Thursday, October 09, 2008

Backups, backups...

Today I want to talk to you about backups. The subject usually only comes up when you have a scare, right?

Yesterday I sat down to work on the Humber College Motorcycle website (it's at if anyone is interested). I did a photo shoot there some weeks ago because they wanted to update the website, and what with moving, working, etc, I didn't get to it until yesterday.

Well that's not quite true -- I edited the photos right after I took them, created a concept and sent them a couple of samples of what I was planning to do. They liked it, so here we go. Now retrieve the samples I sent them... where are they? Not on the desktop hard drive... maybe the laptop? No... that was full so I deleted a bunch of stuff, but I know I backed it up... it must be on the 1Tb portable drive... no... maybe on my USB key... no...

I had to email the customer to send me back the images (montages, actually) that I had sent him. Pretty embarassing. I suspect the files are on my former backup drive, a 500Gb device that I gave to Iris when I got the 1Tb drive. Yes, I have folders in multiple places with the project in them, but not the current latest version.

So I'm not going to preach at you that you need to back up your work. You already know that. But you need to keep your backups current. Find a system. There are lots of them that work, but you need to be diligent about using it.

I used to do a backup by dumping my "my documents" folder (and later under Vista, "my pictures" as well), once a month, onto the backup drive. Not good enough for me. Now I find myself working on the files right on the backup drive. Not smart -- I don't have current copies in the computers -- essentially, I've eliminated my safety net by shortcutting my procedures.

So what do I need to do? First thing is to go back to working on the computer hard drive instead of the backup drive. Then I need to back up each project as I work on it, then I have to burn DVDs so I have a "hard" copy of my work.

Now my friend Jim is working on an article about proper backup procedures, so I'll post a link to it when it's available. He talks about keeping ALL your photos in one place -- that only works when you back that up somewhere else. In the meantime, I have to save my work one way or another, even if it isn't ideal.

What do I use for backup drives? Western Digital "MyBook" external USB/SATA drives. They're available at Costco -- 500Gb is about $100, 1Tb is about $200. Not a lot of money when you need some peace of mind.