mac OS but you have to provide another external drive to store your backup. I suggest a drive that is at least twice the size of the COPY 1 drive(s) you want to back up. This Seagate 5TB drive is a GREAT deal!
NOTE: For Time Machine to backup external drives, they must be formatted to “Mac OSX Extended (Journaled)”. Get formatting instructions here.
Perhaps you think you are covered with your on-site backup? What if your house burns down? What if your computer & external backup drive are both corrupted? A third copy, off-site, protects against these “worst case scenarios”.
There are many ways to get a backup copy off-site, but backing up to the cloud is by far the easiest.
Cloud backup has been fairly mainstream for a few years. Services like Dropbox or iCloud are great for documents, and perhaps photos from your mobile phone, but unpractical for photographers because of the sheer volume of hard drive space we require to backup our many photographs. Until recently, backing up gigabytes & terabytes of data to the cloud was prohibitively expensive.
In the past year a lot has changed – cloud backup has become increasingly affordable, with some services offering unlimited backup with very reasonable rates. Since I’d been a bit lax on this front I made it one of my goals for 2015 to get a cloud backup solution in place for my own business to protect my artwork and important documents. Now that I have it done, I can take a deep breath of relief.
I examined several providers before choosing the best solution for my situation. My main criteria included:
- keeping my photos safe, including RAW files
- Mac friendly
- backup all files, not just photos
I researched photo-centric solutions, as well as all-encompassing backup services and eventually settled on Backblaze. I’ll walk through the pros and cons of my options. While Backblaze was the right option for me, another might work best for you.
There are several services available to backup photographs, including RAW files. I was immediately drawn to a more all-purpose backup, but seeing as I already have working relationship with a couple of these companies, I thought it best to see what they offered.
PROS: I’m already a Zenfolio customer. They host my website and I trust them. They are already a sort of backup seeing as I store my best high-resolution photos in .JPEG format on their server already.
CONS: They recently added the ability to back up RAW files as well, but they price per GB ($.085/GB/month) and it added up fast (I have easily over 1TB/1000GB of photos which would cost $85/month, OUCH!). Also, the process is not automated and doesn’t offer the option of backing up files other than photos.
Amazon Cloud Drive – Prime Photos
PROS: Included in Amazon Prime Membership (which I’m already paying), Unlimited photo storage, includes RAW files, automated
CONS: Only photos are included with your Prime Membership fee – The Unlimited Everything plan is $59.99/year.
Amazon Prime Photos may become my COPY 4 – it doesn’t hurt to have another backup of my photos, considering I’m already paying for a Prime membership!
Complete Backup Solutions
I spent most of my time researching the most popular complete backup solutions (i.e. everything on my computer and external drives are backed up). The top four contenders were:
PROS: Automated backup of all files, easy to use, affordable ($59.99/year)
CONS: None that I could find (but the service is new, there may be bugs they are still working out).
PROS: Automated backup of all files, easy to use, affordable ($95/two years)
CONS: Limited customization options, but nothing that affected my needs
PROS: Easy to use
CONS: No Mac support for external hard drive backup, a bit more expensive ($99.99/year including external drive backup, Windows only)
PROS: Automated backup of all files, many customization options, affordable ($5/month)
CONS: None, other than reviews said that it was slightly more complicated than Backblaze.
Carbonite was ruled out immediately because of the lack of Mac support for backing up external drives. Amazon Cloud Drive, CrashPlan and Backblaze were very comparable. All offered affordable, unlimited plans and the automation I was looking for. CrashPlan had more customization features (which weren’t of particular interest to me) and Backblaze was a bit more simple. CrashPlan and Amazon Cloud Drive were a tiny bit more expensive than Backblaze, which ultimately made Backblaze the winner.
I signed up for their free 15 day trial and let the automation take over. It backed up my files in the background while I continued on with work as usual. It took a little more than the 15 day trial to back up all my information (around 2TB) and it continues to update as I make changes. So far, I’m very satisfied with the service.
The big test will be when/if I ever need to restore from their backup. I hope I never have to, but I know its there. And that is a great feeling!
Please note: All prices and offers listed in this post are accurate at the time of publication. However, prices and offers are subject to change.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a commission if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase. I only share products that I believe will be valuable to my readers. All opinions are my own.