Backing Up Images for Future Enjoyment…Your Hard Drive Will Fail
By Adrian Klein
This was not the post I planned to write for the Photo Cascadia blog yet some issues on my side that occurred the last few weeks said to me it would be a good time to cover this topic. It may not be full of glorious flowers and mountains, lush streams and falls or endless desert cracks yet if you have some of those photos you sure as heck better be backing them up for future use and enjoyment. There are no guarantees your computer will turn on tomorrow.
Those that have attended a NW Photo Tours workshop know that I cover this in my presentation. Why? Because there is still occasionally people I see in a workshop or hear about that are relying on a single drive to store their precious irreplaceable data and images. I cringe when I hear this, and I cringe with what usually comes afterward. What comes afterward? The fact that the drive ultimately fails and then the data is gone, or best case scenario very costly to recover. It’s not if a drive will fail but when.
A few weeks ago I came home from a weekend workshop. I sat down in the office to download the photos I took (most of them being images of the clients that I try to snap during the workshop). Everything seemed to be fine. I left the office to have dinner with my family. Upon returning my PC was displaying the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Okay, not good but I am sure I can reboot it. No luck. The system crashed for good. Do I start sweating buckets and breaking out in hives because I fear my data is now gone? No. My operating system is on a different drive than my data. And my main 1TB drive is actually a mirror to another drive so I have in essence two drives with the same data. It’s a failsafe solution. My biggest concern is that I know how much time is involved to get my system back up and running (the drives, software, calibration, etc). I don’t enjoy this task and certainly puts me behind.
Anyway, I reformat the drive, reinstall the OS (Operating System) and I should be good. Right? Well, not really. For some reason I cannot see my main mirrored drives. Not sure what the issue is but I believe all drivers were installed. Since I don’t have the luxury of extra time it’s time to seat belt in the PC tower in the passenger seat and head to my local repair shop. A couple days later the phone rings. There is bad news. The failsafe solution of mirrored drives looks like it’s not failsafe after all. Somewhere my drives were changed to be dynamic to the current OS session (how is still a mystery). When I reinstalled the OS the drives were already locked and could not be found by Windows. The shop could not access the data. Do I freak out now? No. Most of my data is backed up locally on yet another set of drives and all of it is mirrored with an offsite service. In the end the computer repair shop was able to access the drives to copy over the data. I paid what I consider a nominal fee for data recovery and went that route instead of downloading over a 1TB data online or needing to copy that much data locally. As they told me this was a 1st level data recovery issue, fortunately. It did not need to go to the big guns that specialize with costs of $1500 to $3000 a drive being common.
Is the story over yet? Nope. Does anyone want to take a guess what I did wrong? My hard drive crashed good and it was several years old already. I should not have kept that drive but I did. After taking my PC back home it worked fine for about 24 hours and then crashed to the point the drive would not even boot. Thus I ended up needing to install a new drive and thus more downtime. Oh technology… we love you when its smooth sailing yet when the sails come crashing down into our day-to-day computer life it throws a wrench into the situation to say the least.
Moral of the story; there is no perfect data storage solution. The only solution is redundancy of multiple methods and multiple locations. As I am writing this I received an email from the hosting company from one of my websites. My site has been down for over 12 hours because you guessed it, the servers went down and now they need to rebuild them because the fail over to the backup server did not work. It can happen anywhere to anyone, large company or single home computer.
There are myriad of solutions available today that are easy for anyone to use, and will not break the bank. The following is my backup solution which fortunately helped me from having a heart attack when someone told me that my main drive was having issues.
- Primary Drive (Internal Drive)
- Offsite Backup (Automatically uploads data nightly through the Internet to backup service located off-site)
- Onsite Backup (External Drive system)
If you are in need of solutions for Offsite and Onsite backup contact me directly and I have discount codes you can use for the solutions I use. These are BackBlaze (http://backblaze.com) for off-site and Drobo (http://drobo.com) for on-site.
I hope you found this story a worth while read and that it will save you from loosing your precious digital irreplaceable photography. I have heard many stories of people loosing images even when they thought they were backing them up in one way or another. I was even one of them before. Don’t be one of those stories.