My Desk

How Multiple Backups Saved 15 Years of Photos

Over the weekend I had a bit of a scare. I was thinking about my trip to Ireland – a trip I took nearly 15 years ago – and I decided to take a walk down memory lane. Since those photos were on Flickr and I decided to delete Flickr earlier this year, I went to the Photos app, assuming I added them. No dice. OK – I’ll check my Time Machine back up. Not there either. Luckily, they were somewhere. But not before I started to panic.

What Happened to my Photos?

Well, the short of it is I downloaded my Flickr photos on my PC, the day before my iMac Pro came. No problem – I had a backup, right?

My Backup System

On my PC, I had a 3-pronged approach to backups:

Getting Rid of the PC

So as I said, my iMac Pro came the day after I backed up my Flickr account. So the Flickr account is gone, and at this point, the archive exists on the PC, and Backblaze. Then this series of events happened:

  1. I waited a couple of weeks to wipe the PC to make sure I didn’t need anything. I wiped it when I sold it. That would be the main drive, and the bulit-in SSD Drive
  2. I kept the Backblaze account until it was time for me to renew my billing – that was about 7 months after I got rid of the PC, and I figured if there were any critical files they were already moved over.
  3. The external drive was in storage – I thankfully used a different drive for my Mac’s Time Machine backup, so it didn’t get reformatted.

They were on the External Backup Drive

As you likely guessed, the photos were buried in a folder on the external drive, as I deleted everything on the PC, as well as the Backblaze backup, and the Flickr account was long gone.

The point is this: The only reason I have those photos is because of a multi-pronged backup system.

My Current (and Recommended) Backup System

There’s something called the 3-2-1 method of backups. It means you should have 3 copies of your data, on 2 different mediums, and at least 1 offsite.

With my iMac Pro, I have this strategy employed automatically. Here’s what I do:

  1. The main copy of my data is on my iMac Pro’s hard drive. I also backup to iCloud (I have a 2TB account for a 1TB hard drive). I also have basically all my work files in Dropbox*
  2. I have a Time Machine backup going. It’s on an 8TB drive. The convention is 3-4x your computer’s hard drive, so I have plenty of room (for now).
  3. I have Backblaze automatically backing up everything, including Time Machine (I’m counting this as the second medium)
  4. Bonus: I also have a NAS (Network Area Storage) Drive that I’ll move certain, infrequently accessed files onto. This isn’t a full backup, but it’s one more layer of security for certain data

*There’s a small caveat to cloud backups: you don’t always know what’s actually on your machine and what’s in the cloud. SO I don’t count as a true backup strategy.

My Backup Gear

Bonus: The Time Backblaze Saved my Butt

2 thoughts on “How Multiple Backups Saved 15 Years of Photos”

  1. Something like this happened to me not too long ago as well! This is a good idea, I’m gonna try and follow it.
    My Macbook was 5+yrs old and it just died one day. Luckily, I had a Time Machine backup. The problem? I wouldn’t be able to purchase a replacement Macbook until a few months later.
    Fast forward many months later, I get a new Macbook, and I go to move my pictures from iPhoto on Time Machine to iPhoto on the new Mac. It tells me that the iPhoto images needed to be “updated” or something, and I’m like, okay, makes sense. The iPhoto I used was several years older. BIG mistake!

    It updated my Time Machine photos but for some reason 1. I think some photos didn’t properly save their full sizes from the old Mac and 2. Said photos that were missing their “full sizes” were either gone, or there were blurry smaller versions of them in iPhoto. Kind of like placeholders without a source.

    My photos also went like 10+ yrs back, so I had to scour emails, facebook, and my photos that saved in my Google account to rescue most of the missing images to their full sizes. (I was determined) There’s still a few I was never able to recover their full sizes, but this was definitely a reminder to 1. Don’t update anything unless you’re sure you can reverse it or make an old copy 2. Back up photos everywhere.
    I also started using an online site, forgot what it’s called, to save some personal photos as well. I’m gonna try and organize, and try to give your system a try as well. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Thanks for sharing Rachel! I hope stories like ours encourage people to spend a little money for a good backup plan. As someone who’s lost photos and music (before everything was in a streaming service), it hurts. I consider Backblaze a good insurance policy 🙂

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