Thursday, March 24, 2016

Data Loss and Backups (Part 1) – Know the Threat


As most of you who read my blog know, I tend to view most issues through the lens of a career spent in military aviation.  It was drilled into my head many times as a young aircrew that I needed to have more than a passing understanding of how the survivability equipment on my aircraft worked.  The purpose for this was that, at the end of the day, it was MY butt that was in THAT ejection seat, and so I had to be the last line of defense to make sure everything would work as I expected should I need to depart the aircraft rapidly!

  Many times photographers forget that their RAW files and edited images are their livelihood, and deserve as much detailed care and attention as any equipment that provides you a “safety net”.  We get caught up in shooting, archiving and editing, forgetting that there are a myriad of threats to our images, and thus our photographic careers.  But with all of the options for Network Attached Storage (NAS), Cloud Storage, Backup drives and Optical media, what is a photographer to do?

   Do just what we would do in the military, analyze the threat and have a detailed understanding of how your “threat reduction” equipment works!

   What I mean by this is take a few minutes and think about the primary ways you could lose your digital images:

  • Theft
  • Fire / Flooding
  • Natural disaster
  • Computer virus
  • Hardware failure
  • Accidental deletion
  • There are plenty more, but these cover a majority of the ones I have seen or experienced myself!

These threats will vary with each photographer’s travel destination, home geography and equipment setup.  For me, living in coastal South Carolina, the danger of Hurricanes and the resultant flooding are a real concern.  Some photographers are limping along computer hardware that has hard drives which have traveled all over the world and been “ridden hard”.  Others may shoot in locations that have a less-than-savory reputation for the security of valuables in and around the hotel.  What you as the photographer have to do, is prioritize these threats from most to least likely, and begin researching ways to neutralize or mitigate them.

     If I looked at my customized, prioritized list it would be this:
  1. Hardware failure
  2. Fire / Flooding
  3. Theft (in transit)
  4. Computer virus
  5. Natural disaster
  6. Accidental deletion

   What I then do is spend the most money to do attack the top threats, while ensuring that I still have some technique to mitigate the low-likelihood, low-risk threats at the bottom of the list.  So here is how I “attacked” my list.  Certainly not a one-size-fits-all method, but it might offer a point of departure for your own plan of attack:
  • Hardware Failure:
    • Travel drives and computers all are Solid State
    • Image archives hosted on Network Attached Storage with redundant drives
  • Fire / Flooding:
    • NAS is built in an integrated Fire/Flood resistant casing, and it resides above the ground floor
  • Theft:
    •  As I’m mostly concerned about this happening in transit, all of my SSDs and memory cards go in carry-on luggage.  If possible memory cards travel in a different bag than SSDs
  • Computer virus:
    • I would have thought this was a “no-brainer”, but I am always surprised how many people rely on “free” or (worse) built-in security software to protect their systems.  Even your NAS should have security software running on it to prevent data loss due to viruses or other malicious software.
  • Natural Disaster:
    • As I said earlier, I have to worry about hurricanes.  My NAS backs its 4TB of data up nightly to Amazon Glacier, so if I am unable to evacuate myself AND my NAS before a hurricane, then I will be able to rebuild the NAS with data held on Amazon’s servers.
  • Accidental deletion:
    • My “working” files are held in cloud storage solutions that support either “versioning” or a “Recycle bin”.  Just because the file is gone from my DropBox or OneDrive folder on my computer, doesn’t mean it is gone forever.

  Hopefully this helps you take some time to look at the threats to YOUR image library and what techniques you can adopt to neutralize or at least mitigate the threat.  I’ll go into more detail on several of my techniques in later posts, but feel free to share some of the techniques that work for you in the comments below.

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