Tag Archives: photo backup

Photo Backup: Internal Hard Drive

Hard Drive - 2 Flash/Brolly
Creative Commons License photo credit: geerlingguy

In the last big part of this series, we talked about working drives — the various options and their strengths and weaknesses. In the next few sections, I’ll be diving a little deeper while discussing various options for your backup hardware. Once we make it through the hardware, we’ll talk software. And finally, we’ll finish off with a discussion about strategy.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — WORKING DRIVES
NEXT — EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE

Our options for backup hardware is much the same as the working drives, but we have a few other options too. To kick off this section, we’ll go over the use of internal hard drives as backup hardware.

The PC under the MiniMac
Creative Commons License photo credit: veeliam

THE BASICS

An internal hard drive is simply a hard drive housed within your computer case and attached to its power and data connections. All computers have at least one internal drive to run the operating system, but an internal backup drive is one separate from your main drive. Simply creating a copy of your data on the same hard drive won’t give you much data protection. On that same note, most computers have more than one power supply cable and hard drive data connection, so installing a second, third, or even fourth drive should be no problem.

Hard drives come in all different flavors. Common form factors include 3.5″ (commonly found in desktops) and 2.5″ (commonly found in laptops). Let me just interrupt the flow to state that this article is based on the assumption that you’re using a desktop computer with 3.5″ drives — laptops don’t usually have too much extra space for additional drives. Hard drives also come in a multitude of disk interfaces (or the shape of the data plug). The SATA interface is most common today, but some computer are still supporting the old ATA drives. SCSI (pronounced “scuzzy” if you’re a geek) is not terribly common, but some people still use them. And I’m sure that by the time I publish this article, the next best thing will have obsoleted the SATA drive.

So my point is this: make sure you know what type of drive you can plug into your computer. Don’t jump on that ATA drive because it’s cheap, only to find out that you can’t even plug it in. Also beware of differences within a particular interface — for example, we’ve got SATA 1.5 Gb/s, SATA 3.0 Gb/s, and now SATA 6.0 Gb/s is in the works. So again, figure out what you need before you buy.

BACKING UP

Internal hard drives can be used as backup drives a few different ways. The simplest method is to install the drive as a secondary drive, or extra storage space, and use some type of software backup utility to make a copy of your chosen data from your main drive. We’ll talk about software options later, but most operating systems (excluding Vista) give you the ability to make backups of specific files and directories.

Another method is to use the drive as a mirror, or RAID 1 configuration. A mirror is simply a disk that is a duplicate of another disk or portion of a disk (like your photos), usually updated in real-time. For this, you’ll either need a piece of software or hardware (like a RAID controller) to manage the mirror operations.

The last major method of internal drive backup I’ll talk about is a full-blown RAID 5 configuration. This method will require at least 3 separate internal drives and a RAID controller to work (though I believe that some distributions of Linux can do this via software). A RAID 5 setup utilizes these 3 or more drives as a single drive with the data split between them in a manner that allows one drive to fail and your data to remain in-tact (of course the failed drive has to be replaced though).

Lucha Libre
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

STRENGTHS

Internal hard drives are fast, cheap, and they stay out of your way. They won’t clutter up your desktop or get knocked off the printer stand because they’re bolted to the inside of your computer case. They also have fairly high capacities given the cost — 1TB drives are not so uncommon. Drop down to 500GB or so and you can pick one up for much less than $100.

WEAKNESSES

still fighting the burger wars
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sumit

Well… for starters, it’s sitting right next to your main drive. This means that you’re not protected against theft, fire, lightning strikes, computer viruses, and spontaneous combustion. If something happens to destroy your main drive, it’s probably going to destroy your back up drive. It does protect against a random hard drive failure though, which is more common than most other catastrophes. The other downside to the internal drive is that you can’t pack it up and move it around or store it off-site without lugging your whole computer along or ripping it apart.

CONCLUSIONS

Extra internal drives can be a very feasible backup solution. They’re certainly better than nothing, and you have a couple of options for how you set up the drive to interact with your other internal drives. If you do choose to go this route, I’d strongly suggest a secondary backup plan (which is something I’d suggest anyway). Just don’t get stuck in the notion that you need an external hard drive to backup your photos — which is what we’ll be talking about in the next article for this series.

PRODUCTS

Photo Backup: Working Drives

Working Drive Comparison Chart

A good photo backup strategy starts with your working hard drive(s) — that place you use to access and work on your photos. If you don’t have a clean system for keeping your original copies, your photo backups are going to be a nightmare — especially if you’ve got stuff strewn between several computers and various external hard drives (you know who you are).

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — HOW BIG IS YOUR PHOTO COLLECTION?
NEXT — INTERNAL HARD DRIVE

There are several basic options for working drives, and they all have their pros and cons. You may not be ready to completely change your game plan right now, but this could be something to think about the next time you upgrade your computer (or run out of disk space).

MAIN INTERNAL DRIVE

Computers require a hard drive to operate and that hard drive usually has some extra space on it for your personal documents. When you journey into photography, this main drive is usually where the photos get stored.

PROS — performance, simplicity, cost. Today’s computers have plenty of hard drive space, usually sporting between 200 and 500 GB of capacity. Unless you’re shooting with a pro-level camera (and doing lots of it), this hard drive space will probably last a while. Internal drives are great for speed too — with the latest SATA 3.0 drives clocking in at 3 Gbit/s (or 375 MB/s) communication rates.

CONS — scalability, security, portability. If you keep shooting, you will run out of space at some point. Plus it’s a pain to transfer photos when you decide to get a new computer. You also have to consider that you’re sharing space with your operating system — that disk is constantly working overtime just to keep your computer running. More use of a drive can mean a quicker unexpected death.

SEPARATE INTERNAL DRIVE

IDE Drives - P9153453
Creative Commons License photo credit: isdky

Most computers have the space and connections to accommodate multiple hard drives. One drive can be used for your OS and your standard documents, and the other drive(s) can be used just for photos.

PROS — performance, scalability. Internal drives are way cheap and they come in many sizes to suit your needs. Since they’re connected straight to your motherboard, you’ll be enjoying quick performance while organizing and processing photos. If your photo drive fills up, you can get another one. And when you switch computers, you’ll probably be able to just transfer the drives over without issues.

CONS — cost, difficulty, portability. I said they’re cheap, but they still cost more than nothing. There’s also a constant shift in technology that tends to obsolete hardware like hard drives. Then again, it’s a good idea to get fresh drives every few years. You just have to make sure that you’re getting the right type of hard drive to go with your motherboard — and you have to pull the computer apart to install it.

PRODUCTS — 500GB, 1TB, and 1.5TB Drives.

EXTERNAL DRIVE

An external drive is just an internal drive with a plastic box around it. They are typically connected to the computer via USB or Firewire, and juiced up with an external power supply.

PROS — simplicity, portability, scalability. Most external drives are pretty easy to set up and use — just plug it in and use it. They’re also nice in the fact that they can be moved from one computer to another in very little time (handy for those who use a desktop and laptop). It’s pretty simple to expand your photo collection with external drives too — just get another one and plug it in.

CONS — performance, cost, fragility. External drives cost more than internal drives because they have a convenience factor and they’re covered in extra hardware. They’re also free-standing units, which means that they can get bumped and knocked off the desk or shelf. External drives also tend to be slower than internal drives when reading and writing data.

PRODUCTS — 500GB and 1TB Drives.

RAID TOWER

RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive/Independent Disks) is a type of technology that uses two or more hard drives to achieve better performance and/or reliability. Similar to an external hard drive, RAID towers are just a box with multiple drives inside (but they have a brain too).

PROS — security, scalability, accessibility. The great thing about a RAID tower is that it protects itself against most hard drive failures. If one drive fails, pull it out, put a fresh one in, and let it rebuild your data. You can also upgrade your drives for additional space as the need arises. Most towers are also geared to attach to a network, so you can access them from several computers through a router.

CONS — cost, performance. These boxes are not at all cheap — because they’re much more complex than a simple external drive enclosure. Some are like little computers on their own. Recent towers have gotten faster with data transfer rates, but an internal SATA 3.0 (375 MB/s) drive is still going to outperform anything external — even if it has multiple USB 2.0 (60 MB/s) ports, Firewire 800 (100 MB/s), or eSATA (120 MB/s) connections.

PRODUCTS — Drobo tower and Buffalo’s 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB towers.

NETWORK DRIVE

flight deck (2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: david ॐ

There probably aren’t too many people who would need this option, but it can be handy in a professional environment. A network drive is basically just a hard drive (or set of hard drives) that live in a dedicated file-server.

PROS — accessibility, security, scalability. When networked, these drives can be accessed from multiple other computers, and even across the web if you have the technical know-how. Good for a studio environment where many computers are used and workstations are upgraded regularly.

CONS — cost, difficulty, portability. In addition to the drives, you’ll be paying for the extra computer hardware and the network equipment. Then you have to be knowledgeable on the fine art of networking computers. Plus you’ll have another computer that needs upkeep on the software and hardware.

IN CONCLUSION

A good photo backup strategy starts with your working hard drive space. There are many options available to give you the performance and flexibility you need. The main things you need to consider are cost, performance, simplicity, scalability, security, portability, and accessibility. The most important thing is to find a solution that works for you, and be prepared to change your mind about your current setup as you get pulled into the hobby/career of photography.

What are you using for your main working drive? Are there any options that I’ve left out?

Photo Backup: It’ll Cost You

Dollars !
Creative Commons License photo credit: pfala

Digital photography is often thought of as “cheap” or “free” when it comes to snapping away. True, you don’t have to shell out the bucks each time you use your camera (as is the case with film). Also true is the fact that storage media is inexpensive.

But the brutal truth of photography, film or digital, is that it costs money to take and store photographs. And if you get serious about your photos and protecting them from loss or damage, the expenses only go up.

As your photo collection grows, you’ll need more hard drive space. Backing up those photos on other hard drives, DVDs, and online services… they all cost money. Additionally, things like hard drives and DVDs have a limited shelf life — so they’ll need to be replaced eventually.

My point is this: Save some money for storage and backups. The costs are recurring and ever-increasing. What good is that $800 camera body you just bought if you don’t have anywhere to put the photos? And how bad would it hurt if you lost all your photos from a hard drive crash and you had no backups?

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — HOW MANY PHOTO BACKUPS DO YOU HAVE?
NEXT — WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

Photo storage and backup is an essential part of photography. Don’t skimp on this stuff.

How Many Photo Backups Do You Have?

To get us rolling with the photo backup series, let’s do a little poll to find out where everyone is at with their redundancy habits. This will help give me a better idea of who I’m writing to for the upcoming articles. It will also shed some light on typical habits of other photographers.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — AN INTRO TO DATA SECURITY
NEXT — IT’LL COST YOU

What I’m asking for is how many independent photo backups you maintain. I know RAID setups are kinda fuzzy, but let’s still count those as one. Other forms of backups can include internal or external hard drives, DVDs, flash drives, memory cards, online services, etc.

{democracy:55}

And based on the results of our last poll, I think we’ll be going forward without an Epic Edits forum. When asked if we want one, most people were in the “maybe” or “no thanks” category. And as many commented, there are a ton of already great forums out there, so why start another?