Backing Up for a Disaster

The severe weather warning sirens in my town have been going off more and more lately due to tornadoes. But this isn’t what prompted me to write about the importance of backing up your computer.

One of the students I taught in Hawaii packed her computer and backup drive in the same bag. This, of course, is the bag the airline lost when she flew home. She lost everything she had worked on at school.

My cousin works for a large furniture store. They dutifully backed up all their computers; however, they kept the backups in the same store with the computers. One night the store burned to the ground and they lost all their computers and their backups.

I am not even going to go into my losses through the years.

Tornadoes, computer crashes, lost luggage, burglars, floods — there are a lot of things that can make our important files and photos vanish. So I’d like to talk a bit about planning a system for backing up our computer files.

My Backup System

First, I prefer a permanent backup of important files to CD/DVDs. It is a more stable solution than a hard drive. Hard drives fail more often than CD/DVDs.

I make two copies of these backup CD/DVDs and put them in different locations. I keep one backup with me where I can get to it in a hurry if my computer fails, but I put other copy in a safety deposit box or at a friend’s house.

Second, I have an external hard drive and make regular backups to it. Most external drives come with software designed to help you make backups.

I use this external hard drive to mirror — completely duplicate — my computer’s hard drive. When my computer dies, I only need to do a restore and everything will be put on the new hard drive or new computer.

Third, I bought yet another backup hard drive. I labeled one A and the other B. I alternate backups between the two. I make sure these A and B drives are rotated, not just with the computer, but the location where I keep them (bank vault, neighbor, etc.)

Another option for backing up important files, like photographs, is to use an online backup. To take advantage of this solution, a high-speed connection is needed. Your first backup takes the longest, but once this is done only the changes to your hard drive from the last backup are needed each time. I program my computer to do this at night after I’ve gone to bed. It takes longer than backing up to a hard drive connected to a computer, but it is off-site, and it is one more place to keep your data. One such provider is Carbonite, which is only $49.95 a year for unlimited storage.

I stay away from tape backup systems. The computer department where I used to work decided to use a tape system to backup their image library. The system corrupted the files and, after five years of inputting data, everything was lost. After restoring all that had been lost and adding four more years of images, it happened again. As far as I know they never recovered the images from those nine years.

You Need More Than One Safe Place

The estate of President John F. Kennedy’s personal photographer, Jacques Lowe, archived all their images in a safe deposit box housed in the vaults at 5 World Trade Center next to the Twin Towers.

I make sure my images and other important files are stored in more than one location.

Now, when I hear a weather alert, I’ve got one less thing to worry about.

[tags]photography business, photography advice[/tags]

3 Responses to “Backing Up for a Disaster”

  1. On the subject of file backup, sharing and storage ...

    Online backup is becoming common these days. It is estimated that 70-75% of all PC's will be connected to online backup services with in the next decade.

    Thousands of online backup companies exist, from one guy operating in his apartment to fortune 500 companies.

    Choosing the best online backup company will be very confusing and difficult. One website I find very helpful in making a decision to pick an online backup company is:

    This site lists more than 400 online backup companies in its directory and ranks the top 25 on a monthly basis.

  2. I just picked up one of those Thermaltake BlacX drive docking stations because I had a few unused 400GB sata drives around. I'm glad I did. Now I can make my backup solution a lot more bulletproof (I know, I know, I should stick those drives in a real external case at some point ... babysteps!)

  3. I remember hearing a man who, many years ago, got into the business of salvaging and extracting info from crashed drives.
    Describing the fragility of the needle on the disk, he said, I was sure this couldn't last, and I'd be out of business soon. Thirty years later ---
    I have the discs done every couple of weeks, two copies, fireproof boxes, and even then, I expect the worst.
    Anything REALLY important, onto a plug and play drive.
    And anything TRULY important, I shoot on black and white negative film and put in another fire proof box.
    Ah, photos -- just snatching a wee element of time and trying to hold onto it forever....

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