Data Security Through Data Backup
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
We talk about equipment, what and how to photograph and post processing software. However, there’s a big 500 pound gorilla sitting in the corner that we rarely think about and almost never talk about. That gorilla is data security.
Until last fall I was quite careless about data security. For years, I’ve had top of the line security software to guard against viruses, worms, Trojan horses, hackers and to date, knock on wood, I’ve avoided major problems in this area. But what would happen if the computer crashed? I used to be terrible about backing up data. I would back up a few files on a flash drive but nothing more than that. I had never really worried about it because I’d never experienced a computer crash but as the number of RAW files stored on my hard drive increased the more I thought about how sloppy I was being with data security.
Last fall I decided to develop some better habits. I have a number of friends that back up their files on DVDs and almost every one of them recommended that approach and I considered it. However, when it comes to mundane boring stuff I tend to be quite lazy and would probably qualify as a master procrastinator. I was looking for something that required a little less diligence and a little less work.
After talking to my neighbor who is a software programmer, I purchased an external drive and some backup software so that my hard drive would be backed up automatically to the external drive. Less than a month after getting the backup protocols up and running my computer crashed. Fortunately it was still under warranty. For what it’s worth, it was a Dell computer and Dell sent repair techs to my home on three different occasions. On the third trip with a new mother board, power supply, memory and hard drive (essentially a new computer) the technician was still unable to make the computer work. The tech called Dell and was told that they would send a new computer. With that verdict I looked up at my external hard drive and with a sense of relief I realized that all my data was safe. Yes, it was a pain reinstalling all the software and getting everything set up the way I wanted it but I didn’t lose one single byte of data.
The incident convinced me that backing up data is an absolutely essential activity in the digital age, especially if you have a few thousand photographs you don’t want to lose. Thirty years ago, if you lost a number of photos, you usually had the negatives stored in a different location. Of course, with digital we no longer have negatives, but backing up your photos is like storing negatives in a different location than where you store your photos.
I’ve made a number of changes since then. Still, creating a high level of comfort through my data security protocols remains a work in progress but at least I don’t have to worry about my data any more. Here’s what I do currently:
I now have four external hard drives plus the internal drive on my computer. The only data I keep on the internal (C:\) drive is the operating system and the software programs I use. I don’t save data on the internal drive for a couple of reasons – if I keep data on an external drive and my computer crashes again I can take the external drive to another computer and access my data. I don’t have to wait for a new computer to restore what was lost in the crash. Additionally, if the computer crashes again and I have to send it back to the manufacturer for a replacement, there isn’t anything personal on the internal drive.
The first external drive is a one terabyte (1TB) drive where I store all the personal data that would normally be saved on the C:\ drive.
The second external drive is a 2TB drive where I save all of my photography related files ranging from all of my photos and videos to the articles I write for Beyond Megapixels.
The third external drive is a 3TB that is the target drive for backing up the C:\ drive and the first two external drives. The backup for each drive is scheduled daily in the wee hours of the morning. That way I always have all my RAW, PSD, TIFF and JPEG files on two different drives. If one of them crashes I still have the other.
The fourth external drive is also a 3TB drive that I backup the other 3TB drive to but only once every two weeks. This drive I keep at my neighbor’s house. He also keeps a drive at my house. I suppose if a tornado came through and destroyed both our houses we might lose our data but for now we’re both comfortable with this arrangement. I know some photographers that have a safe deposit box at a bank and keep backup files stored there. I’m not there yet but it is a solution.
That’s the good stuff. Now for the bad. Recently, I’ve had difficulty getting the software to work correctly. Sometimes the backups fail to complete. I have to manually start the backup on one of the drives because it’s not working automatically. I’m not ready to completely blame the software yet, it could be the operator. However, to date, their tech support is woefully inadequate.
In addition to trying to figure out what’s wrong with the software, I’m looking at network drives like the Drobo FS 5-bay Gbe Storage Array or the Synology DiskStation 5-Bay (Diskless) Scalable Network Attached Storage DS1511+ (Black).
Okay, they’re expensive which is one of the reasons I haven’t purchased one of them yet. On the other hand, what price can you put on 10,000 to 20,000 photos that can never be replaced? Add to that a number of short stories and novels I’ve written plus financial information, tax returns and other personal information and the price of these network drives seems less expensive.
The other reason I haven’t purchased one of them yet is because I’m still studying the pros and cons. If you have experience with these or similar products, please comment with your thoughts in the comment section below this article.
Lastly, if you don’t regularly backup the data on your hard drive, especially your photos, please start as soon as you can. If you’ve never had a computer or hard drive crash, keep in mind that it could happen at any time. I owned various computers for over 25 years before one of them crashed. Performing regular backups of my hard drive saved a lot of data that would have been lost forever. Use DVD’s, Blu-Ray, external drives, network drives or whatever method works for you but whatever approach you choose, back up your data.
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