Redundancy: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Taking Risk 

 October 29, 2015

By  Pascal Depuhl


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. [nextpage title=”next page”]

OK, so I don’t have a mythical creature doing this for me (sorry to disappoint you), however my computer still wakes up in the middle of the night to transfer all the day’s work to my RAID. The software I use to do this is called Chronosync. It does a lot more than wake up the computer and copy files, it actually reads the file from my computers SSD drive, writes it to my RAID and then compares both copies to verify that it got copied correctly. To learn more about Digital Asset Management, read Peter Krough’s “The DAM book.

Offsite backup

OK. This takes care of gets me to 2 (not 3) copies on 2 different medium (SSD in my laptop and HD in my RAID), but the data is not offsite yet. I use Photoshelter, the company that my online image delivery and hosts part of my website as my offsite backup facility. They just offered unlimited storage to their clients and I’m making use of that. All final image files are kept in the Photoshelter cloud.

Join me on PhotoShelter

 If you’re looking for a great place to present, share and store your images let me invite your to check out Photoshelter. I’ve used them for years and am thrilled with the product and service these guys and gals offer.Photoshelter offers a 14 day free trial and if you decide to use the service after the free two weeks, they’ll give you a $15.- discount, provided you went to them via the links on this page. 

Day-to-day backups

Photo by ioSafe
Photo by ioSafe

All other files (invoices, email, documents, ect.) get backed up via Apple’s time machine app. Two ioSafe Solo fireproof drives sit next to my RAID and time machine alternates backups from one drive to the other.

Time machine backs up all changed files every hour and keep one back up per day, so you can go back in time to an earlier version of the document you’re working on. In my case time machine writes to drive A in hour one, drive B in hour two, drive A in hour three and so on.

Redundancy goes further than data backup


Redundancy is not limited to hard drives and Digital Asset management. Go through your camera set up and find every single point of failure and get something that can mitigate failure: a second camera, a second lens, multiple cards, batteries, filters, ect. You don’t need a to have 2 identical items to have redundancy. If my 50 mm lens fails and I have a 70-200 zoom with me, I’m covered. If my Canon 5D MkII full frame camera fails, it’s ok to shoot with a 7D, although the sensor is an APS sized sensor. Redundancy means you can complete the job, because you reduced the chance of failure. Redundancy can be as complicated as setting up and maintaining a true 3-2-1 backup system and it can be as simple as making sure that you’re not forgetting any gear when you pack. If you forget a $2 step up ring, you won’t be able to use the filter you had 72 mm filter you packed when your back up lens has a 58mm ø. Some gaffer tape may save the day – but you have to think redundancy to have that in your kit.

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Pascal Depuhl

Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.