As a professional photographer, the digital images you capture and create are more than just a testament to your skill and artistry – they’re the lifeblood of your business. Losing them, or even losing the ability to access them, could damage your professional reputation – and your livelihood – for years to come. Therefore, it’s essential to have comprehensive storage and backup solution that is available at all times. Also, having multiple copies of each file with one stored offsite reduces the possibility of losing the data.
According to some of the photographers I’ve talked to, it seems that there are two primary methods that most of them use to store their digital images. Some use Time Machine or some other type of backup software to save their digital files to an external hard drive, and then swap them out when they get full; while others use a network attached storage (NAS) device in a 2-disk redundant array of independent disks (RAID) format. While each of these techniques is certainly far superior to having no backup strategy at all, and they both have serious shortcomings that can quickly lead to catastrophic data loss.
A friend of mine told me that he always has two copies of his files. He takes a portable hard drive with him whenever he’s in the field; that way, at any point throughout the day, he can dump the files from his memory card onto a medium that’s more stable and has a higher storage capacity. Once he gets back to his office, he transfers those files to his computer so that his “field drive” is ready to go again for his next shoot. He then uses Time Machine to back up the files to an external drive that’s attached to his computer. So the two copies of his files reside on his computer’s hard drive, and on the external hard drive that’s right next to his computer. This is true of his raw files, as well as his edit files.
While this strategy certainly protects against a disk failure since it allows him to maintain two copies of his critical files at all times, it fails to protect his business from a site-wide disaster. There could be a break-in, fire, flood, or any other natural disaster that could destroy everything in his office. Since both of his file copies are in the same physical location, any natural or man-made disaster could likely destroy them.
Two External Hard Drives
I’ve spoken with numerous customers over the years who clearly understand the point I made above, and to overcome this problem, they use two external hard drives – one to keep at their office, and one to take offsite; they then swap the two drives at regular intervals. For example, one person I’ve talked to recently says that he takes the second drive home; then every two weeks, he swaps them so that the one that’s been in the office will now be the ‘remote’ drive at home.
Like before, this strategy maintains at least two copies of the files and it also seemingly solves the problem of having all copies in the same physical location. But the two significant issues remain, First, manually swapping drives every two weeks is burdensome and rife with the possibility for human error. It’s easy to forget, or just get lazy and decide to put it off. Even if you’re perfectly disciplined, there’s one problem that simply can’t be overcome – there are continuously two weeks’ worth of files that are only stored on-site. I actually heard one photographer say, “that’s pretty good, only two weeks’ worth of files is truly at risk.” But my question here is, if you had shot a wedding, a 50th anniversary, a 100th birthday party, or any other special event in that timeframe, would you still feel the same way? Would your client think it was no big deal?
This brings us to NAS devices. The great thing about a NAS is that it can scale to handle up to several terabytes worth of files, plus it can be placed in one of several different RAID configurations to protect against a single disk failure. But apart from that, at its core, a NAS isn’t much different than using external hard drives.
Most RAID configurations can only withstand a single drive failure; a second one (which is more common than you may think!) can still lead to catastrophic data loss. And even though a NAS can scale to several terabytes, for a thriving photography business, those disks can fill up more quickly than you think. And if you also shoot any sort of video, they’ll be full even faster. Once those disks approach capacity, you have to make a choice; either place those disks in a closet somewhere and replace them with fresh disks or add another NAS to your network. The first option makes it cumbersome, at best, to access older files; the second option quickly becomes a management nightmare since you’ll never know which files are on which NAS – and which ones are backing up which.
Now if the challenges above weren’t enough, there’s also the issue with offsite storage. This is because, on its own, a NAS doesn’t solve for this – everything is still in the same physical location, so a site-wide disaster can still wipe out your valuable files just as quickly and easily as it would with a single external hard drive. The only way to get around this problem using a NAS is to have a second NAS device stored offsite, along with replication software to manage the required synchronization between the two. But in addition to the two NAS devices, all the disks to populate both, and spare disks for each to use when disks fail, the replication software itself can cost hundreds of dollars. And to add insult to injury, in addition to all of the extra expense, replication between two NAS devices can be pretty complex.
CloudNAS – a Complete Solution
Just as digital photography has experienced extraordinary innovation over the years, so have the storage and backup solutions for your digital images. Today, the cloud is the ideal place to store your digital images. Morro CloudNAS offers the speed and convenience of a local storage device, but solves every one of the challenges mentioned above: