Backing Up!

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Not long ago I ran across a blog post from advertising photographer Chase Jarvis about his studio’s image back up and storage solution.  See it here.  (By the way, Chase has one of the best blogs out there about photography, so definitely add him to your RSS feeder.)

It was perfect timing because I was just in the process of figuring out how to safely store and back up my archive.  I’m one of those terribly unfortunate people who has actually lost some pictures because of hard drive failure.  Although, it wasn’t from lack of back up…. years ago I was storing my photos on separate 1TB LaCie drives, 4 in total, 2 main drives and 2 back up.  But at almost the exact same time two of the disks completely died….. first a loud clicking sound and then the faint whiff of electrical smoke.  One disk held my originals, and unfortunately the other held the back up for that particular drive!  What were the odds?!?  And as they were striped RAID disks (two 500GB disks connected to make a 1TB) it was impossible to recover any information from them.

Luckily, most of the images on that drive pair were drum scans from images I shot on print film, so at least I still have many of the originals in a box somewhere.  But I did lose a few images forever, like the one below that I now only have in low resolution, and as a tear sheet from the magazine.  

The system that Chase Jarvis describes is probably in the neighborhood of $15,000 or more.  Below is how I met my current needs for not much more than $1,100.

Backing up really is about ease of use….. the harder it is for the user to do, the less often it is done.  I needed to put together a simple and safe back-up and archiving system that was mostly automatic and didn’t require daily maintenance.  

SansDigital makes some inexpensive hard disk enclosures.  I bought two of the TowerRAID TR5M models, a 4 bay RAID array that connects to the computer via eSata into a RAID controller card.  I have it set up as JBOD, which means each of the four disks shows up as a separate disk on my desktop.  (I try not to use any sort of striping RAID now to simplify recovery in case of a failure).  I use one array  for daily (or more frequent) back up, and the second array is stored in an offsite secured location and is brought in every week to be updated. 

In my office  we have a MacPro with 4TBs of internal storage, which houses the bulk of my image archive. The main disk in Bay 1 of that computer is where we do most of our current editing and retouching.   I have a 2TB FW800 external disk attached and with Time Machine, this main internal hard disk is backed up incrementally throughout the day. When a project is finished, we will move that job to one of the other internal hard disks. The Intego software is set to automatically back up the four internal disks to the 4 disks in the RAID array every night.  So current work is backed up constantly throughout the day, and our other work is backed up at least once a night.

Then we have another MacPro for some more retouching and general office work, and finally a couple laptops which come with us on location shoots.  We never store original images on the two laptops or this other MacPro.  So those have a single external disk attached, and Intego Back Up Manager automatically writes a bootable back up of each internal disk every day, while Time Machine handles incremental back-ups throughout the day 

The TR5M cost about $150 each, plus another $100 each for 1TB sata drives, so the whole set up was about $1,100.

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Written by Christopher Kilkus

March 9th, 2009 at 9:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Backing Up!'

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  1. I dont have near the important sh1t or the amount of stuff you have, but man, my backup system needs an overhaul….this plan sounds good….thanks for posting


    9 Mar 09 at 7:30 pm

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