Reviewing Backup for my Photos

[UPDATE: After reading this, go to the bottom of the post to discover that this was really one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve reviewed what I’m doing and have reverted to using more hard disk storage and storing it off-site. I’ve cancelled my additional storage with Google Drive. I may re-visit this in the future to use Adobe Cloud Storage if I move to using Lightroom CC more.]

It’s always good to stop, think, review and possibly change the way you do things. I’ve always been reasonably confident about my backup strategy for my photographs, but a trip away last weekend without my external hard disk which is my working storage for my images, as well as carrying the Lightroom catalogs got me to thinking.

As long as the hard disk is not sitting under the desktop computer and is away from that computer and the Time Machine backup disc that sits behind the computer – happy days. In the worst case scenario I would not only have my working disc to get started on as soon as I needed it, but I’d also have the Time Machine to restore from. Seemed OK – especially since I’d set Lightroom to copy imported photos to a Google Drive folder, and likewise I’d set Lightroom to backup the catalog to another Google Drive folder on exit. With the Google Drive folders being sync’d to the Cloud – I felt reasonably “safe”.

I’d also created a bullet-proof annual off-site backup of the external hard disk with a neighbour, so that once a year I would swap the disks around and be reasonably confident of an easy restore from the Time Machine backup of the external hard disk – happy days (hopefully) … or so I thought.

The weekend away however – without that working external SSD hard disk got me to thinking, and caused me to quickly review cloud storage options. I read this excellent article and that gave me some useful leads, and insights and made me consider using an external cloud service, but I already had – Adobe Photography Plan, Dropbox, iCloud, oneDrive and Google Drive, and I could consider shipping everything off to my web-hosting site as well – so did I really need/want another option?

I decided to go with what I knew and to reconfigure how I used Google Drive with Backup and Sync. Put simply, (1 -> to the cloud) I’m now using My Computer with just one Folder (actually the entire external hard disk) to create a backup of that disk on an increased subscription (£79.99pa for 1Tb) Google Drive; and (2 <- from the cloud) I’ve cleaned-up my existing Google Drive content in the Cloud to that which I actually want access to, or to give others access to – shipping content elsewhere on my hard-disk. I’ve left the “Photo and video upload size” as High Quality (not original quality) as that higher resolution and chargeable storage will be covered anyway by the fact that the images are being treated as files, not images in the Backup and Sync of the external hard disk; and I’ve unchecked “Upload newly added photos and videos to Google Photos” as I will only be doing that from my Phone, not from the computer.

The initial Backup and Sync, will take a long time I know, but then subsequently on a daily-use basis I won’t need to do a second copy of the Imported Images to Lightroom as that will be handled by the Backup and Sync of the external hard disk where the images will then be. So … I can rest assured that I have Backup copies of all my images, and the Lightroom catalogs that record the changes/edits I make to them – really happy days! Let me re-iterate – this is not so that I can edit them anywhere, it’s to be on the safe side in case of catastrophic loss – it’s a backup strategy, not part of an editing workflow for Lightroom, or anything else.

Why did I choose Google over the other options? Cost, integration of existing practices, speed of upload, familiarity.

This approach to backup also highlights the value of Lightroom as a non-destructive photo editor. Once imported, the images never change; it’s the catalog that changes and that will still be backed up to Google Drive separately when I exit the program so nothing should ever be lost! Sync’s after the initial one will generally be quite fast.

What I will have to remember however is NOT to shutdown the computer whilst Backup and Sync is running – so I better just stop writing and go and have a cup of tea!


So, five days later and Backup and Sync hasn’t finished yet! The idea of backing-up to the Cloud wasn’t necessarily a bad idea but the execution and scope was really not great thinking. If I’d confined the Backup to just the current year’s images that would probably have been OK, but I’d already decided against having different annual Lightroom catalogs, so the die was cast … I had to copy all the images. Now, all I can do is wait until it finishes.

I also know that there was a huge gap in my thinking in backing-up from the external USB-attached SSD. The disk access was potentially fast, but the USB slowed things down. Given my strategy (which I’m happy with) for storing Catalog and Images on an external SSD, backing-up to the Cloud from it was just plain daft as I’d inserted another step in the process. Backing-up from the computer’s internal SSD would have been much faster, but I couldn’t then have used Backup and Sync for continued Backup of the external SSD.

Then there’s the question of whether using Backup and Sync was the best way of doing the initial Backup. Perhaps, just perhaps (I’m not going to test it) it might have been better (faster) to do a Folder Upload from My Drive on Google Drive. I’ll never know!

Anyway, documenting one’s failings is as good as any way I know of learning, and my goodness have I learnt a few things about Cloud Backup and Google Drive!

It's in the Cloud – Part 1

Attending my first meeting of the Cardiff University of the Third Age (U3A) Computer Group, I offered to write some notes to accompany the talk that was given on Data Storage in the Cloud by David Reeves. So here goes …
Computing has moved a long way from the days when all you stored on your computer were words and numbers. Gradually this has been extended to include first pictures, then audio, and then video. With the addition of these media so the requirements for memory to store them increased first by needing an increase in the Random Access Memory (RAM) that the computer had so that you could actually view or listen to the media, and then in the disk storage you needed to hold and recall the images or music at a later date.

220px-floppy_disk_2009_g1220px-laptop-hard-drive-exposedThis need for additional storage meant first the introduction of floppy disks, then hard disks inside the computer, then external hard disks 250px-toshiba_1_tb_external_usb_hard_driveconnected usually to a USB port on your computer and then flash drives which you could carry around 220px-sandisk_cruzer_microwith you and then connect to a USB port on your computer.

With the changes in technology, so the amounts of information stored by each device increased. To give you an idea of how much this has changed you might like to look at the table below – which is actually out of date because you can now get both USB Memory Sticks and Hard Drives considerable larger than those quoted here.


If you want to read more about Information Storage including some technologies I’ve not discussed here such as CD/DVDs you could follow this link or this one, but there’s far more information in these articles than you need to understand why it might be a good idea to store information away from your computer – in the cloud.

Before we do that it might be a good idea to raise an issue that storing all this data causes – what happens if the device breaks, gets corrupted in some way, or just simply gets lost! Now, computer professionals have always done back-ups of their stored data (or they should have done), but the home computer user has never really put a value on their data UNTIL they lose it. So backing-up your data (stored information – words, numbers, images, music and videos) is actually an ESSENTIAL part of owning a computer. This article describes the various ways you might consider backing-up your data but at the bottom of the list is Cloud Storage and that’s where I’m going to take you now.

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you saved a picture, word processed document, spreadsheet … whatever, a copy was automatically made and stored away from your computer so whatever might happen to your computer, the most important part of it – the information it stored – was safe. That’s the essential value of Cloud Storage and the most important reason for using it. We’ll turn to the second most important reason – sharing information with others – later.

cloud-storage-imagesThere are a number of Cloud Storage options you can use for free as long as you keep your storage below a certain limit. You can use as many as you want to and you might consider using different providers for different purposes. For instance I use Google Drive mainly for Photo Storage, Apple’s iCloud for documents, and Dropbox for sharing stuff. [I’ll maybe explain why I do this in another post.] The other main provider is Microsoft with their OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) offering, I don’t tend to use this much, but the principles for using it are much the same as the others.

So how do you use them? As I said above, the principles for each are much the same. I will use Google as the main example, and provide links to the others as well.

Google Drive. You will need a Google Account. This is a good idea in any case as it allows you to create another eMail account – I’m a strong advocate for having more than one eMail address anyway (see Point 3 in this post). Go to Google Accounts to setup your Google ID – you can use your existing eMail address if you want to. Then with your account set up you can go to this page. I would suggest you download the applications for your desktop as well as setting it up for your browser. Installing the application on your Windows PC, or your Apple Mac, will then create a Folder in which you can store information and which then will then be backed-up to your Google Drive “in the cloud”. Voila – you have peace of mind that your precious information has been saved. Any changes you make to the information will be synchronised with the version saved on your cloud storage.

For Dropbox go to this link and create your account, perhaps using the Google email address you’ve just created above – a lot of services allow you to link to your Google ID and this means you don’t have to remember lots of IDs and Passwords.

If you’re an Apple user (iMac, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, etc) it makes sense to use iCloud. Even if you’re not, you can still add an iCloud Drive to your desktop and access the 5Gb of free storage you’re provided with “in the cloud”.

If you’re a Microsoft (Windows and Office) user it makes sense to use OneDrive. Like iCloud you get 5Gb of free storage from this link. You may also find that you are offered the option of installing OneDrive when you install Microsoft Office (or Office 365).

Finally sharing information with others. I don’t think I can improve on David’s demonstration and on this YouTube video …

I’ve focussed on using a Folder on your desktop/laptop machine to backup or synchronise files to your Cloud Storage. Remember also that David demonstrated how you can Upload a file using your web browser (I would recommend using Google Chrome) from your desktop to your Cloud Storage.