Backup Versus Archive

๐ŸŒณ Evergreen

This post was originally written and published in November 2018. I still believe in this message, so here it is again with some minor editing.

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts today โ€“ Accidental Tech Podcast โ€“ on which Casey Liss was discussing his “divorce” with Google Photos. He mentioned that he does an “exact duplicate” of all his photos to a drive he sends off to his parents’ house (via his visiting parents) once a month. I had an incident some years ago that taught me the important difference between backups and archives.

One day, I was spending some time cleaning up my keyword hierarchy in Adobe Lightroom and I decided I had it in a good enough state that it was finally time to take the plunge โ€“ time to go back and retrospectively keyword ALL of my aviation photos to my current standard. Basically, every aircraft that is identifiable has its registration or serial recorded, and all types, operators and locations are recorded, where possible, too.

I decided to start at the beginning, in 2004, when I had bought my first digital camera. There weren’t many photos that year so I felt I was making good progress, even though I was staring at the relatively huge numbers in later years. I plodded on, bit by bit, ticking off each year… 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.

When I got to 2010, something wasn’t right. I had folders for the first nine months of the year, but none for October, November, or December. I knew this couldn’t be right. I looked through my various backups, local and online, only to discover that this anomaly was perfectly replicated in every backup. I was crestfallen! I had lost three months’ photos. It occurred to me that I had migrated from Lightroom 3 to Aperture 3 in early 2011 so that was probably when it happened. Or perhaps when I later migrated back from Aperture to Lightroom 5, when the former was “put out to pasture” by Apple. In any case, they were GONE.

It was only a couple of days later that I got the idea to check every hard drive I had lying around in my study. I have a collection of bare drives that I use from time to time to move stuff around, just to get them off my main drives. I was delighted to find that I did indeed have a full copy of my photos as at around January 2011, including the missing three months. I can only surmise I took a “just in case” copy prior to my migration to Lightroom. Just as well!

I got the missing photos back into their correct location in my main photos drive and made sure my backups picked them up. Then I determined to do something very specific to protect against this kind of problem in the future. I began down the path of creating an archive of my photos.

I set up a Backblaze B2 “bucket” and over a period of time, uploaded a copy of all my photos. This copy will only be updated manually, by me. The approach I’m taking, for simplicity, is to use Panic’s Transmit to synchronise only the current (and maybe one previous) month to the cloud. This means if I now manage to delete stuff from my main copy, even though my backups will faithfully follow suit โ€“ including my standard Backblaze backup โ€“ my archive will retain them. The only time I will re-upload older photos is if I once again go back in time and update them in some way. If I do that, I will be very careful. Once bitten, twice shy.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash