Everyone knows that in the digital world, you need 3 copies of your data for it to exist. This makes the need for back up solutions imminent, especially for professionals whose reputation and bottom line are on the line when it comes to data loss! It’s a very serious situation. But surprisingly, there aren’t many easy & convenient ways to solve this problem.
I have a Thunderbolt Lacie 2 bay drive enclosure configured to RAID 1 for data redundancy. This setup gives me 2 identical copies of my photos. But 1 more is still needed. Most people will suggest that it should be an offsite solution, such as an online cloud backup service. The problem I have with that solution is: 1) it’s a pain to upload that much data (several terabytes) unless you have very fast internet speeds. 2) it continues to cost you money as a subscription. And 3) it’s a privacy/security risk to have a 3rd party in cyberspace in control of your data.
The way I’ve addressed the 3rd data copy is to buy another external hard drive, in my case a 4GB Seagate USB 3 drive, and store it in a fire safe. You can easily take said safe and move it to another location and bring it back when you need to synchronize your working data.
But this process itself has always been cumbersome at best. There wasn’t an easy way to synchronize the updated data. I wanted a simple and elegant solution like Apple’s Time Machine. But unless your photos are on your local drive, Time Machine isn’t going to work for this process. You can buy additional software to do it but who wants to spend more money?! I’m too cheap.
Enter: terminal & rsync.
I’ve recently been exploring the terminal in Mac OS X and it is one seriously powerful tool. Everyone is used to the graphical user interfaces while text terminals are scary at best and for computer nerds at worst! But if you, fellow photographer, will get your nerd on a little bit you will find the solution to your back up woes.
What this command does is synchronize two folders of data. You have your source: your photos, your lightroom catalogues, your business files, whatever you want, and you have your destination: a backup hard drive where you want the data to be copied. But it’s not merely a data copy function. Rather what makes rsync magical is that it will synchronize your folders. Meaning that after the first backup you do, it will synchronize only the changed data from source to destination. So you’re not re-copying reams of data, only the changed bits. This makes backing up your precious photos and data super easy!
You can checkout this YouTube video for a good tutorial on how the command works. Before trying it on your pictures, I suggest trying it out on some non critical data to get the feel for the command line and how this command works.
After you get the hang of it, the sure awesomeness of the backup workflow will knock your socks off! It’s ultra convenient to hook up your drive, run the command and then kick back and relax as your data is totally synchronized and safe. You don’t have to wonder if you copied these files or those files, they are all there. If you want to get ultra nerdy, you could even write a script and automate the process even further. Check out this video from 8-Bit Guy to see how to do it.
As you can see, it’s not overly difficult. Once the Terminal is demystified, you can harness its awesome power for your photography workflow. Losing data sucks. Losing photos REALLY sucks. It’s a pain, it’s inconvenient, it’s costly. Using a few simple lines of terminal code can really save you a bunch of hassle and keep your data nice & safe. 😎
My new LaCie RAID came yesterday. 😀 It’s Thunderbolt in 6TB of madness. But for me, I configured it to RAID 1 so it’s got data backup redundancy. So I’m down to the 3TB for now. Still lots of room to grow. I like this product for two main reasons. 1, it’s Thunderbolt which is awesome. And 2, you can configure it for striped (RAID 0) or mirrored (RAID 1). So depending on your needs, you can have super speed or data back up. Daddy likey. 😎
Why I went with this over a Drobo: Conceptually, I like Drobo. But what I don’t like is that the user is at the mercy of propriety backup technology. Meaning that if your Drobo enclosure dies, your data cannot be recovered unless you get another Drobo enclosure. That doesn’t sit well with me. With the LaCie RAID, if the enclosure dies, simply pop the drive into any other enclosure and recover your data. Easy.
Now for speed. Before I reconfigured the RAID, I tested the speed of the striped config. I used Black Magic speed test. Here’s what I found out. In a striped configuration, the LaCie screams. 304.5 MB/s write and 300.4 MB/s read. That’s awesome! If you wanted to use this as a working drive for video, this would rock the set.
Now, for the mirrored config, I got a little better than half. 179.5 MB/s write and 176.5 MB/s read. So you can’t have it all. The cost of redundancy is a substantial speed hit. And yet with that in mind, it’s still loads faster than USB3. I tested a bunch of other drive media just to see how they performed. Here’s the results.
A Touro USB3 drive was 94.9 Write and 95.8 Read. A USB2 drive was 37.7 Write and 37.8 Read. I tested a Lexar Professional 32GB SD 400x speed card (in a USB3 reader) and it was 40.2 Write and 87.9 Read – almost approaching USB 3 read times. So the LaCie with the Thunderbolt goodness is majorly king of the hill, even in a mirrored config.
PS: Just for kicks – a USB2 thumb drive speed: 6.5 Write and 11.4 Read. USB3 thumb drive: 34.7 Write and 43.5 Read. 🙂
So I’m excited to welcome the LaCie into the workflow. It’s going to significantly increase my quality of life in transferring D800 megapretzels, especially after a long day of wedding shooting! I’ll probably abandon my Aperture 3 JPEG + Matching RAW workflow as it will be just as fast to copy the RAW files to a scratch folder on the LaCie and do the culling from there. I’m sure it will be fantastic!