Back up is an area often neglected by amateurs or newly pro photographers. Failing to have an established backup system can bring nasty consequences ranging from just the mere sadness for the loss of images we care about to very expensive re-shoots and even lawsuits.
Main Threats To Your Files
1 - Hard Drive Failure
It’s not a matter of ‘if’ a hard drive will fail, it’s a matter of ‘when’ it will fail. All hard drives will eventually fail. SSD drives are supposed to be more reliable than traditional hard drives, yet they will fail too at some point.
2 - Catastrophe (theft, fire, viruses, etc)
Somebody could break into your place/office or a fire could destroy it or you could be the victim of a cyber attack, etc.
3 - File Corruption
Files that suddenly become inoperable or unusable, you might have encountered something like this at some point. It normally happens when a file is copied and some files can actually be recovered.
4 - Human Error
You can accidentally throw away or unintentionally modify files in some undesirable way.
Protect Yourself - The 3-2-1 Rule
I’ve always been very scared of losing images, since the day when I accidentally deleted some very dear images of my friends. However, it’s taken me years to really get organized. There are several technical ways to actually implement your backup and you should use what works for you and makes your workflow and life as easy as possible. What’s really important is the backup strategy and I use a modified 3-2-1 rule:
3 - Have at least three copies of the files
2 - Have your files copied to al least two separate physical hard drives
1 - Have at least one copy of the files off site or on the cloud
What about backup while you’re on a shoot off site? These are the rules I live by:
Backup as you go - I back up my images as I shoot them and I never move on to the next image until I have 2+ copies (2+ separate hard drives or memory cards) of the current image. At the end of the shoot, I double check that I have 2+ identical copies of the entire work I just did. If I happen to have a fast enough internet connection, I back up my work on the cloud too, even when on location.
One copy in your pocket - I keep the 2+ copies of my work in two separate places while traveling from the shoot location to my studio. I normally keep one copy (memory card or hard drive) in my pocket or bag (other than camera bag) and the other one on my laptop or another memory card or hard drive inside my camera bag.
Once the files are safely copied according to the 3-2-1 rule, you should have a system that backs up your files as you work on them, you don’t want to run the risk of wasting hours worth of work because of a sudden hard drive failure. There are several ways to do that, the ones I’ve looked at the closest are offered by Synology and Drobo. They require an initial investment, but it’s the only way you can keep your work organized and safe at the same time. It’s a cost of doing business you need to take into account if you want to turn into a pro photographer.
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Thank You and Happy Shooting!