Backing-up your computer and digital picture files – Peter Gregg

For many of us folks photography is our “job” – but honestly, if I thought photography was really just a job I would go out and find something else to do. The point is I love taking pictures and seeing the final results hanging beautifully on the wall, used in a book like a wedding album or something educational I may write, or published locally, nationally, or worldwide somewhere.

With digital cameras we don’t get hard cold negatives we can hold in our hands like years ago, we get files. Big files, little files, in between files, all we have at the end of the day are files. These files get to be pretty important so preserving them can no longer be an “after-thought” but must become front and center as something on par with other top priority stuff. This week my main Western Digital Rapture 10,000 RPM drive went kaput. Wow, all the stuff was gone and I have this blank blue screen on my computer saying “operation system” not found. Don’t laugh – it will happen to you too :)

Read more fantastic stuff after the jump.

I thought I bought the best. And now we have “enterprise level” hard drives (hint – that’s what you want to look for if you are anal about getting the best stuff for your computer) like the Western Digital RE3 level drives and lots of others from other brands. I am not pushing Western Digital drives here, in fact, my main Raptor Western Digital drive just kicked the bucket so I can almost be quite peeved with them, especially with it being an 8 month old drive.

Anyway, too much talk to say – you gotta back it up dude. How many of you really really back up?? Raise your hands. Oh, and RAID is NOT NOT NOT a back-up. Raid is a fail safe system to keep you going if a drive fails, but it is NOT  back-up of your data. If it is connected to your computer – it’s not a back up.

I know on one hand there is a bunch of you that want to draw your swords and fight about terminology and even my ideology. I ain’t fighten and this is not really meant for you. This is for the guy that is saying – gee, I need to back-up my stuff, but how to start – or even what a pain that would be to have to back-up.

Here’s a easy way to back up your computer. You WILL need to buy some stuff, so plan on spending a hundred or so dollars. Before you lose you hard drive it sounds like – naaa why should I bother. After you lose your hard drive you will be throwing money at me saying PLEEEEASE PETER help me :)

It’s not all really that hard. With your permission let me cut through all the explanations and philosophies (called arguments) out there and let me lead you through it simple and step by step.

What you want to do is get a copy of what you have. The reason you want a copy is so without much pain you can take up where you left off. Lots of folks don’t realize how much important stuff we really DO have o our hard drive. things like links to favorite web sites (like my stories :) ) and passwords, and lots of little tiny things that keep up going. I have a place where I get a scripture a day, where I get stock&commodity news, a dictionary, my passwords to get into my own web sites and for Facebook and so on. To lose all that I would have to go to my index file to get all that info back. Oh wait – that index book is on the hard drive – oops. See what I mean :)

Point 1 – just backing your files is only doing half the job. Yup, you DO want to back up the files, but what you also need is a separate hard drive waiting in the wings to just drop in and hit the ground running. I suggest buying a hard drive, a bare bones naked hard drive, that you can put inside your computer when you eventually will need it. You can find these on Newegg, Amazon and places like that. They are called esata and USB docking stations. You pop in a bare (cheap) hard drive into them like you put a piece of bread into the toaster.

Next is the software. Help yourself to whatever software can make a mirror image of your current hard drive. I use a program called R-Drive. I open it up, tell it to make a clone of my main drive and it’s done. When it is finished, I take the drive out, put it back into it’s anti-static bag, and then put the hard drive in my underwear drawer for safe keeping. If the main drive on the computer goes bad, I take out this drive and put it into my computer replacing the bad drive. If you can’t do that yourself, take the computer and the new hard drive to a service store and ask them to put it in for you. One note – you DO want to make a total mirrored image drive byte by byte or what they call RAW data (nothing to do with cameras). That choice is in there so make sure you pic it.

After your main hard drive is safe and secure, and since you now have your “hard drive toaster”, now you can buy other naked or bare hard drives and just back up your picture files, or back up your other hard drives you have inside the computer. The software I use for this is called Magellan Explorer by Enriva Software. Why this one? Simple, it has one little check box that Windows Explorer does NOT have. i can check the box that says to copy only new files and leave the old ones alone – every time. No more question like “do you want to copy this file – YES or NO”. One drag and drop and I am done.

After you have done your first round of back-ups, you need to make sure you do it all over again on a consistent basis. How often? How much can you stand to lose :)   Really, if you just did something important, put the hard drive in your “toaster” (the BlacX box) and back it up dude. If you worked for me and didn’t back up an important job you would get fired! Then do the same for yourself, back it up.

The secret is to make your back-up stuff so easy to do that you WILL do it and this is why I explained my suggestions to you. Once you have the hard drive “toaster” and a few blank bare hard drives you will see how cotton-picken-easy it is to do the back-ups and guess what?? You WILL do them! And one day you may want to kiss me for getting you o do the back-up – but please – resist and maintain self control – lol.

If you want to get really hot and professional at doing your back-ups then add a second round to the whole system. You know how in the old movies they would be in a bar and someone would say “another round of drinks for everyone – ON ME”. Well, buy a second set of bare hard drives and keep TWO of everything. Rotate them, so this week you back-up to the first set of hard drives, and next week you back up to set B of your hard drives. This is called ROTATING you back-ups. I go an extra step because my files are all business, and I also make a 3rd round (hey hard drives are cheap today) and keep the third set off site – meaning NOT at my office – in case of fire or theft. If I lose everything I can go to the off-site hard drives and still have my customers files. I get paid for weddings and such so it is an important part of my business. For people that are high end hobbyists, you can decide hoe “deep” into the back-ups you want to get.

Happy shooting and see you online.

Peter Gregg

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