My Backup System: Part 2 iMac Backup

Recently I wrote about my 'in the field' backup system, I thought I would follow this up with my new backup system for my computer and the files stored on it.   My backup system was inspired by photographer friend Elliot Hook, Elliot got me thinking about my non existent backing up system on his blog post about backing up . This got me thinking about designing a backup system that works for me, I thought I would share my system with you.

Thankfully (touch wood!!) I have never experienced a computer failure that has resulted in losing all or any of my image files.  Unfortunately image backup is one of those topics that many don't think about until they encounter a computer or hard drive failure, and by then its too late. 

The 1, 2, 3 Backup Rule

The backup system theory I follow is one of the most common backup systems, the 1, 2, 3 Backup Rule:

  • THREE Copies of Data
  • TWO Different Types of Media
  • ONE Off Site Copy

What this means is you should have three copies of the data (including the original file) on at least two different types of storage media and stored in two different places.  The idea of this is to give a system that can cope with most disasters thrown at it.  

My iMac Backup System

For photography I use an Apple iMac, although the way my backup system works it revolves around software for iMac's but the general backup theory can work for a PC too.   

For photo editing I use Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.  For image storage I use Lightroom, it is a great image cataloguing tool as well as a brilliant editing program.

Lightroom has a brilliant Library function for uploading, storing and exporting images.  Once you have set up Lightroom correctly you don't ever need to touch your hard drive storage location to move, delete or edit images.  I personally like the calendar folder setup on the left hand side of the Lightroom screen.  It makes finding images easy and the folder layout is mirrored on your hard drive.  You can set up Lightroom to automatically save a backup copy of your images files as you upload them.  I prefer not to do this and backup the internal hard drive by other means.

All of my image files are imported by Lightroom onto the internal hard drive on my iMac.  From the internal hard drive I backup the data to three portable hard drives.

Both 'HD Backup 1' and 'HD Backup 2' are backups to portable hard drives located near my computer.  The 'HD Off Site' is backed up to portable hard drive that I regularly backup and is stored away from my home.  
One thing I have found is that I'm not good at remembering to complete manual backups myself.  One important aspect of my backup system had to be automatic backup that required very little input from me.  To do this I have implemented software programs to do this for me.
HD Backup 1- Time Machine
Apple iMac's have one great program, Time Machine, that makes backing up your files on your computer to an external drive very easy.  Time Machine is a great backup program as it keeps a backup copy of not only all of yours files but also system files,applications, programs, documents etc.  It differs to your standard backup programs as it remembers what you iMac looked like in the past and you can returned to how it looked at any point. Time Machine keeps hourly backups for24 hours, daily backups for the last month and weekly backups from then onwards.  This is great if you delete a file and then decide you still need it a few weeks later.  You just look back in the Time Machine backups until the point you deleted it.
Time Machine is easy to set up, connect an external storage drive and point Time Machine to the drive you want it to backup to.  In my case I set Time Machine to Backup to a 1TB external portable hard drive.  Thats all you have to do for Time Machine to start backing up everything that on your iMac's internal hard drive.
HD Backup 2- Carbon Copy Cloner
To produce second backup copy of my image files I use an application called 'Carbon Copy Cloner'.  It is an useful backup program that allows you to choose what you want to backup and schedule a time for the backup to happen.  Carbon Copy Cloner is similar is how easy it is to set up but best of all you can set it to complete several backup tasks and not just one like Time Machine.  
Using Carbon Copy Cloner I have set up a backup of my Lightroom folder that stores all of my RAW files, my Lightroom Catalogue and Lightroom Catalogue Backups to an external portable hard drive, HD Backup 2.  This backup is scheduled on a weekly basis to occur every Monday at 00:00.  As I usually take photos at weekends its likely I have just imported new photos to Lightroom at this point of the week.  This backup is scheduled to hopefully backup the new photos I have imported onto the iMac's internal hard drive via Lightroom.
HD Off Site- Carbon Copy Cloner
To meet the third point of the '1, 2, 3 Backup Rule', I have a third external portable hard drive that provides a similar backup function to that of 'HD Backup 2'.  The different is this external portable hard drive is kept as an off site copy.  The idea of the external hard drive is if the worst was to happen and I lost all my other backups due to a burglary or a fire I would still have a copy of most of my images including a working Lightroom Catalogue backup.  
My problem was I knew this was going to be a manual backup process and any manual backup process brings risks compared to automatic backups.  I knew I had to make it as easy as possible otherwise I would not complete it as much as I would like to.  This is where Carbon Copy Cloner comes to the rescue again.  
Like I have said before Carbon Copy Cloner can complete several backup tasks rather than just one.  One backup function you can set is where you can get Carbon Copy Cloner to backup a certain folder, in my case my Lightroom folder, every time it recognises a certain external hard drive is attached to an iMac.  This is brilliant as now all I have to do is collect the 'HD Off Site' portable hard drive and connect it to my iMac.  Carbon Copy Cloner recognises the external drive is attached and asks if I would like to perform the backup.  All I have to do is click 'proceed' and it updates the information saved on the 'HD Off Site' portable hard drive.  This is great as it requires minimal input from me and it means I'm more likely to complete the backup more often than if it was a pain to do.  It is as needs as an automatic process as I can make it.
My Backup Problem- Two Types of Media Storage
The one problem with my current backup system of my iMac and my Lightroom folder is that all backups are stored on external portable hard drives.  This is something that in the future I'm going to look into.  Currently there are several cloud services that I could possibly use but my current issue to the uploading of all of my files that is stopping me.  Until a time comes and I work out my cloud backup solution I'm using my website as an online storage space for the edited High resolution JPEG images.
Transfering JPEG image file to my Zenfolio website is is quick and easy to do using a Lightroom plugin.  This Lightroom plugin is available to downloaded from Jeffrey Friedl's website.  Setting up this plugin is quite simple, it is a case of logging the plugin into my Zenfolio website and choosing the folder locations I want to upload to.  My image files are stored in three galleries (Captive, Wildlife and Landscapes) on my Zenfilio website.  How to use this plugin is shown in the step by step guide below.
Step 1
After completing all editing I highlight all images I want to transfer via quick collections.  From quick collections they are dragged across to the Zenfolio publish folder I want to transfer them to.
Step 2
Then click on the publish button to start the transfer to selected Zenfolio image storage gallery folder..
Step 3
A check of my Zenfolio image galleries to ensure the images have transferred correctly.  As my storage galleries are hidden from public view I can use these as online storage and publish only the photos I want to via my publicly viewable collections (seen as galleries on my website).  I find this is the easiest way to transfer many images to my Zenfolio website.  
What I find is good about the Zenfolio plugin is I can select as many images to upload as I like and start the transfer off and not have to be on the Zenfolio upload web page watching the upload.  This means I can get on with editing more images in Lightroom whilst it is automatically uploading images to Zenfolio for me.  
If the worst to happen and all of my backups failed I would still be able to manually download every JPEG image I have uploaded to my Zenfolio website.  I find this is an adequate solution to my present cloud or online backup needs.  I'm sure in the future I may alter my iMac backup system as my needs change and I find better solutions but for now I'm happy to have a better backup system than my previously non existent backup system.