How I backup my photos

I could go into some of the horror stories about photos I’ve lost or about how a disk crashed just before I copied the files off, but we’ve all been in that situation where we’ve lost important stuff when a disk decided to go belly up.
This might not be of much use to you if you don’t use Linux but bare with me. Some of the ideas might help keep your photos safe.

I use two Iomega 1TB external drives. They’re USB 2.0 drives so not the fastest things in the world but they do. The RAW files from the Canon 40D are noticeably slower loading obviously but not excessively so. Ironically, I bought a laptop because my desktop machine was so noisy, but the fans in those external drives are almost as noisy as my old computer!


Two external drives, earlier today.

Drive one is where I archive my photos for long term storage. Brand new, hot out of the camera photos are copied to the internal disk on my laptop but that only has 60GB free so I move photos manually every few months to Drive one. This drive is also where I store any other files, my music collection, videos I shoot. Anything really.

Drive two is my backup drive. I use Backuppc to do incremental backups every day. It backs up:

  1. All my websites through ssh.
  2. My home directory on my laptop with brand new photos, Thunderbird mail directory, Firefox and everything else.
  3. I used to backup my Macbook but that took too long over the local WiFi connection so I don’t keep anything irreplaceable on that.

What about backing up my photo archive on Drive one? Instead of Backuppc I use rsync to copy the first drive to the second one every night. This command, placed in /etc/cron.daily/backup (and made executable with chmod a+x backup) will do the trick. It copies any new or modified files from disk one to my backup disk.

rsync -a /media/one/ /media/backup/

I use rsync because it’s simpler than Backuppc and I don’t need incremental backups of the data there. Any photos that are modified are copied to new files anyway, rendering increments useless. Rsync is also available on Mac OS X, and there’s also Unison that runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows and does the same job.

Backuppc can be installed from rpm or on Debian based systems using apt-get or aptitude. It’s a Unix based backup solution but can backup systems running many other operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS X. It has a simple to use web gui for administering backups. The only downside is configuration which can be daunting as it requires editing of config files and setting up remote hosts if necessary. On the up side, there’s plenty of documenation and it’s well worth trying if you want an automated system you can trust.

Disk capacity is another issue, but as I store all my files in dated folders my photo archive only grows in one area: the folder for the current year. If I run out of disk space I’ll buy another disk or replace an existing drive with a larger one. I could go down the RAID or LVM route but I don’t want to complicate things. If my current drives last that long, I’ll replace both after 2 years. Disks always break sooner or later.

So how do you backup your photos? If you’ve blogged about it, please leave a link to the post. I’m always trying to improve my own system!

Aperture ƒ/5.6
Camera Canon EOS 40D
Focal length 72mm
ISO 400
Shutter speed 1/60s

Shadows at Tragumna

Shadows at Tragumna

Shadows are cast by the late afternoon sun at Tragumna Beach near Skibereen in Co Cork. This was my first time at the this beach, it was practically deserted except for a couple in their car who watched the waves.

Aperture ƒ/5.6
Camera Canon EOS 40D
Focal length 10mm
ISO 100
Shutter speed 1/400s

Girl in the Hoop

Girl in the Hoop

A running girl is framed by a hoop thrown into the air alongside her in Bishop Lucey Park during the “Peace in the Park” event 2 months ago.

Aperture ƒ/4
Camera Canon EOS 40D
Focal length 16mm
ISO 400
Shutter speed 1/60s