Monday, July 27, 2009

How I store/backup my photos.

I'm gearing up to leave this week for a month of shooting in the Atlantic Provinces (PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland). The original plan was to spend August in the Yukon, but the mishap with the van (see earlier post "van vs tree") and subsequent time to have the body work done ended up pushing back my departure date. Facing a 5 day drive (each way) and reduced window of time for the trip, I've decided to go to the much-closer east coast.

This past week I did a marathon of office work (processing raw files) to be caught up before hitting the road in a few days. Over the duration of my travels since last October, I've added a huge number of photos to my collection. The importance of properly storing and backing up the collection is always on my mind. Several people have asked me how I do this, so here's the scoop.
For years, my approach has been to have 4 copies of my collection as follows:

1) Primary drives in my desktop computer that I use as the current working copy of my photo collection.
2) A second set of drives in my desktop computer setup as a "Raid 1" configuration. These automatically mirror the primary drives so there's an up-to-date backup copy in case of a primary drive failure.
3) A backup copy of the entire collection on external hard-drives that I keep offsite at a friend's house in case of fire or flood at my house.
4) Another backup copy of the photo collection on external hard drive that travels with me so I always have access to my photos.

It should go without saying that you need to backup regularly!

My photo collection has grown so large that it has become difficult to manage storing it on individual hard drives. Last week I bought a Drobo storage system and a set of new drives (Western Digital Caviar Green drives which are rated as some of the most reliable drives) which will replace the function of #1 and #2 above. I'm not a technology expert so I won't try to explain how the Drobo works, but you can google it for more info. After I get back from the Atlantic trip, I'll be migrating my files to the Drobo and look forward to the new system.

Happy shooting!


  1. I've been using Drobo for over a year now and I have to say it is a great system to invest in for backing up your stuff.

    Happy travels out East!

  2. Hi Ethan,

    'A second set of drives in my desktop computer setup as a "Raid 0"'

    Are you sure you mean RAID 0? RAID 0 is striping, not mirroring. Which would make losing your data multiple times more likely than a single drive. RAID 1 is mirroring. See

    Otherwise your method looks pretty solid. I would just emphasize for others that human error is a bigger problem than a disk failure -- so don't rely on RAID as your only backup :)

  3. Hey Mat, thanks for catching that.... it was a typo on my part. Just corrected it!
    Happy shooting!

  4. Carolyn7:39 AM

    Can't wait to see your Maritime photos -- there is some spectacular scenery out that way, both rugged and pastoral and I have no doubt you'll do it justice. Heading out for a few weeks myself at the end of the week, just wish Newfoundland was on the schedule for this year - so amazing. Safe travels.