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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Back Up, Dude!

Pro photographer Craig Cowling, aka "Naughty James" (gee, kewl, eh?) suffered a computer failure last month, and lost seven years of work. If he had only backed up even once a year, he would have saved 80% of it!

Back up, dude....




Anonymous Igor I. said...

What, no satire alert this time?

I am dumbfounded. A pro not doing backups? I am a mere amateur, I haven't shot a single frame in RAW in my life, I don't have a decent tripod and b/h, my livelyhood doesn't depend on photography [quite the opposite, in fact :-)], and still I backup to 2 external HDs where one is kept outside my home. I guess the fun I get out of my photos keeps me on my toes.

Igor I.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

My laptop, the Toshiba Satellite Pro 6100 (infamous for having faulty motherboards), died just the other day, the drive still works thankfully, it's used for my backups from another computer, but I'm thinking about another external HD for backups just as a 3rd backup location, as HD failures are surprisingly common, especially as most manufacturers only offer 1 year warranty. What would you recommend Mike? Thanks Josh

5:35 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

I'm not an expert. Online advice is mixed, generally concluding that all hard drives fail eventually. The Red Hill Hard Drive Guide gives an AAA reliability rating to the Samsung SpinPoints. The basic best advice: redundancy.


8:20 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Igor, you're very unusual. Most computer repairpeople report that basic backing up is very rare, and that most people don't even own or use a second drive.


8:24 AM  
Blogger David Emerick said...

Smartreporter is a great little tool to report when a hard drive is beginning to fail. S.M.A.R.T. is a built in tool on Mac OSX that analyzes your hard drive, but you have to run a report manually, SmartReporter continually analyzes your hard drive and warns if a drive is encountering issues.

Personally I have my images backed up on 4 different hard drives, but then I am a little anal that way!


8:52 AM  
Blogger Dave New said...

I used to use tape religously (hey, I was the first full-time software developer for Irwin Magnetics, back in the day), but after hard drive capacities started to outstrip current affordable (read as "less than several thousand dollars in drives and tapes) tape backup solutions, I started investigating alternatives, like CD (too small), DVD (not ready at the time), etc.

After going through a period of essentially no real backups, other than the fact that all household computers had their 'home' directories on a stable Linux server in the basement (and I had a close scare with that one, when the flaky motherboard hard drive DMA controller locked up one day, and almost lost the whole shootin' match), I picked up a couple of 8GB DAT drives used at a hamfest, but still never got around to actually installing them and using them. They required a high-end SCSI interface and special differential-drive cables, both of which are not easy to find at your local CompUSA these days (nor are the DDS4 DAT tapes, it seems, for that matter, and they aren't exactly cheap).

Now, with the advent of really cheap, massive hard drive storage, the active backup solution these days is using external hard drives of one sort or another, with CD/DVD for archival backup of specific projects.

My preferred external drive solution (for backup, not for editing, because of the speed penalty) is to use the Linksys NSLU2 network-attached-storage module, which lets me hook two USB2.0 external drives up, and then they appear on the ethernet LAN.

Tne NSLU2 has a web-based interface that lets you set up private directories for users, and you can also easily schedule backups of machines in the household to one of the drives. So, you can keep working files on your local drive (for speed and ease of access), have the NSLU2 back your 'My Documents' directory nightly to one of the USB2.0 drives, and then once a week, have the entire contents of the first external drive backed up to the 2nd drive.

You could optionally have a 3rd drive, and swap it routinely for the 2nd one, and take one off site, for extra security.

The nice thing about all this is that is fairly easy to set up, the cost is reasonable (the NSLU2 sells for less than $100, a couple of 250GB Lacie drives can be had for about $125 each from, and the system uses little electricity, compared to the old Linux file server machine I had set up in the basement.

One item to be aware of -- the NSLU2 is running Linux internally, and will re-format a new drive that is attached (after asking your permission) to EXT3, which is a robust journaling file system. After this happens, though, you will not be able to disconnect the drive and mount it directly on your desktop or laptop system, unless it is also running Linux. If this frightens you, you could consider downloading and burning a CD- or DVD-based Linux system link Knoppix, which you can boot on any machine without disturbing the installed operating system. Then, you could mount your external drive, and copy any need files to the C: drive in your system, to recover them in case of failure of the NSLU2 server.

The funny thing about backup -- if it isn't fall-over easy, it just never seems to get done.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Joe Decker said...

On trips, two backups (usually a P-2000 and a laptop HD), at home, RAID1, plus a pair of external drives, one at home, one under my wife's desk at her workplace, that change places and get updated at least monthly, which is a really "easy" backup scheme, and easy means I do the backups.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use an external USB2 drive to do almost-daily backups of my main computer (a laptop); the frequency depends on how much new stuff (photography, work and all else) I've been accumulating. THen, once in a while, when I'm "finished" with some set of images - I have postprocessed and posted the images I'm ever likely to do - I do an archival backup onto a DVD disc. The discs I recopy once a year, keeping the two most recent. That way I always have two archival copies of everything permanent.

6:25 AM  

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