Plain and simple, backing up digital files is essential. Its a safety measure that should not be overlooked, both in the field and in the office. Below is my current proceedure for data backup.
Image data backup in the field:
When downloading media cards in the field, redundancy is a standard policy for me, at least when I have electric power available. To get this redundancy, I download a media card to two different sources/destinations simultaneously through Lightroom’s import panel. Other programs offer a two-location backup feature. I currently use two very small and portable Apricorn 500GB USB hard drives (just over $100 each). They both get plugged into my laptop and the photos are transferred to one as the primary and one as the secondary. In addition to their small size, it’s an easy process to plug them into my office workstation and transfer the files upon my return.
Image date backup in the office:
Backing up large amounts of data has been troublesome over the years, but we are pretty settled in now at my office with a reliable back up program and procedure. We used “Retrospect” for a long time, a free program that came with our external USB hard drives, but it did not work with Windows 7. I hunted around and tried a few free programs, but ran into problems with windows 7 security settings and external drives, which I find terribly annoying. I settled down with a reasonably priced software called “Acronis True Image Home” priced at about $50, which works excellently.
When transferring files from my field-dedicated USB hard drives to my workstation, they are copied over to the appropriate folder and then get backed up during the evenings scheduled incremental backup. As a third “safety net” I also copy files to what I call a temporary image tank (a location on an external USB hard rive). They just sit there in case I accidentally delete a file in the main folder on my workstation or make some other mistake where I might need to retrieve an original. After a few months, when this folder starts filling up, I just delete the older stuff to make more room.
My workstation computer has two, 2 TB drives that contain my digital files (total of 4TB). Each night on a scheduled basis, Acronis backs up each drive to its respective external USB 2 TB hard drive. So, every day, my workstation is backed up completely. The very first backup performed is called a FULL backup (which takes quite a while), and then I’ve selected all successive backups to be INCREMENTAL. This means that the next incremental backup will only backup the files that have changed since the previous backup–which is critical when dealing with large amounts of data. The length of time it takes for the incremental backup will be relative to the amount of files changed or added since the last backup, and generally it goes pretty quick. Additionally, there is an easily navigable folder structure with all the backups accessible through the Acronis software.
As another layer of redundancy, every two weeks, my workstation is backed up to two different, 2 TB USB external hard drives, (same incremental basis) and these are stored off-site at a different location. With this set up, if my workstation goes up in smoke and I loose all data, at most, I’ll lose a day’s worth of work. And, if the house burns down or some other catastrophe takes out both the workstation and the daily backup drives, at most, I’ll loose only 2 weeks worth of work. I could live with that.
There are many ways to execute a backup system, we used to have a raid array hard drive on a network, but had issues with that. I’ve just found this to be the simplest, and its working fine for now. The point is, you really need something set up for a backup system. If you don’t currently, then start looking into it today, it could save you a really, really bad headache some day.