How to backup photographs and keep them SAFE!

I just backup photographs to my NAS. They’ll be safe? yeah?

Synology DS1813+ 8 Bay NAS

These are some famous last words.  Its always good to have a NAS and it is part of a backup regime but in itself, it is not a  ‘complete backup’ per se.


So what is backup in a computing sense?  Backup is the concept of making extra copies of data in case the original data is lost or damage

So yeah thats what I do. I’ve got a NAS, I make a duplicate copy of my photographs to the NAS. So I’ve got backup right?

Weeeeeeelll yes and no.   Coming from an IT background my take on backup is that its a regime, a process if you will as well as the physical act of replicating data and not just copying your photographs to a NAS.  It’s all about keeping your data, in this case photographs, SAFE!!!

Most people would think a NAS is enough. Being a full time photographer, my photographs (and my data) are my income, they feed my family and keep a roof over my head.  I need to ensure I never loose my data, or do as much as I can to mitigate as many risks as possible.

So when I backup photographs to my NAS why aren’t they 100%  safe?  

Well let me answer that with a first hand experience story of mine.    Let me wind back the clock 3 years.  I arrived at the studio first thing Monday morning. Latte in hand, bright and cheery with a todo list a mile long and motivation aplenty.  As I put the key in the lock it dawned on me…. when I locked this door on Friday evening there was a 55″ Full HD LCD television in the window playing a video loop …. um yeah …. not there now. I unlocked the door and walked in, my bright and cheery Monday morning was ruined, my motivation sapped, my todo list worthless and my latte cold.

I’d been totally cleaned out.  Apart from the physical damage to the building and soft damage to my motivation and wallet, I had lost everything in my studio.  And by everything I mean literally everything, editing computer, Wacom, monitors, TVs, media players, power tools, external Hard Drives, mice, keyboards, network switches, UPS,  all the alarm motion sensors, the 24/7 video camera surveillance, the video cameras and even the alarm panel and siren, and of course my NAS.  (They even stole the beer from my fridge!!!)

So everything on my editing machines was stored on the local machine (or external hard drives ) and backed up to the NAS.   In one foul swoop I had lost everything in my studio. All my computing equipment and all my data.  All that was in the studio…. GONE !

My data, luckily some might say, was replicated offsite. All of it. All my accounting data, invoice data, correspondence, email, order information, website backups and of course my photographs were also backed up offsite. If not for this, I’d have been pretty much devastated.  But luck has nothing to do with it. Its about being prepared.

So after the trauma of loosing all my equipment, the pleasures of insurance companies, and the angst towards unknown lowlifes, I replaced my IT equipment and restored my data and kept soldiering on.  If I hadn’t of had a good backup regime, things could have been so so much worse.

So backing up photographs to your NAS (or external device) is just one small step in a chain.  In the IT world we always refer to Offsite and Onsite backups.  In my backup regime I have both Onsite and Offsite backups.  And having an up-to-date offsite backup in this case is what saved my bacon.

Most people, myself included, have a NAS that they use for backup and fault tolerance.  I have a 8 Bay Synology running Western Digital Red 4TB NAS Grade hard drives.

The NAS, for convenience, performance reasons and the ability to access and use frequently is co-located with my editing machine.  What this means is that my Editing Machine and one of my levels of backup is located in the exact same place and exposed to the exact same threats: burglary, water damage, physical damage, electrical faults, fire etc.

As I wrote earlier, I am a full time photographer and as part of being so I shoot commissioned jobs.  I do not have the option to go back to a client and say “Sorry I was burgled on the weekend and I lost all the photographs can … um … I … er organise a reshoot?” unless of course I have zero care for my credibility, professional reputation and have no desire to work with that client ever again.

I think when I say this, that I speak for all of us in that our photographs are precious. All of them. They are memories of a workshop/expedition in the Arctic circle.  They are your first Iceberg photograph on the way to Antarctica. They are photographs of your children as they are growing up.   A recent holiday to Europe.  Your nieces wedding. Photographs of your long lost relative or just plain old photographs of the fun time you had with the family playing at the park.  So full time professional photographer, weekend warrior, photography enthusiast or just loving parent who takes snaps of their kids, we all want to keep our photographs SAFE!

Over the years I have heard too many horror stories of people loosing photographs that with a varying degrees of complexity and varying degrees of cost could have been easily avoided.   Ensuring your photographs are safe is not just for the full time professional photographers, its something we all need to do.

Over a series of posts coming over the next few weeks I will be covering a few topics on how to keep your photographs safe.  There will be tips, advice and recommendations that will benefit seasoned pros right through to doting parents.   I’ll be covering a plethora of topics from things you an do within your computer itself, the use of external hard drives , what a NAS is and how it can fit into your backup regime, what is an offsite backup is, cloud backup and of course how to develop a backup regime/process that can tie in all these things together to ensure your photographs are kept safe!

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