Last Updated on December 8, 2020 by Jose Barrios
Your photos are worth money so why keep a single copy on your PC? Your computer could fail, or worse yet get robbed or get hit with ransomware. But you say you have an external drive and backup everything there.
Great, what if your house burns down or robbers steal everything, including your external hard drive? Now what?
This is where the 3-2-1 backup strategy comes into play, it has been around for years and can be done on a budget or can get fancy with a NAS and cloud storage.
Quick section links:
- What is a 3-2-1 backup strategy?
- Why I picked Backblaze for my cloud backup
- The budget 3-2-1 backup plan
- The Pro 3-2-1 backup plan
- My personal backup strategy
What is a 3-2-1 backup strategy?
Simply put, you have three copies of your data, this includes not only your photos but your lightroom backup files and any other documents you need to run your business, on three different storage devices.
Two devices are on-premises and the third is located off-site, like a cloud backup.
A good example would be PC – External Hard Drive – Cloud Backup Service
In this setup, you are protected against just about anything, including a catastrophic loss like a fire or burglary.
Why I picked Backblaze for my cloud backup
I used to work in IT for a network television network, so I do have more the usual amount of knowledge when it comes to IT infrastructure, and even though there are a lot of cloud storage solutions out there like Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure, I’m in the photography business now and cannot really spend much time fiddling with enterprise-level solutions.
I needed something that scaled, was easy to use, and unlimited, and Backblaze fitted the bill.
I think the one feature that blew me away was that they can send you a USB hard drive with all your files in case you need a fast recovery of your files because of a catastrophic failure on your end. You can even get a refund for the USB drive if you return it within 30 days.
The budget 3-2-1 backup plan
My personal pick for a budget cloud-based backup is quite simple: Your PC, an external USB WD hard drive, and Backblaze Personal Unlimited Backup.
This plan will let you sleep at night with minimal investment. Just remember to get a UPS for your PC and USB drive.
#1 First copy: PC
I can safely assume you have one already. This is the first copy of your photos.
#2 Second copy: An external USB hard drive
WD Elements USB drives start as low as $80 for 3TB and it includes automatic backup software, ensuring that your photos and other files are automatically backed up from your PC to the external drive.
#3 Third copy: Backblaze cloud storage
Cloud storage is provided by Backblaze. You simply install their client software on your PC or Mac and tell it what and how often to back up to their cloud for just $6 a month.
The Pro 3-2-1 backup plan
My pro backup plan is one or more PC’s, a NAS (Network Attached Storage), and Backblaze.
This solution introduces a NAS system to your backup plan. NAS boxes offer several advantages that a simple external hard drive cannot offer. For starters, they all have redundancy built-in.
The second feature they offer is the ability to share files with ease between several computers. If your business has grown to two or more editing PC’s this is the way to go.
#1 First copy: PC
If you have the budget I recommend storing your first copies on a second hard drive. Do not confuse this with the external one.
A second internal drive that is used only for data storage and not your OS gives you an additional level of protection. These data only drives work a lot less than your main one were your operating system and software resides.
The other benefit is that in the event of a catastrophic PC failure, you can very easily just pop out the drive from the dead PC and put in a new one. Just restore your database in Lightroom and point it to the new file location if you changed hard drive letters and you are good to go.
#2 Second copy: A NAS drive
NAS boxes will have two or more hard drives configured in a RAID. The simple explanation for a RAID is a system that writes your data to two or more drives so that if one of them fails, there is an exact copy on the other one.
There are other benefits to a NAS box, the biggest one is that now you can share all your files between all your PCs. This is especially helpful if you have more than one person editing photos.
My pick: Synology 2 bay NAS DiskStation DS220j
I personally like the Synology 2 bay NAS DiskStation DS220j. It is a small entry-level NAS box that is compatible with Backblaze. This means that it will back up to the cloud without the need for your PC being on while it does it.
This NAS box does not include hard drives, and this is a good thing. Most consumer-grade NAS solutions that include hard drives, only include drives that are adequate for home use.
If you are storing important data on them, I recommend you use a drive that is designed for NAS storage like the Western Digital Red NAS drives.
For a whole bunch of technical reasons too complicated to get into it is this guide, those are the drives you want.
Now that you have added a NAS to your office, you will need a Gigabit switch in order to transfer your data fast between your Pc(s) and your NAS box. Just about any switch will do, and an 8 port switch like the TP-Link TL-SG108 is only about $20 on Amazon.
While they offer bigger solutions, this two-drive solution is a good starting point for a small home office with only a couple of users.
Here is a quick guide by Backblaze on to set this up: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/synology-cloud-backup-guide/
#3 Third copy: Backblaze business cloud storage
Their NAS backup solution costs a little more than the PC back up, and to fair, it makes business sense to them. They do not want 10 computers sharing a NAS device and paying for just a single $6 dollar license.
That being said, their B2B licensing is quite cheap and costs just a little more than the personal version. The best thing about the business version of Backblaze is that it runs directly on the NAS device, allowing you to turn off your PC when the NAS is uploading data.
My personal backup strategy
In my 3-2-1 plan, I have quite a bit of redundancy built-in, after all, I have a couple of terabytes of photos on hand and I’d hate to lose them.
I can break it down into three parts: My PC, NAS, and cloud backup.
#1 My first copy: PC
My PC is custom-built, all OS and software files are on an M.2 SSD drive and my photos on two mirrored hard drives (if fails, the other driver is an exact duplicate).
It is easier to reinstall the OS or move all my files to a new PC in case of a catastrophic failure by keeping all my photos and lightroom database files in a separate hard drive, and if you wondering, yes I have had catastrophic failures in the past.
#2 My second copy: NAS box (Network Attached Storage)
I have a custom-built NAS PC that acts as a storage for all my photos and other important files, think of it as a very large, very reliable external hard drive.
The great thing about a NAS is that it uses redundant hard drives keeping all information on a RAID. Without getting too technical this allows for one of the drives to fail without losing all the information you have on it.
You can easily replace the failed drive with a new one and the system will rebuild the information automatically.
And in case you are wondering, I have had both drive failures and whole catastrophic failures in my NAS, and in both cases, I recovered without a hitch.
#3 My third copy: Backblaze cloud storage
I have my NAS automatically backup my files to my cloud storage, I use Backblaze, I like their pricing and simplicity.
My NAS system automatically backs up to Backblaze on its own. And in case you want to ask, no, I have never had such a major failure that I had to resort to my cloud copy on Backblaze, but if it does happen, I’m prepared.
This completes my 3-2-1 backup solution.
Get a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply)
I cannot stress this enough. In just about every single guide out there about backing up your data they fail to mention that you need a UPS. Most data corruption on your PC or NAS box is the product of a sudden loss of power to the system.
NAS boxes are especially susceptible to data corruption due to power loss. By connecting your NAS box and PC to a UPS these can receive a signal from the UPS battery that power has been lost and they will initiate on their own a clean system shutdown, saving your data from corruption.
I recommend a 1500 VA model like the APC BX1500M. Do make sure that you are not overtaxing the system by checking how much power all your attached devices are drawing from it.
Do not attach unnecessary devices like lamps, chargers, or other electronic devices. Limit the attached devices to your PC, gigabit switch, and your NAS only.
Your photos are worth money, keep them somewhere safe. A stack of old external USB hard drives is not a storage solution.
I have personally made money with my old photos by being able to reuse and sell images of community pools and clubhouses from my real estate photos. I also use my old photos in my social media posts and advertisements.
So keep them safe and don’t lose them.
“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”
Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great.