I’ve been carrying a laptop Mac pretty much since the category was created. Although they have become thinner, lighter and much more powerful than the early days, mobile devices are just easier to bring along. I always have my iPhone with me and in most cases I have my iPad Pro 10.5” with me. The iPad is becoming more and more useful as a potential MacBook Pro replacement. As a matter of fact I’m on a plane as I write this post on my iPad Pro.
When I do a photo shoot on location I either shoot with my Nikon D850 DSLR or my iPhone X. When shooting with the D850 I’m usually anxious to see what I got and share a couple on social media. I rarely share an image right out of the camera. This means that I usually apply a few edits in Lightroom CC on mobile first. While there is a mobile app for Nikon that allows me to wirelessly transfer images to my iOS devices right from the camera, as it stands today it can only transfer JPEGs. This means that I would either need to shoot RAW+JPG or convert individual images into JPG and then transfer them.
I have been telling photographers for years to always have at least three copies of your images/videos. This also applies to traveling photographers. I have also said for many years that “there are two types of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will.” With this in mind you would probably think that I’d be one of the last people to lose some of my precious images/video, but that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t follow my own advice and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I can’t blame the hardware. I can’t blame anyone else. It was all me. I knew better!
I’m telling you my sad story so that hopefully it won’t happen to you.
Like you, my data is very important to me. I have several backups and offsite cloud backups too. In my home office I use a Drobo 5D connected to my Mac OS X Server as well as a second Drobo 5N to backup the Drobo 5D. The whole reason to have a Drobo is so that if one of your hard drives fail your data will be protected and you can just keep working. You’ll probably replace the failed drive with a larger one since larger drives come out every year. The one thing we don’t really think about is what happens if two drives fail at the same time? Normally this means you’re screwed and it would be time to restore from a backup (after replacing the two failed drives). The last time I had a Seagate 3TB drive die in my Drobo 5N, I not only replaced it with a WD 4TB NAS drive, but I also enabled Drobo’s dual redundancy feature in the settings.
With this feature enabled now two drives could fail at the same time and I’d still be protected.
C’mon how likely is it that two drives would fail at the same time?
I hear ya! However, before I tell you what happened on my other Drobo (5N), think about it. When you setup your Drobo (RAID), chances are you bought multiple drives at the same time. So if one fails (especially as they get older), then it’s likely that another one bought around the same time could fail shortly thereafter. As a matter of fact I now know this can happen. Although I had turned on Dual Redundancy on my Drobo 5D, I had not yet turned it on my Drobo 5N. While traveling on business I received an email alert that one of my drives had failed (an older 2TB Seagate). No big deal as my data was protected. However, by the time I got home several days later a second 2TB Seagate drive had failed. That’s it. Game over. It wasn’t a huge deal since this Drobo served as a backup to my main Drobo. I didn’t lose anything other than Time Machine history.
I replaced both drives with new 4TB WD NAS drives and during the setup process I enabled Dual Redundancy. My Drobo 5N still has two of the 2TB Seagates and a 3TB Seagate (which have been failing on my pretty regularly and it’s why I’m kinda done with Seagate) in it. Now I’m a little less worried if two of the older drives bite the dust at the same time. Keep in mind that I just put two 4TB drives in my Drobo 5N at the same time. Chances are if they die in a few years (no premature failures) under normal wear and tear, they’ll probably die around the same time.
What’s the downside to enabling Dual Redundancy?
There is a downside otherwise this option would be on by default. By enabling Dual Redundancy your Drobo will have less usable space. You can figure out how much storage space you’ll have by using the Drobo Capacity Calculator on their website.
The Bottom Line
Yes two drives can fail at the same time or back to back. While enabling Dual Redundancy does give you less storage space, drives are relatively cheap and it’s better safe than sorry.
You can never have too much storage and fast external storage is even better. A few years back I bought the first Elgato External SSD and my only complaint with it was the fact that it only had a single Thunderbolt port. That pretty much killed the use that I thought I would have for it which was to boot from it during certain presentations. Since the MacBook Pros back then only had one Thunderbolt port I couldn’t connect the drive and an external display/projector at the same time. Fast forward to today and the NEW Elgato Thunderbolt Drive + and while we still get a single Thunderbolt port, we get the addition of a USB 3 port as well as great performance in an external portable hard drive.
I ran the above speed test on the 512GB model connected and the results were respectable!
What’s in the Box?
You can choose between the 512GB model or the 256GB model. Both come with a USB 3 cable and Thunderbolt cable. The metal enclosure is very solid and sleek unlike many of the plastic USB 3 cases.
The Bottom Line
While it’s great having a FAST portable SSD that can be connected via USB 3 or Thunderbolt, the only issue with this drive is the cost. If you want quality vs. cheap, then this is the one for you.
You can get the 256GB model here or the 512GB model here.
While having dinner with friends the conversation came up about running out of space on a laptop. I asked my friend who is retired and travels for pleasure most of the time, how he backs up his photos? He told me at first that he had merely moved some photos onto a “USB stick”. I dug a little deeper (knowing that my friend knows a lot about computers) and found out that he does have a backup strategy that involves multiple drives and offsite backup. Whew!! However, that got me thinking about the question I get a lot from new photographers, “how do you backup your photos?” Unlike your regular documents, chances are you have photos “everywhere”. You have photos on your memory cards. You have photos on your hard drive. You have photos on your “other” hard drive. You have photos on your smartphone. You have photos on your tablet. You have photos online. Worst yet the problem will continue to grow as you take more photos every day and you acquire more devices. There is nothing else you have electronically that will likely be in so many places and continue to grow. Music and videos can be a mess too, but generally you’re shooting more photos than you are videos and acquiring new music.
How to Backup Your Photos
This post is really not about a specific piece of hardware or software. Sure I will share the specific hardware and software that I use, but I really want you to focus on a simple rule first: “Always have your photos in at least three places with one of those places being offsite.” No matter what software, hardware or even cloud based solution you have, the worst mistake you can make is relying on ANY one thing/service. No matter what hard drive you buy, computer you use, service you backup to, etc., they are ALL SUBJECT TO FAIL! Nothing manmade will last forever. So don’t rely on any one thing to be the sole location for your precious memories. If you follow the simple rule above, you’ll be in a lot safer position than the average person out there.
What’s my workflow and how do I backup my photos?
Since this is a question I get on a regular basis I’ll share with you exactly what I do and how I backup. Keeping the rule in the previous paragraph in mind I know that my photos need to be in at least three places with one of those places being offsite. In that case let’s walk through one of my shoots:
I either shoot on location to a memory card(s) or in studio tethered directly to my MacBook Pro. In the case of being on location the images are captured to the memory card first and that’s the first (temporary) location of my images by default. When I shoot tethered my images go directly to my laptop hard drive (yes you can use an external, but I don’t since they won’t be there for long.)
If I shot on location then I import the images into a folder on my MacBook Pro drive and from there into Adobe Lightroom 5. Since the images are still on the card this becomes location #2 by default. However, if I shot tethered then the photos are already in a folder on my drive. Since I’m on the Mac, I have TWO Time Machine Backups setup that AUTOMATICALLY alternate backing up every hour. This is the real location #2 (Location #1 = MacBook Pro and Location #2 one of two Time Machine Backup drives on the network).
This one doesn’t really count as Location #3 because the photos are ultimately “moved” from my MacBook Pro onto a Drobo 5D which is attached to my Mac OS X Server (Mac mini). In other words the photos from my recent shoot are on the MacBook Pro hard drive while I work on them, retouch them and then finally deliver them. Once I’m done with them I move that folder from my MacBook Pro hard drive to my Drobo hard drive. So technically this is still location #2 as the photos will either be on the MacBook Pro OR the Drobo, but not both. I put this location in because it is part of the workflow.
Not only were my photos being backed up to my TWO Time Machine backups within 1 to 2 hours after being on my home network, they are also being backed up OFFSITE to CrashPlan.com. CrashPlan works in the background and immediately starts backing up any new files added to my pictures folder on my MacBook Pro. However, let’s say for the sake of argument that I move them to the Drobo before CrashPlan has a chance to back them all up. What happens then? You guessed it, the Mac mini connected to the Drobo is also backing up to Crashplan.com. In either case the photos will either get backed up offsite from the MacBook Pro or from the Mac mini if not both.
Location #1 AGAIN
It’s important to note that the Mac OS X Server (Mac mini with the Drobo 5D) ultimately becomes my archive. It’s where ALL of my photos eventually end up. It’s where my Lightroom catalogs point to for photos taken in years past. This means that the Mac mini/Drobo 5D technically becomes location #1 at some point in the digital life of my photos. So what now?
Location #2 AGAIN
The Mac OS X Server is backed up via Time Machine to ANOTHER Drobo. A networked Drobo 5N. This ultimately becomes location #2.
Location #3 is still Location #3
The Mac OS X Server is backed up offsite AUTOMATICALLY via CrashPlan.com. I could even setup CrashPlan as an App on the Drobo 5N so that it’s backs up the backup offsite.
Bonus Backup Locations
If all I had was the above strategy/workflow I’d feel “pretty” comfortable, but I’m a paranoid kinda guy when it comes to my data. So I have some bonus backups. Since Time Machine can backup automatically to as many drives as you add to it (automatically alternating between them), I backup on the go to small WD 2TB My Passport Wireless Drive. This one is the one that I travel with. Since I shoot out of town from time to time I can’t chance that my photos won’t be backed up before I get home. Therefore the memory cards become Location #1, the MacBook Pro hard drive becomes Location #2 and the WD My Passport Wireless Time Machine backup becomes location #3 on the road. Not to mention that if my internet connection is fast enough that CrashPlan is doing it’s thing in the background too. As far as just my data goes in general I have yet another backup of my entire drive. A “clone” backup (using either SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner) to another 1TB G-Drive Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 portable drive. This backup is less about photos and more about the day that my computer or OS gets hosed and I need to boot immediately and continue with my presentation/work. In other words for those scenarios when I don’t have time to do a Time Machine restore.
Since I now have a 2TB WD My Passport Wireless Drive with a built-in SD slot. I can make a backup of the card(s) in the field before I even get back to my computer.
The Never Ending Need for More Storage
Like I said in the opening, you’re going to be taking photos from here on out for the rest of your life. This means that you will always be ADDING files to your hard drives. Most users think that once their “main” drive fills up, just go buy an external drive. Yes, that works but it’s something you’re always going to need to do. Sure you can buy a bigger drive next time and copy everything from the first external onto the new external and that’s what I used to do. That was until copying everything got to the point that it was taking 18-24 hours to copy.
I knew years ago that I was going to need an “scalable” storage system and that’s why I went with Drobo way back then. They’re Beyond RAID technology allows me to swap out/or add a drive in my Drobo with a larger one without having to stop working or even reboot. As I need more space I just put in more/larger drives. If one (or even two drives fail at the same time) fails my data is protected. This doesn’t mean that I don’t need to backup. Remember what I said about everything manmade will eventually FAIL? Drobo or any other RAID system can fail at any time. However, I must say that to date I’ve had no major issues with my Drobo hardware and it has protected me on more than one occasion from drives that have died.
I know that Drobo (or any other storage solution) can and will fail at some point, but that’s why I backup! That’s why I never depend on ANY one thing being the sole location of my precious data/photos.
Q. Do I have to do what you do?
A. Nope, you can do whatever you want. They’re your photos.
Q. What about SSD drives? Aren’t they crash proof?
A. A common misconception about Solid State Drives (SSD) is that since they have no moving parts, they won’t crash. While I would agree that this makes them “less” crash prone, it doesn’t mean that they can’t die or have an issue that results in the loss of data. As a matter of fact I have first hand experience with losing data that was on a NEW SSD. See that story here.
Q. I don’t trust cloud services. Do I have to use CrashPlan?
A. Nope! The main thing is that you have at least one copy of your data OFFSITE. What good is a backup that sits right next to your computer if someone breaks in and steals the computer AND the backup drive or if you have a fire, flood or other major loss? I know many people that simply have two or more backup drives that they rotate between a friend/relative’s house or a safe deposit box at the bank. As a matter of fact this was my method for offsite backup before I started using CrashPlan. My server would do a clone backup to an external drive each night. I would take the drive to the bank and swap it about once a week. That’s how it started anyway. Then once a week became twice a month. Twice a month became once a month. Once a month became “I can’t remember the last time I swapped backups.” I use CrashPlan because it’s one less thing I have to think about. It works in the background and backs my photos/data up to their servers without having to think about it. It has already come in handy. Also on a side note you can still use CrashPlan without backing up to their servers! That’s right, you can download their software for free and set it up so that it backs up your computer to another computer (say at a friend’s or relative’s house) over the internet. You still have an offsite backup that’s automatic, but you control the location of the data. Provided you trust your friends or relatives 🙂
Q. CrashPlan sounds great! Why not just use that (or a similar service)?
A. You still want a local backup for a few reasons. #1 if something does happen it’s a whole lot faster to restore from a local backup then it is from the cloud. #2 CrashPlan doesn’t backup their servers! That’s right, they openly state that their servers are NOT backed up. Why? Because they know that they are your only backup.
Q. What do you get out of telling us all this?
A. What I hope to get is the peace of mind knowing that I helped at least one person protect their data and I will not have to hear one more person’s story about how they lost everything because of hardware failure or a virus. Drives are SO CHEAP now that there is NO REASON not to have multiple backups.
Q. I upload my photos to Facebook, Flickr, 500px, Smugmug, etc., is that a backup?
A. When you share your photos on social media it’s usually designed to be a one way trip. In other words most sites are not designed to share the original quality of the photo, store it and let your download it again. When you upload a photo to Facebook, that version is highly compressed and looks worse than the original. While having your photos online is better than nothing, it’s not a backup and there is no guarantee that the online entity will allow you to keep them there forever or even be around forever.
Q. You mentioned smartphones. Yes I have photos there that aren’t anywhere else. How are you handling those photos?
A. I look at my iPhone as another camera. I shoot with it and it’s true I don’t always download them to my computer right away, I do want them backed up. Luckily Apple let’s you do this for FREE. iCloud backup is free (5GB of YOUR data) and built-in to iOS. My iPhone 6 Plus gets backed up every night automatically. I also use Lightroom Mobile. I have a Collection in Lightroom Mobile on my iPhone and my iPad set to “Auto Import”. As soon as I launch Lightroom Mobile on my iPhone it imports any new pictures from my camera roll and syncs them to the cloud. These photos appear in Lightroom on my desktop (MacBook Pro) right along side my other photos. My MacBook Pro is being backed up as outlined above. Lightroom is the center of my photo universe. If it’s an important photo to me then it’s in my Lightroom catalog and the actual digital file (RAW or JPG) is in a folder on my server and two other places.
The Bottom Line
My goal is to always have my photos in at least three places! As you can see from the above workflow I’m cover 99% of the time. Even with what I do above there are still chances for loss. For example, a memory card can go bad before the pictures are ever transferred to the computer or copied to another card in the camera. If recovery software/services can’t retrieve them, they’re gone! What if all your camera equipment is stolen while you’re still out of town? There’s no way to be 100% safe, but at least with a workflow like the one above you’d be covered for the most common situations.
As many of you know I’ve been a fan of CrashPlan.com for a few years now. It’s a major part of my backup strategy and gives me an offsite backup in addition to my onsite Time Machine backups. Recently I had Code 42 (the company behind CrashPlan) speak at my local user’s group and I learned even more about how cool their services are. Thanks to the good folks at Code 42 I’m able to give away a full year of the CrashPlan Family Plan (up to 10 computers) to one of my lucky readers.
It’s easy to enter this contest. All you have to do is write a comment below about why you think backups and offsite backups are important to you. The deadline for comments is Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 9PM ET.
I’ll select a winner from the comments below at random and announce the winner one week from today (Monday, May 19th, 2014).
People are always asking me about backup strategies and while I usually discuss my home/studio backups I rarely discuss my “on the road” backups. My MacBook Pro has a 768GB SSD internal drive. While SSDs tend to be more reliable than old school rotating platters, I’m still as paranoid as I’ve always been. I don’t back it up any less than I did before SSD. I’ve had two major data scares while traveling on business. The 1st was on a trip to Toronto several years ago to do a seminar. I was the main/only presenter and I had an audience of about 400 people. My presentation was going to start at 10AM and I was in the hotel connected to the event hall. I woke up that morning and did some work on my laptop before heading over to the hall. I closed my laptop and headed over giving myself just enough time to get there and plug in to the projector. I got there, plugged in and opened my laptop to a “blue screen”. I immediately thought “oh my God, if this thing doesn’t come up I’m screwed!” Although I had my files and fonts on a drive at the time and I could have used a colleague’s computer it would have taken no less than 30 minutes to get everything loaded and setup. It could have easily taken an hour or more if they didn’t have the right applications loaded. Luckily everything came back after a forced reboot. But what if it hadn’t?
After my experience above in Toronto I realized that simply having a backup of the data was not good enough. I need to be able to be up and running in 5 minutes or less in the event of a total drive failure. From that day forward I started carrying an external portable hard drive that was an exact clone of my internal drive. I update this clone before heading out on each trip. I use SuperDuper!, which is a fantastic utility to clone your drive from one to another. In the case of a blue screen or total drive failure I could plug in the clone backup drive and reboot directly from that drive. Since it’s a recent clone it would have all of my applications and demo/data files. Continue reading “Why I Carry 3 Portable Hard Drives When I Travel”
Over the weekend I was working with a model and during our casual conversation she expressed to me how disappointed she was that in one of her recent shoots with another photographer that she lost all but a couple of her images. She described the tale of receiving a CD of the images that he took of her. She was importing the images into her computer and it stopped after about the 3rd image. It seems that the disc was corrupted. At that point she contacted the photographer to perhaps get another disc and he informed her that he had lost the images too. I’m not really sure what that means, but I take it as either he had the same problem with disc corruption (relying on CDs as his method of archival) or some other form of data loss?
Data Loss Happens!
No matter what system you use, hardware you use, services that you use there is the potential for data loss. Physical media is susceptible to all kinds of failure. So the idea is to never ever ever ever ever trust your images (or any other important data) to one single device or thing. To date I’ve been quite lucky. I’ve never lost a shoot. Nothing would be more frustrating than to spend hours or all day on location doing a shoot only to not have any images to show for it. I’ve been backup paranoid since my 1st hard drive crash in the early 90’s.
Let’s start with the shoot itself
Memory cards these days come in nice large capacities and while I love being able to shoot 1,000 RAW images to a single card, it’s not a good idea! You’re much better off breaking your shoot up onto multiple cards. At least if one card goes bad you haven’t lost ALL of your images. Keep in mind this is when you’re the most venerable. At this point your images only exist in one spot.
Immediately Backup The Shoot – If I’m out in the field and I’m shooting to a memory card then I’m going to backup immediately afterwards (usually while on location) to another device. I’m either going to backup to my iPad, my MacBook Pro or a portable media backup hard drive such as the HyperDrive Colorspace.
That way I still have the original images on the card AND on at least one other device. If I’m shooting in studio then I’m automatically backing up with each shutter release. I’ve been shooting either wirelessly with my Nikon D4 or via Ethernet. That means an image is being captured to the card AND then transferred to my MacBook Pro. That’s not enough for me! I still copy the folder of images to a backup folder on my server before I start working on the local copy that’s on my hard drive.
Yes, even on vacation! Not only do I backup the card via one of the methods above, but I will probably even upload the images to the cloud so that if my gear is stolen or damaged while I’m on vacation I would at least have the images to pull back down when I get home. Before cloud storage was so common I would mail myself a backup DVD.
After it’s all over – even after the shoot is over, images have been retouched and delivered. I still backup EVERYTHING to CrashPlan.com. My computers are backed up locally to other drives via Time Machine, but at the end of the day I still prefer having at least TWO backups and at least one of them being offsite. CrashPlan has served me well thus far. An often overlooked feature of CrashPlan is that it allows you to also choose another location for backups such as a friend’s house or perhaps backing up your studio computer to your home computer or vise versa.
How to start thinking about your own backup strategy – The 1st time I ever backed up my hard drive was due to a total hard drive crash. I learned my lesson the hard way. However, even after that crash and learning the importance of backing up, I wasn’t doing it regularly back then. One day I looked at my computer and said to myself “what if your hard drive crashed RIGHT NOW? What would you lose? I started thinking about all the things that weren’t currently backed up and of course I did an immediate backup. Luckily times have gotten better and our backups are more automated with things like Time Machine and Crash Plan. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use the same method to determine what to backup. Just modify it a bit. Ask yourself if your computer crashed right now, what would you lose? Now ask yourself if your building burned to the ground overnight (no one was there, no one was hurt), what would you lose? If someone stole your camera bag, what would you lose? If someone stole your computer bag, what would you lose? For me, in each of those scenarios I’d lose gear and I’d be pissed off, but my data in each of those scenarios would be recoverable.
The Bottom Line
I’ve never lost a shoot! Sure it could happen some day, but I try to reduce my risk as much as possible using the methods above. I had worked with another model for a couple of years before she moved out of state. One day she sends me an email telling me that she had a small fire and lost all of her CDs (she put them on CD, not me) and was wondering if by chance that I had any of the images we had created together. I had ALL of them! I was able to send her all of our “finished” images that we had ever taken.
“You’ve either lost data, or you’re about to lose data!” BACKUP
If your important data is only in one place then you’re doing it wrong!
It still amazes me when I think about the fact that we've reached a point where we can carry around 1TB drives in our pockets. I typically carry an external drive or two in my laptop bag for carrying extra files, Windows 7 Images for Parallels, bootable backups and to backup my shots after my shoots before I leave the studio. Until the 1TB 2.5" drives came out this meant carrying two or three drives to accomplish this. Now I can carry one! I got the LaCie Rugged 1TB to put to the test. I wanted one drive that I could partition into three partitions and of course I wanted one that was bus powered over Firewire 800 (and USB when needed).
The LaCie Rugged meets those requirements. It has a triple interface with Firewire 800, 400 and USB 2 ports on back. Although it's bus powered, they even supply a USB to power cable for those situations when your single USB port isn't providing enough power, you can plug this cable into a second USB port to power the drive. They also provide FireWire 800, 400 and USB 2 cables.
Although the bright orange color stands out (you'll have no problem seeing it in your bag or maybe even a dark room), I ordered the optional 3 pack of sleeves to change the color of the drive.
You get black, silver and purple in the sleeve pack. Even the purple/blue is a little more subdued than the orange.
So far so good
In my short time of using this drive it seems fast (5400 rpm speeds) and quiet. I had no problems cloning my boot drive to one of the partitions that I made and loading up the other two partitions with the files I need to carry. Also they call this drive "rugged" for a reason. It's meant to be traveled with. It has a rubber outer case (the sleeves) and it's one of the only drives I've ever seen that advertises a maximum "drop distance" although they clearly state that you should avoid dropping it while it's running (duh!).
Maximum Drop Height :
up to 2.2 meters in non-operating mode (dropping is not recommended in operating mode)
While this is not the first LaCie Rugged drive I've purchased (I got my daughter one for her Time Machine backups when she went off to college), it's the first one that I've gotten for me.