The Wise Words of Lisa Lloyd

“Yes, back it all up!!”

I have said this time after time to students, other professionals and enthusiasts after it happening to me some time ago.

So, with that in mind, I figure I’d share our studio’s backup protocol. This post is long and is directed at photographers, videographers, or creative studios and is NOT for the weak of heart. It’s not like most of the snipits I like to post, however I think it’s important and there’s not much info out there for those of us who need powerful backup solutions. While no backup solution is perfect, you need to develop a system that stands up to the rigors of your business, so here’s to sharing for anyone that cares about this stuff…

Now, before we get our hands dirty, a word on price and robustness: yes, this solution I outline can be a little expensive, and is meant to deal with a certain amount of data. (e.g. I shot over 4 thousand pictures last month.) Do you have to do it big? No. If you’re a busy commercial pro, you probably should. 

But if you’re growing your business, or you’re just interested in backing up your hobby snapshots, you probably don’t need all the bells and whistles or don’t have to spend yourself silly. But, what’s important here is that the fundamental protocol I’m outlining is solid and should be mimicked on a small or large basis. And most importantly, it is scalable. If you don’t need 7TB to keep your images, use a 1TB solution, etc. If you’re low on £ consider cheaper (or smaller) hardware such as western digital external hard drives, or to the cloud but the basic premises are the same. Now then…
You can employ a tech outfit to set up an Xserve Raid if you have many in the office, this a large scale back up system. If that’s still too expensive, have your computer mirror (write an exact copy) to two separate external drives (like Lacie or comparable). Off the shelf software solutions to help are available for this lower end solution with a simple Google search.

Please have an off-site back up of files: Now, you’re backed up at the office. But what about a fire? What if the entire building gets crushed in an earthquake, RAID and all? You need to have at least one copy of your data at a secure location off site. Doesn’t matter what size your company is, a small business enterprise or a larger company. In our case, we purchase a unique 4TB hard drive for every six months of work (for commercial clients and wedding clients). We do NOT recommend DVD’s or CD’s. They are more volatile than hard disks. The data for the job gets put directly onto these individual drives and gets archived off-site. Thus, we’re backed up in case of drive failure AND in case of a dramatic catastrophe. A few smarty-pants folks out there might now be saying: “what if your array gets burned in a fire and your off-site hard disk fails?” In that case, we cry. We’re betting, as all backup systems do, that our redundancy measures will outperform most disastrous situations that occur.
OTHER DATA? Note: The above is our solution for the RAW photo data that is created in intense bursts of large piles of data (shoots), not usually a small daily trickle. All our images live in their original RAW mode (and sidecar files) on the external hard drive in the office and (redundant) AND off site. But what about client work, adjusted image drafts, delivered images, post production in progress, invoices and all the other data that gets changed or updated on a day to day, “trickle” basis?

We call this our LIVE external drives ‘real time’ and it’s handled in a slightly different manner and is on-site but backed up to externals every week. To remedy the off-site portion of the equation being done by myself, we will be going to an automated and have a Raid built for us to backup very soon as we grow.

I will then be comfortable knowing if the office gets firebombed, then the most we’re out is 5 days worth of live work, and can rebuild using whatever drive was off-site.
Whew! Is all that overkill? Maybe, but the principles behind it are not. Is it smart to be paranoid and extra safe? Probably. I hope that helps frame how important I believe it is to back up your photographs and your work. Take some, all, none, of this info and put it to use in your studio
Again, depending on where you are in the world of photography, videography, or similar, this is scalable. Regardless of how big or important you view your collection to be, I recommend getting a hold of a tech outfit to advise you, even if it’s for just an hour to analyse your needs and make some recommendations. Treat yourself to a New Year’s present and invest in protecting your collection. Good luck!