Backup Data Storage
for Digital Images

There are lots of different backup and archive options
for different needs and budgets

The question of Backup Data Storage solutions has become a prominent one ever since the digital revolution got underway. Whether you are an enthusiast or a professional photographer, I am sure during the years you have accumulated tons of digital images. Usually the idea of losing your digital image library is quite hard to even think of but you will be surprised at how often this aspect of the digital photography workflow gets overlooked.

We all somehow think that the worst will never happen to us but pay careful attention - it is not a question of if but a question of when you will lose photographic data. And when this happens you will blame yourself you have not thought of backing up and archiving earlier.

Your data is precious and it deserves to be protected so the whole purpose of the backing up and archiving is to ensure you do not lose the precious moments you have captured. In case of professional photographers, their digital library is their business so protecting will ensure that they continue to have a thriving business.

Backup Data Storage: Three Key Stages

If you are serious about backup data storage and protecting your data, it helps thinking of it in three key stages:

  • Your day-to-day data: this is the data that you use on a daily basis such as e-mails, spreadsheets, documents, album design etc.

  • Backup Strategy: The aim here is to ensure that you have at least one copy of everything that is vital to you and your business. If something gets accidently deleted or damaged, having a second copy allows you to go and start using the backup copy of it.

  • And lastly think of creating an Archive: While the archiving might not be necessary for the occasional snapper (unless they are quite paranoid), for a professional photographer is definitely something to consider.

    So how does an archive differ from a backup? The archive is a backup of your backup but most importantly, it is stored far away from your studio or ideally completely off-site. This ensures that in case there is a fire, or theft or a natural disaster that comes upon your studio or house, your precious image library is still safe.

Backup Data Storage: Solutions

So what backup data storage solutions do you use to protect your data in each of these three key stages? Well, there are different options for different needs and budgets...

  • Online backup: This is good only if you have a small amount of data (couple of GBs) to back up on a daily basis but for anything more than that it is not appear to be a good option. The advantages it provides are:
        a. Easy to get started
        b. Little or no initial investment
        c. You can access your data from anywhere
        d. Provides off-site backup

    Here are some of the disadvantages of online backup if you have lots of data :
       a. The costs of storing bigger amount of data escalates significantly. It         will cost you over GBP5,000 per month for 5TB of data.
        b. Slow backup and restore times - it can takes weeks to take your             data back if you have a lots of it.
        c. No physical control

    So because of all these reason, online backup is not really great for photographic data.

  • DVD/Blu Ray: This is an often popular way to use as backup data storage and with Blu Ray DVDs having capacity of 25GB you can backup most of a wedding . They also cost around just GBP5 each. The drawback is that your image data will degrade over time.

  • External disks/portable HDD: If you need increasing amount of storage it might be worth looking at purchasing a NAS (Network Attached Storage) box. This can be up to 12TB of storage and some of the solutions we recommend here are the Drobo, QNAP and Netgear offerings.

    If we take the Drobo for example, you can image it as a little external drive box which has multiple drive slots allowing you to put any SATA drives inside of its slots. Let's say you buy two 2TB drives and you put them inside the Drobo slots, once you connect the Drobo to your computer they will appear as one external drive. What is even better is that as your image library grows, you can continue to add more drives to the Drobo and/or replace your smaller drives with bigger ones in size. The Drobo comes in a 4-drive, 5-drive and a big 8-drive version but it seems the 5-drive Drobo (Drobo S) seems to be best option for the money.

    The problem with hard drive is that they are not full-prove either. They are fragile things and often die or just stop working. So make sure that your NAS is configured for RAID 5 or 6. RAID 5 means that you can lose one drive without losing your data while RAID 6 means that you can lose two drives and your data is still protected.

    So you can use a NAS to fulfil you backup strategy and another NAS for your archiving purposes. Then it is just a matter of syncing the data between the two at appropriate intervals. You can either sync the data between the two by direct attach or even better use a software program the likes of the one provided by to automatically sink the differentials between the two.

    The software from is free for personal use and there are no further monthly fees for backing up to another external drive or computer of your choice. The company do offer a Pro version of the software if you are not using it for personal use which does require a licensing fee.

  • Archive to Tape: This is the corporate way of archiving which is to copy everything to a tape.

So to summarise, you can use any or a combination of the above backup data storage solutions to meet your individual photographic backup and archiving needs. But at the very least you will need a nice big day-to-day server such as a Drobo, QNAP or a Netgear NAS box. Again make sure that it is RAID 5 or RAID 6 configured. You then need to back all of your data up and take it off-site from your main server to guard yourself in case of fire, theft or natural disaster.

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