Get these super important tips on keeping your photos safe, and properly backed up!
Our 75+ Best Photo Tips – Part Eight: Tips #76-86

Great to see you, Friend!

Today we’re not going to talk about photography. But these tips are probably some of the most important of this whole series. And here’s why. 

These tips are going to help save your photos. 

(We’re now on Part 8 of our Best Photography Tips series to celebrate our HUGE Cyber Week/Black Friday Sale! Make sure to check out Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart Six½and Part Seven.)

Think about all of the time you spend learning about photography, the effort you put into creating amazing photos and editing them to perfection – you could lose that all in an instant if your images aren’t properly backed up. 

But I know that backing up all your photos seems like a lot of work, and more than a little bit confusing. Once you dig in you come across all sorts of very technical terms, and complicated diagrams. It just isn't a straightforward thing to figure out.

Or, at least, it didn't used to be. We knew this was critical information for every single photographer out there, so we buckled down, learned it all, and made it easy for you to figure it. And today, we're sharing some of the key concepts so you can be on your way to safer photos.

Now this stuff can certainly fill up your brain quickly, so I'm going to keep things short and sweet, and focus on the key points. No long soliloquies today. Just the good stuff! :)

It's very easy to lose your photos.

#76: It's very easy to lose your photos.

We’re starting off with a heavy truth, but one we need to face head on. Here it is: It is very easy to lose your photos.

There are many ways it can happen. Here’s what can go wrong:

Human Error – It can happen easily enough. You delete a folder that you thought was empty, or already backed up. But it wasn’t and now your photos are gone. Or you format a card that you thought had properly transferred, only to find out that a bunch of the files didn’t copy correctly, and poof! They've disappeared forever. Or you tripped over the cat, and dropped a hard drive. Game over.

Hard Drive Failure – This one is scary. Ever heard a dying hard drive? It clicks and whirrs and then…silence. Or, even scarier, it just never makes a sound ever again. Everything on it is gone. It can happen in an instant.

Data Corruption – Here’s a sneaky one. Your data can slowly corrupt and become unreadable without you even realizing it. Power surges, system errors, bad memory card readers, even cosmic rays can cause corrupt files. Seriously, I’m not even joking about the rays.

Disaster – Your home or studio burns down and just like that, your photos are gone forever. 

Theft – People steal your stuff. Jerks. 

Ok, now don’t panic. I know that stuff is terrifying, and we’re going to talk about how to prevent it, but we need to talk about one more scary thing first...
Hard drives fail!

#77: Every hard drive you own will fail.

Wait, what? Seriously?

Yes. Every hard drive (and piece of storage media) you have will fail at some point. Every. Single. One. 

Here's the thing: they’re made with physical parts that will eventually wear out. Or break. And once they do? Bye bye photos.

In fact, hard drives have a life expectancy of only 3 - 5 years. That is a shockingly short timeframe, but it’s true. Take a peek at a hard drive's warranty, and you'll see that manufacturers are betting on 1 - 3 years!

This means that once you get your backup system set up, you need to transfer to new storage media once those drives have passed their prime. And that's all the more reason to have a solid backup system that you know how to manage and update as necessary. 

#78: When is the best time to backup your photos?

Part of creating a solid backup plan is having a good workflow. A good workflow means you know exactly what to do, and when, so that you ensure that everything is always properly backed up.

And step one is knowing when to backup those photos. 

It’s actually very simple. The best time to backup new photos is right after you download them from your memory card. That way you will ensure that your images are always safe. As we’ve already talked about, data loss can happen at any moment. Backing up right after you download will keep things as safe as possible. 

But don’t worry, it doesn't have to be a lot of work. You can use software to do this, and make a large portion of your backup workflow totally automatic. More about that later... 
Follow the 3:3:1 Rule.

#79: Follow the 3:3:1 Rule.

This is one of the basic concepts of a solid backup plan. 

You need to keep three copies of you data, stored on three different hard drives, with one of those drives taken offsite. 

It simply takes this many copies to keep your photos safe from hard drive failure, disaster and accidentally deleting the files. 

By the way, offsite means that the drive is stored at a separate location from where you store your main drives. It could be your work office, a friend’s house, or a bank safety deposit box. This is what will will keep your photos safe from theft or disaster!
Hard Drives 101.

#80: Hard Drives 101

Unless you regularly read up on hard drives (like Rob does), you might get a little confused when you start looking into them. Internal, external, 3.5 inch, 2.5 inch, solid state, 7200 RPM, 5400 RPM, it’s like a whole new language. 

So welcome to Hard Drives 101! Let's break it all down, nice and simple.

Internal drives are the ones that go inside your computer, external ones go outside, in a protective case. The standard size is 3.5 inches, while those little portable drives are 2.5 inches

Hard drives are classified based on their RPM, which is a measure of how fast the magnetic platter inside can spin. The faster it can spin, the faster you can read and write data. So faster is better, especially when it comes to working with lots of big photo files! When buying drives for your photography, go with 7200 RPM. 

Then there’s capacity, measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). This is how much data can be stored on the drive. Picking the right size for your needs varies based on the purpose of the drive, and how much data you have, but one important thing to note is that you should never fill a hard drive to the maximum capacity. It will slow down the performance of the drive. A good rule of thumb is to leave 10-15% free. 

Finally, solid state drives, which are becoming more and more popular, are totally different in that they contain no moving mechanical parts and are based on flash memory, like your camera’s memory cards. They’re good for your operating system, but are expensive and have small capacity, so they’re not a good choice for backing up lots of data.
It's a DeLorean!!

#81: What about Time Machine?

Apple computers come with a nifty feature called Time Machine. This takes snapshots of the files that you modify, so you can “go back in time” to previous versions of that file. Like a DeLorean for your computer. Cool.

This can be particularly handy if you accidentally delete or save over an important file!

And Windows folks, you can get seperate software that will do this for you!

Now, while this type of incremental backup is quite useful, you can’t rely on it as your backup strategy. 

See, it doesn’t give you offsite protection. Plus the files are saved in a format that may require special software to access them. Not very practical, especially for the long term. Your backup plan needs more to it!

#82: RAID is not a backup strategy.

Speaking of things that you can’t rely on as a backup strategy…

There’s this fancy term called RAID. It stands for “Redundant Array of Independent Disks”. Feel free to flash that one around at dinner parties to impress your friends. 

There are a bunch of different RAID setups, but the most common (RAID 1) will automatically copy all the data on your drive onto another drive. Sounds handy right? 

And it is. It can save you from hard drive failure. 

But by this point you should be able to see what it won’t protect you from. It won’t help if you accidentally delete a file – it will automatically be deleted on the other drive. And it won’t help in case of disaster (since both drives will be taken out, and there’s no offsite). 

There are some fancy all-in-one boxes that are branded as backup systems, and they use RAID. But, as you now know, that's not a complete system! You're too smart to be fooled by that.
What about cloud backup?

#83: Well, what about online backup?

Online backup. "The cloud". It sounds like such a peaceful, gentle place. What better spot to keep all your photos snug and safe?

By now you should know exactly what I'm going to say: while handy, you can't rely on cloud/online backup alone as your backup strategy. 

Here's the deal with this type of backup. It can work well as offsite backup, keeping your files safely outside your home, and can be set to run automatically, meaning you don't have to expend your precious mental energy remembering to do it yourself. 

It's also relatively affordable, with plans as low as $5/month for unlimited space. 

But the downsides? Well, for starters, if you have a lot of photos, it could take hundreds of days to perform the first initial upload. Woah. Even if you have enough bandwidth from your internet provider to actually do that, it's a huge amount of time. And every new batch of photos will take a ton of time too. 

Beyond that, online backup is not permanent archival storage. That means that if you ever disconnect a hard drive from your computer, most cloud storage services will eventually delete the disconnected hard drive from your online backup. This doesn't work so well in the long run, as you need to swap out old drives for new ones!

And finally, you give up control over your backup process. If that company loses the data, or goes bankrupt? You're out of luck.

This option might become a better bet for professional photographers down the road, as internet speed increases, but for now, it's really only suitable for folks with a small amount of data to back up, and even then, it's only one piece of a solid backup plan.

Backup software is the best.

#84: Backup software is your best friend.

We’ve talked a lot about different backup strategies, workflows, and all that jazz. And I know that it all seems like, well, a huge ton of work!

But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the vast majority of your backup workflow can be done automatically, thanks to backup software. 

Yep, for both Mac and Windows there are some magical programs that can do all of this complicated stuff for you, and even be scheduled to do it automatically, so the heavy lifting is off your shoulders. I mean, who can actually remember to backup everything every single night? I sure can’t! That’s why software is the best. 

It can even do things that you can't, like comparing the transferred file to the original, to make sure there weren't any errors during the transfer process. This process is called verification, and can save you from corrupt data!

So don't feel like you're alone when it comes to doing your backup. There's lots of software out there to help you along, and make everything way easier!

(For a full list of our recommended backup software for both Mac and Windows, make sure to check out our backup eBook, Backup or Die, currently on sale for only $7.98!)
Good file organization is key.

#85: The simple trick to great file organization.

When you first get into photography, file organization isn’t much of an issue. But it doesn’t take long – a few months of serious shooting perhaps – before things can start to get a bit…messy. And if you start a photography business? The files that you have to keep track of multiply and before long you can be left with a truly tangled web. 

This poses a big problem when it comes to backing things up. First, it’s hard to figure out just what folders you need to back up! Photos, definitely. Business files, definitely. Music? Movies? Probably not as important. But if it’s all messed together, ugh. 

Beyond that, as you start to shoot more and more, your photo folders will grow way faster than anything else does. This can get super inconvenient when you need to swap drives for more space, and all your essential business files get swapped out too. 

Here’s what you gotta do. 

First, take file organization seriously. Keep your business stuff nicely organized. Your photos too. The quicker you get things under control, the more headaches you’ll save yourself. 

And then, and this is the trick, keep your original photos (Raw or JPEG files) separate from everything else. 

Basically you have two main folders: Originals, which contains all the original files, and Working, which contains everything else (like retouched JPEGs, album designs, print orders, contracts, etc.). These two folders live in your Master drive (or folder, depending on how big it is!). 

With this simple division, it will be easy to know where to put new files, and where to find old ones. And then, once you fill up a drive, and need to add more space, you just need to copy your Working folder to a new drive and...Presto! You have all your frequently used files at hand. 
Keep your precious photos safe!

#86: Now is the best time to start.

I’ll be completely honest: we weren't serious about backup strategy from the very beginning. But one day, early in our career, a folder was mistakenly deleted and we thought we had lost a ton of photos. My mom just happened to come by right at that moment, and, upon opening the door and seeing my tear-stained face, she immediately assumed my cat must have died. Needless to say, I was pretty devastated. (And they weren't even client photos! The thought of losing any photos at all pains me!)

Luckily we were able to save all of the files, and after that we smartened up, and figured out our backup plan. It took time, yes. It took money, yes (hard drives aren’t free!). And it takes constant effort to keep things running smoothly. 

But we know – not just suspect, but know – that it’s worth it. Because it keeps our photos safe. Our life’s work, the precious images of our son, the photos of all the people who trusted us to capture their memories over the years – this is what we’re protecting. 

So even if you don’t have a backup system now, don’t despair. It’s never too late. And now is the very best time to start. You’re already on your way, and have learned some of the most essential concepts to keeping your images secure. Back them up right away. Make sure to put them on three hard drives, and keep one offsite. Use software to ensure things are done properly and regularly. Don’t rely on Time Machine or RAID alone. Keep things organized. And then you will be on your way to a building a solid backup plan that will keep your photos safe and sound.

I know this is heavy stuff. But it’s important stuff. I’m glad we got a chance to talk about it today! Please don’t panic if this seems complicated or confusing. It is like anything – it just takes a bit of time to learn. And you’re already on your way. Give yourself a huge high five for that!
Save 60% on Backup or Die today!
If you're ready to create a backup system to keep your photos safe, and want to learn exactly how to do it, make sure to check out our comprehensive (and fun!) eBook, Backup or Die.

It will teach you everything you need to know to create a backup system that is right for you. It goes into depth on topics like:
  • What equipment you really need
  • Types of backup (incremental, mirrored, online, and more)
  • Creating an efficient backup workflow
  • Super valuable backup plans for every level of photographer (these will make it super easy to get set up!)
  • A step-by-step guide to creating your system
  • How to deal with hard drive failure
  • And more!

Right now you can get it for a fantastic deal, and save 60% with our Cyber Week Sale! This is the best price ever for this valuable resource, and you can get it today for only $7.98. Yep, it's a total steal, but we really want you to keep your photos safe, and we can help! So go pick it up right now! It’s available for immediate download, and has a 60-day money back guarantee so there’s no risk to give it a try. 

P.S. It's written as a fairy tale, with wizards and dragons, so we promise it will make learning how to back up your photos as fun as possible!
And now, we’re nearly at the end of this series. I can’t even believe it! But we’ve passed the 75 tips mark (phew) and I have something pretty special for you coming up. No hints, but if you’ve enjoyed these tips so far, you’ll definitely want to check it out! Stay tuned!

Until then, happy backing up :)
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