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Devising A Backup Strategy Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

11 March 2014

If spring is in the air, can spring cleaning be far behind? And if you're throwing things out, shouldn't you be backing things up? Scott Kelby and Walt Mossberg think so and both outlined their strategies in detail today.


For Scott Kelby, It's 'Back Up Your Photos' Tuesday after he heard from a photographer who just lost every photo he had taken in the last few years. Kelby advises:

Stop whatever you're doing and right this very minute and take a few minutes to protect the visual history of your life and back up your images. Just drag them onto another hard drive. If you don't have one; run over to Best Buy, pick one up and back them up. It takes so much less effort than you'd think.

We actually do buy our external drives from Best Buy because they're conveniently located right on the shelf and inexpensive. It's also a block away from our doctor and makes a nice distraction after our annual get-together.

In the article, Kelby briefly details his backup strategy.

As soon as he returns from a shoot, he copies everything to two local drives, one at home and another at the office. He also has an offsite backup with CrashPlan.


That offsite approach is a critical component to any backup strategy, according to Walt Mossberg in Triple Coverage: Back Up Your Computer in Three Ways. He notes:

In particular, you should do a massive, automated, constant backup to a cloud service. Why? Because, if there's a home burglary, fire or flood that causes the theft or destruction of both your computer and any local backup drives, you'll still have an up-to-date copy of your documents, photos, videos, music and other files you've saved.

His solution is to use Backblaze which, at $50 a year, is a lot cheaper than the $499 Dropbox would charge to keep track of his 300-GB of files.

He also gives a nod to Crashplan, based on a 2012 review by his colleague Katie Boehret.

The only catch with live remote backups is that initial copy. In Mossberg's case, it took 12 days to complete. Ouch.

We address that little issue by doing a physical offsite backup. We bike our backup to a location several miles away every now and then. It isn't as up-to-date as the Backblaze or Crashplan approach but it also doesn't require a background process running continually on our machine.

The key point in any backup strategy is the variety of redundancy. That's multiple copies on different media in different places. It's all the same but it's different.

Mossberg helpfully details the other two backups you need, including a full local backup using either Time Machine on OS X or System Images Backup on Windows and a sync of your most important files to Dropbox or a similar cloud service.


In Our Secret Backup & Archiving Strategy In Action, we start with a good book in describing our backup strategy. A good long book because even a local copy takes a while. And we end up with a library. An Aperture or Lightroom library, which contain the edits of your images.

Our local copies are on several external drives immediately after capture, like Kelby. And they eventually end up on three sets of DVDs, one of which is offsite.

So our offsite backup is not on a server. Which has the advantage of eliminating any security issues.

But that's just for our images. What about our system?

As a result of making it more secure, the operating system itself has evolved into a somewhat self-contained environment. You can reinstall or recover it without more than a cough or three. That wasn't always the case, where all sorts of system add-ons customized your experience.

Those add-ons are mostly applications now. Our daily backup to an external drive keeps track of any evolution there.

For our important data (like the local version of this site and the software we've written to produce it), we do a sync to a secondary system when anything changes, as well as that daily backup. That second system is designed to be our travel box so we don't miss a beat when we leave the bunker.

So the nature of your data also plays into your strategy. Some things are easy to recover, some to re-install, some best waiting somewhere for you whenever you need them.


The key point in any backup strategy is the variety of redundancy. That's multiple copies on different media in different places. It's all the same but it's different.

However you devise your backup strategy, make sure any new or updated file is not unique for long. That little discipline will guarantee your work won't turn out to be merely a memory some day.

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