Back-up, wait a minute!
What? Back-up? Yeah, it runs, I guess, or not? This was me, thinking about backing up my documents and business stuff a few years back. And I had a "system" I thought, to never lose anything! Well, let me tell you, it FAILED! And it failed HARD! Why? Let me tell you.
Back in the days of Windows, CD and HDD
After a few years in business (while running my translation agency at the time) on a Windows computer that crashed on me and only a few documents backed-up on rewritable CDs (oh what a flashback this is, when I write this!), that system left me with nothing to show for after a hard drive crash. It resulted in me having to rebuild all files and databases that I used at the time. It took me ages to puzzle back together the pieces of my translation business, a mistake I was not willing to make again. The solution at the time for me was buying a new computer, and working with all files outside of that computer, on an external hard disk, while using another external back-up disk to back-up that first external hard disk. That back-up I took over to my parents each week to have a back-up off site in case of fire or a break-in at my own home. This 'system' ate up a lot of time and never was up to date if an error occurred during the week that the other back-up disk was at my parents. The problem was that a system crash would mean hours of rebuilding the Microsoft OS and restoring all settings before I could get back to work again. A big no-no and it was time for something new.
The Story of the Time Machine
Then I made the switch to Apple. I started out with a MacBook Pro with Time Machine and a Time Capsule. 1 TB at the time, holy moly, awesome! I felt on top of the world (when it comes to making back-ups, that is...)! I had my system, my Time Machine scheduled back-ups and did its work, until the workflow increased and I switched to photography, which meant I needed way more storage space, and therefore the volume of the back-up took over all of my Time Capsule space. Oh oh, now what? Well, we had made the switch to an iMac, a NAS server with two mirrored RAID disks, the volume went up to 5 TB of storage and back-up space. The back-up was scheduled automatically on a hourly, daily, weekly, monthly basis. You know the drill: never having to look at that again I thought I was set.
That false feeling of safety
But, then last December, as we were making a new back-up of the entire system, things went wrong. The iMac and back-up server started having communication problems and the back-up took forever to make. What was up? We threw out the corrupt version and started a new version. That also didn't work. Very strange. The majority of my work files was also back-up in the cloud, so I thought that I could figure out what was wrong while the back-up took up an entire week. But then on a Monday morning, the computer didn't wake up out of the slumber status. And after several reboot attempts on the iMac, the computer died on me completely. While the back-up was NOT complete! That was it, my computer was DEAD and I could not reach my files. We had to take the computer to the repair center, have the hard disk be restored at a very professional but expensive recovery service, and wait 6 weeks (!) for a repair of the display that had cracked during the repair. In short: a complete disaster! The magnetic contact surface of the solid state drive had gotten corrupted, which made reading of the drive impossible. PANIC ATTACK!
Survival mode and finding a solution
So, December was a month of big lessons and big investments. Fortunately I didn't lose any data as I had a back-up in the cloud, a partial back-up on the NAS server and a hard disk recovery from the recovery service. But it took me a lot of time and money to have this all arranged. Something I would have liked to avoid, but it was too late for that. So, I immediately went on a journey of finding a fail-proof back-up system, so I would never loose time, money and data ever again. Down time in my business is a big no, so off to work!
One, two, three!
I invested in a 1-2-3 back-up system: I back-up one computer one two different external hard disks, and use three different locations (i.e. 2 separate HDDs and one separate back-up off-site). Why? In case one back-up HDD fails, I have the second one that I can use immediately. And in case something would happen at my workplace (fire, short-circuiting, break-in, etc.) I will have an entire third back-up on an off-site location. Pretty fail-safe, right? So, how does this work?
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Daisy-chaining and off-site back-ups
I installed two external 4 TB G-RAID drives. One hard disk (I call it PRIMARY) is linked to the computer and contains all data and archives that I keep my for my businesses (one for my photography studio and one for my coaching business). I keep no business data on my computer, that is just for working. The second external hard drive (I call this one SECUNDARY) is daisy-chained to the PRIMARY and backs-up all data at the end of the work day. I use Carbon Copy Cloner for my back-up scheduling. The SECUNDARY HDD is backed-up continuously to an off-site cloud service (BackBlaze) each day. Furthermore, I have a separate external 1TB Porsche hard drive that I use as a bootable back-up (which also clones all necessary bootable data at the end of each day). The advantage of having an external bootable back-up drive is that, when your computer crashes or malfunctions, you can plug in the bootable back-up into another computer, and then you can work on that computer as if you were working on your own computer within seconds! The scheduling for back-ups and cloning is set up once, and it runs without me having to look at it. Talk about time management! We still use the NAS server for network sharing of files, but the back-up runs independently from the NAS server.
Keeping it clean
Then I clean up my hard drive once a week to keep the back-up from growing too big. I throw out the oldest documents that I no longer need for clients of for my business. As I do this weekly it only takes up 15 to 30 at most. So it is an easy task that I prefer doing once a week over once yearly! It is also something I really HAVE to do, because the photography work is taking up lots of space and once photoshoots and orders are processed I clean up my archives, so the volume stays manageable. I keep my most precious pictures forever in my portfolio off course, but stuff that is old and processed I can get rid off. Digital photography and creative designs are quite voluminous, so cleaning up is a 'thing' on the to-do list that I can recommend everyone weekly or at least on a monthly basis. I've just scheduled it in once a week.
Hope you got it!
So, it might sound like another big and complicated thing to set up, but keep in mind that you cannot afford to loose your files. Also, your time as a freelance entrepreneur is your most precious commodity! Don't think, my computer will never give up on me, because it happens to us all eventually. This week my screen display malfunctioned and I had to bring in the computer for repair. No problem! The only I had to do now, was just plugging in my bootable back-up and my HDDs on my second computer and I was up and running within a few minutes! I am so happy that I have my stuff in order. Hope you have your system backed up as well as you never know!
I hope this article was helpful for you? You can always leave a comment below or follow Photographers Coach on Facebook or on Instagram. I have a special group for photographers and creative entrepreneurs you can join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/photographerscoach/. I hope to meet you there!
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That's all for now!
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