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Back Up – Back Up

You may have heard this saying before.

‘There are only two types of hard drive – those that have failed, and those that will fail’.

I know from bitter experience that this statement is unfortunately true. I’ve had more than my fair share of the dreaded blue screen, and each time it’s happened, I had that same gut wrenching feeling, as I sat there wondering if I’ll be able to get my precious data back.
A couple of years ago, I decided that it was time to take action and I invested in a simple USB powered external hard drive.

The first one I purchased was a 1Tb Iomega and it worked beautifully, backing up my files through Apple’s ‘Time Machine’.

External USB connected hard drive from Iomega. External USB connected hard drive from Iomega.

Time Machine works well, and basically is a set up and forget system, that automatically copies all the information from your Mac, and then periodically adds more data as it’s been created, mirroring all the images and documents on the iMac’s hard drive.

If I needed to replace a corrupted file or restore something I’d deleted , a couple of mouse clicks later and all is well with the world again.

Simple data back up and re-install from Apple's Time Machine. Simple data back up and re-install from Apple’s Time Machine.

Perfect you may think, and to be quite honest if you’re an average user then a single external hard drive can save untold misery, should or rather when, your main drive decides to give up the ghost, and go to HDH (Hard Drive Heaven).

As a professional photographer I create mountains of data.
I use full frame professional camera’s that create very large RAW files, and  on average fill a 1Tb drive in 14 to 16 months.
I now have a small stack of drives in a cabinet, all sitting there carefully labelled in dust proof, zip-lock bags.

The drives are filled with images of very precious days, photographs of my family, wedding photographs and clients images all full of smiles, love and un repeatable moments. They are very important to me and probably more so to the couples whose weddings I’ve photographed.

Over the last couple years many ‘Cloud’, solutions have come on the market, many of which are operated by computer manufacturers and Apples iCloud is probably one of the better known.
Most come with a free small upload capacity, but increasing the size of your cache can prove expensive and not as financially competitive as some of the commercial stand alone companies offering such services. At the beginning of 2011 I invested in an unlimited upload solution with a company called ‘Livedrive’. For a small monthly fee, their software runs discreetly on my Mac constantly uploading my files to their remote servers.

Livedrive - A Belt and Braces approach to safeguarding my clients images Livedrive – A Belt and Braces approach to safeguarding my clients images

Belt and braces – You bet! But losing two hard drives at once is not an unheard of occurrence. A lightning strike, house fire or a burst water pipe and everything can be lost from hard-wired storage devices in a heartbeat. So why take the chance?
If the unthinkable should ever happen all my data could be restored as soon as I’m back on-line. I really do believe in insurance.

A few weeks ago I started to investigate Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems, and became intrigued to find out more, and what my own home server could provide in the way of sharing my files with others.

In the past I’ve used ‘Dropbox’, sharing and displaying images through my Smugmug account, and for the photojournalism work I do for the local press, I’ve even resorted to e-mailing images to the photo editors.
But with the upload limitations of Dropbox and e-mail, I’ve found them cumbersome and not the most convenient method of sharing data. Again there’s a price tag attached to upgrading to unlimited data accounts and they just aren’t good value for money.

So with this in mind, I purchased a NAS for my home. It’s a Buffalo 2 Bay 8Tb system that is configured to RAID 1. (Without getting techno geeky – The system contains x 2 4Tb SATA hard drives, both mirroring the primary data on my iMac).

Bufallo NAS Raid 1 Device Buffalo NAS Raid 1 Device

When a drive fails, all I have to do is open the case, slide out the drive and replace it with a new one, and all the original data is still stored securely on its twin. I can even use the drives as a primary storage unit for all my files and free up my iMacs drive to act as a larger scratch disc – Very useful as I edit large RAW files in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. It can really speed up my computer, and I’ve found that it actually runs a lot cooler.

But the real beauty of a NAS is it’s sharing capabilities.

It’s allowed me to set up ‘Group Sharing’ facilities, so if I need to send very large files to a client, all I have to do is create an account for them, and send them a link to their very own folder. From there they can download as much data as I specify.
Another really great thing about a NAS is it lets store my iTunes library on the discs.
I can now watch a film I’ve downloaded on the TV in our lounge or on any other WiFi linked device that’s within range of the server.

But there’s even more control with a NAS device. A really cool feature is I can remotely manage all the information on the NAS from my Android phone, so long as I have a WiFi or 3G connection. I can move files upload/download to my phone and even send files to a client when I’m out and about. I can even tell the NAS to go to sleep to save on electricity. Very ‘Green’, of me.
It’s an amazing piece of kit, and I’m glad I made the investment.

So I’ve spent a small fortune on hardware to protect and share my customers photographs, but what’s the real point of this article?
Well, ask yourself a few questions.

  • If my laptop or P.C died tomorrow, how much information/photographs would I lose, and would I be able to recover them?
  • If you got married recently and you only paid for a digital wedding photography package, how many times have you backed up your images?
  • Where are those DVD/CD’s now? Thrown in the back of a draw maybe.
  • Will they still be readable in the future? (Technology is advancing at a tremendous rate, will DVD’s still be playable in 10 years time, will DVD drives still be available to buy)?
  • More importantly, if your planning to marry in the near future, how will your photographer look after the long-term storage and archiving of your wedding day memories, should the worst happen to your copies?

Food for thought isn’t it. After all, these aren’t just your wedding photographs – They’re your first family heirloom.

I’ve shared with you how much I care about my clients photographs, but I don’t know that every professional photographer does the same. And I’ll tell you this, the guy that’s charging £300 for full day wedding coverage probably isn’t backing up anything at all. The hardware isn’t cheap, and he’s not going to be running a profitable business at £300 a wedding.

Just take a look at the beautiful Graphistudio Albums I supply, how can a DVD/CD compare. These albums are stunning, made in Italy by the world leaders in wedding album manufacture and printing. If you contact me I’ll arrange a viewing of their albums. I can practically guarantee you’ll want to own one.

So my advice to you is this, when it’s time to book your wedding photographer, plan the cost of using a professional into your budget, (10% of the full wedding budget), you’ll thank me in the long run.

After all being a professional photographer isn’t just about taking beautiful photographs.








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