The Best Thing You Can Do in 2014


So often we obsess about taking the next great photo that we forget about some of the basics.  Its great to be constantly looking forward to implement new skills but today I’m going to advocate that you stop…and wonder what happens when that hard drive you’ve been using for the last 5 years develops the least little bit of wobble and computer parts crash into each other.  Of course hard drive failures aren’t going to injure anyone (at least I didn’t think they could) but imagine if you lost all your images and videos.  Don’t think that backing up your data is only for professionals, the blurry pictures that you take on your smartphone are capturing a moment in time that you’ll never get back.  Let’s dive into the exciting world of data backup…stay with me casual photogs…this isn’t a boring as you think.

I forget where I read this (I think it was from Leo Laporte’s TWIT network, but a simple backup philosophy involves the idea that a file does not exist unless it is stored in 3 places.

Let me explain.

I use an external hard drive as my ‘working’ hard drive which Aperture accesses when I process my photos.  The working hard drive is my every day copy of the files that I use for my Facebook page, twitter posts, projects and prints.  I use Apple computers which include a very simple backup program called Time Machine.  Simply plug in a dedicated external hard drive, pick the folders you want to back up and it images your working drives.  I backup my computer hard drive and the external working drive.  I like Time Machine since it doesn’t include any file compression or proprietary software…the files are simply stored in the exact same folder structure and it takes ‘ dated snapshots’ of each backup interval so you can go back in time and pick the day and the version of the file you’d like to restore.  Simple.  I use a 3 TB (terrabyte) Seagate drive for my Time Machine backup.

All done you say?  Nope.

What if your house burns down?  What if you’re broken into?  What if you have water damage in the basement?  If you use a working drive and a backup, I’d still argue that you’re not finished.  I’d highly recommend that you use an online backup company as well.  I use Smugmug for my website who allows unlimited backup storage for photos and video.  It used to be very tedious to use Aperture to upload to Smugmug since it routinely timed out but since Apple released version 3.5.1, the upload process is seamless.  I recently re-uploaded all of my 2012 photos/videos and it chugged away for 3 days.  It didn’t stop until it was finished.  There are other sites such as Carbonite and Backblaze that I’ve heard great things about but you’ll have to do your homework since I can’t recommend services I haven’t used before.


Let me tell you a few stories.  I was the victim of a burglar (eye witnesses pegged it at 3 burglars but that’s a story for another day) about 5 years ago in Calgary.  I didn’t have an online backup strategy at that point in time, I was only using Time Machine.  Thankfully the burglars had enough sense that an external hard drive is worthless in the open market so they didn’t take it.  Had they taken that drive or if I hadn’t been using Time Machine, every photo and video of my infant daughter would have been lost….the maternity photos, the hospital photos of the day our life changed forever, photos of her grandparents holding her for the first time….

The second story involves a friend who recently dealt with a house fire and lost everything.  All the heirlooms, antiques and keepsakes are in a pile of ash.  An online backup service is the last yet very important piece of the puzzle.

The third story involves Apple themselves.  Recently Apple released their latest computer operating software, named Mavericks.  Mavericks is the latest and greatest with new features and is priced very attractively….$0.  Download it for free and Apple is happy that you have one more reason to stay with Apple.  If you’re computer is too old to run it, it might be the tipping point of buying a new computer.  Mavericks is as good as advertised except for one fatal flaw… was erasing Seagate and Western Digital external drives….ouch.

I’m lucky that the two WD drives I use are not affected, one being the working drive I referenced earlier.  The only affected drive is my Time Machine Drive where Mavericks refused to accept that the drive exists (except for maybe 2 seconds and then tells me that I ejected it incorrectly).  Mavericks has an updated control center at the top left corner of the screen which gives me warnings of how long its been since Time Machine has ran its program….50 days and counting.  This feature is really just a running tally of how long the bug exists.  Frustrating in the very least….but I still have my online backups.

I’ve dodged a few bullets in the data loss arena which has convinced me more than ever that data backups are crucial.

What to do now?

Go to your local retailer and buy an external drive.  3TB drives cost less than $200 these days.  Plug it in and turn on Time Machine.

What if you don’t use Apple?  Plug it in, copy the parent directory where all of your photos are stored and paste it onto the new external drive.  This isn’t a fancy solution but it will buy you some time to research how to set up a PC backup.  The first place to start is with the external drive manufacturer themselves – they usually include some sort of backup program on the drive.

Now you’ve bought yourself enough time to do your own research for a reputable online backup.

Good luck!


PS – Download your phone photos at least once per week, you’ll thank me later.

2 thoughts on “The Best Thing You Can Do in 2014

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