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Mozy Home back-up for photographers :: An acceptable solution

SCSI-SATA, RAID, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH I didn't get into digital photography to learn or care about what these terms related to file back-up systems -actually mean. And, nearly all internet resources about photo back-up systems focus on the person who can spend at least a thousand dollars on some fancy, automated system that you still need a degree in computer science to understand,or do-it-yourself systems for those with a lot of knowledge about computers. I do not fall into either of these groups, and thus have been struggling to set up an easy-to-use,cost-effective back-up system for my photos for some time.

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I think I may have finally come up with a solution that works for me and might work for other photographers who have less than a terabyte of data to back-up.While I don't really care about gear enough to post about it very often, I thought this information could be useful to other hobbyist photographers, so here goes

Before diving into the solution, here is a brief history of my back-up "systems" for context:

Phase I: I saved all of my images on my laptop's hard drive and my crossed fingers we're the only insurance against something happening tothat laptop. I used the default Windows "download images" tool to get images directly from my camera and randomly copied files to and from folders with a little too much carelessness. This system resulted in some missing photos from my wedding,two-days worth of Death Valley images gone forever, and my favorite photos from Ice Lakes Basin disappearing into oblivion.

Phase II: I upgraded to Lightroom to improve my importing and cataloging workflow and bought a 500 GB external hard drive for back-up. I manually backed up all of my images between the laptop and the hard drive. I started keeping the hard drive in different room than the laptop, hoping that only one would be destroyed in the case of a fire (awesome!). Result: more organized, still resulting in deleted or missing files, and still prone to catastrophe.

Phase III: I purchased two 1.5 TB external hard drives (room for growth) and started using the Microsoft SyncToy utility to make sure that everything is the same on both drives. I keep one of these off-site and one at home, but they are both still in the same city. I save my Lightroom catalog in two places at least once a week and do a full back-up once a month or after any major updates (like returning from a trip). This system is working much better, but still has flaws. Both hard drives still have to be at my home for that once-a-month full back-up. I am forgetful about these kinds of things, which means that both drives can linger in my home office a bit too long for comfort. I thought about getting a third hard drive so that one was off-site at all times, but this solution was getting too complicated.

Phase IV: Time to get in the cloud Rather than buying a third hard drive, I decided to look into online back-up solutions. Last time I looked into this option, the two main services, Carbonite and Mozy, each charged based on the amount of space utilized. The cost would have been prohibitive for anyone who takes RAW files from a DSLR. Turns out that both have recently abandoned that pricing structure and both offer unlimited storage. Carbonite turned out not to be an option because they do not support external hard-drives. Thus, Mozy Homewas the choice for me.

My specific situation: I have about 500 GB of data to upload. My high speed internet connection is through Comcast. With this set-up, and the glitch noted below, it will take me about six weeks to complete the initial back-up. Mozy will cost me about $50 per year.

The process:

  • Set-up your account and pay.
  • Download and install the software.
  • Make a few easy selections to choose the files you want backed up.
  • Initiate the initial back-up. Time to this point: 15 minutes.
  • Add weeks, and then a few more weeks. The initial back-up is painstakingly long with more time added for minor user error, as discussed below.
  • Ongoing: I will continue to back-up my full image library, rotating my two hard-drives (one at home, one off-site) and syncing with SyncToy at least once a month. Given a glitch in the process (discussed below), I will manually back-up to Mozy once a week or after doing a lot of work with my files. This system will work until I reach capacity on my 1.5 TB drives, which should take at least a year or two.

The painfully slow uploading process

The pros:

  • Price: Mozy Home is very reasonably priced. With a promo code, easily found through Google, the cost for unlimited storage is less than $50 per year. This is less expensive than purchasing another hard drive.
  • Peace of mind: Having my files backed up by experts in online back-up gives me the peace of mind that my files are pretty much as safe as they can be at a reasonable cost.
  • Ease of recovery for small groups of files: Recovering individual or a small batch of files is very easy. Users can access their files through a desktop interface or through their Mozy user account online. This is an easy, quick process, but would be cumbersomefor a full restore. Mozy offers the option of sending DVDs of all your data to you for a full restore (see below).

The cons:

  • The initial upload: The initial upload is a painstaking process. Mozy does not yet offer the option to send in a hard drive for the initial data transfer. If this option we're in place, it would make the process a whole lot easier for people with more than a few gigabytes of data. Again, I have about 500 GB of data to back up, 97 percent of which is photo files. It will take about six weeks of round-the-clock uploading to complete the initial back-up. In my case, I added some extra time in there because of a tiny mistake. See next con.
  • When using external hard drives I set the initial back-up process to run in the background and have been pausing it when I need to do something that requires more processing umph. This worked well until I needed to restart my computer. For some reason, I turned off my external hard drive and forgot to turn it back on after my computer was back on. This tiny error caused a major hassle. If Mozy detects a file as missing in your system (like when an external hard drive is off), it islabeled for deletion.The moment of leaving my hard drive off meant that Mozy marked 200 GB of files for deletion. Once the hard drive was back on and the process was resumed, the system has had to verify thateach of those files still exists, adding at least another week to the initial upload period. Because of this experience, I am not going to set up automatic back-ups because it is too easy to make a tiny mistake like leaving the hard drive off and having to have each file verified all over again. I cannot find any settings that ask for verification that files on an external hard drive are actually gone, instead of simply inaccessible because the drive is off or disconnected. Although this kind of setting might be an annoying feature, it would save a lot of headaches for people who are using Mozy with external hard drives that might not always be hooked up and on.
  • Ongoing uploads: Ongoing back-ups should be fairly simple, as only new and modified files are included in subsequent uploads. Coming back from a big trip, however, will still betime-consuming to back-up. I have been able to back up between 5 and 7 GB per day with my set-up, which means that a long weekend for me (usually about 25 GB) will take almost a week of round-the-clock uploading to complete. This is not a big inconvenience, but it is not exactly easy.
  • Restoring: The restore feature only displays files as a list. In an ideal world, it would be nice if image files we're displayed as thumbnails. This is a minor complaint, but worth noting, especially if you are used to browsing and selecting images in a visually-oriented program like Lightroom. More of an issue: the cost for a full DVD restore: Mozy charges $30 processing, $40 shipping, and $0.50 per gigabyte for a set of DVDs for a full restore. If you do not want to pay that fee, using the desktop interface for a full restore will be a long process.
  • Privacy: For some, the idea of having all of your personal files backed up on multiple servers completely out of your control will be a barrier. While I do not like that so much information about me is stored on servers of many various companies, this is the way the world works these days.The idea that some Mozy employeeor hacker would steal my photo files is too remote of a possibility for me to care about, but I am sure this will bother some of you to the point that online back-up will never be a good option for you.
  • Type of photography: I have batches of new images a few times a month. For photographers with frequent and large batches of photos (like busywedding and portrait photographers), Mozy would be constantly running and would probably always be behind the pace of your work. Think carefully about how much data you will need to upload per month before signing up.

Conclusion:

Mozy Home is a good solution for photographers with less than one terabyteof data who photograph a few times a month in bursts. Beyond one terabyte, the initial uploading process would be a barrier, especially if your internet service provider places strict limits on your monthly uploads. Photographers with lots of data to transfer on a regular basis might have a challenge in ever getting ahead of the back-up process.

Even though the uploading process is not the best, having a set of my files backed-up by experts at a very reasonable cost makes Mozy a good solution for me . Storage in the cloud should only become more user-friendly, so hopefully some of the barriers and glitches will be resolved in the near future. In the meantime, I can recommend Mozy as a good solution for many photographers, especially if you are willing to continue back-ups on rotating hard drives and rely on Mozy only for catastrophic failures.

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Posted in Software Post Date 11/26/2016


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