Many eggs, many baskets – digital image file backup.

Ron Niebrugge Equipment 3 Comments

I don’t know who might be reading this or where you may live, but I am still able to predict your future; well, at least a little part of it.  Unfortunately, the future isn’t pretty, I predict:

Your hard drive is going to crash and fail without any warning.  It may not be today, or even this year, but at some point your hard drive will fail.  And this isn’t one of those intermittent errors that gives you time to do a backup, this one will come with no warning and will be sudden and fatal!

“So Ron, you are usually a positive guy, what is up with all the gloom?”  Well, this is the exact mindset I use each and every time I do anything with my digital image files.  Unfortunately, I have had hard drives suddenly fail, as have many of my friends.  I think if you use this assumption each and every time you do something with your digital images, you may avoid a giant headache someday down the road. 

So what do I do?  The only time I have a single copy of any image is on the card as the image is captured – there is nothing I can do about this step.  When traveling, each evening I download every card to my laptop computer, and then download each card to a PD70X.  The PD70X is a rechargeable battery powered stand alone hard drive (maybe the subject of a future review).  Some shooters backup to DVD’s or external hard drives, but I don’t like these solutions as they require a working laptop.  One dropped laptop or even a small failure and you are dead in the water with nowhere to download images.  With a PD70X, I have two completely independent backup methods.  It is not until I have backed up each card to both these sources do a format the card.

I’m not as good at this as I should be, but I try to keep the two backup sources separated.  For example, the laptop in the cab of the the truck, the PD70X in the camper.  Or one hidden in a suitcase in the hotel, the other in the rental car.  You get the idea.

When I return home, or if I’m shooting near home, I download each card to my home computer, and then immediately copy each file to Janine’s computer which has a raid drive.  So now I have it on 3 hard drives before I format my cards or clear my laptop.

Once I have key worded files and adjusted selects, all images get backed up to two on-site external hard drives, and a third external hard drive kept off site, and finally to a set of DVD’s.  This may seem like over kill, but one day while doing a large transfer between two stacked external hard drives, both began to fail!  I was glad to know I had two more options.  I really view the DVD’s as the last resort – I would not trust them for any kind of long term file storage.

I hope my prediction never comes true.  But if it does and you have multiple backups, it will just be an inconvenience, not a disaster.

Comments 3

  1. Good read, Ron. I have a PD70x and really like it, but have not heard of it in wide use. There are other similar devices on the market, but most cost more. Although the PD70x has a couple drawbacks, they can be worked around: one is that the batteries drain over time when not in use (remove or insert plastic shield), and, it can “freeze up” in which case, a special boot sequnce is needed. Let me know if you have not heard about how to deal with that.
    Having a second backup that is independent of your laptop (i.e. has a card reader) is key.

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