Scott Andrew Bird’s Backup Strategy

Several years ago, whilst moving home from one country to another, one of my external hard drives died.

In seconds I’d lost several years worth of photos – somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 at a guess. And as these were all of the country I was now leaving, there was no opportunity to go back to the locations involved.


Unsurprisingly, one of the first things I did upon arrival in my new home was to establish a disaster-proof backup strategy. This looks after all of my photos and videos; both those from the digital era and scanned copies of all those that came before.

It really does make it easier to sleep at night.

Before I get into the backup procedure itself, a quick note on the overall strategy. The photos I take – from the moment they can move from a card to a computer – are in several places at once. This ensures that no matter what happens, unless a disaster befalls all locations simultaneously (extremely unlikely, as you’ll see), there is at least one safe copy of the files.

On to the good stuff, the backup procedure itself :

Existing Hard Drives

This is the oldest part of the process, and exists only because I already have a sizeable collection of external hard drives. If you’re not in this position, save yourself some money and skip this step.

In my case, the drives contain copies of all digital photographs up to 2010 (which is when I stopped using them), Lightroom catalogs and thumbnails for each image. These drives are then labelled (the Dymo to the rescue), kept air-tight in zip-lock bags and stored in various locations.

NB : each location keeps a full copy of all files. Just in case.

External Hard Drives

This is done for simplicity and to support the Carbonite backup below. All photo-related files are initially stored on external hard drives – whether I’m on-the-road, or at home.

And as the capacity of hard drives continues to grow, this becomes easier and easier.

I use external hard drives for both working and backup purposes. These contain the RAW image files, as well as all of Lightroom’s Presets & Catalog files. The drives are fast enough for me to be able to edit photos – via Lightroom – directly.

(The hard drive is only used for Operating System & Application files – not the images themselves.)

Once the edits are done, backups are simply a matter of copying these external drives – and putting the copies in various locations. It’s easy enough to make several copies if desired.


In addition to the above, I like having a backup stored elsewhere – just in case. The external drives cover disk failures, while the Carbonite (this is the service I use personally – there are several others) backup protects against fire/flood/theft.

It’s an extra layer of insurance.

As for using it, it’s very much a ‘set it and forget it’ thing – just tell it which directories to back up (and which to ignore), and it silently goes to work. As you add files to those locations, Carbonite will see them and update the backup accordingly.

Works extremely well.

And that’s it – for now. Of course, I’m always looking for ways to improve the procedure. If you’ve got any suggestions for possible improvements, or if you’d just like to share details of your own backup processes, drop me a note on twitter, facebook or via email.

Look forward to hearing from you.

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