File backup / storage

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File backup / storage

There's been some talk about file backup and storage in this thread on shooting in RAW, but I thought I'd go ahead and start a dedicated thread for people to discuss solutions.

What's it worth?

If you're working with large files, whether they be RAW photos, PSDs, or video files, space can quickly become an issue. Obviously, gaining access to terabytes of redundant storage space isn't exactly cheap, but at the same time, my feeling is that if you have terabytes of stuff you want to back up, you've probably put a lot of blood and sweat into those files... and that blood and sweat is probably worth more than the storage space (especially for those items which are not reproduce-able). So my feeling is that it's worth making some sacrifices if necessary to make sure you're backed up, and backed up well.

Everyone has relied on a single hard drive at some point, but if it hasn't happened to you already, a single hard drive will fail (I've had four fail on me in the last two years). Typical consumer-grade hard drives fail at a rate of around 5-10% per year. So anything on one hard drive for one year has about a 1 in 10 chance of disappearing, higher when you factor in loss, theft, and hurricanes.

Multiple Drives

Having things on two drives decreases the risk of loss exponentially, because it's very unlikely that both drives will fail at the same time. So having a file on two drives typically makes it "safe," but only if you are consistently checking both drives for failures (by running a thorough test: a drive that contains corrupted sectors will likely still show up on your computer when you plug it in--but that doesn't mean that your files are safe). If you back up to an external drive, and then set it aside for months or years, only going back to it when you've lost a file, that external drive may no longer be dependable. Consequently, I would advise everyone to run thorough tests on your external drives at least once a year.

CDs and DVDs can be good options for backup, but I would suggest using them in addition to hard drive backup, rather than as a replacement (having at least two backups of your most important files--say, one on an external drive, and one on a DVD--is definitely advisable if you aren't checking the discs very regularly). The long-term reliability of optical disc storage is of yet unknown.

Another factor for consideration is "local disaster": if all your backups are stored in your house, and there's a flood or a fire, or some other unfortunate disaster, it won't matter that you had your files on three different drives: they will likely all be gone together. This is where backing up to "The Cloud" (i.e. distant computers via the internet) can be handy. There are a number of services available (Google Drive, Moby, Dropbox, etc.), though the best option for serious long-term storage, in my opinion, is a combination of Amazon's S3 + Amazon Glacier services.

The advantage of online options

Online storage options aren't cheap, but a reliable service like Amazon's is far, far more redundant and fail-safe than any local backup option you can create: Amazon replicates your data across multiple hard drives in multiple geographic regions (so if a facility burns down, you're covered), and performs regular data integrity checks on everything. The service costs $0.125 per GB per month, which is pricey, but the great thing is that you can send older files that you are no longer accessing regularly to Amazon "Glacier", which only costs $0.01 per GB per month (which is just as redundant, but less speedy to access). You can store 1 TB of data on Glacier for $120 per year. Again, not cheap, but not that much more than the price of a single 1 TB consumer-grade external hard drive: and Glacier is providing much, much more reliable storage). Still, the price barrier may be enough to keep people away who aren't "professionally" attached to their files...

Anyway, sorry that this turned into such a long post smiley . I don't mean to be alarmist about data storage: I've just seen so many people lose precious files, that I want to do everything I can to inform people of the risks involved. One last word of warning, and then I'll quit(!): Any backup that has not been tested for retrieval (and is not being regularly tested) is not really a backup.

What do you do / think?

So... what do you guys think? What do you use and why? Do you have a foolproof backup method? Have you experienced disaster? Do you think I'm being overly cautious?

I do this:
Save all my files on my computer
And save all the same files on an external harddrive
Check both regularly so they work ofc smiley
And the best part of doing this is that it's not very likely they gonna die at the same time smiley

One thing to think about when it comes to cds and stuff is that the lifetime is short.. About 2 years i think they say smiley I've lost a lot of things in the past because of that.. So i wouldn't recomend cds smiley I have no ide about the dvds tho smiley

A recent study of DVDs stated that is hard to judge. DVDs are manifuactured with different materials depending on the price and availability of the product. So even a brand name that is known for their quality it is not know. A test was run using a brand name from 2 different stocks. One was fine and the other failed.

The life of a DVD is only as good as the product used to create the DVD. So DVDs should only be used as a secondary backup system, unless this is the only one you have. Than one may want to consider creating a backup months later from a different batch of DVDs. This way you stand a better chance of one of them lasting. The same is true of CDs the life is only as good as the product used to create the CD.

What I do to backup my files is every couple of years I purchase a new external drive and copy information to the new drive. Keep the old one and now have another backup. I do use DVDs as secondary backup. I also share with family members some of files, especially the scanned and or edited family pictures. It makes a nice off site storage as well as another backup.

I have had drives fail. One drive failed while I was backing up information from the drive. I did lose files on the drive, but having made backup disks I was able to retrieve the missing files.

I use a couple of external hard drives (and I dropped one once on the tile and that was the end of that) and we also have a Shadow-thingee in our house which backs up all the PCs in the house daily. The problem is keeping everything in synch.

I don't use on-line storage other than for what I put on my web sites, mainly because it seems like ultimately you are at the mercy of that provider to not be down or hacked or go out of business, might be okay for redundancy. I think you really need to back up in at least two locations other than your PC. Someone I know says if you don't have two back ups you have nothing.

I mirror my work on two separate hard drives on my laptop, and then I also backup to two separate external hard drives. I consider the laptop drives to be constantly at risk of failing, so I take care of my external drives by locking one in a fireproof safe, and storing the second one at my work office. Even though I think these actions might ensure safety, I'm sure there is something that could happen to lose it all. I also used Carbonite in the past, but found it to be too slow in restoring data. My 1T Passport drives were faster and cheaper, and fit into my purse.

The only disaster I've had was a recent laptop hard-drive fail. But I heard horror stories from many peers in college, so I have used an external hard-drive for my primary storage for a long time now. I do have an old HD that ran out of space, and it's sitting in the closet -- but most of what is on it is also on my current EHD. Guess I need to make sure I check on it every couple of months, huh? I'll put it on the calendar next to testing the smoke detectors. smiley

We've started to look into online storage because we recently inherited all of my MIL's photos -- completely unorganized and reaching back into the 50s. We just don't have the proper storage space for all those photos, so we're scanning digital images & chucking the originals (it's either that or let them get damaged in the attic, anyway!), saving them to a cloud system so my husband's siblings can access, too. I have to admit, the same thought as Tina's has crossed my mind: how safe are these cloud systems & how much access do employees of the company have to my storage? I guess I have to take it on faith the same way I do many other digital technologies, but still...I had a friend who had a blog for years and suddenly the host shut down, never to reopen again. She lost all those journal entries of at least 4 years. This was in early 2000s and I realize she's an outlier, but the story has stayed with me.

Might I ask what constitutes running a "thorough test"? Do I need a special software or can I use the disk management system on my OS?

Judy wrote:
I also share with family members some of files, especially the scanned and or edited family pictures. It makes a nice off site storage as well as another backup.

Good thinking smiley

Sunny wrote:
I take care of my external drives by locking one in a fireproof safe, and storing the second one at my work office. Even though I think these actions might ensure safety, I'm sure there is something that could happen to lose it all.

Wow Sunny, I think you're doing pretty good there! smiley

Lady P wrote:
Might I ask what constitutes running a "thorough test"? Do I need a special software or can I use the disk management system on my OS?

Windows has some basic error checking options build in, which work well enough: if you right-click on a disk and choose properties, then go to the "Tools" tab, there's an option to check for errors: see screenshot 1 + screenshot 2. I believe Mac OS X has something similar (can anyone confirm?).

What's preferable is to use the tools provided by your drive manufacturer, if you know the manufacturer (easy for external drives). A large percentage of the world's hard drives are manufactured by Seagate or Western Digital. Seagate has a tool called Seatools for disk checking, and Western Digital has Data Lifeguard. Other manufacturers have similar programs. Using software other than the drive manufacturer's will occasionally give incorrect diagnoses...

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I don't use on-line storage other than for what I put on my web sites, mainly because it seems like ultimately you are at the mercy of that provider to not be down or hacked or go out of business, might be okay for redundancy.

That's definitely true to an extent, Linda. That's why, for serious backup I would advise a company like Amazon (or possibly Google). These companies are some of the largest in the world, and have very reliable infrastructures in place. They also handle very significant data for a large number of very significant clients. Amazon's S3 framework, for instance, is the same framework that handles data for various US Federal Government organizations, and thousands of other high-profile companies: they take their security, redundancy, and availability very seriously, as do those high-profile clients...

All that being said, I would still keep at least one copy of anything I put on Amazon's servers... but statistics would say a backup on Amazon is worth quite a bit more than a backup on an external hard drive...

And great job with your own backups: sounds like you've got a good system in place!

Jordan wrote:

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I believe Mac OS X has something similar (can anyone confirm?).

I think I know what you are talking about in Mac OS... but since my OS is all in Dutch, I can't recall the English terms! So, I'll have to guess, since I can't do the cool screenshot-thing you did, Jordan smiley

Inside your Programs folder is a folder with tools depicted on it (help me out here if you know the English term, it might be called Utilities?). Inside is a program (disc repair?) that looks like a hard-drive with a stethoscope. If you open it, you can run a disk check and repair it if need be.

Thank you so much for this post! It bothers me daily that I do not have ANY backup plan. I keep "meaning" to get one into place, but I never seem to get to it. I recently lost an entire hd that had only my creations. I had spent TONS of time on these projects and hoped to be able to one day share or sell them...one day in the very distant future. smiley I was simply devastated. I should have known better because I had lost a hd some time before this. It took me a looooong time to get past this. I am STILL trying to recover some of these files. It's a long and tedious process, and the files I've recovered have no familiar title so it is also difficult.

I'm going to reread your post and do something...online backup sounds like the easiest and safest approach. I'm never sure I'm doing the backup correctly when I use programs, but I didn't have the extra money to backup online, but you're right, what you said says it all: Obviously, gaining access to terabytes of redundant storage space isn't exactly cheap, but at the same time, my feeling is that if you have terabytes of stuff you want to back up, you've probably put a lot of blood and sweat into those files... and that blood and sweat is probably worth more than the storage space (especially for those items which are not reproduce-able). So my feeling is that it's worth making some sacrifices if necessary to make sure you're backed up, and backed up well.

Thank you again!

P.S. I have 6 external harddrives! But I don't have to backup everything...there are 2 hds that I would again be devastated beyond belief if I lost. Gotta get on this ASAP!

I ha d been backing up on external hard drives. We had 2 different drives crash in one week, thankfully we were able to recover one. The second drive was mostly saved on my laptop as well but, it got me thinking about using an online service as an extra backup.

I definitely agree with making copies of photos and giving them to family. We want to share them anyways! My family tries to share photos from when we get together - usually just twice a year - but not so recently. One of the last things that is done before the first family leaves is the passing of photos on USB sticks from laptop to laptop.

But we've not done so good about sharing photos taken during the year. My photo taking has drastically been cut in the last 4 years though and it shouldn't be to hard to pass things, like making Disks for each family for Christmas in addition to other presents.

Hubby's sister just lost everything in a fire this last fall...and she had a scrapping room filled with stuff! Sad part is she so far away and WE are the ones who have to travel there, so it's usually a couple of years between visits, and I don't have many photos of her and her daughter to help her rescue the most important items in a scrapper's stash---the photos of family!

I currently use Dropbox (cloud storage). It is free, unless you need to upgrade for more space. I like that I can have access to photos and files with my phone, iPad, and computer. I have it set for auto downloading my photos from my phone and iPad. I am just starting out with Photoshop, so I'm thinking about getting an external hard drive.

I have one question. When backing up online to a storage provider, are incremental backups included or offered? Also, if you are storing your harddrives in different locations, how can you keep them updated with any changes you have made to your files?

Thanks for your help!

@Cindy I have Carbonite backing up my files. I continually backs up in the background. If changes are made to files Carbonite backs up the updated files. I must say that with digi scrap supplies it does take some time if you keep adding to your stash. You also have an info center that you can pull up to see the status. I have included in my subscription the backup of one external hard drive. Mine is 3T. As of now, I have 171 GB backed up (268k files) as well as 401k files pending. Again it takes some time but I have slowed down downloading digi files so hopefully I will catch up soon. When I got a new laptop (with more HD space!) it was quite easy to pull the files down to my new laptop. Wish it were a little faster but other than that it works well for me. I will say that I do keep my digi files backed up also on DVDs periodically.

Thank you so much for this helpful information, Janet! I plan on getting on top of this right away...like now! smiley

Just checked the EH that I want to backup...432 GB! ALL cu items. The other EH I have won't be near that, TG! Does Carbonite charge by the size you are storing? Thanks again!

thanks for the advice smiley

Carbonite charges flat rates for what you want to cover. I bought a 3T external hard drive so I would have plenty of space! Further my HD is 1 T - it backs that up as well. Also gives you the ability to backup your entire HD on an EHD. My problem with this is that I don't have an EHD big enough to do this right now - once I get all my pending digi scrap stuff on my 3T I should then be fine.

You also can pick the length of time - I chose to buy the two year plan as you do save some money when doing this. When I got Carbonite they did not offer an EHD backup and when they added that feature I easily upgraded to include it and they prorated what was left on my subscription and credited my new subscription with me paying only the difference.

To add to all of this, their customer service support is excellent!

Wow, Janet, sounds like a great deal. I really appreciate all of this helpful info. I noticed their prices are more reasonable than other plans. Now I have more questions! I can't find the info. on the site....

1) Can I backup 2 EHs?

2) Can you pay on a monthly basis, or does it have to be yearly?

3) How many GBs in 1 TB? I have an EH that I'll soon (hopefully) be able to use for add'l. backup. It has a capacity of 931 GB. I'm just wondering if I could transfer the contents of both of my EHs (465 GB and maybe 200 GB or so on the other, and then, of course, My Documents), and if this would cost me less overall when backing up online (backing up 1 EH online instead of 2). The EH that's new and ready to go is 1 TB.

Thanks for all of the great info.! It's terrible not knowing what to do/how to do it, helps so much to have some (or a lot of) guidance! Appreciate it! smiley

@Cindy 1) You can only back up 1 EHD but you can do an additional "mirror image" of your computer on a different EHD

2) I believe that they only have annual subscriptions, but by doing a two year subscription you will get it for a little less for each year but then all is due on purchase

3) 1,024 gigabytes (GB) equals 1 terabyte (TB)
A terabyte is 1,024 gigabytes.

I ended up finding a 3T EHD so that it would last me a while. It has been a while but I think that you enter the serial number for the EHD when setting up the backup.

Thanks so much, Janet, for answering every question I had in such a kind manner! Now I have all of the information I needed to follow through and finally accomplish my objective, thanks to you! Now I just have to find the money! Can't wait to get started with this! Actually, my friend just said he'll help me, soooo, I'll finally have some peace of mind regarding this pressing issue! Thanks to everyone for all of your help!

Quote:
believe Mac OS X has something similar (can anyone confirm?).
I think I know what you are talking about in Mac OS... but since my OS is all in Dutch, I can't recall the English terms! So, I'll have to guess, since I can't do the cool screenshot-thing you did, Jordan

Inside your Programs folder is a folder with tools depicted on it (help me out here if you know the English term, it might be called Utilities?). Inside is a program (disc repair?) that looks like a hard-drive with a stethoscope. If you open it, you can run a disk check and repair it if need be.

It's called Disk Utility and you indeed check your disc with it and do repairs and check the permission if they are written into the right directory. if not the Disk Utility will offer to place them at the right pont.

Being a Unix-based OS, we tend to forget that, we have daily rotations etc that we never notice because they run in the background. Except if you are a nerd like me and do not trust that it all works as it should you have a separate software for that that checks and does the daily, weekly, monthly maintenance. It also removes all foreign languages from software. Software comes written in maybe 20 languages or more while you only use one or in my case 3 languages. I use English French and Dutch. All other languages are stripped and that makes my software runs faster and a HUGE disk portion freed from files that I will never use, like Chinese, Korean, etc. This is in short how the Mac keeps itself running smoothly. smiley

Interesting thread, to read how you all back up, or not of course. smiley

I have seen people who back up to a EHD say that if it all runs fine that it's ok. But the best back-up happens off site, meaning outside your home. If there is a break-in, water damage or a fire you still loose everything. Most advice to back up to and EHD and have a back-up off site as well.

I use SugarFancy that not only backs up my stuff but also synchronizes, so I have on all my computer and portable devices like iPad and iPhone the same files. If 'm well enough to work on my iMac I can save my files and move to my bed and use my laptop. It's like magic. smiley Having a husband who is a Software Architect on the mobile platform does help. Although he is not in my network, he uses Linux, we both share our Fios connection.

We have all our music uploaded to Google Play and Amazon Cloud and can play it wherever I am, all my images are automatically uploaded to my Dropbox and the great peeps of Dropbox have now granted me access to their new feature, albums. Managing my photos has never been easier with Dropbox albums!

I've been using Carbonite for years and it has saved me at least 4 times due to computer crashes!!!

I use Crashplan (crashplan.com) for backup. I tried Carbonite but for some reason it kept crashing my computer, and their support couldn't figure out why. I've had to backup from it twice and both times it worked flawlessly. However, I'm trying to find other options because I don't like having all my stuff floating around out there in the 'cloud,' no matter how safe it is. I'm just weird that way. smiley

exactly why I don't do it... (and use EHD's) I don't want anyone seeing any of my personal stuff (at least not any more than I already share) like tax reports, budgets, personal paperwork, insurance, etc. And I don't care what anyone says about how safe it is. Where I have lived the past 5 years, the entire STATE income tax program was hacked and someone out there has ALL or almost every filers (since 1998) social security #'s, credit card #'s, & debit card #'s here now. The last two were from those of us who owed money and paid online via CC or DC. smiley See this video news article here.
eta: btw they only gave us ONE year of paid ss# watch protection (similar to LifeLock) after that we're all on our own at $300/per person in your family (children too). smiley

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However, I'm trying to find other options because I don't like having all my stuff floating around out there in the 'cloud,' no matter how safe it is. I'm just weird that way.

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I use Crashplan (crashplan.com) for backup. I tried Carbonite but for some reason it kept crashing my computer, and their support couldn't figure out why. I've had to backup from it twice and both times it worked flawlessly. However, I'm trying to find other options because I don't like having all my stuff floating around out there in the 'cloud,' no matter how safe it is. I'm just weird that way.

You do realize that no matter what you choose it will be in cloud storage. They may not advertise it that way but large companies like crashplan all use cloud storage. No one hardly every uses large severs where they store customers data. It's just too expensive and the way technology is progressing every company uses cloud technology. Large server parks are the last decade.

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exactly why I don't do it... (and use EHD's) I don't want anyone seeing any of my personal stuff (at least not any more than I already share) like tax reports, budgets, personal paperwork, insurance, etc. And I don't care what anyone says about how safe it is.

But what happens if your EHD's get stolen? If there i a break in thieves are not going to unplug your EHD's first and leave them. They just take everything with them. or when your EHD's fail and you have to do a data recovery all your data is out there for the company to see and steal. At some point you will have to trust someone or you will risk losing it all.
You can do better than your state did, apparently it was not that difficult to get in and steal what they wanted. You can't blame cloud technology for that. Technology is only as safe as the amount of safety you put in it. If your State makes it that easy for thieves to come in than they are to blame and not the technology.

I want to check the disk I accidentally reformatted. Did not have a problem prior to this. Now, I am trying to check the disk (EH), but it is not opening...the auto-play is not working for this EH. Does anyone know a fix for this?

@ Christine - yep, I understand that everything is cloud these days. I have my pictures backed up on DVDs stored elsewhere, so that's not an issue, and everything else I "need" is recoverable other ways. If I were to lose all my digiscrap supplies, that would suck, but I'd be alright. It's mostly pictures that I'm worried about. I might look into the Amazon solutions that Jordan posted, though, because I do a lot of business with Amazon and semi-trust them.

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But what happens if your EHD's get stolen? If there i a break in thieves are not going to unplug your EHD's first and leave them. They just take everything with them. or when your EHD's fail and you have to do a data recovery all your data is out there for the company to see and steal. At some point you will have to trust someone or you will risk losing it all.

Welllll.... I'm very lucky, since my hubby is my computer guy. He's been in computers for 20+ years. He's a system admin of a company and my EHD's get backed up once a month. Which btw are actually ghostings (aka: a clone) of my exact hard drives. For each EHD I own (3 to be exact) I have a Hard Drive (real regular computer one, not a thin EHD) that is an exact replica of the original. (1) 400GB - my actual laptop HD; (2) TB ones that consist of everything else in our lives: docs, pics, and the most important: digi-scrap. smiley jk

The chance of a thief being able to successfully break into my hubbies work is very slim. And the chances of an act of God happening at both locations at the same time is very slim, too. So, if one ever goes bad I use the back up and then my "recovery specialist" only has to try to recover from the date of the last back up, therefore making it more likely to recover the lost data. And I don't mind if he sees any of my personal data. LoL

All that said, anyone could do what we do. It just takes a small amount of learning to ghost a HD. And the reality is it's cheaper and safer. If you're an average Joe, my hubby recommends putting your back-ups in a safety deposit box. They're only about $35/year and you have access to it 9-5 M-F.

Side Note: Once about 8 yrs ago, my HD crashed (pre the system we now have & a much smaller HD space) He couldn't get the plates to spin for nothing. The genius said: Ok babe... it's GONE!!! but... I can try one more thing, BUT... you have to accept it's GONE before I try it because what I try may fail and I don't want you mad at me, but it's our last hope at making the plates spin. I cried for a couple days. Then I said OK. His idea was to freeze the HD for 48 hours, then reinstall it & start it up with a new HD at the realm in case it worked and do a recovery and copy to the new HD. and guess what o.m. goodness.... it worked. LoL The reason it was a last ditch effort is that apparently the freezing changes the size of the plates temporarily (or something like that I'm not the computer person, LoL so my terminology could be wrong) but once it thaws out so to speak they are a different size from the original or such & such and so they are ruined FOR SURE after the process. Any who... he was my hero after that and I knew he was very intelligent & good at his job. LoL

PS I agree about our states flawed system and I do know my husband has positive things to say about "the cloud" technology. He even made me go to a 2 day technology seminar with him to 8 classes to help make me trust him, but it took me until last year to even start paying my regular bills over the internet and do online banking. LoL I'm a slow person with trusting all of that type of technology (which is very frustrating for him sometimes, rest assured, LoL). Btw, some of those classes we went to were all about "hacking"... They were teaching the attendees how to protect themselves from vulnerabilities and how most hackers start out trying to get into their system and the things to do to secure it and watch for, BUT that didn't help the reasoning behind why the hubby wanted me to attend the conference with him. smiley LoL

Sorry so long. smiley

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