It's a question that will rear its ugly head at some point for all photographers. With increasing file sizes and the fear of the dreaded hard-drive crash or house disaster - How should I backup my photos?
You have probably already read about the theory that you should backup your files in a 3-2-1 strategy. That is to say 3 locations, 2 types of media and 1 off-site. Here I am telling you what that means for me and how to implement that strategy so there is the least amount of interaction as possible.
To me 3 locations means 2 hard-drives locally and one away from my home, i.e. the cloud. Thinking about the 2 local hard-drives, the most simple form of backup would be 2 hard-drives on your main computer with one being the exact mirror of the other. This can be set up as a RAID array, you could do it manually or you could have an external drive that you plug in and copy files to. My take on it is a Drobo with 4 drives. I have it set so 2 drives can fail and my data is safe. You could have this set to just one failure if capacity is an issue. In any of the above scenarios there can be a failure of one drive (or two drives in the case of my Drobo) and data will be safe, but what if the house burns down, floods or there is a tornado that whisks your drives off to the land of Oz?
Ahhh, it's all gone! Everything.
That's where the off-site location comes in. I don't want to have to backup to a drive locally and then take it to a family member's house for safe-keeping. That is cumbersome. The option then is cloud storage, either a NAS (Network Access Storage) or a cloud storage provider. You could have a NAS at a friend or family member's house or in your office if that's an option. The trouble with that is a NAS is expensive, I already have one and I don't want to have to purchase another. Realistically at the moment for a NAS with over 5TB storage you are looking at over £500 in the UK, so double that to have one at home and one off-site. So what cloud storage options are available? Dropbox, Amazon, Google Drive....There are loads and there are plenty of reviews about them. Most have a small free storage allowance, however most photographers will exceed that fairly quickly. Particularly videographers. So what do I do? Amazon Prime! Yes there is a free unlimited photo storage solution included with an Amazon Prime subscription. Okay, it's technically not free as you have to pay for Prime, however it is significantly cheaper than the other options for storage over 1TB. Also you get the added benefits of Prime (the TV and film streaming is actually really good!). A little known thing about Amazon Prime is that you can make back the cost of it by not choosing next day delivery options on your orders, opting for the no rush delivery instead (normally still only a few days in the UK). They give you Amazon download credit on each order, normally £1 but it has been more. Depending on your buying habits that could easily make back the cost of Prime over the year, it does for me.
Okay so sales pitch done (I wish I was being paid by Amazon, I'm not!) How do you implement this so it is easy? No one wants to have to manually sync files and folders and end up with conflicts everywhere. The Amazon Cloud desktop app doesn't keep files synced, it's a bit basic to say the least. That's where I use Odrive. It's a cloud aggregator or cloud sync solution. It will link with your various cloud storage accounts and keep them all synced. The way this is implemented for me is by way of the Ocloud desktop app. It creates a folder within which all of your cloud accounts are located. Anything you put into a folder inside the Odrive folder will be synced with the corresponding cloud storage account. So basically instead of having multiple folders for Dropbox, Onedrive, Amazon etc. in your file explorer, they will all reside within the Odrive folder.
So Odrive and Amazon chosen, how does this work with Lightroom. I'm assuming that's what you will be using. For me I wanted to be able to work on a file and close down Lightroom and know that the file is the same on my local storage as the cloud version. I didn't want to have to run a backup once a week to maintain that sync. To achieve this you need to use the Odrive folder as your operating folder in Lightroom. So I moved all of my picture folders into the Amazon folder within my Odrive. Make sure this is done within Lightroom, or else face the prospect of having to relocate all the folders when you open Lightroom next time. It's easy enough, within Lightroom click the '+' button next to 'Folders' and add the location of the Amazon folder in Odrive. Next highlight all the folders you wish to move to that location (shift or CTRL click to highlight multiple), then drag to the Amazon folder. Wait for Lightroom to move them and we're almost there. If the files have to be physically moved to a new drive, i.e. to a newly purchased Drobo/NAS from your internal hard-drive then this will take a while as they are copied across. If they are already on the drive, but merely being moved to a new folder, this is effectively just renaming multiple files and will be quicker.
That's it, that's all there is right? Well yes, in terms of setting it up. The downside to this method (and any involving the cloud), is that the files are still only on your local computer and drives at this point. Now Odrive will start doing it's thing in the background syncing the files with Amazon. This means uploading all of the files you just added to the Amazon folder to the cloud. Depending on the quantity and your internet speed it could take hours, days or even weeks! For example if you have a decent fibre optic internet connection in the UK you can get over 10 Mbps upload speed. At this rate 1TB of data will take approximately 12 days to upload. At standard ADSL speeds this would be more like 120 days! So this option may not be for everyone. Right now I have about 500GB of photos so the initial upload won't take too long, about a week. I would suggest doing it in stages and probably at night as some internet providers will throttle down your internet speeds if you are uploading heavily during peak time. It may take some time and effort initially, but from there on I will be comfortable in the knowledge that my files will be safe at home and in the cloud and all happily synced immediately!
I hope this helped. I will be uploading more helpful articles on photography and other fun things I find myself doing so please check back.
Drobo - http://www.drobo.com/
Odrive - https://www.odrive.com/
Amazon Cloud Storage - https://www.amazon.co.uk/clouddrive/home
A few articles that will hopefully come in handy relating to photography, tech and/or anything else I have found useful along the way. I hope to be writing more articles, particularly with my journey learning Photoshop. Check back soon for updated posts and please get in touch with feedback, suggestions or just to say hello!