HP ProLiant MicroServer and external USB drives

Backups, backups

Every photographer should already have a good solid backup routine in place. Of course, every single computer user should have a backup system setup, but photographers are a slightly different breed since we honestly need large amounts of backup space. For a long time we’ve had various incarnations of NAS boxes storing our photographs with software RAID ensuring that every photograph is automatically stored on two physical drives.

HP ProLiant MicroServer and external USB drives

As a base, that offers a good solid approach that should work well enough. However, our first RAID suffered a couple of unexpected shutdowns due to power fluctuations caused by thunderstorms. As a result of one of these outages, the RAID got mixed up and couldn’t recover. It took me several weeks of work in the evenings to get everything back up to speed and in the end we lost only about 400 images (the Lightroom previews were saved though). But that was two weeks of time that could have been spent better.

Sure, at the time we made offsite backups on to DVDs, but that was already starting to be impractical (and is even more so now). Of course, because making the DVD backups was such a pain, at the moment I was a year behind in making the backups. Of course the images that were lost were from slightly after the time I had last made backups…

cd-rom and dvd disks

So external USB drives were then utilized to every now and then copy the data from our NAS to and then store in my office at work. At the end of last year our NAS at the time with 1.5TB of space was filling up and I bought some 3TB drives which naturally wouldn’t work in that NAS. So a friend and I both ordered HP ProLiant MicroServers (N40 to be exact) at an insanely cheap price – they are much more expensive now. Of course, I never got around to setting up our offsite backup systems decently once the new server was up (it’s called U96 ;) ). So now I finally got around to gathering up all of our external USB drives and am in the process of creating offsite backups of all of our images.

Inside of a HP ProLiant MicroServer

Of course, in addition to our photographs we are making backups of our computer systems as well. Anna’s computer stores Time Machine backups on a separate non-RAID drive on U96. My laptop mirrors its drive to an external drive automatically each day and my home directory is also backed up to CrashPlan (should set it up for Anna’s machine as well). Specifically – the CrashPlan backup serves as a decent offsite backup for both of our machines.

And on why we don’t use a cloud service as the offsite backup location of our photographs? Look at the table below with the amount of data in digital photographs we have for each year:

Year Amount of data
2003 2.2 GB
2004 14.1 GB
2005 45 GB
2006 45 GB
2007 50 GB
2008 80 GB
2009 160 GB
2010 220 GB
2011 390 GB
2012 425 GB
2013 (to date) 210 GB

Naturally the data shows some progression on the image sizes that each new camera produced (and the switch from JPG to raw is there somewhere as well). In late 2003 we got our first digital camera, a Minolta 3.2 megapixel point and shoot. In December of 2004 we bought a 300D, November 2006 a 30D, October 2010 our 7D. The final switch to all raw shooting happened in June of 2008. An interesting side note thus is that we initially used Lightroom with JPGs since we’ve used LR from the 1.0 days in 2007.

But back to why we don’t back our images to the cloud. Simply put – a 1Mbps upstream does not lend itself to speedy backups (automatically or manually) and recovering the data in case of failures would be an equally painful process. That’s also the reason why so far I’ve ditched all ideas of using semi-automated backups to a machine running at work and rely on manually transporting the drives to and from work.

That’s it for my rant of the importance of backups (and how we do ours).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.