Image Backup in a World Where Things Can Happen
It's a good idea to back up your images, because sometimes ... the unexpected can happen.
Storage cards and hard drives are capable of holding more than ever. That's a good thing, because digital image files are getting bigger with every new generation of cameras. Without even realizing it, you can easily amass many gigabytes of images. Over time, your collection continues to grow. Few of us spend much time deleting old ones.
Back in the film photography era, it was tempting to consider that the act of photography ended once the shutter release was pressed. In the digital age, a similar temptation exists but with a new but equally arbitrary cutoff point. Once an image has been optimized in the digital darkroom, it's easy to think you're finished. But what if you lost your work after that? All your work would have been for naught. Putting things in perspective, your job isn't done until you have your work adequately backed up. And while we're all at home brushing up on our Netflix and hand-washing skills, it seems like a good time to revisit a few best practices for image backup.
Good backup practices should begin as soon after taking an image as practical. Some cameras have dual card slots and allow users to write simultaneously to both. If yours doesn't, try to copy the images onto a laptop or other portable drive solution at the end of each day's shooting, if not sooner. Ideally, you should have at least two copies of every image you care about over as much of its life-cycle as you can.
If you shoot with an Android smart phone or iPhone, pick a cloud backup provider and set it up for automatic backup. Services such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Photos, Google and others are all competing for your cloud backup business. Storage limitations continue to rise. Amazon even provides unlimited storage for Prime members.
Once you get back home, make sure everything you shot gets backed up to where it should be. Everyone's situation will naturally differ, at least somewhat, but find something that works for you. If you're a Lightroom user, Adobe makes it easy to back up your images. When you do, don't forget to back up the Lightroom catalog as well.
Even in the era of cloud everywhere, it's still a good idea to keep a copy of everything locally too since local files are quicker to access. Having your working copies at home and a copy at a cloud provider will give you the best of both worlds. Just in case you have a catastrophic loss at home, your cloud copies will still be there safe and sound.
Home photo storage should be on a RAID array. An acronym for "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks," RAID provides standard for combining the capacity of multiple drives with redundancy. If a single drive fails, it can be replaced without loss using data from the remaining drives. There are several RAID levels defined by the standards. To ensure redundancy, look for a drive solution that uses at least RAID 1. RAID systems can be attached by network interface, USB, SATA or other protocols. Consider what the computer you use for editing is capable of and choose accordingly.
Solid State Drives (SSD) are generally more reliable and provide faster access speeds than traditional spinning disks, but are also more expensive. If cost isn't a factor, go with SSD. Otherwise, stick with spinning hard drives and you can buy more storage for less cost, but make sure you're happy with your RAID configuration so you'll be covered should a drive fail.
If you make use of a cloud backup solution, choose wisely. Changing your mind later can be time consuming. While it can take a while to copy your back catalog of images up to some cloud provider, it will obviously take twice that long if you end up copying everything back home and then up to a different cloud.
The problem with image backup is that it can seem like extra work until the day comes when you need it. In a world where unexpected things can happen, it seems like a perfect time to take your backup strategy to the next level. Most of us aren't going anywhere just now anyway.