Backup Strategies

Whenever I talk about backing up photos, I always start with my motivation for backing things up.  A co-worker of mine had his first child at the dawn of digital photography.  He had the same Canon 300D I had and he took tons of pictures of his new-born daughter.  He thought he was on top of things.  He had a server on his home network where all the photos were stored and actually had a tape backup drive that was regularly making back-ups of everything on the server.  Right around her first birthday disaster struck, but he felt assured that everything was ok – he had all of those tape backups to go back on.  After he rebuilt the server and got everything configured right he found out that the tape backup system had stopped actually working over a year ago.  It was always reporting the backups were being completed ok, but there was no actual data on the tapes to recover.  He lost every single photograph he had taken of his daughter.  When he originally came to me with that news, I vowed to never let that happen to me so I began to create my backup strategy.  I might be a little bit extreme in my backups, but I never want to lose everything the way my co-worker did.

Step 1 The Local Copy

When I’m done shooting and have copied all the pictures off of the memory card and onto my main computer, the first step is to make a DVD backup of the photos.  Back when I had my 6.3MP camera this process was much easier than it is today.  I never had to worry about having more pictures on the memory card then I could fit on a double layer DVD.  Nowadays, that isn’t as easy of an assumption and I probably should consider upgrading to a Blu-ray writer.  Once the discs are made, I label them (name and date of the event) and file them away.  Documenting the process here has identified a flaw here in my system.  The DVD copies are stored in a file cabinet near my desk.  Should anything happen to my desk, one of the copies goes with it.  I should probably take the disc copies and move them up to another level of the house.

Step 2 The Dual Hard Drives

Now that the data is on the internal hard drive of my computer (I’m still using my PC for photo work since my 7 year old iMac is bit long in the tooth) and on the DVDs, I move all the files off onto a USB backup drive.  When I started this backup process I bought two identical drives.  One lives on my desk at home and the other sits inside the safety deposit box at my bank.  On the first Saturday of the month, I take the drive off of my desk and swap it with the one in the safety deposit box.  When I brink the bank copy home, I update it with all the new files that have been captured during the previous month.  Running things this way, the most I could ever lose is a months worth of photos.  That’s if something happened to the house and I lost the internal hard drive, the external hard drive, and the CD / DVD copies.

Step 3 Backing Up Online

I resisted online backups for a very long time.  I never felt good about my data living on other people’s servers, and I remember a horror story of one of the early online backup places going belly-up overnight and everyone was scrambling to get their data back before it was gone.,  But travelling to the bank once a month to swap out the drives is growing tiresome and the size of those drives needs to be updated soon as they are starting to grow full, and I hear the Backblaze commercials multiple times a week due to their sponsorship of multiple podcasts I listen to.  I’ve always read their excellent quarterly report cards on long term hard drive performance (you can see samples here) so over this Christmas break I decided to give them a shot.  So far so good, at $5 / month it seems like an easy choice.  I like the idea that – in the event something bad happens – I can order a hard drive with all of my data copied on to it, rather than having to max out my internet connection with getting all of the data back.

Backup strategies are all very personal so I got a second opinion from site contributor Ben Hendel to share some additional thoughts.


When I worked at Apple, one of my managers had a saying: “There are two types of people in the world: those who have lost data, and those who will.” When he told me this, I was already in the first of those two categories, having had a Dell 20GB hard drive nuke itself on me, and much of the data was unrecoverable. So I back up religiously, in multiple ways.

First and foremost, owning a MacBook Pro, I use Time Machine to back up to an Apple Time Capsule device.  Mine is older, but it is a 2TB hard drive baked into a wireless router.  My computer automatically backs up to it hourly.  Because I started to outgrow 2TB of storage, and I wanted more redundant automatic backups, I’ve plugged my Time Capsule, via USB to a 5TB Seagate external hard drive as a secondary source.  In addition to that, for offloading old Lightroom Libraries, and creating backups of photos as I travel, I have a 2TB Thunderbolt G-Drive that lives in my travel bag.  Finally, for backup systems current in place, I also keep a 1TB Hard drive backup at my parent’s house out of state to use as off-site backup, because I’ve suffered a house fire and know how easily data can be lost from inside a house, even if its redundantly backed up.

Again, I’ve lost data before, and I’m paranoid about it happening again.   So I’m also looking at getting a NAS drive for my network as a tertiary way of automatically backup up my data.  And I’m looking at getting an off-site backup solution as well.  Look, in my opinion, you spend thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands on taking your photos.  You should spend more, rather than less, to back up those pictures once they’ve been taken.


Do you follow one or more of these plans?  I know everyone has their own system.  A buddy of mine sends me a bare hard drive every couple of months when he finishes a big project so I’m his offsite backup plan (no, I’m not taking on additional drives at this time, lol).  Chime in in the comments and let us know how you back up your Disney photos.  Hit the read more button below to leave a comment.

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The image above is of the Hollywood Hotel sign in Hong Kong Disneyland, if you want to see more Hong Kong Disneyland photos, check out my older post here.

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