Best photo backup strategies as of 2020?

Kit Lens Jockey

EOS 7D MK II
Nov 12, 2016
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I found a few threads on this, but most of them were several years old, and the changes in technology over that time made it seem silly to dig up an old thread to discuss this. (Most hilariously was the person who planned to back up his photos to Blu-Ray discs. Wonder how that's going now.) :LOL:

I have been re-thinking my photo backup strategy lately. Up to now I have been using external hard drives to back up photos, along with an identical backup copy of everything on a second hard drive, and then finally a third copy kept on Amazon photos.

I think I am going to stop using Amazon, or any cloud storage, for a few reasons. First, I don't really trust Amazon with all of my photos any more, especially when they are actively involved in developing facial recognition technology. Yes I know that theoretically the user agreement states that they won't use my photos for any part of this, but I don't entirely trust that. Second, I've started to do more videos, which Amazon does not offer unlimited storage for, so picking out all of my videos from my photo archive before I upload them is a pain. Third, they still stubbornly will not recognize .CR3 files as photos, even more than a year after Canon started using the format, so I doubt they ever will. And lastly, I've realized that as my collection of photos reaches into several terrabytes, sure it's great in theory to have them on the cloud, but ultimately how would I ever download all of them if anything ever happened to my local copies?

What I think I've settled on for the forseeable future is triple copies of everything saved to enterprise grade hard drives. The external USB hard drives have been ok, and I may still keep some for quick backups when I'm traveling. But with a 4TB external HDD costing about $100, and a 12TB enterprise grade internal drive only costing about $300, it makes sense to get the better quality drive to reduce the risk of failure.

So far I've purchased one enterprise drive to act as my third copy in place of the cloud, and I'm running it in an enclosure so I can use it just like the external hard drives. The only drawback is that the drive itself needs to be plugged in to the wall separate from my laptop. Running an internal drive inside an enclosure also gives me flexibility to pop the drive into a new enclosure if I ever get a computer that runs USB C. All I really need to worry about is the SATA drive connection going obsolete, but it seems like it will be around for another several years.

Long term it would be nice to use SSDs, but even as they get cheaper, HDDs keep getting bigger and bigger, so it's still much more cost effective to use HDDs, even pricey enterprise drives. I'm also going to keep at least one of the three copies in a physically separate location from the others. I had thought about running some kind of RAID setup, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to build a setup like that that still allows me to remove some of the drives and keep them off site most of the time.

How is everyone else keeping backups these days?
 
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FamilyGuy

EOS M50
Feb 5, 2020
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We’re Looking at a Synology DS218+ home network. They hold two external hard drives that back each other up. We’re looking at duplicate 4 terabyte Seagate Ironwolf drives for home needs. We can replace single failed drives and recopy if needed. Both would have to fail to lose everything. As I understand it, we would be able to access our files and work on them through Canon DPP freeing up space on our Mac and hopefully speeding that up.

About $500 and change all in for what we’re looking at.

Would also like to hear if anyone has any experience with similar, or if would be a waste of money. Something better?

Not a big fan of cloud options. Always worry about “what if’s?” Not just privacy, but what if one of these cloud storage companies fails? What happens to my files? Sears was never going bankrupt either as of 30 years ago.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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I have a QNAP 4 bay NAS and can't recommend it highly enough, it has completely realigned my entire storage thought process. I have been using a TS=453A for a couple of years and within the next 12 months I intend to upgrade to the TVS-*72XT as I have TB3 and can upgrade my home network to CAT6 comparatively easily. I will then use the TS-453A as a remote backup.

It seems Synology and QNAP have similar functionality and whilst there is a learning curve to achieve what you want over and above the simplest storage modern NAS's are so flexible it amazes me that anybody uses a non personal cloud storage. I can access anything I have at home securely anywhere in the world. I would not recommend Drobo as there is a lot of conflicting user reviews and the files written to disc are reformatted in a proprietary way, this means the it is difficult to regain the information should you have certain issues with the NAAAS.
 

Kit Lens Jockey

EOS 7D MK II
Nov 12, 2016
677
407
With these NAS stations, wouldn't the data be lost if there's a fire, flood, or maybe even a power surge large enough to fry the disks though?
 

SteveC

M6 mk II
Sep 3, 2019
570
400
I bought an IxSystems FreeNAS mini XL. There's a learning curve, but what I did was to set up five drives as, basically a raid-6 (They call their equivalent a RAID Z2 which is a more logical name, as it tells you how many drives can fail before you have no safety from another drive failing). I gave that a sixth drive to run as a hot spare. This one has 4TB drives in it, so it's basically a 12 TB system.

In the same system, I also have two 6 TB drives, to which I back up, separately, what's on the RAID-Z2. (I an do this because I have less than 2TB of actual data, as yet, but that's rapidly growing.) And to add to that, I ALSO back up to an external 4TB Passport. In fact, I have three of those; I rotate them and keep one offsite at all times (there may be two offsite if I am actually carrying one to the offsite).

Another thing that FreeNAS gives you is the option to have a storage volume (like those two 6TB volumes) contain two copies of the data. Since I've enabled that, I effectively have FIVE current backups of my data. I'll have to cut this back, of course, once I cross the 3TB line and can no longer store two copies of that on a 6 TB drive. (Of course if I hit 2 TB I will have to stop doubling up on those Passports.)

If I actually hit 12 TB or get close to it, I can swap out those 4TB drives for 6TB drives one by one and when all five have been swapped, I get a bump to 18TB.

I also have a spare 6TB in case one of my 6TB volumes goes south.

It does come with a learning curve for the ZFS file system, but I've managed to do true backups both in the box, and outside of it. (Mirroring drives, which might be what the OP is doing--he's unclear) is NOT a backup; it's just security against a disk pranging. It won't help you if you delete files by mistake, since they'll disappear on the mirror as well, instantly.)

NOTE: You will want to ensure that some system other than your NAS can read ZFS file systems, in case the NAS itself goes belly up.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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With these NAS stations, wouldn't the data be lost if there's a fire, flood, or maybe even a power surge large enough to fry the disks though?
I have a single NAS at my home/office at the moment and important files backed up to a regular HDD that I keep off site. My NAS is behind a UPS so is fed clean power and is protected from surges and lightening strikes (very common where I live), it is programmed to shut the NAS down correctly if the battery power becomes too depleted and it is in danger off an unintentional shutdown.

My plan moving forwards it to replace my primary NAS and put the current one off site and set it up to automatically be a copy of the primary. That means I no longer have to deal with the external HDD and because the new NAS's are NAS/DAS via 10gb ethernet or TB3 it means I can get the editing speed out of the primary NAS wherever in my house I put it.
 

SteveC

M6 mk II
Sep 3, 2019
570
400
I'm just manually copying files between drives. I should probably get some software to do true mirrors of them.
Be careful with "mirrors."

What happens if you accidentally delete a file? Does it instantly disappear from the mirror? (If it truly is drive mirroring, then that's the case.) If so, then you don't want to rely on the mirror for a backup (though it will be handy if a hard drive dies).

If you can come up with a solution that automatically copies the files, say in the middle of the night, and can do so when you ask for it to be done (i.e., right after an upload), that's a better backup scheme.

EDIT: A mirrored setup AND a place to copy files overnight/on demand is the best of both worlds: Security against a drive dying AND a backup you can go retrieve accidentally erased/altered files from.
 

FamilyGuy

EOS M50
Feb 5, 2020
43
59
With these NAS stations, wouldn't the data be lost if there's a fire, flood, or maybe even a power surge large enough to fry the disks though?
Fair point for clouds. We also have an account with Shutterfly (very much home users, not pro at all), which we use to order prints, make calendars, trip albums and the like. I guess we have our “best of the best” on a cloud. But we lose all that if they go out of business. We also keep all our old SD cards, but degradation is an issue there.

Regardless, all options today beat the heck out of the shoebox of prints my grandma had.
 

Kit Lens Jockey

EOS 7D MK II
Nov 12, 2016
677
407
Regardless, all options today beat the heck out of the shoebox of prints my grandma had.
Maybe the difference here is what you're trying to do with the data and the span of time you're planning for. Sounds like most other people on this thread have a goal of keeping all of their data easily accessible and reasonably safe. I'm looking more towards saving the data long term, at least for decades. But, I also have to admit that it's going to be an ongoing battle. I figure that even just the act of reading data off of a SATA hard drive will probably be difficult about two or three decades into the future. Also, at some point I expect that everything will move over to quantum computing, so even reading any digital file might be tough after a while. Hopefully there will be a good way to convert existing data to whatever comes next.

Long term, the shoebox of prints is actually probably the best way to do it, however you still need a second copy of them somewhere, and I'm not about to go through the effort to print all my stuff with ink and paper that will last a long time. But I've definitely been thinking about doing that with the best stuff.

 

SteveC

M6 mk II
Sep 3, 2019
570
400
Maybe the difference here is what you're trying to do with the data and the span of time you're planning for. Sounds like most other people on this thread have a goal of keeping all of their data easily accessible and reasonably safe. I'm looking more towards saving the data long term, at least for decades. But, I also have to admit that it's going to be an ongoing battle. I figure that even just the act of reading data off of a SATA hard drive will probably be difficult about two or three decades into the future. Also, at some point I expect that everything will move over to quantum computing, so even reading any digital file might be tough after a while. Hopefully there will be a good way to convert existing data to whatever comes next.

Long term, the shoebox of prints is actually probably the best way to do it, however you still need a second copy of them somewhere, and I'm not about to go through the effort to print all my stuff with ink and paper that will last a long time. But I've definitely been thinking about doing that with the best stuff.

Or..when you buy your whiz-bang crystal memory personal cloud--copy EVERYTHING onto it before trashing the old system.

It won't solve every problem in the world, but it will solve yours.

About 20 years ago (maybe more) when I realized that my 5 1/4 inch floppy drive wouldn't write any more, I realized it was literally irreplaceable, and immediately copied every single such floppy onto a CD ROM, without regard for how useful it was. (I should have made two copies). It's truly crap now, 30 years later (and the data lives on a hard drive now), but at least it isn't GONE.
 

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,623
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stop using Amazon, or any cloud storage
You're talking about consumer-grade cloud services. They are obviously free or cheap, but obviously again you pay for them another way. There are cloud solutions which are good for backup/archiving (and an offsite storage is always a good choice), but you have to asses if their price is worth your photos. Cloud pricing anyway can be complex enough to create not a few headaches.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
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That was me talking:oops:
As far as I know, blu-ray M Disks are still by far the safest long term solution, particularly if you store duplicates at various locations. They are rated at 1000- years. The issue is that they are available at 100GB and smaller sizes, so just keeping photos that you want to survive into the far future is affordable. If you need many TB of space, it may get expensive, and take a very long time to create. Its not something you would do in its entirety on a regular basis, but rather keep adding to the main file as you acquire more photos to archive. I think that a jpeg format would reduce the size, but Tiff is considered to be the archival file format of choice since it is a ISO standard. That's what is being used in professional archives.

So, I'd use a backup hard drive or NAS for shorter term storage, but if its something you want preserved forever, make several M Disk Duplicates and send them to relatives to store for future generations. They will be the ones to decide if they want to pass the files on to their descendants. Some pro photographers give their images to the Smithsonian, but they would not want mine.

I have a extensive family tree, and have scanned photos and downloaded photos and documents of my ancestors. I post those to Ancestry.com as another way of preserving them for future generations. I can see when someone has copied them, and a lot of people have downloaded copies.
 

Kit Lens Jockey

EOS 7D MK II
Nov 12, 2016
677
407
As far as I know, blu-ray M Disks are still by far the safest long term solution, particularly if you store duplicates at various locations. They are rated at 1000- years.
It's great that the discs will supposedly last 1000 years, but how long do you think you will be able to easily find a reliable way to read blu-ray discs? I'm thinking two or three decades from now, tops. Also how long until it will become hard to find a computer that can read current images, especially raw file formats. Again, I'm thinking maybe three decades or so.

I've just accepted that it's going to be a long term fight if I want to keep my digital photos saved and readable. It's extremely short sighted to think you've solved the problem just because you burned your files to a disc that's marketed to not physically break down for a long time.
 

SteveC

M6 mk II
Sep 3, 2019
570
400
Also how long until it will become hard to find a computer that can read current images, especially raw file formats. Again, I'm thinking maybe three decades or so.
It's relatively cheap to continue being able to read file formats, particularly JPG and TIFF. (Maybe less so for raw files.) More so than it will be to keep producing physical BluRay readers after no one uses BluRay any more. I'd be more worried about the readers.

At least, so far, 5 1/4 inch optical disk readers are all backwards compatible. If whatever comes next after BluRay still uses the same form factor, it should be able to read BluRays, DVDs and even CDs. All bets are off, though, if they change form factor to a different size disk, especially a smaller size, or something like that.
 
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Antono Refa

EOS 6D MK II
Mar 26, 2014
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It's great that the discs will supposedly last 1000 years, but how long do you think you will be able to easily find a reliable way to read blu-ray discs? I'm thinking two or three decades from now, tops.
I backup my photos to 100GB blu rays, and...

1. I'm not da Vinci, nobody would be looking at my photos in a thousand years. A century would be generous.

2. CD ROM drives are with us for three decades, you can bet they'll be around for at least another decade.

3. I'll settle for a backup that would last for 25 years, and move on to the next thing.

Also how long until it will become hard to find a computer that can read current images, especially raw file formats. Again, I'm thinking maybe three decades or so.
1. I think standardized formats, such as JPEG and TIFF, would be readable for longer than that.

2. I have a 20+ version of PSP, which runs just fine on Windows 10 64 bit. Virtualization would allow running programs that aren't intimate with the hardware far longer. E.g. you could run IrfanView in a virtual machine to batch convert images from TIFF to something else.

I've just accepted that it's going to be a long term fight if I want to keep my digital photos saved and readable.
Not a fight, just showing some discipline in backing up your photos every so often to a current storage technology. E.g. I backup everything to 100GB BDR once a year, that's not much of a fight.

It's extremely short sighted to think you've solved the problem just because you burned your files to a disc that's marketed to not physically break down for a long time.
That much is true. One should have at least two backups, one of them off site.
 

Antono Refa

EOS 6D MK II
Mar 26, 2014
930
174
It's relatively cheap to continue being able to read file formats, particularly JPG and TIFF. (Maybe less so for raw files.)
I wouldn't worry for two reasons.

One is popular standard formats often have a free library that supports them, e.g. libjpeg, so its unlikely software developers will just drop it one day.

The other is virtualization. Lets say whichever camera manufacturer goes out of business. The company's raw converter will still be available on line. If it wouldn't be supported by a future version of your favorite OS, you can install an older version the OS on a virtual machine, install the raw converter on that, and go from there.