Digital Archiving and Catastrophic System Failure

February 6, 2010

A friend of mine called earlier today in a teary fever about the loss of her Drobo RAID after upgrading her Operating System. She was justifiably hysterical – I didn’t know what to say. A similar thing happened to another friend of mine about six months ago and he paid $6000 to get ‘some’ of his files recovered by a forensic data recovery company.

Imagine loosing “YEARS” of images in an instant. Too many of my friends and colleagues call when they have computer problems and don’t know what else to do. I hate to say it but I have seen this before and it kills me. The digital mantra is “not if you will have a catastrophic system failure but when”.

Since 2004 when I purchased my first Canon 10D I have shot 10 Terabytes of digital images. The first year it was a single 250GB drive, then it quickly became a 500Gb, 1Tb, 2Tb and looking forward to 2010 I am considering the driving force of Moore’s Law of exponential increase in my archive.

What used to be additional three-ring binders and more slide pages in the film days has become an incredible IT Department of escilating proportions. And I’m the IT Guy.

To anticipate the inevitable system failure I stick to a consistent workflow, validate my archive and backup regularly. Beyond that, I do my best to keep a second backup off site.

There are two resources that I would HIGHLY recommend to the non-gamblers amongst us who need a scalable and sustainable Digital Asset Management system: Peter Krough’s DMA Book and the best practices system support of Marc Mintz at The MacXperts.

I went to a lecture by Peter a few months ago and one of the things he made a point of was to ‘START NOW’. The idea of going back over years of images from multiple camera systems with multiple softwares is too much for anybody. If you start doing it better today you won’t be calling your IT friends in a panic tomorrow.

Krogh’s 3-2-1 Backup System:

  • 3 Copies of your Images
  • 2 Types of Media (HD and Online or DVD’s etc)
  • 1 Stored Offsite

My advice to my friend and to you, buy the best rated hard drives, always by two if you need one because you need a backup, format them correctly and backup often. To make the process of backing up, archiving and recovery easier I use all of the following software solutions.

SuperDuper – Bootable Backups, they really work. I’ve done entire photo shoots using the backup drive.

ChronoSync – File migration and backup. Validation is a huge advantage to this software.

Synchronize! Pro X – File migration.

Adobe DNG Converter – Data Validation is essential.

I am a (now user and they have online storage as part of the annual fee. I have a copy of my portfolio backed up there. There are also a bunch of good online Backup Services:

Catastrophic system failure will happen to you. Don’t let it become a cascading loss or your system, assets and archive. Get backed up NOW.

Michel Leroy
Michel Leroy is an award-winning photographer based in New York City. Working with a select team of professional creatives at 2X Productions LLC they create advertising campaigns and social media solutions for advertising, media and corporate clients. Repeatedly clients including The Food Network, Adidas, Nike, Intel, Lenovo, GE, Pfizer, Bayer and L'Oreal have trusted Michel Leroy to connect their brands to customers through photographs with insight and narrative. Michel Leroy is a brand ambassador for Manfrotto US, Lastolite by Manfrotto and the range of Vitec brands in the professional photographic community.

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