I’ve seen a ton of threads recently about data back-up solutions, people losing data, what do they do with their data, etc. So I decided to do a little write up with what we do. Below is a diagram of my on-site solution. I do have an off-site back-up solution as well, that is not covered here. This blog will only cover what I do with my images and my data workflow from camera to hard drive.

From the time we take our images to the time that we deliver them to the client, and even after that, we protect our images with multiple redundancies. We use cameras that write the pictures to two memory cards simultaneously. Both cards store the images until we get home. Just in case one card corrupts, we always have a back-up.

When we get home, we upload everything to our back-up system.

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Equipment used:

QTY 4 – 3TB Western Digital Red Drives
QTY 2 – Vantec HX2R USB 3.0/eSATA Raid Enclosures
QTY 1 – Xcellon 5-port USB 3.0 Hub
QTY 1 – Lexar Workflow HR2 Thunderbolt, 4-Card Memory Card Reader

I use Western Digital Red drives that are designed for RAID and NAS enclosures. They are rated for 1,000,000 hours of continued use. The 3TB drives we use are like $109 from Amazon. You can find them here.

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I use Vantec enclosures because they’re more affordable than there other solutions out there and very reliable. USB 3.0 and eSATA. I use the USB 3.0 connection. The only issue I’ve experienced is, one of the enclosures had a cooling fan issue, the bearings wore out and I have to replace the fan. This happened on 1 out of the 5 enclosures I had. The enclosures had excellent cooling features. Vents at the bottom for air intake and a fan at the top for exhaust. The HX2R enclosures are like $90 from Amazon. I also use Vantec HX4R enclosures for RAID 10, 4-drive setups. The Hx4R runs around $125 on Amazon. You can find the HX2R here and the HX4R here.

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I have a 5-port POWERED USB-Hub made by xcellon.  I love the powered USB hubs because it helps from overloading the computers USB ports when I have multiple drives connected. The Vantec enclosures require more power from the computer than it can supply. So when this happens, the drive will eject randomly and this is a huge problem. The powered USB hub fixes that issue. $43 from Amazon. You can find the USB hubs here.

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I use RAID 1 because it’s simple, affordable and easy. RAID 1 is where the drives mirror each other, so if one fails, I have a back up. If one fails, I remove the bad drive and install a brand new one. I like the Vantac enclosures and their software, because it’s simple and automated. When I put in the new drive, it automatically rebuilds the RAID setup and writes all the data from the existing drive onto the new one. You can learn more about RAID configurations here.

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Back-Up Data Flow:

1: Data is uploaded to RAW back-up from the memory card (RAID 1 2x 3TB drives, mirrored). I organize uploads by date.
2: Data is imported to light room to Lightroom Library Drives from the memory card (RAID 1 2x 3TB drives, mirrored).

I use the Lexar Workflow HR2 Thunderbolt memory card reader. I can upload 4 full 64GB cards in about 35 minutes to one of my hard drives connected through USB 3.0. I love it and it cuts down on my upload time after a wedding.

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I ALWAYS upload to each drive from the memory card, never from one drive to the other, just incase it was uploaded incorrectly to one location or the other.

Once one of the drives is full, I shut down the drive. I inspect both drives. I removed the drive that has the older install date so not one drive sits and in an enclosure for to long, to cut down on the failure rate. Once removed, the drive is labeled. I place the drive in an anti-static, ziplock bag with a silica gel packet, to absorb any moisture. Then that bag is placed into another ziplock bag, for additional moisture protection. Then it is placed in a cardboard box, usually the same one the drive was shipped in. The box is labeled and placed in a fire-proof, water-proof safe, that is located off-site.

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I then label the new drive that is installed. I just write the install date with a permanent marker. The old drive is left in and is reused in the next RAID setup. I format the drives, and set up the new RAID.

I recommend this setup for all photographers, because it requires no knowledge of technology to setup, install and remove drives.