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"It’s like Zeus came down from the heavens and decided to strike my hard drive with his mightiest bolt of lightning."

Spring Cleaning Your Backup Strategy

May 9, 2019

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the contributor and not of Canon USA.

You need to turn your one of a kind image into at least three of a kind… Stay with me on this concept. It’s called the 3-2-1 backup strategy. And this actually extends beyond backing up your images. Sure, your photos are important but what about personal documents, music, movies and everything else in your digital life. We live in a time where everything is a finger swipe or click away. We assume that our most prized work and memories will be with us forever.

But this is far from the case and I have learned from my own mistakes. Back in college, I worked exclusively on my “backup” hard drive when sitting in the school computer lab. I put “backup” in quotes because it was not a backup. It was my unique one-of-a-kind external hard drive that contained all of my work.

And do I really need to even say, “guess what happened next?”

The hard drive crashed and everything was gone… The hours, days and weeks spent on images and videos that I created were unrecoverable. I know this because I spent about $500 dollars to try and recover the data but this was a crash of legends. It’s like Zeus came down from the heavens and decided to strike my hard drive with his mightiest bolt of lightning.

Being a college student, I gambled my school work over purchasing a second hard drive that would have cost me only a couple hundred dollars. So not only did I eventually have a hard drive crash, I had to borrow and pay $500 to try and recover nothing, and I had to make up a semester’s worth of work in a few short weeks.

If I truly had a backup, I would have had a second hard drive that was identical to the first. An exact copy of all the bits and bytes of my school work. However, in order to truly have my information backed up and safe, this is where the 3-2-1 backup strategy comes into place.

3 – At a minimum, there need to be 3 copies of files.

2 – There need to be 2 copies on two different local sources. For example, one copy on a local computer or hard drive and another copy on another local external hard drive.

1 – The last component is to have 1 copy off-site, meaning not local. This is in case of fire, flooding, hurricanes, theft, earthquakes, etc.


For the past 15 years, I’ve played around with different local strategies but lately, my strategy became more of a headache. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been fortunate and not one of my hard drives have failed me since being in college. All of the major hard drive companies such as Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba and Hitachi all make great hard drives. I also had a Mac Mini and utilized Time Capsule to backup personal computers and keep my hard drives powered. But take a look at my local hard drive collection.

What you don’t see and the biggest flaw is not knowing what is on each hard drive and having to switch through the different hard drives to find the right files.

Fast forward to present day and I now utilize a NAS (network attached storage) system. NAS systems are a must for photographers, videographers and highly recommended for any creative. I’m able to back up my information easily in a centralized location.

Depending on the configuration, NAS devices can be set up as JBOD (just a bunch of disks) or as a RAID (redundant array of independent disks). I utilize RAID 5 because my NAS system has 4 drives and I can have one hard drive fail without the whole system going down and I won’t lose data. If I have to replace a failed hard drive, I remove the dead drive and replace it with a new one. The system syncs up the data from the original 3 drives and the system is back up and running. This feature and many other features are the reasons for utilizing a NAS system by Synology.

No more fumbling around for different cables or looking for the right hard drive. All of my information is stored in one device, connected to my network, across multiple hard drives and the great thing about a NAS is that all of my information is being backed up in this one device.


My off-site strategy is to keep at least one copy of my files not at my home. This can be done by uploading files to the cloud and using services like Google Drive, Dropbox or if you need a large amount of space, I recommend looking at Backblaze. Of course, like any online service, there is the possibility of data breaches and hacking of information.

Another method is to copy your files to external hard drives and keep them at a trusted source with a relative, friend or perhaps at work. However, the one caveat to this method is will it be secure? If you leave it at any of these locations, can you be absolutely certain that no one will grab your hard drives and use it for themselves?

My method is to keep a few hard drives at a relative’s house. I label them and keep it in a small locked waterproof case. I lock it as a deterrent and waterproof to protect it from any sort of water damage. Four times a year I bring the hard drives home and sync up the data. Once it is complete, I drop the off-site backups back at my relative’s home for safe keeping.

Life happens and life-changing events can occur with little to no time to prepare. Backing up your digital life is incredibly important and for any creative. Having the capability of a secure backup process has never been easier and more affordable than ever. Be sure to double check your backup strategy and please feel free to share with me your experiences and recommendations. You can reach me at mhiga@cusa.canon.com and good luck with your backup!

All Canon contributors are compensated and actual users of Canon products promoted.