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Quick Tip: Never Trust Your Hard Drive!

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Read Time: 3 min

Whether or not you've already learned this lesson the hard way, appreciating that your hard drive isn't going to last forever is an important thing to understand. There's no worse feeling than losing a hard drive, knowing that it contained several hundred (or thousand!) images that you didn't have stored elsewhere.

Today's Quick Tip will be making the case for always keeping a stringent backup of your photographs - onsite and offsite - and showcasing a few tools to help with the process.

Why You Should Backup

Although it might seem like common sense, some of us still need a few reasons to stop talking about backing up, and actually start putting a system in place. Here are three good arguments:

1. Losing hard work is gutting

There's nothing worse than losing photographs that you've spent time, care and love creating. To a computer they simply represent another piece of data, but to you, they represent an experience, a memory, a person, or a situation that will never again present itself. Photographs are one of the few items on your hard drive that really are irreplaceable.

2. You never know when the client will need the original

Losing personal photography may be gutting, but losing client work can obviously damage your reputation severely. Whether it's a new shoot or one from a few years ago, you never know when you'll need the original files for a client.

3. There's no argument not to!

Backing up your work isn't expensive, time consuming, or frustrating. With today's technology, there's no argument not to have a rigorous system in place.

On-Site Backup Solutions

The best procedure for an "on-site" backup - one in the same location as your primary hard drive or computer - is to create a copy of your data on another hard drive (you can either buy another internal drive, or an external one that connects via USB or Firewire). Here are a few software utilities that make backing up automatically very easy:

For Windows

  • Windows 7 Backup - An automatic solution for Windows 7 users
  • Cobian Backup - A free application with a bunch of additional functionality for those that would like a few advanced settings

For Mac

  • Time Machine - Built into your computer already, this makes backing up seamless and automatic
  • SuperDuper - A $27 app that can easily create an exact copy of your hard drive
  • Aperture's Vaults - If you're an Aperture user, you can take advantage of it's "Vault" system to create additional copies of your photo library, and update them automatically

Off-Site Backup Solutions

It's also a wise choice to have an off-site backup system, so that if you lose everything from one particular location (e.g. due to theft, or a fire), you still have all your images elsewhere. One way to do this is simply by regularly taking an external hard drive to another location (home, or the office).

Another is to use an online backup system that automatically copies your photos to the Internet for you. I'd recommend Dropbox, which costs $200 per year for 100GB of storage. This might not be quite enough, depending upon how large a photo library you have!

Do You Backup?

If you have a particular workflow or process for backing up your images, I'd love to hear it. Please feel free to have your say in the comments!

Photo courtesy of asten on Flickr.

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