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3-2-1 Backups for Video and Photography

3-2-1 Backups for Video and Photography

Written by William Algar-Chuklin

Data backup for video and photography always seems like an afterthought, but a good backup strategy can save your bacon on many occasions. A common backup method strategy is the 3-2-1 backup method. So let’s cover that today!

The rundown:

  • More backups are better
  • A simple and consistent strategy is easier to follow
  • Don’t lose your data again

I don’t know about you, but my photographs are precious to me! I’m never sure if and when I’m going to be able to get back to a location, or if it’ll still be there (R.I.P. Notre Dame Cathedral). A common and simple backup strategy is the 3-2-1 backup strategy.

Simply put, it comes in three parts:

Keep at least 3 copies of your data

You generally want to work off one primary storage location. This can be on a hard drive on your computer, or off a network connected device connected to a fast network. With 2 other copies of your data as a backup.

Keep 2 of those backups on seperate media/devices

For your two backups, you’re going to want to keep them in 2 different storage locations. This can be as simple as a separate hard drive on your computer, and on an external USB hard drive.

Keep 1 of those backups on an offsite location

The last rule is to keep 1 of those backups on an offsite location. Flickr Pro or Microsoft OneDrive can be an easy choice, but come with caveats.

The rules are in order of importance, but it’s better to attempt each to get the best backup experience possible.

With that explained, I’ll take you over my current setup and possible alternatives.

My preferred setup

For my personal circumstances I’ve found that a combination of Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 3.1 RAID enclosures and Network Attached Storage (NAS) has been the way to go.

The setup I’m currently testing is a workstation windows PC attached to a G-Technology G-RAID Removable 8TB enclosure, using an onsite and offsite NAS for additional backups.

This setup also has the added bonus of providing hardware level RAID support. In addition to the multiple backups I’m doing, RAID capability allows for data on a storage medium to also be mirrored across two or more hard drives for faster access speed and additional protection against a hard drive failing (since the data is mirrored across multiple hard drives).

My workflow is to save my camera RAW files to the G-RAID enclosure, and have software running to back up anything on that enclosure to my Network Attached Storage. I also have a scheduled nightly backup (Midnight to 7am), that transfers specific folders on my NAS to photographer friend’s NAS device over the internet. We have an arrangement where we backup to each other's NAS devices for our offsite backups.

Some alternatives to consider are using your workstation as the primary data location where you work on files, and USB drives to backup your data and storing those at another location. You can also use cloud services such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Flickr as an offsite storage location. Personally I prefer to have more control over my setup, hence the self hosted NAS servers, but cloud services have gotten more reliable and cheaper in recent years and make for great alternatives.

I’d also recommend looking into ways of automating backups through Resilio or Syncthing. These can provide a set and forget backup solution for parts of your 3-2-1 backup strategy.

Signing off

Building an effective backup strategy is no easy task, but hopefully this has given you a better idea of where to start your backup strategy, and how combining a few different products can really help set up a process for your future backups.

If you need more information on cameras and other camera accessories, check out more articles on the C.R. Kennedy blog.

William Algar-Chuklin is a night and travel photographer based in Sydney, Australia. You can check out some of his work at walgarch.com and on Flickr