Gremlins are not just characters from 80’s movies.  They’re real.  And they live in my office.

I’ve been a little MIA the last few weeks, and boy have I missed blogs (reading and writing), phone, email, friends, and being a member of society.  So here is the lesson of the quarter, my clients, photographer friends, and random visitors.  Because what’s the point in having unfortunate things happen if the only person to learn from them is yourself?!

1. BACK UP YOUR FILES.  THREE TIMES.  This is called triple redundancy.  In the olden days of the 1990’s we could put our negatives in a nice archival box in the top of the closet, and unless our town was blown up or engulfed in fire, they were safe.  I yearn for those days.  

Have you ever heard the old saying, “It’s not a matter if IF, but WHEN?”  That is so so true.  In the last few weeks, I’ve talked to a lot of other photographers about this, and was shocked at how many haven’t integrated solid backup plans into their workflow.  The discs in your hard drive spin so so incredibly fast (imagine hundreds of times faster than a record), so any little bump to your computer, piece of dust, miniscule power spike, or little slimy Gremlin can shock your system into the afterlife.  If not used for a long period of time, the lubrication can dry up, causing your hard drive to seize.  And of course, electronics are targets for theives.  And then there’s viruses if you have a PC.  So you need to back up to an external location.  Here are some great ideas that we all (or should) practice, without all the techie mumbo jumbo (call me if you want the specifics…):

-cd/dvd/blu ray: solid state media is very dependable, but is also prone to it’s own ailments, such as disc rot and scratches, but an inexpensive media nonetheless.  Your data can be safe anywhere from 3 years on up, depending on your choice of media (hint: you get what you pay for!)

-external hard drive: you should sync your hard drive to back up to another external hard drive of the same size.  And then take it offsite to your friend’s house.  Or lock it in the basement.  There are tons of programs that can automatically do this for you (try SilverKeeper, Retrospect, Bounceback, Carbon Copy Cloner, ect).  You can purchase a portable external hard drive (I’ve got a couple of Seagate Drives that I mail back to myself when I’m shooting on location in another state) for around $100 just to back up your computer.  You can also get some great hard drives and daisy-chain them together (need to have at least 2 firewire ports on each, though).  Or, if you’re really brave, set yourself up a desktop NAS RAID or a network RAID (I won’t even go there…. but in case you’re curious, I went the NAS route and since the software wasn’t fully developed and tested, it was totally incompatible with my Macs and was locking me out of my own files!).

-online backup: great solution if 1. you own a pc  and 2. don’t have terabytes of data to back up.  Try companies like Memeo, it’s an incredibly great deal for a huge piece of mind!

2. WE LOVE INSURANCE.  As a business owner, insurance is a must.  I’m sure that if you know me, you know about the woman who backed into my parked NEW CAR last week, or the slippery rocks, tidepools, and equipment episode in Alaska.  My business insurance even covers the recovery of lost data.  I had a hard drive go down last month, even though it was a mirrored RAID set.  Very safe, because one drive immediately backs itself up to another disc whenever you make a change, but again, Gremlins, so BOTH drives went down simultaneously.  Just thinking about how many hours of production I’d lose during wedding season trying to reload all of my dvd’s (not to mention the hours of recent photoshop work we’ve been doing in preparation for album printing!) made me want to cry (actually, I did, a few times).  Enter Drive Savers, my nights in shining armor!  They were able to scrape every last file off of my old drives, for the modest price of $4000.  What a nice ring that number has.  But I guess it would have been easier to revert to that secondary hard drive that was diligently backed up each week, now wouldn’t it??

3. I DON’T CARE WHAT THEY SAY, YOU WILL NOT BE “ONLINE AND READY TO GO IN MINUTES.”  I think we all know about this one, the feared SOFTWARE UPDATE.  You spend the time and money updating one key program or operating system, and it sets into motion some sort of ridiculous domino effect so everything else either needs new drivers or just plain isn’t compatible.  Funny.  So very funny.

So there we go!  I think I’ve got all of my bad karma out just in time to enter our industry’s busy season… I think I’m due for a streak of good luck for a long long long time.  

Anyone know what the lottery jackpot is up to these days?  I think I’ll go buy a ticket.