We've talked extensively about backup hardware, but that's just one part of a total backup solution. Software is important too — it allows you to manage multiple backup devices, schedules, and file revisions. Each software package offers different features, and each photographer had different requirements, so it's best to do your homework before picking a backup software.
In the next article, we'll pull everything together and talk about strategy.
Backup software simply provides a means to duplicate data across multiple pieces of hardware. When dealing with thousands of files, this software is critical to keeping track of everything. Although the concept of duplicating data is simple, there are a number of more complex features included with most backup software.
The most important feature of backup software is the ability to do incremental backups. This means that after the initial backup, subsequent backups only include new or modified files. Without this feature, each backup would take an excessive amount of time and disk space.
Another important feature of backup software is scheduled backups. Most of us have too many things to remember on a daily basis, so allowing the software to automatically backup your photos (or remind you to do so) is a major convenience.
Other features in backup software might include compression, encryption, remote access, synchronization, and more. Some backup software also allows you to keep multiple revisions of your data, allowing you to dig back to several file versions earlier.
There's really not much to it once you get the hang of your software. Usually, you'll go through some kind of “wizard” with a series of dialog boxes. You tell the software which files/folders to backup, where to put the backup, how often, and any other options for compression, revision control, encryption, etc.
Some people like to backup once per week, once per day, etc. Others like to constantly keep their hardware synchronized. Either way is fine as long as you know the risks of each. Backing up at some time interval leaves gaps that are open to data loss — say you backup every Friday, you could have a failure on Thursday and lose nearly a weeks worth of work. On the other hand, constantly synchronizing your hardware takes care of these gaps, but it makes your backup hardware more vulnerable to failures such as lightning strikes, fire, and theft.
Depending on the volume of new photos you produce, you should find it easy to set your frequency preferences. And if you do a big photo shoot, you can always run a one-time backup to ease your mind.
Like I mentioned already, when it comes to backing up your photos the software is important too. Without a good backup software, you don't have a feasible means of utilizing your backup hardware. Find something that suits your needs, and keep the points I mentioned above in mind.
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In addition to the items shown below, most operating systems have backup software included. This would be a good place to start, but you may find that the software lacks certain features when compared to 3rd party software. Most external hard drives also come with some type of backup software included, but again, the feature set may be limited.