Photographer Matt Granger (aka ThatNikonGuy) recently published a video talking about the different options photographers have for backing up their images and the solution he adopted.
Backing up is just like insurance you don’t know how important it is until you need it. However, unlike insurance there is a lot that you can do yourself to make sure you (or rather your data) will stay safe. Here are the different levels of backup that we recommend – and trust us – you can never have enough backup:
- Level 0 – Your data: all your images, videos etc. (typically on an internal or external hard drive on your desktop/laptop – if possible we suggest you save your date on a separate hard drive than your OS drive (not always possible on laptops).
- Level 1 – Your first backup level – typically another hard drive locally or if you have lots of important data consider a Network Attached Storage (NAS) which consist of several hard drives connected (in most cases) in a RAID array that will help you get even more redundancy in case any specific hard drive fail.
- Level 2 – offsite backing – this can be cloud backup (there are many good solutions – we use crashplan) but can also be an automatic system for backing up to another computer at a different location (your home/work computer, a friend) on a regular basis (this is also possible using crashplan by the way). We highly suggest that you do both.
- Level 3 – archiving – you can consider this as a long term back up (with today’s hard drive prices – there is almost no need to delete anything so for most photographers today archiving might just be considered another long term backup layer). In the past people would use magnetic tapes but you see less and less of these today. DVDs and Blu-ray discs are an option but they are not considered reliable for long term storage (i.e. 5-10 years at best at ideal conditions). Since about 2010 there is another option called M-DISC (see some info here) it is claimed that a “properly stored M-DISC recordings will last 1000 years” (we are not sure about that but independent test have shown it is better than regular DVD/Blu-ray). M-DISC looks like DVD/Blu-ray but are physically different so you will need a different drive to record the media (LG/ASUS/Lite-On makes them) and you can buy the drives themselves online (on Amazon for example). Again – we would recommend using them as an additional long term backup and not to replace the first or second levels discussed before.
As a general rule – backup should be completely automatic (this is impossible with archiving but you can put a reminder for yourself to do this once a week/month). Just set everything up once and make sure it is all working (even do a restore test to see that you know how if worse comes to worse).
External or internal – don’t forget to back up in layers
At this point is is worth mentioning another important step in the backup process for photographers on the road – a memory card backup device. We have recently reviewed the Nexto ND2901 Memory Backup Unit and if you are traveling a lot this is something that might come in handy.
Here is a second video by pro photographer Tony Roslund talking about his own backup strategy in the studio