Imagine you started a project and worked hard on it. I mean, really hard. I mean like 40-60 hours a week for a month-level hard. Now, imagine if you lost all that work. Pooof! It’s just gone the next day…

That’s what happened to me over the last 6 months. Twice.

As the old adage of Murphy’s law states: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Damn it, Murphy.

I’m not really one for being paranoid about most things, but when it comes to my images, or just work in general, I hate losing things I put time and effort in to. Recently I lost my entire 2017 and 2016 drives. I recovered most of it, but ended up losing every single .PSD file I created since before my trip to Melbourne last year. All that work, gone, only to exist as a heavily compressed image on Instagram.

Frustrated, I created a plan.

This plan had a bunch of requirements, constraints and some considerations, and they might be useful to you, so I thought I’d share them.

Requirements

Considerations

My first knee-jerk reaction was to go for a RAID solution. I won’t bore you too much with the technical details, but I explored using RAID 0 and 1 configurations, did some price and speed comparisons with other drive types, and weighed all of those up with portability.

Here are my conclusions about RAID:

So I decided to go a different route. Multiple portable hard drives.

Working diagram
Primary drives diagram
Archive Diagram

Here’s how it works

Working

I have a 2013 MacBook Pro. It’s kinda shit. Really old. Very slow. I need a new one. It has a 512GB SSD which really only has around 150-200GB’s of space for my images.

To get around that issue, I have a SanDisk Extreme 900 SSD 1.92TB which gives me almost 2TB’s of storage space, 850 MB/s read and write speed (which is insanely fast), and is USB 3.0 and USB-C compatible for when I eventually get locked down to only using USB-C on any future MacBook Pro’s.

It’s a fantastic drive (review coming soon), but it’s expensive. I figured if there was any point of this plan that would be pricey, it’s at this point that I would be willing to pay for it. This solution prolongs my laptop life, keeps everything fast, and encrypts it all too if I want.

On this ‘working’ solution, my laptop does nothing but process the files and acts as a backup storage for my 4 and 5 star images, as well as any composite material I need like stars and birds and clouds and other Photoshoppy stuff.

My SanDisk SSD contains my entire year’s worth of images in the one fast place, as well keeping a primary location of my 4 and 5 star images and comp material.

Primary drives and satellite backups

These are my main drives, sorted by year. For my 2016 files, I have a 1TB WD My Passport that neatly fits all of my 2016 files that I rarely use. I only ever plug this in when I need it.

For my 2017 files, I have a My Passport Ultra 2TB which contains all of this year’s files and is constantly backed up every day (or… whenever I remember, but frequently 😅). This is my main 2017 drive.

Both of these drives are just regular-speed portable hard drives with USB 3.

You’ll notice that there are two ‘portfolio backup’ nodes in this segment. These are my satellite backups for my 4 and 5 star images, and they’re stored on a 32GB flash drive I had laying around and a SanDisk Ultra 64GB MicroSD. Yes, this means that my 4 and 5 star images are backed up a total of 4 times. These are images and edits I use to post on Instagram, do prints with, and generally like enough to edit. They’re important. They’re my portfolio pieces. They’re the diamond of my work.

Archives

Then comes the archives. These are drives that I have incase everything falls to shit. They’re updated infrequently (like once a month), but they’re split up by year for easy categorisation and multiple levels of redundancy. At my place, I keep a My Passport 1TB for my 2016 files, and a My Passport 2TB for my 2017 files.

I then have a duplicate of these two drives and I give them to my mum where my dogs can guard them for safe keeping 🐶. This way, if the fire alarm for the apartment is actually going off for real this time because some dickhead lit the building on fire, I still have all my files safe from a month ago. Not bad.

The result

The Backup plan drives
The drives in a nice, Instagrammy flat lay-ish-i-kinda-suck-at-this way
In real life. Haha.

So all of this might seem a little daunting, it’s not when you dig in to it, trust me. It’s also worth getting to know and design a backup plan for yourself, too. But if you had to outline the main design of the plan, it’s this:

And that’s it! Pretty easy, right? 😁

Here’s a list of the gear that I’m using incase you’re interested!

SanDisk Extreme 900 SSD 1.92TB

WD My Passport Ultra 2TB

WD My Passport 2TB

WD My Passport 1TB