5 secrets to protect your data from being destroyed! 

 September 14, 2016

By  Pascal Depuhl

Safeguard your data.

Digital files are fragile. Import failures, mistakes in naming files, and hardware crashes are just some of the problems we encounter every day. Whether it’s 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 your 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

Disaster proof your data
Getting ready to FedEx a drive to the studio, so it’s not on the plane with me when I’m flying back from an assignment.

Three 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 submerge 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 to 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

  • Pascal,

    Excellent info provided – as well as all of your advice on PPA.


  • Jim, any backup system is designed to keep your data safe. Keeping multiple copies of your files in an organized fashion (one on your local machine, a second on a local RAID backup and a third off-site), ensures that you can retrieve data that gets corrupted, lost or accidentally deleted from one of the other copies.

    Peter Krough’s “The DAM book” is a great road map to how to set up a back up system as part of your digital asset management strategy. He goes into a lot more detail than I do in this short post and even though the book is a couple of years old, most of the information he shares, especially the philosophy and theory of why he uses the systems that he has set up is valid today.

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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.