Always, Always, Always Back-Up your Stuff!

posted on 26th of february, 2011

Everyone seems to have a story when it comes to losing precious data from their computer and it's not just photos I've lost in the past, it's been music, bookmarks, contacts etc. . . . Let's face it, if your computer suffers a major failure there's an awful lot of stuff we take for granted that can suddenly disappear in the blink of an eye.

That's why backing up your data is vitally important and while I'm mainly going to describe my photography back-up processes, it's equally important to back-up your personal files and folders as well. This is purely my advice, and it's what works for me, so hopefully it will help shed some light on what can be a confusing subject.

After shooting a load of images the first thing to spring to mind is to download the files onto my laptop. But, before I even do that I plug in my flash drive as that's going to be my first stage in the back-up process. Personally I use Adobe Lightroom to import my photos from the memory card and it has a great little option on the Import screen called "Back-Up to" which allows the files to be copied to another location, in this case my Flash Drive, as they are imported onto my hard disk. If you're not using Lightroom then it's simply a case of copying the content of the memory card straight to the flash drive with drag and drop.

After importing, all my images are now in an appropriately named folder within "My Pictures", similarly stored on the flash drive and still on the camera's memory card. Now I burn these originals to a DVD, again stored in a suitably named folder. So why do I bother with the flash drive stage if I'm going to burn them to DVD anyway? Well, every now and again I pop a blank DVD in the drive and it's a dud and won't work. I'm more often than not doing this in a hotel room somewhere and don't carry lot's of blanks around with me so it just means I have a separate, albeit temporary, backup should there be problems with a DVD.

So I now have my files on DVD, which is now my primary back-up, and also on the flash drive. I'll leave them on the camera's memory card until I use the camera again at which point I'll format it for a clean start. I'll then do my post processing work within Lightroom at the end of which I'm ready to move the files onto an external hard drive. I move them off my laptop's hard drive to keep as much space free as possible and therefore maintain performance. By doing this within Lightroom, it will still keep track of the images by associating them with being on the external hard drive. Finally I plug the external hard drive into my desktop computer at home and copy the images into a similarly structured folder on it's hard drive.

At the very least I always have copies of my images on an external hard drive, a separate computer's hard drive and on DVD. I know some people would argue this isn't enough and indeed I know of people who keep another external hard drive at a friend's house just in case their's burns down! But this works for me for now, though I might just invest in another external drive at some point, just in case!

The key thing in all this is to have your files saved to different external locations such as DVD, External Hard Drive, Flash Drive, separate computer etc. Having everything on only one computer, as thousands of people do, is just too risky. If that machine is damaged, stolen, or fails, it's a nice feeling to know you can get all your stuff back again. How you exactly do that is another story!!

Comments (15)

Posted by Anhong on March 14, 2011
Thank you for the reminder! Good luck!
Posted by Thanatonautii on March 03, 2011
That`s so right! I lost all my .ai files a couple of months ago, and I got mad because I couldn`t recover any of them. But then I wrote support and they sent me all the .ai files :P
But still everyone has to backup their data! :)
Posted by Nikittta on March 03, 2011
I've just realized that I'm making the same mistake as always :-)
Posted by Virgilxxn on March 01, 2011
Sounds too pro :))
I choose to download to the external drive, choose the keepers and save them only to the PC. Work on them and back up at some point to the same external drive. Saying that, I had a three different copies tucked away after shooting a friend’s wedding before travelling home,just in case .
Good article and it is important subject you have reminded us off. Kind regards
Posted by Fra73 on February 28, 2011
LOL I just realized I don't have a backup :(
I have been lucky so far but I think it's time to follow your advise
Posted by Diavata on February 28, 2011
I skip the DVD stage. Used to do it in the past,but a single DVD holds 4GB of data, not really worth the trouble. An external drive 1TB can hold more than 200 DVDs and it costs less than $100. It is much more convenient. I do 2 backups on 2 different external hard drives but as you, I keep them both at home.

If the house burns down the photos would be the least of my worries.

I could have written all the above in exactly those words ;)
Posted by Mstycoon on February 27, 2011
I had an external hard drive fail a few months ago. It was only 6 months old and under warranty. I also use Carbonite. I leave the photos on the camera until I have a major shoot. I really should write them to a dvd right away. Very well written article.
Posted by Robertosch on February 27, 2011
I use a Windows live account witch is for free, and I can store in there 20 GB of files. And if I will have some more data for the future, I can always make one more different account. This works for me very good, I can download the data very quickly. I only need an internet connection. And everything is safe.
Posted by Swelsh1 on February 27, 2011
Everyone should follow these tips. I use an online storage space as well. With windows live skydrive you can get 20GB of free storage. I tend to only put my JPG's there as it would fill quickly with RAW files.
Posted by Stefaniav on February 27, 2011
thanks for sharing!
Does anybody use an external backup service too?
Posted by Gmargittai on February 26, 2011
I skip the DVD stage. Used to do it in the past,but a single DVD holds 4GB of data, not really worth the trouble. An external drive 1TB can hold more than 200 DVDs and it costs less than $100. It is much more convenient. I do 2 backups on 2 different external hard drives but as you, I keep them both at home.

If the house burns down the photos would be the least of my worries.
Posted by Jonkio4 on February 26, 2011
thanks for the info :)
Posted by lzf on February 26, 2011
yes. that's really very important to everyone
Posted by Egomezta on February 26, 2011
Thanks for sharing... You remembered me to back up my stuff tonight...
Posted by Wildkatphoto on February 26, 2011
Great article. They say there are two types of people who dont back up - those who have lost data and those who will.

Comments (15)

This article has been read 1566 times. 5 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Ian Walker.

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