Photo Backups- Here’s What I do.

Backing up photos has always been a hassle for me. I’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of photos over the years due to everything under the sun. I’ve had a computer hard drive die, had it replaced and all data gone, with no back up! I’ve accidentally deleted things, you name it I’ve probably done it. Over the years I’ve learned to love redundancy! I also don’t like deleting photos to make room for more! 

I’ve finally found a few things that help me sleep better at night.

My primary computer is a Macbook Pro, it’s old, late 2008 version, but it still turns on and does what it’s supposed to do! 

I have two 3 TB External Hard Drives reformatted into Mac OS Extended using Disk Utility.

External Drive 1, I backup my whole computer about once a month with Carbon Copy Cloner. This provides me with a bootable disk, in the event that I have lost a drive. I can replace the hard drive and boot from this drive and restore a bootable partition. I don’t have to dig through my stuff to find the initial MacOSX discs to reload the  OS. 

External Drive 2 is partitioned into two partitions(just use Disk Utility to format the externals and partition them)-TimeMachine and Photos. I use one partition for TimeMachine and the other Partition is where my Photos are stored. The TImeMachine just does it’s thing and backs up every hour or so, so if I had a problem and had to reboot with an old Carbon Copy file the Time Machine files should restore what I missed. I store my photos on the Photo partition because Aperture likes lots of memory and when I was storing photos on the local hard drive I was finding that as the disk would fill my virtual memory would get squeezed and bring my machine to a crawl. So far my machine likes this set up. I don’t really notice much lag when loading photos. No reason one couldn’t park their iPhoto library on an external drive either. 

So far I have one copy on external drive 1 that is copied about once a month.

External 2 has an active TimeMachine copy on one partition and has separate partition with all my photos that I am currently using. I’m not sure what I”ll do when it fills up, but my guess is I’ll get a new External and just keep going. I also know that External drives die from time to time which leads to another layer.

The third layer I use is an online Backup service: Backblaze. Backblaze charges around $5/month for unlimited backup storage. It backs up my whole hard drive and it also backs up the Photos partition on my 2nd External drive, in fact it backs up my wife’s computer as well!. So far I’ve had no issues with the software running on my machine and restoring a file or two is painless using their web browser interface. With one account you can back up all the computers in your house! Backblaze will backup a connected drive, but won’t backup a networked drive and it won’t backup a TImeMachine drive. If you decide to give Backblaze a try I’d appreciate using my referral link. Definitely check it out!. The downside to these online services is they don’t create a bootable disk with your OS. Which means reloading your OS before you start your backup. Therefore the need for Carbon Copy Cloner. 

A Fourth layer I use is for my Photos only. My photos are about the only thing I’d miss. I can get new bank statements and re-download music etc., but my photos are my keepsakes. So I use Smugmug to store my family and personal photos I don’t want to lose! I routinely upload events to galleries on Smugmug. Smugmug offers unlimited storage, upload as many photos you wish! I also use Smugmug’s Camera Awesome app for my of my iPhone/iPad photos because it will automatically backup my photos to my Smugmug Account!  One thing I love about Smugmug is I can create a gallery for an event, say Christmas 2012 and then send out the link to all family and they can check them out download copies or order prints. If you use my Smugmug Referral Link you can get $5 off a 1 year subscription, 15% off a 2 year subscription and 20% off a 3 year subscription. It’s well worth the annual fee to know your photos are safe.
Smugmug isn’t the only option to store photos. Picasa from Google and Flickr from Yahoo are both great solutions to store photos. nothing wrong with, them, in fact I use all of them!  But prefer a paid service like Smugmug for a majority.

iPhones and iPads have led to a slightly different problem for our family as the devices have grown so has the lack of syncing! If all the devices are synced then the backups above will include those synced backups.  No syncing usually meant no back up until iCloud. So I use iCloud to sync all our iPhones, iPads etc now. This is the only way to keep the sanity. I also have the two iPhones synced to one PhotoStream. The downside to PhotoStream is that it holds 1000 photos and most new photos for 30 days. So it’s necessary to browse you’re photos stream and pull favorites into your CameraRoll, iPhoto, Aperture, or other photo storage app. The Camera Roll photos will be included when your device syncs to iCloud. On my iPhone I use the Camera Awesome App, which backs up to my Smugmug account and then I’ll save a few favorites to my Camera Roll that is then picked up by PhotoStream. Camera Awesome works on iPads too! For the Camera Awesome App to backup to Smugmug you’ll need a Smugmug Account. I’m fairly confident that my photos are safe with iCloud, but not that confident which is why I want those photos I really want duplicated somewhere else, like Smugmug. 

We also share lots of photos from our iPhone Camera Rolls to our Facebook and Instagram accounts. These act as a form another layer of safety. So share your favorite photos for your friends and family to see, you never know it might be the only copy you’ll have!

I’m sure I’ve missed something in my strategy, but it’s a strategy nonetheless. I love to hear what others do, I’m sure I could learn a thing or two as well. 

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