Cloud Storage: Why an External Hard Drive is Not Enough - Digital Photography School

Cloud Storage: Why an External Hard Drive is Not Enough

A contribution from Lori Peterson

IMAGE 01A few years ago I shot a beautiful, heartfelt wedding. The bride’s grandmother had just gotten out of the hospital after a terrible fall. Her grandfather was not doing well, but he was managing the care of her grandmother in addition to taking care of himself. They made it a huge family occasion and created a beautiful, family oriented evening.

Celebrations continued to the later hours in the evening and then the bride and groom left to spend their first few days as man and wife. It was a beautiful, perfect day. The images I shot in camera looked just amazing and seemed to really capture the essence of the day.

I went home and loaded all the images onto my computer and then backed them up to my external. I edited a few images so that the bride and groom could have some sneak peeks of their wedding photographs to share with their friends and family.

A few days later my husband noticed that my computer was not displaying the photograph slideshow that I have my computer set to play. We sat down and looked at my computer together. While we were sitting there all of the images started disappearing off my computer. I thought “Well, at least they are on my external!” I apparently got too hopeful way too fast. My external and my hard drive crashed at the same time. While we sat there trying to figure out what was going on my computer’s hard drive and the external hard drive were dying….and wiping away all of the images they had.

We have a friend who works for a computer repair store. We called him. We immediately took over the external and left it waiting and hoping for a phone call and for him to say that they recovered the images. I couldn’t even think straight, it was the only thing on my mind.

Our phone finally rang, but he was not able to give us good news. Our external hard drive had crashed and wiped out all of the data on it. Nothing was able to be recovered. Not one image. I was frantic. I now had to call the bride and tell her that all of the images from that day were gone. All of them, except for their sneak peeks. Those little fragments were all that remained of their day.

That was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make. I wanted to tell them in person, but I honestly felt that setting up a meeting to tell them this would make it worse for them. I picked up the phone and dialed the number. I explained what happened. I apologized profusely. She was disappointed and heartbroken, that much you could tell. She was also understanding and forgiving as well. As it turns out, just a few weeks before their wedding, their own computer had abruptly died. They wanted to get it repaired, but according to their computer technician, there was absolutely nothing they could do to save the computer, the photos, and the documents on the computer. When the computer died, it took all of its information with it, just like mine had done.

At this point refunding her money and offering her the world was on my agenda because I felt awful about the entire situation. I was surprised by how well they took the news. They knew that the situation was not one I created or that they created. It was just a by-product of our relying on our technology to keep everything safe. Sometimes it fails and lets us down.

On that day I vowed that would never, ever happen again. That was not a situation I was going to put myself into ever again. This is when I started researching cloud storage. I wanted something that immediately backed up my computer. I wanted a safety net. The external was just not a big enough safety net for me anymore.

You can get overwhelmed when you are looking for cloud storage by the number of providers available. You should factor in what you are looking to backup. Is it just your computer? What about an external? Photos or documents? Or all of it.

One of the easiest and cheapest options for backing up everything is BackBlaze. For $5 a month it will back up one computer and any external plugged into that computer. It will back up everything except your Operating Systems and applications. All your files, photos, and documents will be securely backed up and you can retrieve them in the event of any emergency.

IMAGE 02

Carbonite is another option. For one computer to be backed up their pricing begins at $59.99 per year. If you have an external hard drive that you also want backed up they have plans that begin at $99.99 per year.

Dropbox, Copy, and Google Drive all have free plans for anywhere from 15-18 GB of storage. Depending on your needs they have other plans that begin at $4.99 per month for 100GB and they go up from there. Dropbox does have an add on for $3.99 a month that lets you have unlimited undo history for those moments when you accidentally delete something and realize that you really should have kept it.

Whatever your situation, having a backup plan is always a good idea. If you are a photographer, it’s even more important to have that peace of mind not only for you but for your client as well. There are pricing structures and plans to fit every budget and every need, because sometimes technology fails. Don’t have to make that phone call like I did. Back your photos and documents up and then back them up to cloud storage. It’s inexpensive and well worth it to invest in some sort of extra storage.

Lori Peterson is an award winning photographer based out of the St. Louis Metro Area. Her dynamic work ranges from creative portraits to very unique fine art photography. Lori’s work can be seen at www.loripetersonphotography.com and also on her blog at www.loripetersonphotographyblog.com. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LoriPetersonPhotography.

Read more from our Post Production category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • George

    I agree with ” Photo Book Girl ” that finding the right option can indeed be daunting, if one is not an expert with Cloud Computing. I’ve checked out the options listed above but I’m glad one of colleagues pointed me to Zoolz. It’s quite simple and very easy on the pocket so I’d recommend adding it to the list ;)

  • http://www.birmingham-data-recovery.co.uk/ Anthony O Hare

    I can totally understand how threatning & helplessness one feels when all of its important storage, espicially related to work just vanishes away one fine day suddenly despite of taking appropiate measures to save it. As me too a wildlife photographer & had few months ago faced a similar issue of losing some of my finest photo collection, still not being able to recover them by taking help from some local computer stores. So definitely agree with the fact that only External Hard Drive Recovery expert engineers can troubleshoot the problem to the best results.

    http://www.birmingham-data-recovery.co.uk/

Some older comments

  • Lori Peterson

    September 10, 2013 10:00 pm

    Joe,
    No, I do not have very thin skin when it comes to this. Although I do not enjoy being called a little woman. That part was very condescending and a little rude. This was not a fabricated story. This was 100% true. It's like saying that trees never fall on homes during storms, but they do. My neighbor's tree fell on my house and wiped out part of the back of my house. Things happen. We rebuilt that part of our house (thanks to insurance money because it was quite expensive) and we moved on. The neighborhood learned a lesson about keeping their trees trimmed. (And if you don't believe me, feel free to email me personally at lori@loripetersonphotorgraphy.com and we can chat more about it all! I can send you photos of the tree. And I think somewhere in this house I still have the hard drive. I can even send that to you).

    As for the recently married couple, not only did they understand, they have become wonderful friends and I have shot several other events for them.Technology fails us sometimes. Not everyone is going to be set off into a rage when things happen that is out of their control or anyone else's.

    Go ahead and email me and we can discuss your article and I can help you get that to where it needs to go to get reviewed for publishing!

    And thank you Craig Parham for standing up for me. I appreciate your kind words!

  • Joe Prete

    September 6, 2013 05:54 pm

    Well, I don't see my replies. I apologized to the little woman, you challenged me to write an article myself, and I agreed to. I asked where and how to submit it. that was a week or so ago... No response! So what's it gonna be are you going to call me names and hide? Maybe Lori's skin is a little too thin for this, but I apologized anyhow.
    Your time has passed, and I am still waiting. So where's the information to submit an article? I will write an article, not a comment. I will cover the subject properly, so get it together, tell me how and where to submit it. OR was as that a Bluff? Talk is cheap. Too cheap on this site!
    The ball is in your court now, send the info, and I 'll send an article. It's that simple.
    I've been waiting,
    ... Joe Prete

  • Craig Parham

    August 30, 2013 11:20 am

    I will sayit, whereas "the author" who happens to be Lori Peterson, is probably too polite to say it.
    Joe Prete - go bag your head. You have an opinion - a rather nasty one at that - but that is no reason to air such malicious dribble.
    I do not believe for one second that anyone has lost respect for Lori because of what she written or how it is written. My thanks go to Lori and the other authors of this site for sharing their experiences.
    Joe, perhaps you should submit an article!
    Or perhaps take your trolling elsewhere.

  • Joe Prete

    August 19, 2013 02:50 am

    To the Author,
    After reading some of the other comments aside from mine, I really don't think anyone is that dumb, or has such terrible luck. Why don't you come clean and admit that this was just a story fabricated to get a point across.
    If that's the case, you're a really bad writer as well. If you can't just write a story about the need to back up images, you really aren't much of a Writer or a Photographer. Before we lose all respect for you, at least admit it. By the way, any recently married couple that "understood" and didn't sue you for loads of money belong in the very same category as you. Shame on you!

  • mike earussi

    August 18, 2013 11:34 pm

    Nice idea, but not especially practical for those of us who have who measure our photos in terabytes instead of gigabytes or have slow upload connections. As for cost, I get unlimited backup storage for $50/year with my Costco membership by just setting up a photo account.

  • Rob

    August 17, 2013 07:51 am

    I have a question for cloud storage fans
    how do you view it in terms of the NSA scandal going on?
    and as mentioned already here , what happens when company taken over, company goes bankrupt, company is avoided like the plague because its based in the states and for whatever reason NSA and others like to get their mitts on it or at least on the companys cloud data even if you are not the intended target?

    In the EU and other parts of the world people/companies are now staying away from american cloud storage.
    However that doesn't mean other countries are not neccesarily behaving the same way with your photos either.
    cloud storage comes with a lot of insecurity that perhaps you ought to look at alternatives other than what is being suggested here

    regards

  • Joe Prete

    August 16, 2013 07:34 am

    To the Author,
    You actually erased, and also formatted your CF or SDHC card media? I don't know any Photographer that doesn't have enough cards to leave the images on them, until the job is finished and out the door.
    We use both CF and SDHC and they are not cleared and formatted for weeks or months after the job is done.
    Just deleting the image is not enough, you need to FORMAT the media before it's finally gone. I don't know if your Cheap or Dumb, maybe both, but cards have been cheap enough to store and/or rotate, for several years now. And that was long before anyone ever spoke of the "Cloud" Maybe you learned an expensive lesson, but it cost the customer more than anything that could be replaced. They should institute Education and Licensing for those who are too stupid to know better!

  • Anne McKinnell

    August 14, 2013 04:15 pm

    I wish cloud storage was feasible, but there aren't enough hours in the day to upload all the data, especially if you travel full time with questionable interenet connections. I back up on an external and have overlaps in my data so most photos are on more than one external, plus I have time machine. That means it would require at least 3 hard drives to fail to loose my images. Oh, plus I have another copy I leave with a friend back home. Hard drives are a lot cheaper and more practical than cloud storage if you happen to be a traveller. Perhaps if you always have a super fast connection it might work. I store my externals in a fire proof box in the RV just in case the unthinkable should happen.

  • Lori Peterson

    August 14, 2013 02:11 am

    I did run systems on the actual cards as well and no, none of those were able to retrieve the wedding images either.

    Yes, they took it apart to see if it was a physical failure. Still nothing retrieved.

    These were also seasoned pros that I took this to. Just because he was a friend did not mean he was just some guy who takes computers apart in his basement! Even for the second opinions, etc. we went with reliable companies and places that really did work to try to retrieve the data.

    Then the maker of the external said that since it was taken apart that our warranty on this external was voided and they couldn't replace it.

    Cloud storage, burning disks and not erasing files until I absolutely have to off my CF cards works for me. I am also looking into adding CrashPlan to my backups system since so many people have raved about it.

  • Gary

    August 14, 2013 01:48 am

    As I'm not professional photographer many of the solutions are not as essential than it is for others. But someone who works in the IT Industry knows all too well that sudden disk failure that is brought to your attention and the issues arising after..

    I save my photos to a 2TB external HDD and upload to smugmug as an external safety net...seeing that this service allows you to download the images back down uncompressed like some other services, hence keeping the original

  • Gary

    August 14, 2013 01:48 am

    As I'm not professional photographer many of the solutions are not as essential than it is for others. But someone who works in the IT Industry knows all too well that sudden disk failure that is brought to your attention and the issues arising after..

    I save my photos to a 2TB external HDD and upload to smugmug as an external safety net...seeing that this service allows you to download the images back down uncompressed like some other services

  • Kevin M. Thomas

    August 13, 2013 05:02 pm

    Someone wrote "As a seasoned tech, I refuse to believe NO data was recoverable.". Yeah, well, I was a seasoned tech when Carter conceded defeat before the California polls closed. And I have recovered bad hard drives by using a variety of tricks over the years.

    Still, sometimes a drive really does get fried. For instance, a head crash can cause a circular gouge in the oxide. And if the head tower retracts slower than the platters stop spinning, then the retraction of the head-crashed head tower would cause a spiral-shaped gouge across all of the surfaces.

    ... and FWIW I am a deliriously happy BackBlaze user. It has saved my bacon a few times. $5/month for unlimited storage, including externals. And it backs up automatically while I sleep. Yum!

  • Victor Howard

    August 13, 2013 01:47 pm

    Dropbox is not really a backkup solution, but a file sync solution. Currently, I use my MacBook drive as my primary drive and back up daily to an external drive. I have 3 external drives and rotate them on a weekly basis, with 2 offsite (at diff locations) at any point in time. This takes lots of coordination. I am considering moving my Lightbox to my Dropbox account (or getting a Copy account), then running backups via Crashplan. Pricing for Copy is better than Dropbox, and Crashplan is a very inexpensive cloud backup solution.

  • Jon

    August 13, 2013 06:38 am

    Another vote for Yacko's comment. You had copies on two HDDs and on the memory card. As a seasoned tech, I refuse to believe NO data was recoverable. Sandisk for example sell their cards with recovery software, which I've used and it works. Tools like Spinrite work on HDDs at a magnetic flux level and work wonders. And finally there are DR specialists with clean rooms that will disassemble the drive and transplant the platters to another case if it's a physical failure. But considering two drives died at the same time, I expect malware. If that is the case, unformatting the drive or other low level data tools would do what you needed.

    I've always said, never climb higher than you're willing to fall. Invest in something like the Netgear ReadyNAS with RAID technology and USB3 for offsite backups. (Just a happy customer). If you're charging money for photography, you're a pro and so the public expect you to behave like one. So use a pro's tools. Did you have insurance? That would have paid for data recovery. There's a reason pros are expensive, and it's stuff like this that justifies it.

  • Sandro

    August 13, 2013 05:34 am

    Next time you encounter a drive failure and your local recovery person cannot recover the data, contact DriveSavers . They're arguably the best data recovery service in the business and can recover data that mere mortals cannot. Their ads claim recovering data from drives run over by semi trucks, sunk in the Amazon and other miraculous recoveries. They're expensive but worth it.

    Oh, and CrashPlan is really good stuff.

  • Rich

    August 13, 2013 05:23 am

    Have you run recovery software on the actual cards? I have had much success with recovering files from SD and CF cards using readily available recovery software.

  • Brad

    August 13, 2013 05:22 am

    Another option for backups is getting a 4 disk or larger NAS (Netowrk Area Storage) or if you have a big operations where you can afford a Tape Library could also help backup data.

  • Lori Peterson

    August 13, 2013 05:07 am

    Yes, we did get that second opinion. And no, they were not able to salvage anything. In fact, we even got a third opinion. Again, the external had been corrupted and they were not able to even get one thing off of it. We would not have taken it to our friend in the first place if I did not believe he was competent. My work was on that external. Lots of it. It was terrible to lose it all and not be able to get it back. Trust me, we tried everything known to get it back. I was willing to spend whatever I needed to just to get the data and the images back.

  • Countervail

    August 13, 2013 02:16 am

    I have a two-step plan. When I get images back to my computer and upload, I immediately burn two copies of the files to DVD. My files are also housed on an external drive that backs up regularly to another drive to secure files if one of the drives decides to die. It seemed the least inexpensive and safest option. Cloud storage can get expensive and take time.

  • Peter van der Does

    August 12, 2013 11:54 pm

    I have several issues with using a cloud backup.

    - What happens when the company goes bankrupt?
    - What happens when the company is taken over?
    - I have a monthly bandwidth usage limit, backing up over the Internet would kill my bandwidth. Maybe not after I have backed everything up, but the initial backup would.

    My solution is to backup locally. I backup on a NAS, running in a RAID 5 configuration. I'm not a professional, but if I was I would also have a 3rd backup, non-raid, which I would store off-site. The 3rd backup would be in rotation in the grandfather-father-son system. Meaning two disks off-site.

  • Beth Katz

    August 12, 2013 11:39 pm

    Although it doesn't help for the large quantity of large image files you all are talking about, I make immediate backups to CD or DVD. Those won't be overwritten. We also have backup hard drives off-site and use Time Machine locally.

    Flash drives are also inexpensive these days. You can hand a client a flash drive of images if having a digital version is part of the contract.

  • Jan Reichert

    August 12, 2013 11:12 pm

    I agree with Yacko, normally you are able to restore files yourself.
    I even succeeded to retrieve photos from failed CF cards, from formatted drives, etc.... it is amazing what can be done.
    I imagine though that an agressive virus could have overwritten the data for instance... and the fact that BOTH drives lost the data
    really makes me more think of a Virus.
    In my case it was vicious as well, the controller card of the harddrive somehow failed to function... here I had two options, try to find
    exactly the same harddrive and lend the controller card for a recovery, or send it one of those specialized places that apparently have
    very special means to retrieve the information, and the price is indeed what you mention >1000$ ... Sad to think that the drive actuyally still
    had the data, I could just not get to retrieve it.

  • Yacko

    August 12, 2013 10:46 pm

    "We have a friend who works for a computer repair store."

    Does that make this person competent? Did the drive spin? Did you try any recovery software yourself? People use computers with such a poor knowledge of what they are and how they operate, the only comparison would be driving on the freeway with your eyes shut without a license.

    "Our phone finally rang, but he was not able to give us good news. Our external hard drive had crashed and wiped out all of the data on it. Nothing was able to be recovered."

    No hard drive crash "wipes" the drive clean. All data remains on the drive. You should have gotten a second opinion. There are clean room drive places that can lift the data for $1000 give or take.

  • Jan Reichert

    August 12, 2013 07:40 pm

    Back-up is really such a time consuming but important task.
    I lost all photos made during my sons's first year, I could only get back those sent in small via email... which is still better than nothing.

    So I now have my main HD in the computer, + a 2TB RAID mirrored (so in fact 1TB actualy storage place) external USB harddrive. That makes 3 copies. But it is not enough as it would help in the case of a basic HD crash, but not in the following scenarios, to give just a few examples:
    1- Virus: destroys all your data both on main and USB connected devices....
    2- Fire : All burned and lost (or lightening all eletronics fried)...
    3- Burglary : Happened to neighbours of mine... I am sure they would take the external drives as well.
    4- Or why not simply bad manipulation.

    I thought of a hidden Wifi connected devices, that would automatically get new data whenever the main PC is online but that may not solve point 1 and 2... unless it is cleverly done : for example run the remote backup system under another OS (linux for instance), and stored it in a relatively protected area (some crazy and preferably cool place where buglars would not look)...

    But all I came of with, is yet another copy on an external USB drive that I store elsewhere (at work). Of course I may not always be up to date to the newest photos... but it is the best (and so far easiest) that I could come up with.

    For me, the cloud was no solution... I tried one, forgot which one it was, but the ADSL upstream is too low... it would have taken weeks only to save my photos... and I am not even a professionnal regularly doing thousands of shots....

    Well, just my two cents :).

  • Lori Peterson

    August 12, 2013 12:31 pm

    It wasn't just that I had rotten luck, it was that a storm had come through and had brought tornadoes and lightning and everything you could imagine with it. So many power grids were hit and what we think happened was a huge power surge killed everything. Since then I have been vigilant about backup on everything and cleaning out what I don't need to free up space for the things I want to keep.

    I love that people are sharing what works for them to help other people figure it all out too!

  • Doug

    August 12, 2013 09:51 am

    Quick note about Dreamhost and the whole 'unlimited' thing; that is NOT for storage but for your web site. They now include 50 gb backup space for whatever you want, but you are not supposed to use the space you pay for to save random files. Read the contract for details. I started with them just go get the 'cheap' storage space. They either never caught on or didn't care but the TOS are clear that my use was unacceptable. 50 gig wasn't enough for me so I just to stay kosher, I pulled the backup files from the site.

    One comment about some of the backup solutions; keep in mind that they are backup, not archive, systems. What's the diff? With a backup system, once you delete the file from your local store, it will (eventually) be flushed from your cloud storage system too. Archival systems don't care what's currently on your primary source.

    For our pics, which live on a Mac, onsite we use Time Machine plus copy all files to a network drive that is mirrored to a second. We also use IDrive and push all files up there as our off-site redundant storage.

  • GradyPhilpott

    August 12, 2013 07:01 am

    I agree that everyone needs backups for their backups, but I don't necessarily see the cloud as the only option.

    The author either has the worst luck in the universe or she got one malicious virus on her computer.

    An extra hard drive that is only plugged in when it's backing up will do essentially the same thing.

    I even have a backup on one of my laptops, just for safety's sake.

    Four simultaneous HD failure would surely signal the Apocalypse.

  • Michel

    August 12, 2013 03:29 am

    I have 4 separate copies : one on my main computer (were I do all editing), two external disks (not stored at the same place), and a server with a RAID storage array (with disks of different make, because if there is a problem in mounting chain, you have a good chance that all disks will fail at the same time).

    All computers are Linux based, exept the main one that has a dual boot, so I can use Windows software in cas of need : I use mainly gimp for editing and allways "rsync" to ensure a minimal amount of transfer, which is very efficient and trustworthy.

  • Lori Peterson

    August 12, 2013 01:28 am

    If anyone is interested in finding out more about CrashPlan they can go to their website to compare their plans and see what might fit their needs. http://www.crashplan.com/consumer/compare.html

    And no, life is not too short to wait for that external backup! I would have rather waited for that external backup than to lose all those photos!

    Thank you all so much for your input. It just goes to show that YES, you do need more than an external. A backup plan for your backup plan is needed to protect all of your data. Sometimes we think that because we have our hard drive backed up on an external that we are safe. Not so much.

    Just the other day I had a friend post that her home was broken into and they took her computer and her external too. She did not have everything backed up to a cloud storage so she can't recover anything and unless her stuff is found, she has zero hope of ever getting it back.

    There are so many factors that can cause us to lose all of our data and work. I don't care what company you go with, but go with one and don't rely solely on an external!

  • Steve McIlree

    August 11, 2013 11:55 pm

    Like others here I use CrashPlan for my cloud backup. The same CrashPlan software does automatic backups to a local external drive and a local Raid 1 array as well as my unlimited cloud storage. I believe the versatile software supplied by CrashPlan as well as the great pricing make this an option folks should consider for their cloud backup needs. I've been using CrashPlan for three years and it has never given me any problems.

    They do have a startup plan for those with much data or slow connections where they will send you an external drive so you can do your initial backup locally and they will use that to seed your cloud when you return it. You can also get your backup shipped to you if you have to restore quickly. Of course both these options cost extra.

  • Deb Scally

    August 11, 2013 11:48 pm

    It's a silly argument to say "life's too short" to wait for external backup. Yes, it takes a long time -- mine took weeks - the better part of a couple months, actually. But then it's done and it simply backs up a bit each day. Furthermore, it runs in the background and I don't use it as a SINGLE source of backup (I use an external as well) so there is literally no downside unless you simply don't want to spend the money. Everyone has their price point, but for my money, insurance that my images/memories will stay safe is well worth CrashPlan's annual fee.

  • Leif

    August 11, 2013 11:47 pm

    I'm using crashplan as well and it saved me a couple of times. The good thing is that it saves also different versions of a file which can be pretty useful if something goes wrong during the editing -> saving process. The first backup took a few weeks, but since then I barely notice that it runs in the background.

  • z0th

    August 11, 2013 11:38 pm

    I have my "cold storage" on a separate Linux-based RAID5 server. But I have my eye open for cheap offsite backups.
    If you are technical, and like to roll your own (Linux) servers and services -- virutal machine host Dreamhost offers virtuals with unlimited disk space for as low as 15$/month. Setting up an rsync server is pretty easy and is x-platform using apps like DeltaCopy for windows.

  • Orhan

    August 11, 2013 10:59 pm

    For my perspective content is most important thing. In this case we talk about our images. I use zenfolio.com. Its unlimited storage and they service is focus to photography and video. Smugmug.com its very similar service, it can use also

  • Alexander

    August 11, 2013 06:01 pm

    I use a NAS storage of Synology with RAID 1 (mirroring). Photo's are synced every night to cloud storage at Strato. I can manage still with 250 Gb at the moment. Every night a copy is made to external harddisk too and once in a while to another external harddisk which is disconnected and stored. And last but not least, after important events I create a copy on blueray too.

    And to all who fair data loss (or more the once who don't!), buy a Blueray burner for less then 100 dollars and burn the images to a blueray or DVD disk too. One lightning strike and all your electronic equipment is dead, including external harddrives. Store data offsite too if it is so important for you (buy 2 Synology NAS systems and place one at a friends or fellow photographers place and sync data to each other. Then you can sync TB's.)

  • Scott

    August 11, 2013 05:16 pm

    For a professional then consider NAS solutions rather relying on a third party to do off-site backup. Stick the NAS in your parents, office, studio, anywhere away from your main workstation. You retain control of that data and more important solves the next problem. That main problem about cloud services is that it's all but useless with most ISPs around the world, and even if it's allowed you're going to end up with ridiculously slow connection speeds if you've got a decent dSLR. How long is it going to take to upload 200Gb+ data on a 50kb/s uplink? As to data recovery, it's often a good idea to send to a third party who does forensic data recovery. I've had unrecoverable HDDs that wouldn't be read on the system but I still got most of the data back. It's not cheap but if the data is critical then it's worth considering.

    I'll also mention Skydrive that comes from MS and is also platform agnostic, for a professional it's actually a decent service as it gives you access (albeit limited) to MS Office. The other aspect it's now part of your Windows folder structure in Win 8, so no messy setting up software. You can also do this under Win 7. So backing up data to the service is easy.

    It's sad to see that this story still crops up, and people should be used to the simple fact computers fail and should have some form of redundancy even if it's syncing two external HDDs. If you're a business it might worthwhile talking to an IT consultant and seeing how to set up a proper back up solution.

    One other thing I'll mention about using DropBox, GDrive, Skydrive and probably others is that they do monitor the content so if you shoot boudoir/art nudes then your account may get yanked for T&S violations. Another reason to consider a NAS solution.

  • James A.

    August 11, 2013 02:01 pm

    Two things(Note: I don't work for any of these companies I just use them and like them):

    First, for those who mentioned they have terabytes worth of data and can't back up to cloud. Look into Amazon Glacier. They offer storage for $.01/Gig; so a terabyte would be $10. The catch with this storage is it is designed only for catastrophic failure it is not designed to get your data out unless you have a failure(Easiest way it probably to send them a hard drive and they will fill it with your backup data, so a week or more to get data back) but it is backed up in case of the situation mentioned by the author. Backup your data you would use one of the several clients available. Two common ones are Fast Glacier(http://fastglacier.com/) and Cloudberry(http://www.cloudberrylab.com/amazon-glacier-tools.aspx). I use Fast Glacier but, it is pretty manual you have to be vigilant in backing up(I setup a monthly task to sync it)

    Second, For author if you still have those hard drives around I would recommend Spinrite(https://www.grc.com/spinrite.htm) if your repair person has not tried it already. It designed to fix hard drives when other programs have failed I have used to on a hard drive to fix a problem when no other program could fix it.

  • David Somers

    August 11, 2013 10:51 am

    Long initial upload times are solved: you can send Backblaze (and others?) a 'seed' hard drive in the post. At a cost of course.

    You can't put a price on data security.

  • Burt

    August 11, 2013 08:11 am

    Like several others here, I also use CrashPlan. I have 3.4TB backed up to their cloud. I ALSO have 5.7TB backed up via CrashPlan FREE to my sister's house about 50 miles away. CP lets you back up to any friend's computer at no charge at all -- other than the cost of providing a disk to that friend.

    Additionally I use a Drobo as my primary disk at home with all my photos (http://www.drobo.com/), which provides internal disk redundancy. I have 5 drives in my Drobo and any 2 can fail and I will not lose anything. I can then just hot-plug a replacement drive and keep going as though nothing happened.

    I ALSO have a RAID drive doing a TimeMachine backup every hour. That has only single redundancy, but if one of the internal drives there fails, I just hot-swap a replacement and keep going again.

    So... Drobo for main drive, TimeMachine with RAID for first (local) backup. CrashPlan to sister's house for first full offsite backup. CrashPlan to cloud for key files (photo, letters, that kind of thing) for final fail-safe.

    I have been in the computer business for 45 years (since key punch was state-of-the-art), have owned many dozens of computers (often 5 or 6 at one time), and have had LOTs of disk failures. I ain't gonna lose nothing next time though! :)

  • Lori Peterson

    August 11, 2013 08:11 am

    I know that Backblaze will by default backup files smaller than 4GB but that can be increased in the settings to any file size. And my main reason for choosing BackBlaze was "There are no limits to how much data you can backup with Backblaze so you can be sure you won't go over any backup limit."

    I currently have everything on my 2TB external backed up to my BackBlaze account. Not counting everything from my other externals that I have backed up on there and my hard drive.

  • Ava

    August 11, 2013 07:52 am

    Carbonite will only back up external hard drives for PC subscriptions. I have a Mac and was minutes away from going with Carbonite when I found that out. Backblaze is more economical and will back up both the computer and external hard drives. I have the two years for $95 subscription.

  • prune

    August 11, 2013 07:47 am

    Have everything backed up to Crashplan, 4$ a month, unlimited storage.
    While it is not the fastest for initial backup (except sending them your drives, which I can't cause I have a RAID 5 bay), it IS secured.
    I have 5Tb of data (2Tb photo and 2Tb video + sides) and it took almost a month to upload.

  • Yaro

    August 11, 2013 07:35 am

    8 hrs to back up 20GB... Life's too short for that

  • Elena

    August 11, 2013 07:31 am

    I don't wipe any memory card until backed up in several locations, that way I have them in three places, card, external and computer. The memory card stays locked until I next need it. I've so far not found any online storage that works for me.

  • Peter Emmett

    August 11, 2013 07:29 am

    I currently use CrashPlan and subscribe to the "CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited" version for about $150 / year. This gives me unlimited space for all my family's computers (I currently have about 4TB of data). I think that this is a great value and gives me peace of mind for my files.

    For this service they also offer to ship a disk to you for the initial backup and any restore should you need it (although there may be a price for this - I don't know). It's a great service, runs silently in the background and is well worth the investment in my sanity.

  • Jeff

    August 11, 2013 07:11 am

    While I agree that cloud backup can be great, there really are limitations that make it unpractical for large scale(professional) photographers.

    Backblaze, while a great service, has such slow upload speeds that it's nearly impossible to upload anything. Last time I tried my estimated upload time was something like 5 months. Yes, months.

    I use Dropbox religiously, but it's not practical for large applications such as a multiterabyte photo library as it mirrors your hard drive, so you need the local storage.

    I still find that the safest way is to have an offsite storage that you bring home backup to periodically.

  • Gary Arndt

    August 11, 2013 07:05 am

    The data sizes you are talking about will only back up a few memory cards at most.

    I currently have to store 2TB of images. It is cheaper to buy a new hard drive every month than it is to store that in the cloud. That doesn't even taken into consideration how long it would take to upload that much data.

    Many serious photographers have TB of data and the cost of cloud storage for that much data is still very expensive.

  • See

    August 11, 2013 06:59 am

    Good idea.
    Mega (co.nz) also gives you 50 GB for free.

  • Bill Duncan

    August 11, 2013 06:40 am

    While I agree whole-heartedly, another helpful tip is not to format the cards right after uploading to the computer. Chips are cheap these days. Put them on rotation and swap in your other sets (keeping the images on the ones just swapped out until they're used again).

    This is also a great option:
    http://www.spacemonkey.com/

    Better than cloud storage..

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