Traveling Backup Workflow

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Today’s Question: I see from your Instagram that you have been in the Palouse leading photo workshops for a couple weeks. How do you maintain a backup of your photos along the way during such a photography trip?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I maintain at least three backups on external hard drives while I travel, and in some cases maintain additional backups beyond that.

More Detail: I am often traveling for extended periods of time, and I certainly want to maintain an ongoing backup of my photos during those travels. I use external hard drives for most of my storage and backup. I also use a somewhat conservative overall approach to backing up my photos while traveling.

First of all, I download photos from my storage media to an external hard drive as part of the process of importing new captures into my Lightroom Classic catalog. During the import process I also take advantage of the option to create a second copy of the photos during the import. I store that second copy of the photos to a folder on the desktop of my computer. So as soon as I’ve finished importing photos into my Lightroom catalog, I already have two copies of the photos, in addition to the original captures that are still on my media card.

Next, I use GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to create a synchronized backup of the external hard drive containing my photos. That synchronization is done to a second external hard drive, so I then have four copies of my photos on four different storage devices.

My next step is to perform a Time Machine backup for the internal hard drive on my laptop. That backup obviously applies to my entire laptop hard drive, but in terms of my photos the key is that it is backing up the second copy of the photos created on my desktop as part of the process of importing the photos into my Lightroom catalog. After the Time Machine backup is complete, I effectively have five copies of my photos. That includes the original captures on the media card from my camera, the “master” copy of the photos on my primary external hard drive, a synchronized backup to a second external hard drive, the import backup in a folder on the desktop of my laptop, and a Time Machine backup on an external hard drive.

In theory I would also use a cloud-based backup in order to have a backup of my photos stored in a different location, with a service such as Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/backblaze). However, more often than not when traveling I am don’t have access to a high-speed Internet connection, making such a backup difficult or impossible.

Of course, I also don’t really need quite as many copies of my photos as I create with the workflow outlined above. Therefore, once I have created the various backups as part of that workflow, I will reformat the media card so it can be used to capture new photos. I will also generally delete the backup on my laptop created during the import process, since I will still have three copies of my photos on three separate storage devices even after deleting those additional backups.

As noted in today’s question, I have been in the Palouse region of eastern Washington State for a few weeks, and still have more photos to share from this trip. You can view the photos I’ve already shared (and check back for additional photos I’ll share soon) on my Instagram feed here:

https://www.instagram.com/timgreyphoto/