One of my largest expenditures on photography this year will be done in order to solve a media storage dilemma. It is not a sexy or fun purchase, and does nothing to help me take the images I want to take, but it is something that must be reviewed and updated every few years. Before going into what I must purchase and why let me explain why and how I store my images.
I spend a great deal of time and money capturing images around the world and while I may not be a Robert Capa, my images have value to me and my family. So the safe storage of those images is critically important. I shoot both film and digital so my workflow must suit both.
After reading a great deal of the failure rate of hard drives, I developed my own back up system. I should warn that this works for my workflow and may not work for every photographer. I use a three storage back up system kept in two physically different locations with only one plugged in at a time.
I do not keep images on my computer hard drive, I keep and work on them when they are in an external drive. This is my main drive which is currently a Lacie D2 Quadra drive. I then have a second external BU drive which I keep with me at home. Finally, my third drive stays at my office. Once I have 3-4 Gb of images on my computer hard drive and on my two back up drives at home, I just take the BU drive and swap it for the one at the office. I back up that one and keep it as my second drive at home.
This process works to avoid both my drives burning up in a fire, or being lost in a break in.The recent catastrophe in Houston with hurricane Harvey highlights an additional risk in keeping all your BU in a single address.
When I move internationally (something that happens every few years) I send one drive with the furniture, sealed in a ziplock bag, one I take with me on the plane and the third I send via UPS.
What made this BU system work is not the drives or the computers but the Firewire 800 port that came with my MacBook Pro. Let me explain.
Digital photography storage is about space, speed and utility. Depending on the camera you use, digital images can be massive or amazingly small. Fortunately price per Gb of memory has been falling fast.
The problem then becomes one of time. How long does it take your hard drive to move those images in and out? If it takes you 30 seconds to move a single image, you will become frustrated and won't back up. My BU on USB 2.0 would take 8 hours so I would only back up every few months. That exposed me to a massive data loss.
Finally, what is your lifestyle, do you travel a great deal, use a laptop or are you a desktop user? Drive portability is also an important decision to make.
I buy the largest memory I can afford. This has changed over time as the price per Gb has fallen. So I now use 3Tb drives. I use Firewire 800 to make BU quick which translates to 1Gb moved from my computer to my hard drive taking 19.5 seconds. While not blazingly fast, it is fast enough for me to keep up with my backups.
So the system is fool proof! No, not at all. The challenge became when Apple abandoned the Firewire system for Thunderbolt. Hard drive manufacturers stopped making Firewire compatible drives which meant that once my memory was full, I would need an entire new system!
And that takes me to Part 2...