Backup Like Nike – Just Do It

Today was a rather worrisome day. Not because I’ve a mountain of work to catch up on (I do), but due to my Mac Pro crashing, downing not one, but two of my external drives. Anyone who’s attended a class with me knows I preach backups, and you’re not truly backing anything up without redundancy. In this case, I was doubly screwed. I had just moved all my image collections to a new WD terabyte drive about a week ago. I had a GINORMOUS number of images spread over several drives/machines with the most important going to my backup Lacie 150GB. I had a number of images crowding space on my laptop, and I’ve been meaning to prune my folder sets for some time. The problem with the terabyte drive reminded me of why I don’t use high capacity compact flash cards in my camera. I was looking at a potentially dead drive with several years worth of images on it. Here is how my afternoon played out:

1. Upon realizing that neither drive mounted when my Mac Pro came back up, I proceeded to gracefully power everything down.

2. I unplugged power from the external drives, and unplugged their firewire connections.

3. Powered up the Mac Pro, plugged in the firewire connections, then powered up the external drives. Nothing. Drives did not mount.

4. Opened up Disk Utility, and I could see the physical drives just not the volumes mounted. Ran a Repair Disk on both external volumes, status OK, but volumes still wouldn’t mount.

5. Drove to my office (hey I had work to do), picked up a copy of Alsoft’s Disk Warrior on the way back. (All the info I had pointed to Disk Warrior over Drive Genius)

6. Loaded up Disk Warrior, and ran it’s diagnostic on both drives. The volume directories were corrupt, but the data appeared to be intact. All-in-all, the process took about 20 minutes.

So things ended well, but given how quickly the drives dropped from a system crash, you might understand my nerves haven’t quite settled. My good friend Keith was very generous and last week handed down his Lacie 250GB drives. I’m looking at adding a UPS battery for just the drives in my office, and will be having an electrician make sure I’m not overloading a circuit with all the hardware I’m running.

In case you’re wondering about my backup strategy, it’s very similar to what Scott Kelby described on his blog back in October. Images are downloaded from camera cards simultaneously to both external drives. I work off the main drive, then overwrite the backup drive with finished Lightroom adjustments. My backup drive is actually a pair of drives which I rotate offsite once a month so I’m covered in case of fire/disaster. I use Slingshot by Martian Technology to keep the backup drives current with the main drive. I also use Slingshot to sync my laptop & desktop computers.

In summary, remember that even the best laid plans will be tested at some point. I’d like to think today wasn’t so much about luck.

Feb 2009 Update – Still think backups are not important? Checkout what happened to the Drobo setup of Creative Tech Guru Terry White.

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