My Automated Backup Process

My Automated Backup Process
Photo by benjamin lehman / Unsplash

I am bad at backups. Right now, I would lose 2 months of data, photos and videos because I forget about saving it in regular intervals. I know this has to change. I love photography and my hard drive contains thousands of memories. It is my most valuable possession. That is why I sat down to find the perfect backup process for my photos and videos.

A bad backup process does not only put my memories in danger but also steals time. It is the challenge I face with digital tools – they can help me when implemented correctly but can also do more harm than good.

My requirements

  • I don’t want to think about it

My most important requirement is an easy process. I don’t want to think about having to back up my data and also don’t want to sit down every two weeks and go through a backup procedure.

  • I don’t want to change my workflow

My new backup process should fit into my photography workflow. I don’t want to change anything or implement extra steps.

  • I want my data to be safe

The process being easy should not compromise back on the safety of my data. I want to stand in front of my burning house with a smile because I know that the most important things are safe.

Learning from my past mistakes

  • No strategy

When I got into photography, I randomly duplicated and saved pictures on different hard drives and SD-cards “just to be safe”. I got lost in the chaos. Once I formatted a hard drive in an attempt to clean up the mess, I was sure that all the pictures were duplicates but it turned out one folder wasn’t.

  • Mirroring

At another incident I overwrote a folder by accident. I realized my mistake after I backed up the new folder and the pictures were lost forever. A simple mirroring process does protect from hardware failure but not user errors. This kind of data loss is very common even with experienced users.

  • Same physical location

If I want to stand in front of my burning house relaxed, I need to have one copy at a different physical location. Undoubtedly, this is preparing for the worst case scenario. But, there are a few possibilities of how I could lose my original data and the backup at the same time. A thief can steal the computer and hard drives and a thunderstorm can destroy all devices at once.

My new Way

As seen, my backup process has to protect me from two dangers:

External influences – data loss through physical damages, theft etc.

User errors – data loss through mistakes made by the user (deleting or overwriting data)

As a general guideline I use the 3-2-1 Method as it was described by Peter Krogh. I want to have 3 copies on at least two different mediums with 1 at an external location.

Step 1: One folder

I only have one folder with the original files. It contains all videos and pictures, organized through sub-folders for every year, month and event. Media is the one area I love storing in a hierarchical structure so I can find everything I am looking for without wasting time. Programs like Lightroom can use this folder as a base and I can edit my photos without changing the original files

Step 2: Backup onto another medium

I use Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) to mirror this folder onto an external hard drive. It comes with a feature that keeps track of all the changes I make so that I can reverse errors I might do myself. As my second hard drive, I use a TerraMaster with two hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration. By doing this I have another security layer because the two internal hard drives mirror each other.

The huge advantage: the backup process starts automatically as soon as both hard drives are connected. I just have to physically connect both my hard drives to the computer which is the only step I cannot automate.

The best backup strategy does not work if you don’t apply it on a regular base. While CCC does most of the work you still have to be sure that both of your hard drives are connected to the computer simultaneously. Or you can have both hard drives connected at all times and schedule an automated backup.

Step 3: Backup to the Cloud

I use Duplicacy to back everything up to the cloud. As a cloud provider, I use Google’s Business Suite with unlimited storage. Two good alternatives are Arq as a backup program and Backblaze for cloud-storage.

The cloud is my last safety net. It takes forever to upload everything but it is the one step that gives me the peace of mind I need.