Let’s start with an important fact of which some aren’t aware. Adobe Lightroom™ does not back up your image files. It only backs up Lightroom catalogs. (Catalogs are not your images, but only the edits you’ve made to those images.)
When I first learned this to be true, I immediately felt a sickish feeling in my stomach. I wanted to race home and make sure all my images were still there, wherever “there” was. Needless to say, I quickly changed my no-backup backup system after that bit of enlightenment!
What’s a safe backup system? Remember, the third time is the charm.
The industry standard practice, and our advice, is this: to safely back up your images you need three copies stored on two different mediums, such as hard drive and optical media, and one of the three copies stored off-site. Off-site can be in the Cloud or a SSD or hard drive that you store at your bank, the office, or a trusted friend’s house. Should you choose the Cloud, that also counts as your second medium, while your other two copies may be two external hard drives or SSDs. Or store one copy on your desktop and the other two on external hard drives, keeping one of those drives off-site.
The backup system we use, the same one we teach in our Lightroom workshops, is this:
Backup #1 – We use Lightroom as our primary post-processing software. We travel a lot and want to take our Lightroom catalog and image files with us, so rather than have the Lightroom catalog live on our home computers, we’ve each put our own catalog on an external hard drive, in this case a portable drive. Doing so means Lightroom is launch via this hard drive. On the road, we each plug our drives into our laptops to download and process images, and at home we plug the same drive into our desktop computers. So Lightroom and one copy of our personal images are with us at all times. We labeled this external hard drive “Photos Home 1”
Backup #2 – A second external hard drive is used to save a mirror image of Photos Home 1, our first back up. Not surprisingly, this second drive is labelled “Photos Home 2.” Occasionally, and most definitely before setting out for an adventure, the process we follow is to back up/duplicate Photos Home 1 to Photos Home 2, and this second copy stays home in a safe place, while the Photos Home 1 hard drives come with us.
To back up the first to the second drive, the programs ChronoSync (Mac) and ViceVersa (PC) are reliable tools. Both are designed to sync, backup, replicate and copy files, manually or automatically based on the user’s programmed schedule. At this time, ChronoSync charges a one-time fee of $49.99 per user. ViceVersa, at this time, is a one-time charge of $59.95 per user. The programs are downloaded from the Internet and each company offers a free trial period. Multiple computer pricing is available as well.
Backup #3 – Our third back is based in the Cloud. It’s both off-site and a different medium from backups one and two. There are many Cloud-based storage providers out there that can back up not just your image files, but your entire computer, if you wish to set it up that way. Backups should be able to be done automatically on a schedule you set (like in the middle of the night when it’s less likely anyone is on the computer). And once files are backed up, you’ll want easy means of restoring files, should you accidentally delete a file or your computer fails.
Rather than discuss the pros and cons of storage providers, I’ll simply tell you that BackBlaze is the service we use and find to be reliable, secure, and fairly priced. It provides all the features noted earlier, and more. Currently, BackBlaze is $60.00 per year per person, or $6.00 per month, if paid monthly. A 30-day free trial is available. The fee includes unlimited online backup of all devices attached to one computer and all files on those devices, regardless of file size. And we know our files are on a server in Sacramento, CA. You can learn more about Backblaze at https://www.backblaze.com.
So, no more sickish feeling for me! Knowing where my images live and knowing I have three copies safely backed up gives me an ample dose of peace of mind. I got ‘er backed up.
If you don’t have multiple backups, please implement our system, or something similar, to ensure you won’t lose your images should someone steal your computer, your computer’s hard drive fails, or any other of the multiple risks that threaten your image files. You have years of hard work, memories, and visions of how you see the world saved in your images. Keep them safe. You can find more info on how to protect your precious images at www.dpbestflow.org.
As a final caution, external hard drives will fail every three to five years. If you have hard drives nearing that age or older, replace them soon! Look online for quality brands such as Seagate and Western Digital. SSDs are hardier and will last three to five times longer than external hard drives, but do cost more on the front end. Samsung or SanDisk are good SSDs brands to consider.