Data Backup Plan - Jacob Carroll

Data Backup Plan

November 2017

With the switch from a desktop to a new laptop (Dell XPS 15) I had to rethink my data backup strategy. My goal was to maintain the 3-2-1 rule of data backup (3 backups, 2 locations, 1 off site) and keep things as automatic as possible. We all know that if we are forced to do an action it often gets skipped or just plain forgotten.

This method is working great for me as I am maintaining a desktop computer for basic tasks. Doing so also provides the machine to run the online backup software. Without a computer always connected you would have to alter a little from my backup plan.


Lightroom Import Workflow

For starters let me explain my Lightroom photo import workflow. For those of you who use Lightroom this might be handy to know. For those who don’t there is no need to bore yourself so you should read ahead.

I utilize a Seagate USB HDD  for my Lightroom library. When I import photos from my memory card I plug in my HDD and import directly to it. I have Lightroom make a second copy into a folder on the desktop strictly for backup copies. This instantly gives me two copies plus the memory card until I format it next.

I also have Lightroom create smart copies on import so I can unplug the HDD and not need it again until I export the full resolution files. With smart copies I am able to work with it in Lightroom as if the HDD was attached. I can even export high res images, just not full resolution as that larger file is stored on the external drive.

If I am in a situation that I can’t plug the HDD in for an import I’ll import the photos right to a folder on the desktop. When I am able to plug in the external drive afterwards I move those images to the appropriate place on it. (Be sure to do it within Lightroom or use the locate folders option to maintain the catalog integrity.) Also keep in mind when doing this your only copy other than your memory card is your internal HDD. It isn’t until you copy to the external drive that you have a true second copy.

If I am in a situation that I can’t plug the HDD in for an import I’ll import the photos right to a folder on the desktop. When I am able to plug in the external drive afterwards I move those images to the appropriate place on it. (Be sure to do it within Lightroom or use the locate folders option to maintain the catalog integrity.) Also keep in mind when doing this your only copy other than your memory card is your internal HDD. It isn’t until you copy to the external drive that you have a true second copy.


Main Data Backup Device

I am utilizing a Synology single disk NAS box as my main backup location. All the data from my laptop, desktop, cell phone, and other devices are backed up to this drive. This helps simplify the backup of multiple devices by keeping it all on one drive. This drive also allows me to access it remotely through the internet if needed as well as several other features I’ll be utilizing at a later time.

This drive basically has a folder for each device. For simplicity I have a “Laptop” folder and a “Desktop” folder. On both my laptop and desktop I have those folders mapped as drives with the same letter. On either computer drive letter “F:” is the desktop backup folder and drive letter “G:” is the laptop backup backup folder.

Synology DS115J


Backup Utility

I am actually using two different utilities simply to try them out. On the desktop I’m using a very popular utility called AOMEI Backup Standard. It is set to backup whatever on my dekstop that I want to ensure I don’t lose such as my documents, music library, desktop, and a few random folders of data. It is set to copy any new or modified files from the desktop to drive “F:” once a day at midnight. Every night this essentially puts a current backup copy of my desktop files to the NAS.

On my laptop I am running a utility called SyncBackFree which is set to backup my documents, desktop, my pictures folder (which contains the very important Lightroom Catalog files), and my external drive (which contains my entire Lightroom library) to my “G:” drive once every night around 12:30AM. This of course requires the laptop be booted up and connected to my home WiFi. For me this is not an issue as I often have the laptop booted up and plugged in to charge during the night. If for some reason I needed to I could manually start the scheduled backup and check the box for it to shut off the laptop once that backup is complete.

Both utilities seem to be working as they should. They both run scheduled backups automatically every night and provide reports of the backup if wanted. It is also important to note that I am not having them do a backup image. It is probably more correct to refer to them as one way file sync utilities rather than backup. They are just copying new or edited files to the NAS but never from the NAS to the device.


Online backup

One of the tricky parts is the offsite backup. Many people opt to skip this step as they feel it is overkill. To each their own but it is an important step just in case of fire, theft, natural disaster, etc. I know many people who keep it as simple as making a backup copy to a portable drive and storing it at work, a friend’s house, a safe deposit box, or any number of off site locations. The downside is that you must remember to actually create the backup and physically move it. Your offsite backup is also only as recent as the last time you did such.

I chose to use an online service called iDrive. (www.idrive.com) They do things a little different from other services in the fact that rather than offering unlimited storage space on a single computer they offer 2TB of space on as many devices as you want for about $5/month. They also allow the backup of a NAS drive while none of the other services do.

I have the service installed on both the laptop and desktop. On the desktop it is basically just used to backup the mapped drives on the NAS to the online service. Because the desktop is always booted up and online it is constantly backing up that drive. Because the NAS is the central location for all my backed up data I know when it is backed up with idrive all my data is safely off site.

I also run the idrive service on my laptop set to backup the “My Documents” and “My Pictures” folders. This way when I am away from home I can still maintain a secondary cloud backup of my Lightroom catalogue files. While those files can be several hundred MB in size, on a decent internet connection they backup fairly quickly in the background while I’m doing other work.

Click on the www.idrive.com image below and use promo code JCPhoto for a discount.


The “Extra” backup

I know some people are probably questioning my decision to go with a single disk NAS rather than a dual drive RAID 1 setup. My answer is simple, cost and a better alternative. While the dual drive setup would be great to ensure no downtime in case of hardware failure in the NAS, it was over twice the money. Alternatively I opted to purchase another external USB HDD. One of the features of the Synology drive is the USB ports and ability to plug in an external drive. This added drive can be used as added NAS storage or as a backup location for the NAS. Using software installed on the NAS and the external drive always plugged in, it runs a daily backup of the NAS device onto the external drive. It is a whole new additional layer of physical backup of all my data plus one feature you wouldn’t have with the dual drive NAS. I can unplug that drive and store it in a safe or off site easily.

Seagate Expansion Drive on Amazon

If worse comes to worse for some reason, my laptop gets lost or stolen and my house burns down that same day I don’t have to rely on my Idrive online backup as my only copy. While that is what it is for, and I know my data is safe sitting there until I can retrieve it, that process takes time. With the extra drive off site I have a physical copy of all my data in my hands right now without needing to wait for a lengthy download or courier delivery of my data. Some may call it overkill but hard drive storage space is so inexpensive now days that it is a simple process for added peace of mind.