I’ve been a bit slow on the site updates lately, that’s because I’ve learned a big lesson…..  BACK UP YOUR DATA.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve warned others to put a backup system in place for their data….  As photographers we tend to have countless images stored on hard drives, the outcome of many hours of labour and associated costs, so it makes good sense protect that as best we can.  So what did I do?

I put it off….I have a backup system in place, I have external backup hard drives, I even have a NAS, a storage device connected to my network, I have no excuse.  One day some months ago I had issues with that wonderful backup system, technical glitches that I decided to fix later later…you know how that works…I’ll do it tomorrow….my computer never crashes….I’ve never had a hard drive fail….I can wait a bit longer….all bad excuses, bad bad bad.

Last week I was browsing images, about to make the finishing touches to a new favourite and what does Bob tell me (all my computers are called Bob)….’Sorry buddy this folder is corrupted’.  OK I think, must be a glitch, so I activated computer lesson 101 – restart and everything will return to normal.  Not so this day.

Bob restarted alright, but the drive was gone.  Bob recognised the drive existed but couldn’t read it, Bob said the drive needed formatting to bring it back to life and that wasn’t going to happen.  I made a few choice words around that point, but wasn’t too worried because I’d come across something like this before.

I the past, my Nana had crashed a hard drive which I managed to recover using software (yes despite the generation gap Nana uses a computer and is even on facebook, I think she’s more up with the social trends than I am), so I figured I’d try the software recovery route again.  But unfortunately little could be recovered that way lots of gobbeldy goop came out instead.  Many files seemed to be missing and few of them had the original file names or any form of folder structure…I’d reached the limit of what I could do, I could take it in for a hopeful ‘repair’ or slowly attempt to re-build using a 4 month old backup and copies of my raw files, but that would mean losing a lot of the editing and other work I had completed in that time, just too much to imagine.

So Bob went down to the local computer store with me the following day (good old Centrecom if you must know) to see what they could do.  The tech guy passed on a few valuable lessons which you should know too…

Lesson one …’Never use that recovery software, some of it can write junk over bad sectors and destroy remaining fragments of useful information.’ My software was read-only I explained….refer to lesson two.

Lesson two ‘Don’t power the computer, except as part of a recovery exercise, not only can the operating system write data on there but you risk physical damage to the disk if that’s where the issue is caused’.

Lesson three ‘Just take it to an expert straight away’

Lesson four  Have a backup system in place….of course!

A week later and things are looking better, the data is being extracted and is likely to be fully recovered, file structure and all, so I should be back online soon.  I can tell you one thing though, it’s made me think, what if I did lose it all?  How important is my photography?  How important is my time?  How does it scale against everything else in life, my family, my health?  My work and business?  How much should a good backup process cost?  All good questions that shouldn’t be triggered by data loss but a valuable lesson all the same.


John Hardiman