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!

Posted on

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

Shoot the Skies!

A little photography tip here to start the year. Sometimes we get some really great shots, the only problem with some of these shots is that the sky in the background can be very dull. A blue sky with no clouds or a dull grey overcast sky can change the look of the photo. If you are not shooting editorial or historical images why not consider replacing that dull sky.

When carrying your camera around look for interesting skies you can shoot. These are the images that you can use to replace the skies in your dull or boring photos.

Here in Calgary we live in big sky country! With very little humidity in the summer, we often get blue skies that stretch across the sky from horizon to horizon with no clouds at all. Really kind of dull. When I see a nice interesting sky with big fluffy clouds I will, often shoot shots of the skies and clouds with all of my camera bodies with different lenses and focal lengths. I also look to shoot dark and stormy skies. I shoot anything that I think I might use later in another image. These are then collected in a folder called skies. If I end up taking a photo with a boring sky I can replace those skies with something more interesting in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. This can greatly improve the look of the final image.

Some people will say that this is cheating, but as I said earlier unless you are shooting editorial or historical photos, why not create the image that you like.

I am really looking for spending a few days in Florida in February and shooting some skies there.

So go out and shoot some skies for your collection!

A New Beginning

A strange title for a blog post and there is meaning, in fact two meanings behind this.

Firstly, it has been a really long time since I wrote anything on this blog. In fact I it was July 2010! That will all change in the next little while as I am dedicating myself to try and post more and also do a re-design of my entire web site (an awful 90’s looking site) and the blog. Look for a lot of posts on gadgets as well as some on photography (my second passion).

Secondly, a major change has occurred in my life! It has been almost a month since I got the call late on a Wednesday night!

Back in November I had booked off the morning (from my full time gig) of a Wednesday to attend an Intel Presentation here in Calgary. After the session I worked the remainder of the day from home. Late in the afternoon I sent my boss an email indicating that I wanted to work from home the next day as well as we had to arrange some shifting to pick up the kids and to get to my girls soccer team’s game that night. I got a frantic call at around 10:30 PM while I was at a client site from my boss that I had to be in the next morning as it was very important. I knew what was coming.

I got home that evening and my wife asked if I had spoken to my boss and what was up. I told her I had to be in the next morning and that I guessed that I was losing my job.

As soon as I got into the office that Thursday I was asked to come into my bosses office! On the walk I muttered here it comes. I have to say he took it really well! I was informed that due to a restructure nationally, my position was being eliminated and since there was no position suitable to my talents I was being put on income protection! I almost cheered when I heard it! I met with a rep from a Career Transition Service Company, dismissed the grief counsellor that was on hand in case I reacted badly, had a short chat with my boss, packed up my belongs, called for a ride home and quietly left the office. It is funny that I had visualized the scenario the night before and I stuck to my script! Apparently this was all to happen Wednesday but my boss forgot to check the vacation calendar and did a Doh when I sent him an email reminder the Wednesday morning that I wouldn’t be in that morning!

Sounds strange doesn’t it? I have just lost my job and I was happy? I had been with the company for just almost 20 years (just short of 19.5 years actually). The last 15 years had been in the IT side of the company. For the last several years however I was really bored with what I was doing. I often complained to my old boss that had retired in July that there just wasn’t enough work for me and my team! When I was moved into the position back in 2002 I indicated that this would some day happen as I didn’t see the job being relevant back then!

I have received a what I consider a very fair package (I will get a lawyer to review it soon) and it gives me lots of freedom over the next little while. I can try to find a job that I would enjoy or I can decide to get really serious about my business and build up the clientele there! I have a Career Transition Group that I have been assigned to for help with getting back into the work force!

With the Christmas season right around the corner though I have decided to spend more time with my family and relax a bit. We have started doing things that we have put off for 10 years because I have the time (although we have slacked off in the last week doing that) and I will start the new job search in earnest in the New Year. I even plan on building a photography and video studio in my basement and getting my office space cleaned up!

So when I say it is a new beginning for me it truly is! Look for more posts here on all kinds of cool toys and gadgets as well as some tips and posts for friends and clients on photography!

Take care and a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year to all my family friends and clients!