I’m a IDIOT. BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS, PEOPLE!

aka Have Lots of Backups, Including Off-site

As of 5/24/16, you can skip to the end for the happy ending.   😀 

After all of these years as a photographer and computer user; after 2 total server failures at my office; after other hard drive failures, you would THINK that I would have executed a more solid backup plan on my home computer, but I didn’t, and I’m so pissed at myself right now.

There was a massive thunderstorm in Charlotte on Saturday, April 30th 2016, and it has now been confirmed that our house was struck directly by lightning. Thankfully, it’s all-brick exterior and has proper grounding, so no damage to the house itself. Our daughter was at a sleepover and was fine; my wife and I were fine, BUT…………

The strike apparently hit at the end of the house where our home office is located on the second floor. Printer was fried. AirPort Extreme wireless router was fried. The cable box outside the house was fried. Time Warner Cable modem was fried, as was the TWC security system modem. The transformers in our power recliner sofa are fried (which is kind of unfortunate, because we were sitting on that sofa with the leg supports elevated, and they can’t go back down now.)

Worst of all, however, is that the G RAID external hard drive, on which I store all the photos in my Lightroom catalog, was fried. 60,000 photos going back to 2014. Wedding, birth of my daughter, family events, graduations, vacations, etc for 12 years. And it’s fried. I won’t know if they’re recoverable until the discs are sent to a Disc Recovery service recommended by my IT guy. Thankfully, he seems reasonably confident that they will be successful, but until they get them and see for themselves, it’s not a sure thing.

It’s Not a Total Loss, Even if Those Drives are Non-Recoverable

One definite bright spot: the Mac Pro itself was not damaged. The Lightroom catalog file was therefore not damaged, although the backups were on the external drive. If that had also been fried and the catalog were toast, things REALLY would have been bleak.

Fortunately, I had saved many of my favorite photos to my SmugMug website, so that’s about 2,300 of my 5-star photos, and I can download them once I’m fully back up and running, although I do have to get a new external hard drive first.

Also fortunately, I decided to use Google Photos a few months ago as one online backup for photos using the free High Quality setting. All of my JPEGs were successfully backed up – but none of the RAW or TIFF files, and I’ve been shooting primarily in RAW since getting a Canon 30D way back in 2006. The plan was, once the Google Photos backup was complete, to then back up all original files to Amazon with my Prime account. That had hung up on something, though, and I hadn’t gotten to call Customer Service yet. So none of those RAW or TIFF files were backed up to anywhere.

Most fortunately of all, I still had a Synology NAS drive at home that used to be hooked up to my old Windows 7 PC. I’d always meant to connect it to the new Mac Pro as an additional backup but hadn’t yet. I just found out that Michael, my IT guy, was able to reconnect it to the Mac and found that it still has everything on it up through June 2011.  In addition, I still have the Win 7 PC that was on the verge of dying (motherboard, not the drives) when I switched to the Mac, and the drives on there were still good.  If those files are there, I can recover everything through Aug. 2014 (I hope).

On the advice of my IT professional, I am sending the G RAID drive to Disk Doctor in Atlanta, GA.  He says that they’re the best with whom he’s ever worked and they’ve never failed to recover files from a drive.  I am sincerely hoping that I’m not the first.

For Your Peace of Mind – BACK UP!

It really is making me sick to my stomach how close I came to losing ALL the photos.  Knowing that a decent chunk of them are backed up in various places has eased my mind somewhat, but even if I just lose the last 18 months – that’s a lot of memories!  So what’s the plan once I (hopefully) get everything back?  Here you go:

  1. Immediately get in touch with Amazon Prime support to find out what happened to glitch that backup and get it started.
  2. Immediately export the entire LR catalog and photos to a LaCie 2TB portable drive and take it to my parent’s house or a safe deposit box.
  3. Have Michael use CrashPlan to set up an automatic, incremental backup directly to a Synology NAS at my office every night.  There will be a cross backup of all 100,000+ work photos to my house, too (just in case!)
  4. I may do something like Alan Bland describes his his article Backing Up is (NOT) Hard to Do with CrashPlan and set up a separate server at home.
  5. Keep the Google Photos backup going, but just for JPEGs because I like the “Rediscover the Day” images, automatic Album creations, and occasionally even the little movies it creates with its AI.

So there you have it, folks.  Even someone who should totally know better still didn’t do what he knew he should do.  I just hope that I get all the photos back and don’t have to start from scratch. 🙁

The Happy Ending

So, I realized that I need to update the article, and thank goodness I have happy news.  Disk Doctor Lab Inc, in Norcross, GA, was able to fully recover my photo catalog!  Yes, it cost $1550 to get it back in about a week and a half, but it was absolutely worth it.  The entire LR Catalog has been re-synced, and here’s what has happened thus far to prevent a recurrence:

  • The 2TB portable HD sent by Disk Doctor Labs, Inc was connected to the Mac.
  • All files were copied to the new G Drive, after which the drive from Disk Doctor was immediately disconnected and set aside as a first backup.
  • After using Lightroom’s “Find the Missing Folder” option, the entire catalog synced correctly to the folders on the G Drive.
  • The LaCie 2TB portable HD was connected to the Mac.  I purchased the Pro version of the included software for Mac, Intego Backup Manager Pro, which was necessary to backup from another external drive (the Pro version is not necessary if you’re backing up from an internal HD)
    • I’m not sure how long it actually took to create the first backup, as I just turned it on and let it run.
  • Somehow, without knowing exactly how, I got the Amazon Cloud Drive upload working again.  This started running about 8:30am on Friday, May 20th.  As of tonight (Tuesday, May 24th 2016), it has uploaded 750GB out of 1.37TB.  It’s currently set to only back up photos and videos; once that is done, I’ll add in remaining files.
  • I have tried starting a new nightly backup to the Synology NAS at home, but apparently the device operating software is so out-of-date, it’s not updating properly.  Michael will be coming to fix that soon, hopefully, as I really don’t want to buy a new one.
  • The office NAS will also have to be updated, but once both Synology NAS are updated, there will be nightly, incremental backups from work-to-home and back.

So basically, I’m a happy camper again, and this time, I’m also being a much more cautious one!