It happens.

People invest years of their lives and thousands of dollars in a project and in the blink of an eye, it’s gone forever. Digital workflows are wonderful time and money-saving things, but without proper backup hygiene it can all go to pot.

I give you “5 Quick and Easy Ways to Permanently Lose Your Files:”

1. Don’t back anything up:

It is never a matter of if your hard drive will die, it’s a matter when your hard-drive will die. Get that into your head. Hard drives have a 100% failure rate. Buy a second hard drive, download Carbon Copy Cloner, and back your hard-earned data up!

2. Mishandle your external hard drives:

My eye twitches every time I see someone throw their hard drive in their bag, or in the passenger seat of their car – or worse yet – move their drive around while it’s plugged in and spinning. Inside that pretty plastic casing are a stack of very delicate platters spinning 120 times every second. All it takes is one sharp jolt for everything to go pear-shaped.

3. Store your data on a ‘Striped RAID array:’

A striped RAID array (also known as RAID 0) is basically two (or more) hard drives packaged together and working in tandem. Your files are split in half, with each half stored on a separate hard drive in the array.

This has tremendous speed and storage space advantages–but think about it, if one hard drive has a 100% failure rate, two working in tandem have a 200% failure rate! You are twice as likely to lose everything (or more if there are additional drives involved).

Check the packaging on RAID’ed drives to make sure they are either configurable, or something other than RAID 0.

4. Leave external hard drives plugged in when not in use:

  • Lightning strike: BOOM! Hard drive dead.
  • Power surge/Brownout: BOOM! Hard drive dead.
  • Someone trips over the wires: BOOM! Hard drive dead.
  • A liquid is spilled on the hard drive: BOOM! Hard drive dead.
  • Something bumps the hard drive: BOOM! Hard drive dead.

Well…ok, I’m exaggerating a little. But, do you want to take chances with your film? I don’t. Unplug your hard drives when you’re not using them. Better yet, if you want to be extra safe, store them in a closet or under your bed.

5. Don’t keep an off-site backup:

So! Backups made: check. No striped RAIDs: check. The drive is unplugged when not in use: check. Next question: what happens if you’re robbed or your house burns down?

Think I’m going a little overboard on this one? Yeah? Think my investors think I’m going overboard? Nope, they’re not. Theft and natural disasters happen. Maybe not every day. Hopefully not ever. But you can’t afford to work on assumptions. I store my backups at a secret location far from my house and bring them by once a month to re-synch.

Treat your hard drives good and they’ll give you years of faithful service. Fail to maintain proper backups and your dreams will disappear into a digital abyss.

Questions: Have you ever lost a project to hard-drive failure? What happened? Any other tips I missed?

Dan Baker

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Dan works out his social anxieties by producing and directing films. He's a proud New Mexican, and prefers green over red.

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