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.
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.
In this episode of Adobe Creative Cloud TV, I’ll show you two ways to move your Lightroom photos to another hard drive/NAS. This is one the questions I get most and I decided to dedicate a video to it and share some tips as well.
Are you missing out on my Bonus Content?
See more of my Adobe Creative Cloud Videos on my Adobe Creative Cloud TV and get the App below. It features EXCLUSIVE CONTENT that no one else gets to see. My iOS App is a Universal App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. I also have an Android version on the Amazon App Store:
Drobo recently introduced their third generation 4-bay enclosure and I thought I’d take a look. I’ve been using Drobo storage units since 2008 (see my first review here). As a matter of fact that first unit is still in use today. Now I have five of them in total between home and my studio. So far to date I haven’t had any hardware issues with my Drobo units. They have actually performed quite well. I did have a directory corruption problem early on that required me to reformat and restore from a backup, but that could have happened on any drive. Other than that one incident my five Drobo enclosures have worked just fine. I know that some, including my buddy Scott Kelby have not been so lucky. As a matter of fact Drobo has gone through some major changes (for the better) as a company as a result. With that said and since I’ve not had any real issues I continue to use their products.
The new third generation 4-bay enclosure gets back to the basics. It reminds me of my first Drobo, only it’s cheaper and faster with a more solid design. With this new model you can put anywhere from 1 to 4 drives in it of any capacity. Of course you’re going to want to put at least two drives in it to get the data protection features. It has one interface on the back: USB 3. Aside from the USB 3 connection it looks and feels just like any other Drobo, but there are a couple of other things under the hood. It has a Power Fail Protection feature that protects the data you were transferring in the middle of a power outage. It also now sports a new Time Machine feature that lets you create a backup-specific volume. This is handy when you don’t want Time Machine to eat up all the available space.
You can configure it up to 24 TB
I get this question all the time. Certainly there are less expensive RAID systems out there that are not proprietary. I went with Drobo for the following reasons:
Beyond RAID (their technology) means that I can mix the drive capacities. As the price of 4TB drives continue to drop, for example, I can replace my 2 and 3 TB drives without doing them all at once.
I can swap out a drive without having to stop the work or reformat. If I need to replace a bad drive or increase the total storage capacity, I can just eject a drive and replace it with another (potentially larger) one.
I don’t have to be an IT expert to manage it. It sits in my server closet and just runs 24/7. If anything goes wrong it sends me an email.
What if it fails?
I’ve heard the horror stories. As a matter of fact you’d be hard pressed to find ANY product that someone doesn’t have a horror story about. However, I don’t rely on or totally trust ANY single solution when it comes to my data. No matter who makes my storage units or how great their reputation is, I’m going to have my data backed up in multiple places including an offsite backup via crashplan.com. So if it failed tomorrow, I’d probably replace it with another one as nothing lasts forever and it will die someday. My favorite model is the Drobo 5D. This baby is fast and is connected via Thunderbolt to my Mac mini server. Again, I haven’t had a moment’s problem out of it since the day I turned it on. It’s been running 24/7 since day one.
Although my Drobo units haven’t failed, my hard drives have! Here’s what Drobo does when a drive fails:
I got an email that the 5th drive was failing. I ordered a new one. It arrived in a couple of days. I ejected the bad one and put the new one in. I kept working the whole time. If you’re super paranoid you can set it to protect you against TWO drive failures. This will reduce your total available capacity, but two drives could die at the same time and your data would still be protected.
You can get the NEW 3rd Generation Drobo here for $349 or less. Drobo increased their warranty period from one year to two years.
Just wanted to give everyone a heads-up that today Friday, September 16th 2011 is the last day that you can enter the Terry White Drobo Contest. See my original post here. Enter the contest here. Also remember that the more entries I receive the greater the chance will be that we'll give away a second Drobo! You have til 2PM ET (GMT-4) to enter. Hurry!
While I've given away lots of things in the past such as Adobe Software at Adobe sponsored events, this is my first big "Terry White" giveaway! It's the largest prize I've given away on any of my blogs or social media channels. Partnering with Drobo, I'm giving away a 4 Bay Drobo Storage unit.
However, you can increase your chances of winning by spreading the word on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Follow me on Twitter and then Tweet about the contest and why you want to win. Include in your tweet "The @TerryLWhite #Drobo Contest" so that your tweets can be tracked. If you're on Facebook then head over to my Facebook Fan Page, Like the page and tell me why you want to win a Drobo. If you're on Google+ add me to your Circles and then mention +TerryWhite in your post about why you want to win a Drobo.
Not on Twitter, Facebook or Google+? Then post your reasons why you want to win a Drobo in the comments below.
A. I talk about and promote the products that I actually use. Therefore when Drobo offered me a unit to giveaway, I gladly accepted.
Q. What do you get out of giving away this Drobo?
A. Drobo pays me $2.95 per entry
A. NO, they aren't paying me a dime nor have they ever paid me anything. Not even advertising on my blog (Drobo are you listening? Hello! Just kidding 🙂 ) Like many companies though, they do send me review units.
Q. Is this a US based contest only?
A. Nope, I realize that I have a worldwide audience and it's open to everyone.
Q. Does the Drobo you're giving away come with the drives?
Q. Why not?
A. Because they didn't give me any drives to giveaway.
Q. That sucks!
A. Not really a question, but if you feel that way then don't enter. Have a nice day.
Q. How long does the contest run?
A. You can enter between now and Friday, 2PM ET (GMT-4)
Q. When will we know who won?
A. Hopefully it will be my Monday post next week. So a week from today?
Q. How will the winner receive his/her Drobo unit?
A. It will ship directly from Drobo once the winner has been drawn.
Q. How can I learn about this Drobo you speak of or other Drobo products?
A. Yes, please no whining. Please don't tell me about how you wish it was something else or run differently or whatever. Just don't enter.
True Drobo Story
I thought I'd share a true story about a recent experience that I had with one my Drobo units. I have three Drobos in my house. One is connected to a Mac mini, which serves as my file server. The second one is connected to an iMac, which serves as my iTunes/Media Server and the third one is a Drobo FS, which serves as a network Time Machine backup. When I got the Drobo FS I installed 4 brand new drives in it. The 5th drive was a 1.5 TB drive that I had lying around from a previous upgrade. Figured since Drobos can have drives of mixed capacities I'd put it to use. After a couple of weeks I got an email. Not from Drobo the company, but from my actual Drobo hardware. Yes, the Drobo can actually email you in the event that something is wrong. The email was a warning that one of my drives was failing. Sure enough it was the old 1.5TB drive. My data was being protected by the other 4 drives and I ordered a new 2TB replacement. I replaced the faulty 1.5TB with the new one and kept right on working the whole time. This was the first time that I got the chance to see a Drobo actually do what it was advertised to do. It protected my data against drive failure with ZERO DOWNTIME! Backups are still important, but it's this added peace of mind that makes me love my Drobos even more!
One more thing…
If there are a ton of entries I'll give away a second Drobo!
Good luck and I'm looking forward to picking a winner!
I've been a happy Drobo user since October 2008. My main Drobo 4 Bay Firewire 800 unit is being used as the main storage on my Mac OS X Server in my home office. My second Drobo 4 Bay Firewire 800 unit is being used on my dedicated media server (an iMac running iTunes) and it houses all of our music, movies, TV shows etc. I love Drobos because you can easily increase the storage capacity by swapping one or more drives for larger ones without having to start over and reformat. I also love the fact that the drives don't have to be the same capacity. While my Drobos have been relatively trouble free from a hardware standpoint, I did suffer from a directory corruption problem once back in February 2009. Luckily I knew better and had my data backed up. While Drobo is GREAT at protecting you against drive failures there's is no magical protection against accidental file deletions, viruses, or directory corruption. In my current setup I have each Drobo being backed up on a nightly bases to external large capacity drives via SuperDuper! This all works great, but it does still leave me exposed to one problem.
An Oops Moment
We all have those oops moments. Those moments where we do something that we wished we hadn't. It could be deleting a file that you thought you no longer needed or doing a Save when you meant to do a Save As, etc. If that happens to me and I catch it right away, no problem I can restore from yesterday's backup. However, if that happens and I don't realize it right away then I could lose the file completely after the new file gets backed up during the next evening's backup. In this case Time Machine really shines. As a Mac user I have Time Machine right in the OS. I use it on my MacBook Pro and other computers around the house. So no worries if this problem happens on one of those computers because i can just go back in time and grab and older version. However, if the file is on my Sever then I don't have that protection. Same goes for my iTunes collection. If I delete something there without realizing it, it will be gone for good after the next backup.
Drobo FS to the rescue
While I can pretty easily clone my Drobos to nice big 2TB and 3TB drives, it becomes more challenging using Time Machine for that much data on a single backup drive. The drives would fill up quickly and I would be no more protected than I was with a clone. In this case I wanted to use Time Machine but I would need something as large as the capacity of my Drobos and actually significantly larger if I want to go back further in time. The solution was clear – another Drobo. With another Drobo I could put large drives in it and it would not only have the storage I needed to backup one Drobo, but both Drobos. Since the two computers are not in the same room, I needed a network solution. This lead me to the Drobo FS. While I could have put another Drobo on my Mac mini server it would mean having to daisy chain it via Firewire and I also have limited space in that area of my office. The Drobo FS is a 5 bay unit that connects directly to your network via Ethernet. This means that it can be anywhere in my house including a closet or storage room. The 5bay FS doesn't cost that much more than a directly connected Drobo model.
Setting up the FS
I love it when all the instructions that you'll need to setup a new device fit on a single card. The Drobo FS is that easy to setup. install the software. Insert one or more hard drives (2 or more is best for protection) and they don't even have to be the same capacity. Plug in your Ethernet cable (gigabit ethernet if you want performance) and turn it on!
The Drobo automatically formats itself and in a few moments shows up in the Drobo dashboard of all your networked computers. At that point you change the administrator username/password and create the "Shares" you want to be seen on the network. Add your users/passwords and you're done.
Using it for Time Machine
Since I already have a Fileserver that I'm happy with I didn't really need to setup any shared folders beyond the one for my network Time Machine backups. You create a share and then just enable the Checkbox so that this new Share can be used and seen by Macs as a Time Machine volume.
Unfortunately you do need to install the Drobo Dashboard on each of the Macs that you want to backup to it via Time Machine. It's not the end of the world, I just dont' like installing any more software than I absolutely have to. Once the Drobo Dashboard is installed on a Mac that you wish to backup, you mount the Share and then choose it in the Time Machine System Preferences. For now I've decided to use it for all of my Desktop Macs including both servers and another iMac and Mac Pro. I've completed the backup on a couple of these Macs as of the writing of this review. The big ones are going to take a day or two to complete because if you've ever tried to backup 1.5-2TBs of data you know that it can take a while.
The Bottom Line
The Drobo FS is a great solution for any home or small business looking to setup a File Server/NAS or Network backup that is painless and has built-in redundancy for protection against drive failure. If you are going to use one in a File Server capacity keep in mind that while Drobo protects against drive failure, you should still back it up too! That goes for any drive solution. Also if you are going to use it as a File Server you can enable the Drobo Apps so that you get File Server type features such as web serving, ftp, etc. I didn't enable these as again, this isn't my main server.
The fact that the Drobo FS connects directly to my network instead of requiring a host computer is huge for me! I would hate it if the day comes that I restore an entire Drobo from a backup because it would take a while. I would hate it even more if the day came that I needed to restore a large amount of data and I didn't have a backup at all.