Backing up to the cloud

Cloud peak wilderness sunset

Sunset, Cloud Peak wilderness

I made the switch to digital with a Canon 20D in time for summer 2005, and in the decade since I’ve accumulated 1.4TB of images. That’s not a lot compared to many photographers, but keeping any data safe for long periods is a challenge that requires a bit of thought. Over the last ten years I’ve suffered two disk failures (one of an internal disk, one external), and discovered from painful experience (fortunately not with my drives) that even quite sophisticated data recovery services can fail.

My current backup strategy is simple. The images live on a single 2TB external drive, which is backed up (along with some other stuff) to a second 3TB drive. Every month I copy the data to a third drive, which ordinarily sits in a drawer in my office. This guards against what are probably the most likely mishaps – a failure of a single drive (inevitable), a software bug that renders all connected drives unreadable (shouldn’t happen, but an OS-X update felled a bunch of my brother’s drives), and physical loss or destruction of the computer. It’s not completely secure, of course, but if an asteroid wipes out both my apartment and my office I imagine matters other than photographic will occupy my attention.

Although this all works fine, the off-site backup is a bit cumbersome, and to be honest my resolution to do it “every month” is most often honored in the breach. With that in mind I’ve started experimenting with backing up to the Amazon Cloud Drive, which (for now at least) offers unlimited photo storage for Amazon Prime subscribers. I’m finding it works pretty well. The system recognizes Canon .CR2 raw files, and I can upload 20-30GB chunks of data overnight without much problem. The main criticism I hear – that it’s a bare bones service that doesn’t offer much in the way of file management – is a plus for me… all I want is to be able to safely tuck my directories away and retrieve them if disaster strikes. Recommended.

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