Nature Notes

February 3, 2009

Backing up your files-Software and Hardware

Filed under: Photoshop Tutorial — Tags: , , — Harold Stiver @ 7:00 am
And I Thought Yesterday Was Hot!

CC Photo by Cayusa

In my hometown, I heard about a fire at the shop of a local commercial photographer, a guy who had been in business more than thirty years. Later I heard the awful result of this disaster. He had lost all of his photos, mostly slides and negatives, and he had no backups to replace them.

For a digital photographer, the equivalent would be to lose all of your image files. Now lets do a mental exercise. If you had a fire or robbery, and all of the image files were lost or stolen, how many could you recover elsewhere? How about a hard drive failure?  What do you need to do to make your work safe?


There is a wide range of hardware you can do your backups to such as Internal Hard Drives,External Hard drives, CD and DVDs, and On-line services.

You need to be careful if your backup files are on your internal hard drive along with your originals. A disaster will like get both sets.

External Hard Drives are a better choice and are becoming increasingly affordable. As of early 2009, a terabyte external hard drive could be purchased at less than $300Cdn. For 10mg. files, that would be storage for 100,000!

CDs and DVDs have a reputation for failures, and I think it is deserved. When moving files off of these medium some time ago, I found a number of files which had become corrupted. Probably less than 1%, but still unacceptable.

On-line storage services sound like a good idea but they can be expensive if you need a lot of space. They also require considerable time to upload from your computer. This is because the internet is designed to download. Uploading is a much slower procedure.

I use a External Hard Drives for backup.

Information Superhighway

CC Photo: Nick Wheeler


The software you use for your backup needs to reliably add new and changed files to your backup and remove deleted files. There are a lot of commercial and free solutions for this.

I use a nifty free program from Microsoft called SyncToy. Get a copy here. It provides a nice graphical interface so that you can set up one or many different backups. I have found it very easy and reliable.

Redundant Copies and where to keep them

You can make as many backups as you feel comfortable with but you need a minimum of two, and one of these should be kept off-site from the other. You can keep a copy at a friend or relatives, or at a bank vault. The chances of losing your main storage and both backups under these circumstances are very small.

Some people keep their home backup in a fireproof safe.


Scheduling backups becomes an exercise in how much you are willing to lose versus how much time you want to spend doing backups. Much of it is common sense. If I come back from a two week trip to Panama with thousands of images, I’m going to want a backup right away. And if I get the one shot of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, I want a dozen copies.

Generally I can take a chance on a few weeks of light production.

Index to Photoshop Tutorials.

This tutorial is a part of the Photoshop Workflow Series

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