Chuck Espinoza Photography

Los Angeles Based Freelance Photographer.
Photography business

Having a backup plan

July 23, 2016

A lot of my work day is filled with very un-sexy, non-photography chores. One of which is creating and maintaining a backup plan. My plan has developed and adapted over the years. What started as a stack of external drives has now morphed into a network attached computer that stores 11 terabytes of work.  Here is how I handle the amount of data and safeguard it.

  1. Backup at the time of ingestion. After a shoot I make two copies of all the files. One goes to my main working drive and a second copy goes to a backup drive. The folders are named by date, location and client. The backup drive is an external eSATA enclosure that I can swap out hard drive’s when full (kinda like a regular external backup except I can replace the drive when it’s full).
  2. I work off one main computer and this working computer holds my most recent 3 years worth of work (about 10 TB). I review the shoot, rate the images, delete the junk and then edit and deliver to the client as needed.
  3. After I complete step 2, I replace the folder on the backup drive with this updated copy. Now I have two copies of all the work I have done.
  4. When the backup drive gets full I take that drive to my storage unit. (yes I know in the event of a fire I’m screwed)

I’ve dabbled with online storage options but haven’t found one that suits a my workflow or budget. I recently tried Amazon’s unlimited cloud drive storage that comes with amazon prime. It’s a great priced option but a giant pain in the ass. The Amazon Drive app used to upload files often locks up and stops uploading so I find myself having to pause and restart the upload process. Amazon’s AWS S3 service isn’t cost effective for my needs and their new cold storage would still set me back about $150/month.

After my previous backup plan was proven to be flawed I opted to turn an old PC into a network attached computer rather than spending money on a network attached storage device for a couple reasons. It’s pretty inexpensive to build a PC. The PC doesn’t have to be fast, have much memory or fancy video cards. It just needs a giant case and a motherboard that will allow a bunch of drives. Network attached storage devices aren’t cost effective and they are “dumb”. You are in for $300-$600 for five bays plus the cost of drives. Even if you are starting from scratch you can build a computer for that amount that will hold at least six drives with room to grow and in a pinch it doubles as a backup computer. Because the computer is attached via my network I can access all my old work (2002-2012) any time I need.

It’s not the safest system because the backup is stored in the same location as the main files but if my house burns down I got bigger problems.


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