Interior view of a vast library
My image library was never this neat, but now it is in ruins. Photo: ©Shutterstock

Why you need to back up, again and again

Disasters come in many stripes, but apart from losing one’s sight there can be few events more devastating to a photographer than a major hard drive crash.

The nightmare began several months ago when I noticed a red light flashing on one of the drives of my Promise RAID external hard drive – containing 105,000 images.

These multi-drive RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs) systems are supposed to have built-in data redundancy capability. If you lose one drive to ‘parity’ (as the techies call it), the stored data should remain usable across the surviving drives in the array.

Total corruption

However, the only ‘parity’ that occurred in this instance was the total corruption of all four of my 3TB drives. In other words, the entire 12TB capacity HD died a slow and painful (to me) death. But I was not to know the full extent of the loss immediately.

That kick in the you-know-what’s came when I received a portable drive containing all the backed up files from the online storage people at Backblaze.

Instead of all the images being easily identified inside my reasonably well-designed folder structure, they were (and remain) smashed and strewn like rubble in the bombed-out streets of Aleppo.

The cause it seems was the rapid corruption of all of the original RAID drives after the first disc failed. All that corrupted data was dutifully and automatically sent to Backblaze, and returned to me in the same crashed form as it had been sent.

Despite the assurances, when it comes to your precious pics, you can never be too careful . Photo: ©Shutterstock

Recovery process

I mention all this because despite being fully backed up, for me, the recovery process will be long, and around 30% of my original RAW files may be gone for good.

So, my advice to readers who want to safeguard their pictures and videos is simple:

  1. Think very carefully before committing to a RAID system on its own – the built-in redundancy is not secure enough in my experience.
  2. Put your photos/videos on one external HD, put your photo editing software catalogs/previews on a different HD, and back both up on an online system such as Backblaze – somewhere away from home/office.
  3. If you have a lot of images (more than 10,000), create a folder system for each year and save that resource to a separate ‘archive’ drive annually.

It all sounds overwhelming, but from one who knows, it definitely pays to plan for the worst!

(Footnote: The reason there hasn’t been a Natural Images blog for a couple of months is because I couldn’t find enough of the right images to support the posts – until now.)


©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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


Time to go beyond being an end-of-story comment person.
To write a blog post or submit some of your best images with the backstory, please contact Tony Neilson.