This year I began to get serious about photo storage. It's not that I never worried about it in the past but with getting more and more work this year being sure my photos were safe and available became increasingly important. Having everything stored on my computer's HDD was not only unsafe but was become literally impossible due to limited disk space. My first solution was simple, store everything on an external HDD with this year's photos duplicated on the computer's HDD. I would import new photos to the computer's HDD and then copy the raw files to the external HDD. The problem with this solution is that it's still incomplete and unsafe. One power surge and both HDDs could be fried and I'd lose the entirety of my work. This is often why a 3-2-1 solution is suggested. 3-2-1 breaks down as follows:
- 3 different backups
- 2 different types of storage
- 1 offsite storage
I had 2 backups but both where of the same type, HDD, and both were onsite. Not a great start to a 3-2-1 solution. The reason cloud storage is so important is because it's not only a 3rd backup of your files but also it prevents a local disaster, such as a house fire, from completely wiping out all your files. There are any number of services to choose from for cloud storage but I decided on Amazon Cloud.
Several months ago this entire part of the blog would be a frothing at the mouth rant about the Amazon Cloud service. Sure it was a "free" unlimited cloud storage service but when I first started to use this service it was well... bad. The upload speeds were terrible, large files would halt upload for days, and managing files after upload was slow and tedious. To Amazon's credit, many of these issues seemed to have been alleviated with updates and improvements. File management after upload still isn't the greatest but it's more of an annoyance now rather than completely unusable. I've managed to upload all of my RAW files to their cloud in roughly one to two months rather than taking a month to upload a month's worth of photos . What I like about this service, that other's may not like, is that it's simple or, more accurately, rudimentary. As far as I'm aware there's no automatic backup, there's no easy restore, and there's no syncing drives. I might regret this one day but those aren't features I want. I simply want to upload folders and have them available to download if another drive fails. It's simple with no flairs and it works well in that space.
A quick aside on this service being "free." As far as I'm aware, Amazon Cloud started as a service that accompanied an Amazon Prime account. So it's "free" in so far as you're already paying for a service and this is a bonus to that service. So sure, "free." What's changed over time is that this service was "free" unlimited storage for all files. This has recently changed to being "free" unlimited storage for photos only with unlimited storage of other file types becoming a paid service. Luckily, unlimited storage for photos, currently, includes RAW file types so paying for this service in addition to paying for a Prime account hasn't become necessary.
Covering the 3s
With the 2 and 1 portion of a 3-2-1 solution covered I still wasn't happy with using both external and internal HDDs especially after switching to a laptop with a 256gb SSD. Also with switching to a laptop, portability became a new concern. Working with smart previews is great at times but they do have their limits in usefulness. Not only would an portable HDD allow me to work on the go but also act as a third backup. Since it's portable and thus always accompanying my laptop it's become my main storage device with the 4TB desktop unit above becoming more of a "deep storage" device rather than one that's used daily.
To recap, the 3 storage devices in use is a 4TB portable external HDD, a 4TB desktop external HDD, and Amazon cloud storage. There are 2 types of storage types in use, HDD and cloud. And 1 is permanently offsite. So 3-2-1 accomplished! For importing files my work flow looks something like this:
- Import RAW files using Lightroom to 4TB portable HDD
- Once conversion to DNG is complete I copy the folder to Amazon Cloud
- Beginning of the week, I merge the files from the 4TB portable HDD to the 4TB desktop HDD
- Once a week, I backup my Lightroom catalog to the cloud
I'm currently happy with this setup and confident that I'll have my files regardless of any circumstance. Would something like a drobo or a raid setup be better for deep storage? Maybe, but I think that's a beefier, not to mention pricier, solution than I currently need. But what's important is that my files are multi-duplicated, safe from local disasters, and readily accessible. One last thing to note, brand and service isn't terribly important as long as they are reliable. Seagate currently seems to be the leader in reliability but I've had very good luck with Western Digital HDD in the past. Amazon Cloud is one of many cloud services and seeing as Amazon won't be going anywhere anytime soon I feel confident in the service being available for as long as I need it. Ultimately, brand and service isn't terribly important but what is important that you actually utilize whatever devices and services you go with.