Don't skimp on your storage

This post will probably relate the most with other photographers and content-creators, but anyone should take note! Do not take your digital storage for granted! All hard drives fail, and all possible failures can and unfortunately eventually will happen to those of us who use these devices.

Obviously I just underwent some sort of trauma, well, you would be partly right; I suffered not one, but TWO catastrophic failures with my storage solutions. When I was based in Turks and Caicos, my former studio had a very solid server and backup solution in place, consisting of two off-site storage servers. As soon as I was done a shoot, all of my images were on my memory cards, on my personal hard drives, and on these two separate cloud-storage servers. It was very secure and I really did take it for granted. For whatever reason, I only ever used these solutions to backup my clients' work, but not any of my own personal projects: These I kept separately on a handful of external hard drives, with no off-site backup or cloud redundancy.

And I paid for it dearly.

It happened quickly- I wasn't thinking and lifted my laptop off of my desk to pack it up for a meeting, with the external hard drive still connected- the drive came loose from the cord and crashed down into the floor. It was only a 3ft drop so I figured it was fine, and I left without thinking much about it. I came home to a dead drive; a 4TB drive containing all of my personal work (not to mention private memories and such) from all of 2015, 2016, and the beginning half of 2017. I was both livid, devastated, and felt like a complete moron! Little did I know that recovering this data from a professional lab will eventually cost me upwards of $2,000. Not a cheap fall! I am very lucky that none of my client's images were on this drive.

My response to this? I invested in a RAID 1 solution with two mirrored drives. This is what a lot of photographers do when starting out, thinking that this is a fail-safe solution. But really it isn't- number one, both drives are in the same enclosure, so theoretically the exact same thing could easily happen- this could fall of a shelf, and both drives could become damaged and useless. Conversely, I was still not implementing any type of off-site backup system, so there was very little security. The other thing- these types of self-contained RAID enclosures don't necessarily play well with regular operating systems; thus not even 2 months later, my computer almost completely wiped the remainder of my 2017 work, this time including some clients!! Thankfully, I had my client's work backed up to another drive. But to think that a Windows system scan would have disabled my drive was mind-blowing. 48 hours of stress and backup software late, I was able to recover most of my data albeit with some faults and corrupt files. Better than nothing, but technically still a defeat on my part. Since then I have invested in a professional NAS (network-attached-storage) system running RAID 6, pictured above. In this configuration, up to two drives can fail without losing any data! This is a QNAP brand model, which is what my studio in Turks and Caicos worked with. They offer a self-contained solution (running their own separate OS from your main computers) to keep everything constantly backed up on it's own schedule. Constant network connection also enables it to automatically mirror itself on the cloud, or to another NAS storage device located elsewhere. Another nice perk? I can access my files from any of my devices from anywhere in the world. It only took 8 years of professional shooting for me to finally have a proper solution. I am confident now that my images are safe and I will not be losing or corrupting anymore of my files. Don't make the same mistakes I did and be careless with your data- in the end, what is all the time and $ invested in our equipment worth, if the images produced from them vanish into thin air?!?

© 2021 Frank Withers - use of these images without permission is strictly prohibited