Revisiting my Backup Strategy

I just got back from picking up the results of an expensive data recovery job from a client’s failed hard drive. It reminded me that I hadn’t updated my own backup strategy in a while. I recently changed it after learning a few valuable lessons and being very lucky after a device failure.

Below is a comment I left on a photography podcast that I listened to recently. It describes the work flow I am currently using. While it deals with my image back ups, I do cover off other files.

After a few months of using this workflow, I can’t say enough about the Bestsync Software mentioned. It is available at I have also added another tool recently. I am using Sugar Sync to do some offline folder backups as well. This seems to work very well and I can choose what ever folders that I want to backup. You can download and get 5 Free Gigabytes of online storage. In addition using this link you will get an additional 500 MB of free space as well as giving me an additional 500 MB!

I am still using Dropbox as well and they have also just boosted the free amount of online storage you can get. Again sign up and install using this link and we both get bonus space free.

Use both links above and you will get 8GB of free online storage!

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I feel your pain. As a small business IT Consultant I deal with the Data Recovery companies and failed hard drives every couple of months. As a photographer I have also been burned either by not being ready or the “I’ll do it later” syndrome.
A couple of things to note. RAID is not the only answer. Yes they are redundant but they can fail too. I have experienced failures with Drobo’s and other RAID devices as well.
I have developed my own back up system that works pretty well keeping in mind that if the system is not automated, it will not get done.
In our home I have all of the PC’s connected to a first Gen Windows Home Sever so my kids and wife’s system all get automatically backed up nightly to that box (not an answer for catastrophe though).
For myself I use the following.
When I bring images in I use Lightroom to import and copy all of my images to a folder on my E-Sata connected Drobo S (5 x 1TB hard drives). My Lightroom catalog files also reside in one folder on the Drobo including the Lightroom backup files. All files are Canon CR2 Raw.
Nightly I have a program running on my system called Bestsync 2012 that synchronizes the Lightroom catalogs and the image files from the Drobo folders to a Mediasonic Raid 1 enclosure connected via USB 3 with 2 x 2TB Drives. I also have Best Sync set up to synchronize the Mediasonic backups to one of 2 USB External USB drives when the are plugged in to the system as well as on a nightly schedule. Every couple of weeks I swap these drives and take them to my parents house where I connect to them to a Pogoplug so I can access them across the net in case there is any need.
The stuff I show off and want to share with family and friends I put up in galleries at Smugmug (power user account). I have unlimited Storage there and they take large high quality jpg files plus I like their galleries.
I chose Best Sync because it wasn’t that expensive, Pro License was 38.00 USD and it offered VSS (Volume Shadow Service) so that open files are synced in case I am still working on them or left Lightroom open accidentally. You can set up tasks to do almost anything you need and have multiple different tasks and different destinations going at different schedules. For example I sync Music files to my home server as well as Outlook PST files and Quicken files. In addition BestSync offers compression, encryption and a backup vault for files that get deleted on the source folder. These are backed up from the target folder before being deleted there in case the deletion was accidental.
I also use Windows Live Mesh to sync some business documents to the cloud and some smaller stuff I use Dropbox and
Best Sync was the way I decided to go in October after coming down one morning to find my Drobo reporting as a RAW drive (talk about heart failure). I used Zero Assumption Recovery to get all the data off that drive (it took about 60 hours) reformatted the Drobo and it has been solid since and even correctly reported (and protected data) from 2 failed hard drives in a 2 week span (all from the same batch at Seagate). Although I am not completely sold on the Drobo any more and may look for another Raid 5 solution.
Another free program you can use is Microsoft’s Sync toy. It can be scheduled to run as a scheduled task as well but doesn’t support VSS. But it can mirror or sync from one drive to another.
One additional thing I was going to start doing at the cost of some additional storage space was to save Lightroom adjustments as XMP sidecar files. Doing this would allow them to be reimported into a fresh copy of Lightroom with all of the adjustments made available.
For travel I store images on a laptop hard drive, then to 2 external hard drives and then to a hyperdrive UDMA color drive. I also try to avoid deleting images off of CF cards until I return home and transfer all of my images from my laptop into my backup system via a Lightroom Catalog export from the laptop.
There are some great new appliances coming out in the next little while as well built on Windows Storage Server Essentials that will allow for NAS and client backup. I saw one from Western Digital back in October that looked very promising.
While my backup system may sound confusing it is all accomplished by the Best Sync Software. I have found it very flexible and I can tailor it for all of my own uses.
Stephen Kennedy
Calgary, Ab, Canada

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