Maine Wedding Photographer » Brunswick, ME Wedding Photographer Michele Stapleton

Are you backing up your files on a regular basis?

It was bound to happen eventually. Through some boneheaded move I deleted an incredibly important file.

I have no idea how it happened; I simply fired up the Mac this morning, and my to-do list was nowhere to be found. And my trash can was as empty as can be. Can you say “rapidly sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach”? I can.

I searched for “to-do” hoping maybe I had inadvertently slipped it inside a folder. The search came back nothing found. Twice.

Taking a deep breath I fired up Retrospect Express, my back-up application, and went through the steps to recover the last saved copy of my to-do list. Thankfully, it was right where it was supposed to be. Stomach starting to feel better already, breathing returning to normal.

Okay, now that the to-do list is recovered, here comes the rant: Backing up your computer and any data on external hard drives on a regular basis is incredibly important, and it’s not just important for businesses like mine. Anyone not backing up regularly risks total loss of all sorts of important files.

Keeping up with your finances on Quicken? Have a couple of hundred (or thousand) songs on iTunes? Maintaining your Christmas card list electronically? Can you really afford to lose it all to a lightning strike? A hardware crash? Or just an unexplained dumb mistake like mine?

Know what the experts say about all computers and external hard drives? It’s not a matter of if they will crash, but instead when they will crash. Not to mention a house fire or other disaster.

My heart went out to a mother who recently related her bad fortune: she lost all the digital photos of her only child, a five-years-old, when her computer bit the dust. She has nothing left but a couple of prints. Everything else is gone.

Yes, there are companies that often are able to recover files from crashed computers, but their file recovery services come with a hefty price tag, often over a thousand dollars. And, they can’t always recover everything.

Why risk being in this dreadful position when it’s so easy to back up?

Many professional photographers use a backup strategy we shorthand as “3-2-1.” That stands for three copies of every file, using at least two kinds of media, with at least one copy off site at all times. Our two kinds of media are external hard drives and DVDs. One hard drive is always off site, and many of our DVDs are also off site.

Keeping current is easy if you set the backup to run on its own. We do this using Retrospect Express.

We have two sets of external hard drives. Set A is on site for one week and it is updated daily, while Set B is safe off site. On week two we swap the sets, bring Set B up to date, then Set B gets daily updates. At the end of week two the routine starts over again. This way we should never lose more than a day’s work due to a hardware or operator error. If we have a disaster such as a fire which destroys the on-site back up, we shouldn’t lose more than a week’s worth of work.

We started using Retrospect for regular back-ups years ago thanks to the advice of Brian at Rainstorm Consulting, but if you are on a Mac using the latest OS, you’ll get Apple’s Time Machine backup app for free.  Not being a PC user, I don’t know the options there, but there appear to be  many choices.

There are also companies that allow you to upload your files over the Internet, and they store the files on their servers. That’s even easier than buying sets of hard drives and toting them back and forth. And, if you update daily that way, you’ll never lose more than a day’s work. The friendly folks at BEK Inc in Brunswick offer this service. And you don’t have to be in Brunswick to use them, you simply need an Internet connection anywhere in the world. Or, if you do live nearby they can come to your home or place of business and get you started with a routine like mine using a software solution and portable hard drives.

Last, if you have just a few items to back up (your address book, an important pdf), you get up to 2 GB of online storage free at

Okay, end of rant. Now maybe I should actually start chipping away at the to-do list?

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