Last week the inevitable happened. One of my hard drives died with a screeching whine. I could almost visualize the heads crashing into the disk platters as it went out. I wish I could say this was the first drive failure I’ve experienced, but the sad truth is that I’ve had several of them over the years.
Note: Ironically, as I was writing the above paragraph the first time, my computer crashed as well. Of course I hadn’t saved yet, so I was forced to start over again.
One good thing I’ve learned from these previous drive demises is that backups are critical. Of course, I learned this like most of us do--the hard way. The first time I lost data I had no backup at all.
As our image collections have grown, we’ve progressed from backing up to floppy disks (remember those?), to CDs, DVD, and tape drives. My current system uses multiple hard drives to store my images and data files so that I always have more than one copy should disaster strike. I’m using a RAID system that mirrors each file so that I have an instant backup if a drive fails, like it did last week. Luckily, all I needed to do was add a replacement drive to the array and I was back in business without a single file being lost.
At the end of each day, I back up this primary system to a duplicate RAID so that I have yet another level of safety.
I’ve also begun to consider online storage solutions like those offered by Digital Railroad and Photo Shelter. The beauty of these systems is that even if your office burns down, or all of your equipment is stolen, you have offsite storage of your valuable work.
With the cost of disk space dropping all the time, there is really no reason to not have redundant systems to backup your work. For those of us whose images are our livelihood, losing a drive that contains the only copy of valuable images isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a potential financial disaster!