Backup regimes / by Neil Alexander

I've been reading quite a lot lately on other blogs, Scott Kelby's and Epic Edits are two that spring to mind, about the do's and dont's of backing up photographs. This particular topic has caught my attention once again as I've been having problems of my own in this area lately. The secondary drive on my primary pc which has around 200Gb's of RAW files and scanned negs, is rapidly running out of space. My offsite backup plan has also gone out of the window. So not only am I worryingly low on disk space, I'm also not getting duplicates of my files off site anymore (at least not very easily).

Previously I was using Retrospect 7 to make a duplicate of all these files over a VPN connection to a device that I have stored in the spare room at home. This made sure that I had an identical duplicate of all my RAW files, negs and Lightroom catalogs should anything untoward ever occur at my office. The problem that appears to have arisen in this area, is that the VPN has been getting dropped with increasing regularlity resulting in the backups failing. The system does automatically recover and start over again, but as a result I am often using over my 50Gb broadband monthly bandwidth allowance - and they just love sending me invoices for it!

So I now have two problems - I am running out of space at the office and I no longer have a regular off-site backup system.

I think that I can immediately address the problem of disk space by clearing out a lot of superfluous images. When I come back from a shoot and post-process, I delete all the real rubbish - out of focus, camera shake, flash didn't fire etc, but I generally keep the rest and I think that I could probably free up several Gigs by going through a rating process and deleting the images that I know I will never come back to. Looking to the future, I also need to add additional storage space. The options for this are to buy a new external drive, which will probably get me another 500Gb, but with no redundancy, or alternatively I could bite the bullet and buy a Drobo. Though I have yet to price up a firewire Drobo and the necessary drives to populate. This would mean that I could keep copies of everything, but would free up enough space.

Unfortutantely I'm no stranger to hard drive failures as I've had more than 1 catastrophic data loss in the past so I've been through the pain of the irretreavable loss of important data.The biggest headscratcher for me at the moment, is the off-site situation. The the existing off-site regime works well for backing up webservers and exchange mailboxes etc, but the bandwidth required for photographs is the killer. Since the issue of excessive bandwidth came to a head and I had to temporaily pause the off-site copying of the photographs, I've been reduced to transporting them from site to site on a 32Gb memory stick - which is far from ideal - I'm a big fan of automation. Another problem that I have is that I can't always get into the office to work on images, so I often work on them on a laptop at home. So ideally, what I need is a two-way synchronous back up off-site system that will look for changes and copy files in the appropriate direction!

Since drafting this post yesterday, I've had a little time to investigate Drobos. (If you've not heard of this marvellous invention - check it out here). For one of the 2nd generation units populated with 4 x 1TB Western Digital Green drives which would give me 2.7TB worth of storage space (The rest is required as overhead for fault tolerance), would come to about £700. Which ain't all that cheap, and I'd need 2....Hmmmm...