In this age where almost everyone has some form of capturing the moment digitally; whether you have a full-on Digital SLR camera, point and click, iPod, iPhone, Android, etc. at some point you’re going to amass lots of pictures and videos.
So what would happen if the device they were on right now failed? Would you lose all your treasured files? What options do you have to backup?
Backing up your PC / Mac
There are so many options here to consider; here’s a brief run-down of the main ones:
|Data Transfer Speed||Cost to Implement||Typically Stored||Risk of Failure||Comments|
|Optical Media (CD/DVD)||Slow||$||On Site||Low||Long term storage option; Size limitations per Disc (e.g. Single Layer DVD is 4.7GB)|
|Attached Portable Disk||Fast||$||On Site||Moderate||Good for quick archival; risk of disk failure|
|(in unit) RAID array (non-NAS)||Fast||$$||On Site||Low||Provides protection, but risk to data if the entire unit is affected|
|Single NAS drive||Medium *||$||On Site||Moderate||Central location for everyone on a home network to backup to; risk of single disk failure|
|RAID NAS Drive||Medium *||$$||On Site||Low||Central location for everyone on a home network to backup to; risk should the location catch fire, etc.|
|Free Cloud Offerings||Medium *||–||Cloud||Low||Space is typically limited; very little options in syncing files|
|Paid Cloud Offerings||Medium *||$$$||Cloud||Low||Best compromise of accessibility, speed, risk and flexibility; Most expensive option long term|
Some terminology while we’re here:
NAS = Network Attached Storage; think of it like a portable hard drive that you can put in your home network and anyone on your network can see it
RAID = Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks; most home PCs have one hard drive. if that fails then it’s game over. Some PCs are configured to allow other hard drives to be added which mirror the main hard drive. This doesn’t increase your hard drive space – instead, if the main hard drive fails, you have at least one disk with a backup of your data which you can run from. To read more about RAID, check this wiki article out.
Backing up isn’t just once and done
Backups typically are one of three types. When you are looking to backup your files, you might want to think about using backup software to help automate it, and so you’ll need to consider the following
- Full – A complete backup of all files is taken each time
- Incremental – A full backup is taken and then only changes are backed up after that point, resulting in multiple incremental sets of backups
- Differential – A full backup is taken and then only changes are taken; each time a backup occurs it overwrites the last differential backup and takes all files updated since the full backup. This results in only two backup files being present at any one time.
Many backup services offer a variety of these. To me, differential seems the one I’d pick because in the event of a disk failure, I’m only having to work with two files, otherwise I’m maintaining many files with incremental (unless I’m on the ball with when I do a full backup).
The Need for Speed
When you’re backing up gigabytes of files you want it to happen fairly quickly – if you’re using something like a DVD or slow internet connection it’s going to take a while. That could be a PITA.
What’s the best option for me?
Generally using Cloud for backups is the best compromise – if all you’re doing is backing up and don’t want others to have access to the files. Otherwise, a NAS RAID drive might suit better. Both have pros and cons – think about speed, access, cost and finally – if you’re house were to catch on fire, would you save your RAID NAS drive?
What about my cell / mobile phone backups?
iPhones have iCloud and iTunes to help with that. You can sync your files to either / both and take care of it.
Android has a slightly different set of options; You can sync your contacts and pictures with Google directly (including Google Picassa) or you can buy some of the apps out there for it. TechHive has a great article on this very topic.
We all need to consider our backup strategy – and have one in place. It also goes hand in hand with being able to organise your files so that if you need to refer back to them, you can. How many times have you seen the folder “DCIM” with image names such as “IMAGE0012.JPG”? Technology still has to solve the ability to catalogue digital images effectively!
So, what do you use for backups?