Back It Up

Your photos are your livelihood. You’ve worked so hard on getting them perfect and then one silly mistake and POOF! Your data. GONE!

I’ve often been asked what my “end workflow” is like so I decided to share with you what I do once the event is done. I’ll also discuss the equipment I use to ensure that my files are kept safe.

Where do you save your files once an event is over?

The first rule of anything photography-related is back up your files! It’s a love hate relationship for most photographers myself included. It takes time, costs money, and has absolutely zero design and creativity involved. Let’s face it. It’s a chore. But, it’s essential in our workflow.

As soon as a photo booth event is over, the first thing I do is download the entire event folder on a portable thumb drive. This includes videos, photos, data files, and customization for the event. Once I have it on a USB drive, it gets tucked safely in my pocket for when I get home.

Shifting my focus from event photography to the photo booth business hasn’t changed the way I approach storage. It’s still an essential and crucial part of what I do.

Once home, I upload my files directly to my Drobo 5D3. I’ve had a Drobo since 2007 when I started out with the first generation unit. In 2016, I upgraded to the Drobo 5D3. There was no reason for me to upgrade as my first gen unit was still in perfect working condition even after several years of use. I have a good friend who just happens to know Mihir Shah, Drobo’s CEO. Let’s just say I got a great discount for the upgrade.

Here’s one more cool thing that’s part of my “storage workflow”. Once it uploads on the Drobo, the files are automatically backed up to an online cloud storage service – Backblaze.

Ummm… so what’s a Drobo?

I’ve often been asked why not go NAS (network attached storage) and just get the Synology. I’ve actually tried both systems. Here’s a quick “cliff notes” on some of the advantages and disadvantages of each system and why I ultimately ended up using the Drobo system.

Disclaimer: I’m a bit biased with the Drobo since I’ve been using it for many years now. I’m also not being compensated by Drobo or Synology for any of these thoughts. These are purely mine and is intended to simply share what works for me as a consumer.

Drobo 5D3 (DAS):

Advantages:

  • Speed
  • Ease of use
  • Similar to Time Machine from the Mac OS environment
  • Editing files when they reside directly on the drives
  • Dual Drive Redundancy
  • Desktop App is easy to use
  • Hot swappable
  • USB 3.0 Type C (allows connections with a Mac or Windows based PC)

Disadvantages:

  • It’s only a DAS (Direct Attached Storage)
  • Must be connected to main computer
  • Only accessed by one computer since it’s a DAS (there’s a work around on Macs that I know of but it takes fiddling around)
  • Apps only work for NAS enabled Drobos
  • Expensive with HDDs (I use 4TB WD Blacks)

Synology (NAS):

Advantages:

  • Multiple user capability
  • Accessed from anywhere internet is available
  • Mobile apps are more robust
  • Files on the go – anywhere… everywhere
  • USB 3.0 Type-A ports and eSATA port (allows connections with a Mac or Windows based PC)
  • RAID support
  • Awesome as a 4k Media Center
  • 2-step verification
  • Surveillance feature
  • Hot swappable
  • RAM upgradeable
  • Facial Recognition

Disadvantages:

  • Speed
  • Must know a little more on computers since installing the software takes a bit of time
  • Only one Ethernet port
  • Expensive with HDDs
  • Dual drive RAID is not cost effective

(My) Final Thoughts:

In the end, it’s all a matter of preference. For my particular work-style needs, I prefer the Drobo. If you’re used to working on having an external hard drive connected to your machine, then this is very much the same.

Internet connectivity didn’t matter to me as much. To me, what mattered most is the ability to work on the files while they reside directly on the drives and definitely the speed. The workflow is almost seamless and appears as if I’m working on the files from my desktop.

As far as speed is concerned, I did a test comparing my older first generation Drobo and the newer 5C version. I can upload a 10gb file to my Drobo and it copies it in under two minutes. The first generation Drobo took three times longer. Talk about lightning fast! The Drobo also supports up to 5 3.5″ SATA II/III hard disk drives up to a 4TB maximum capacity. Hard drives are so cheap now that it’s totally reaonable. I currently have 12.50Tb of storage space at my disposal.

The Drobos also allows the user to be notified should the system detect any potential hard drive failure. It can send you an email notifying the user of the pending failure and it flashes orange on the drive bay that has the potentially defective drive. All you have to do is buy a new hard drive, pull out the old one, and insert the new one. the Drobo will then re-populate the drive with the data and you’re as good as new.

The Drobos also has redundant backup built in. The drives are partitioned for backup and for storage. As you can see in the image below, even though I have 12.50TB of space, it only shows me a total of 7.67TB. The “missing” drive space is used for data redundancy. The provision of redundant backup and my cloud storage via Backblaze gives me the peace of mind knowing that my photos and files are stored safely in multiple locations.

And while the debate between exists between Drobo vs. Synology vs. Buffalo Station or other DAS/NAS systems exists, it all comes down to preference and what works for you as the user. Why do you use a OSX and not Windows? How about Ubuntu versus Unix? The debate will continue.

Go with something that you’re happy with and not what other people might necessarily tell you. You’ll hear from a lot of people that their Drobos have failed. To be honest, mine has yet to fail (knock on wood). It’s been a workhorse silently working in the background and keeping my files safe and secure.

Why not just use multiple external hard drives? They’re cheap anyway.

While external hard drives such as a LaCie 10TB drive might sound very appealing due to overall upfront costs, these in my opinion are disasters waiting to happen. They can fail at any time and with no redundant backup, you can find yourself with a lot of heart burn.

Why do I have a third backup (cloud storage) when I already have redundant backup on the Drobo you ask? Let’s save this for a different post.

Do you have a robust storage and backup plan in place? Have you thought about it? What’s preventing you from moving forward with it? We’d love to hear about it.

If you liked this post, feel free to share it, comment or LIKE. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. We always love hearing back from you!

Happy boothing! Ciao!

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