Sep 142016
Disaster proof your data

Safeguard your data.

Digital files are fragile. Import failures, mistakes in naming files and hardware crashes are just some of the problems we encounter everyday. Whether its images, video or audio – or any digital asset for that matter – it’s important to safeguard these groups of 1s and 0s that make up the visual content we create.

You have to safeguard your data from the beginning – not just once you’ve finished the job and are creating a backup (you should do that, but today we’re gonna look at how data is kept safe while on the job, before you get back to the ranch.

Safeguard #1: download your cards wisely

Once the card comes out of the camera, the only copy of your file is on that chip. It does not live anywhere else and can get messed up easily. Sometimes cards fail, readers malfunction or people unwillingly overwrite an older file, because the filenames are the same. Take you’re time, double-check and don’t erase the card until you have the data imported and backed up at least once. I’ve imported files that got messed up somewhere, there are programs and services that recover or restore files, but it’s easier not to have to deal with it. Some cameras today allow you to write data onto two cards simultaneously. Do that. Here’s a great post from my friend Jeff Cable on memory cards.

Safeguard #2: backup your files

This is not the final backup in the studio, it’s just to make sure all the files make it back there unharmed. If you’re looking for more info on backups and the like check out this post on redundancy:

Redundancy: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Taking Risk

I import my files directly with Capture One software for my images and Chronosync for my videos. Capture One allows me to import the files onto the SSD drives in the computer and writes another copy to an external drive (my favorites are ioSafe drives) at the same time. This way I have 3 copies of my digital visual data:

  1. Internal SSD drives
  2. External ioSafe drive
  3. CF cards

Safeguard #3: separate your copies

Safeguard your data with disaster proof hard drivesThree copies of your files are all fine and dandy, but if they are all in the same place and the same disaster occurs in that place, it doesn’t matter that you had 3 copies. That’s why one of my copies lives on a waterproof seriously, you can submerse the hard drive in 30 feet of water for 3 days, crushproof (up to 5,000 pounds) and drop proof up to 20 feet – that’s a 2 story drop. The drives include data recovery should the worst thing happen…

That drive usually stays where I’m staying – and not shooting – so that if something happens on the shoot, I still have all the data I captured yesterday in a safe place. That drive will not fly (or drive) home with me, when I am traveling further than a hundred miles. It gets FedEx’d back to the office.

Safeguard #4: Backup your data when you’re back

The first thing I do, after coming home from a shoot is to copy all data to my studio backup system using Chronosync. (You can read more about how I store data here on the redundancy article from before.) Chronosync will read a file, write it to my RAID, read the copy it just wrote on the RAID and compare it with the first copy it read. That way I eliminate any kind of transcription errors.

Safeguard #5: Use your backup work flow

The best laid plans… only work when you actually use them. Having an external hard drive with you on location doesn’t do you any good, unless you take the time to copy the files to it. It’s not hard to figure out a safeguard or two (or 3) that help you keep your files intact, but you have to implement them.

A great place to start learning about what all goes into a good digital asset management (DAM) solution is Peter Krough’s “The DAM book“. Even if you don’t implement all his suggestions, reading the book will force you to think through your workflow which is a great safeguard to start with.

Peter starts at the beginning: How to name your files. Not only does having a system on how to uniquely name each file safeguard an accidental overwriting of an image, but it can also get you work…

Your filename must include this one word – if you want to work

Oct 292015
Redundancy and risk


Two are better than one (at least that’s what a hebrew sage wrote 3,000 years ago) – he goes on to say 3 are even better. Looks like not much has changed in three millenniums. Don’t you copy your data to a second drive? Actually you should follow the 3-2-1 Backup rule: 3 copies, 2 different medium, 1 offsite copy. See? The jewish king was right: 3 copies. Today we talk about single point of failure and built-in redundancy. Limit risk by having a plan B and C. You don’t want to say no to a client, because you go to experience a single point of failure.

On location

The ioSafe rugged portable drive can sit underwater for a few days.Case in point: The hard drives that go on location with me are ioSafe drives. You can drop them from 10 feet, it takes over 5,000 pounds to crush them and they are waterproof – submersible to 30 feet for 3 days. Physically there’s no drive that keeps my data safer in the field (and yes the ioSafe drives I use for my day-to-day backup in the office are fireproof on top of that.) I carry two copies of all data on multiple drives in addition to the copy on my laptop.

When I travel back from location one of those two drives does not travel with me. It either travels on another plane or it get’s FedExed back to the studio. Three copies (laptop and two hard drives), 2 media (SSD and HD) and one in an offsite location). 3-2-1 backup rule – check.

Back on the ranch

Photo by Synology

Photo by Synology

Once the ioSafe drives come back to the office to get copied onto a Synology RAID system, which in itself is redundant. Mine has five 4TB Western Digital Red drives in it, that are set up so that one drive can physically fail and no data gets lost. All I have to do is to slip in another drive and the RAID will rebuild itself.

Tech Tip: Remember to back up

The trick is remembering to back up. All the hardware in the world does you no good if you don’t use it. Better yet, set up a system that automatically backs up your jobs (SPOILER ALERT – I’m gonna look at how automation can help you run a more efficient business over the next few weeks – stay tuned …)

Automate your backups

Every night at 3 am, I have a little elf that wakes up my computer and copies all files from that day onto my RAID.