In the last 10 years of our wedding photography, we’ve taken over 1 million images.
Now there are all kinds of resources on how to grow your business: pricing, marketing, Photoshop, etc. But we’ve never once heard someone share about one key thing that SO many in our industry are doing ineffectively:
How to Backup Your Data…Right
Before photography, I worked in IT with major enterprise servers that handled tons of information. So I knew right away the importance of backing up your data.
Let me help save you from crying yourself to sleep at night and losing opportunities for major profits (which I’ve done in the past 10 years ’til I learned how to do this right).
How can you backup your data without breaking the bank?
Let’s start here.
Why Should I Care?
Years later, after they’ve healed from their financial wedding crisis, your couples may finally want to order an album. Or maybe their dog chewed up their wedding disc and they need to order another copy. Or a commercial client may want to purchase an image from years back for their advertising. Or maybe an awesome wedding magazine wants to publish your wedding from 5 years ago. This has happened to us LOTS.
With our photo and film studio, we use 20+ TB of data per year. We have to store everything and work efficiently, making our retrieval of past data simple, easy to find, and reliable.
KEY: Backup ALL your data on at least 2 SEPARATE sources (on-site and off-site).
So how should you back them up? I’m glad you asked.
Let’s start with how you shouldn’t.
(I’ve tried to simplify for those non-tech savvy. But if you get lost at the technical jargon, just go to Why Every Shooter Needs NAS below)
How You Should NOT Backup Your Data
Whether you’re only doing a few shoots or hundreds of shoots a year, you need to be smart about your data storage. There are lots of opinions people spread about how to do that.
I’m going to show you why these popular options aren’t the best.
Yes, they may seem the cheapest, easiest option. But, trust me, after a vigorous process of finding failed disc after disc in boxes, they…are…not.
Firstly, you better be using archival disc quality CD/DVDs, not just any blank ones. Those are the ones meant to last for years (supposedly up to a century even). But here’s the rub.
- The newer PC/MACs are starting to remove these drives.
- They are SO easy to damage.
- If anything goes wrong with your writer, you won’t be able to read the discs.
- They are TIME CONSUMING to backup. You will have 100s of discs to look through after a few years.
- IF you pick the WRONG size and go small because you want to save money, you’re going to have tons more discs to have to look through. Taking more time. Costing more money. Risking more failures.
- They are TIME CONSUMING to search through when years later you have to find the one image your client now wants retouched and printed. Good luck.
- You better be labelling them correctly (non-acidic markers) so it doesn’t further damage the disc.
Now, personally, I’ve made a lot of coasters over the years with these babies. So you’re welcome to continue and do the same. But please stop. I beg you.
Flash Drives (USB, Compact Flash, SD Cards)
Reasons why flash drives aren’t the best:
- They only come in limited capacity
- Flash drives are EXPENSIVE. The higher the capacity, the more expensive it gets.
- They wear down over time using the USB reader.
- You’ll need to duplicate and purchase a PAIR of them everytime you backup.
- It’s not an ideal use of storage for the long-term. It’s good for temporary.
Bare Hard Disk Drives (HDD)
Using a single bare HDD is the most cost effective solution to back up your media. BUT:
- Hard drives are only able to last a certain number of hours of use.
- Hard drives inevitably break down because of their spinning mechanical parts.
- Using 2 HDDs duplicated is the most cost effective.
But what do you do if both hard drives fail?
We have had to pay the price for hard drive failures. Getting a professional evaluation from data recovery ALONE can cost $200-300. Then, depending on the urgency, they can charge you upwards to $1500 to fix it. This is from one hard drive! And we’ve had to repair several in the past. I cried inside.
And what if one of life’s inevitable accidents happen?
You could be one cup of coffee, one toddler tantrum, one stray magnet that hits a hard drive (the list goes on and on) from Murphy’s Law happily showing you how this alone is not the answer for you.
Solid State Drives (SSD)
SSD bare drives are great because they have no moving parts in the drives themselves. They’re rated to last longer and faster. The disadvantage?:
You’re looking at a very high price point and way more expensive price point the higher capacity you go.
How You SHOULD Backup Your Data
1 | Backup off-site using the Cloud
The Cloud is an excellent option. I would say this should be one of your two ways you backup data. The advantage is your information is stored in a completely different location and is readily available online.
Some disadvantages of using the Cloud as your primary archival source:
- If your internet is down or unavailable, you can’t access your images.
- Unless you go into business class internet service, you aren’t looking at very high upload speeds. Most internet companies don’t offer high upload speeds for internet. It’s typically 1/10th of the download speed. For example, a 100 Megabits download in SoCal can cost you roughly $80-$100/month. Your upload speeds would only be maybe 10-20 Megabits. So, if one wedding is 100 GB, you’re looking at about 22.75 hours of uploading onto the Cloud. When you do so many shoots a month, your Internet will be bogged down constantly with just uploading images.
Thus, you need high bandwidth or a very expensive internet service. I do know that internet companies do plan to roll out gigabit in the US in the future, which will be AMAZING. And this will eventually make the situation and uploading a lot faster.
The future will be Cloud but the prices need to drop way the heck down. Someday…someday…it will be the ideal scenario.
But the Cloud alone is not enough for backup.
Thanks to the advancement in technology. Our fast pace world now offers a reliable system where you can quickly and safely retrieve data on-site while saving a little more money in the long run.
So what should you use to backup your data on-site?
2 | Backup on-site using NAS
Why Every Shooter Needs NAS
Firstly, what is NAS
Network Attached Storage (NAS) allows us in our home or small offices to have what major companies use without having to pay their prices to do so. NAS is the most affordable, effective solution out there for storing and retrieving your data.
- Customizable | With NAS, you can maintain, add or remove hard drives yourself.
- Quality | You get enterprise quality that’s easier to use.
- Expandability | You can use a series of 2-20 hard drives or more at the same time. So as your business grows so can your data storage.
- Disk Redundancy | At some point, a hard drive fails whether it’s within 1-6 years. But if one hard drive fails, you can easily swap it out and replace it without losing the memory.
- Easy-to-access and organize | It’s connected straight to your computer so you can easily view, organize and customize the images so it’s easy for you to retrieve, rather than pulling up individual discs or hard drives wondering where your file is.
- Readily Available + Accessible | You can easily access your files since it acts as a file server.
- Portable | You don’t need a dedicated room for your server. You can place it almost anywhere as long as its indoors and dry. You’ll want to leave at least 1.5″ of space between the back fans and any surface but otherwise it’s easy to keep at your studio, home or office.
- Gives Hard Drive Status Before It Fails | You can check the status of each of your hard drives so you’ll know if any of them are about to fail beforehand.
- Available when Internet is Down
- Because of 1-9, it is affordable Long Term Storage.
Now NAS drives are not fool proof. They do need maintenance and some time to learn. But right now, they’re the most reliable and fastest source for data backup.
AND there’s one out there that’s the BEST NAS for our industry and can help with the maintenance and learning curve (and it’s not the one you’ve heard others talking about).
But I’ll tell you about it next week. Stay tuned.
leave us your thoughts
Comments? Questions? Post them here! We’d love to hear from you.
Check out more of our tips in our past Photographer’s Only posts here.