30 June 2012

Choosing how to back up data

My choices at the moment are a couple of external disks with "live data", stuff I might need to access right away and a large number of DVD disks titled "portfolio 1, 2 etc" linked to a database (Filemaker) of info and images to help me search and find things. I've had this system for at least 10 years now and it's served me well enough but as files get bigger and storage space cheaper, it's time to re-think it all.

The advice I get is pretty all over the place. From, just keep doing like you have been, to get a tape system to have 3(!) copies of everything in various formats linked to a central server. Obviously, some people I know live in a world where they have tech support, money and other resources more readily available to them than I ever will. My needs are pretty modest overall, I just want an easily accessible way to save files and combine it with making more of my work, particularly photos, easier to access right away.

My first step will be to buy 2 internal terabyte drives to replace 2 smaller ones on my tower and then buy 2 additional external drives to match up with the internal ones. (I already have one big internal and external drive) My tower has 4 drives, one is a system drive for apps, fonts etc and that will stay exclusively for that. The other three will be one for video, one for work and one for play, essentially all my movies, music and personal stuff. I will then re-organize ALL my DVD back-ups on to the hard drives and make a copy on each external drive to match. The really hard time consuming thing will be to go through all that data and put it into a filemaker database. It took me 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 3 months last time. I am also going to go through a step many people think of as unthinkable for some reason, dumping a lot of old work I've never looked at since it was done, including many photo shoots and getting rid of duplicate files. I know, "you never know you might need that one day", but you know... you can know in many cases and it's just pack ratting to keep every single thing you've ever done. If some client calls you out of the blue 20 years later for a copy of a project you are not obligated to have it waiting for them. If you can even open it still!

I could go the tape route, but that's an entirely new system and not practical for a small time designer like me, with hard drives I can plug them into a new computer or a laptop if need to to as well. The "cloud" is another option, but unlike a few friends who jump on everything new, I think the cloud is a very a bad idea and really impractical for video and other large files. I could never afford the bandwidth (we pay for usage here in Qu├ębec), not to mention my severe misgivings over privacy and having my data and life's work on some companies server. I have no desire to wait hours for a film project to download either just to get one clip for my demo reel.

As n most things, the most important thing to making a decision is not what's "best", there is no "best" way to do anything, just the best way for you to do something. In the case of back-up the number thing priority is just to do them!