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Let’s Talk Cloud Backup

PhotoJoseph's picture
March 3, 2014 - 9:00pm

Last week, Walter Rowe posted a fantastic article on his photo workflow, which of course included backup. It's a great read, and if you haven't seen it yet, please do check it out. It's definitely more for the intermediate to advanced user though, and terms like “rsync in the terminal” are likely to scare the bejeezus out of many users. Walter mentions cloud backup and even states why he doesn't use it himself — basically he says he's impatient :-) — however as a working pro myself, I wanted to chime in for why it does work, and is a great idea for even heavy shooting photographers.

I've written about this many times. I won't go into all the same details as before, because frankly nothing's changed, but I do want to reiterate a few points. For those who want to dig into the previous articles, click [Backblaze] to view all Backblaze articles, and [Backup] to see all backup articles (if you're wondering, those keywords are slowly being added to old posts… we're working on automating that process and getting all the old posts keyworded!)

Here's why you should start backing up to the cloud today

I prefer Backblaze, but they aren't the only game in town. They are, however, the only game I've been using successfully for many, many years. Here's why you should start your cloud backup today, regardless of what system you use.

  • Your initial backup could take weeks or even months (or more!) if you have several TB of data and/or low bandwidth. Start today, and you're a day, a week, a month closer to a complete offsite backup. That said, your initial backup may take a lot less time than you think.
  • Are your photos at home? What does your expensive bandwidth do all day long while you're at work and no one is watching Netflix? Put it to work! 
  • Are your photos at the office? What does your expensive bandwidth do all night while you're sleeping?
  • Even if you already have one or more backups at home (i.e. Time Machine), if your house burns down, or thieves liberate you of all your gear, your backup will go the way of your original. Offsite backup is critical. Never underestimate the importance of that.
  • Even if you already store drives offsite, you still have the risk of losing data between those drive swaps (how often do you really update that hard drive stored in your bank's safety deposit box? Once a week? Month? Do you remember when you last did?).
  • Also… unless your offsite backup drives are stored far, far away, they could be at the same risk as ones in your house. Remember Katrina? Sandy? Northridge earthquake? Fukushima nuclear disaster? Entire cities were wiped out. The drive stored in your mom's house across town may not be any safer than the one in your basement.
  • Concerned you shoot too much and will never get caught up? You'd be amazed at what can happen over a weekend or while you're away on vacation for a week or two. Yes it may take time to get fully backed up — but you'll get there eventually. See bullet #1.
  • The peace of mind you'll gain once it's done — heck, even once it's started — is invaluable.
  • It's cheap. Really cheap. 

Some tips to getting started

If you have a massive archive and/or a slow connection, you may want to get an immediate offsite backup, then prioritize what gets backed up online first. Here's some ideas on how to get started.

  • If you don't already have a backup, copy your Aperture Library (and all your Originals if you're working referenced) to another drive and get it out of your house (you can get a 3TB USB drive from Amazon right now for just over $100). Ship the backup to a trusted friend as far away from you as possible. At least that way if disaster strikes tomorrow, you have your photos. If disaster strikes a month from now, and your initial cloud backup hasn't completed, at least you only lost a month of data. That's assuming you don't update the backup, of course. Better than nothing, right? Right.
  • Once you start running Backblaze, you can exclude certain items, or even entire folders, from backup. So you could basically exclude everything but your Aperture Library and Originals. That will at least prioritize them. Once those are done, allow it to backup the rest of your system.
  • You could upload versions of your favorite photos to a private archive on flickr for free. Everyone gets a free TB of data there. That's a lot of low resolution JPEGs, or even full resolution ones. Sure those aren't your originals, but they are better than nothing, and will upload quickly.

Just do it

Backups are critical. Offsite backup is critical. Backblaze has been developed and tested specifically for Aperture libraries. Just do it.

Check out the screenshot below… that's my system. There's 8GB left because I did a big edit that created several GB of files to backup last week. Of course those are already backed up locally… and within a few days at most, they'll be on Backblaze, too.

4.2 TB of data for Backblaze… wow

Excellent article, Joseph. Really makes me think about “belt and suspenders” protection. Nothing prevents me from using my current backup strategy AND cloud services. While my off-site copy is 25 miles away from my house, the DC metro area has experienced its natural disasters in the past .. even earth quakes and hurricanes!

Joseph, I have an off-site backup from a service similar to Carbonite but less expensive, as I mentioned in my comment to Walter’s fantastic article.  Everytime something changes on my computer it does an auto backup and has scheduled backups during the day and night daily.  I could have chosen (for an extra cost) to also include cloud back up of my HD but I chose not to take that option.  So is there an extra advantage of getting BOTH an offsite backup system AND the added cloud backup??

Florian Cortese

I use backblaze and its excellent!! it runs quietly out of the way in the background and reassuring to know its there to support my time machine.


It’s also really good value. They are good guys…support them!


Definitely BackBlaze is awesome. And those guys will remind you to connect if you have not backed up for a while. Great service!


I can’t speak high enough for online backup and backblaze. Not too long ago I almost lost 2.5 gigs of data while working on a project. Without my backblaze backup it would have been gone. Instead a few days after the “misshap” I was back to 100%.

You insure your gear in case of disaster. Make sure you “insure” your data too. / Portland, Oregon

An excellent article, with many good points. While advocating for cloud backup is OK, I feel all backup strategy discussions should start with several questions that were not discussed in the article. Examples include:

  • What value do you place on your data?
  • How adept are you with computer technology? (I know many people who find Time Machine incomprehensible)
  • How well do you handle complexity?
  • Are you detail orientated or do you go with the flow?
  • What are you willing to spend?

In my case, I have programmed computers since 1972 and am detail orientated to a fault, but I am cheap, like things simple and photography is just a hobby. Past a certain effort point, if I lose my photographs, though unhappy, I will suck it up and go take some more. I get more joy from the process vs. the result. For others, this is an untenable approach.

well, after reading some stuff on (and getting one of their excellent eBooks) on that matter I chose Offers the ability to send files of backup to a friend’s computer, local disks for free and their cloud for a monthly fee.

Still awaiting the finish of a first backup of my 160GB Aperture library, though. When finished things should speed up considerably. 

With cloud backup services users outside of the US, New Zealand or Australia are somewhat at loss because there appears to be no seeding service (to start with local backup mailed to the cloud-backup company to speed up the initial backup) and no restore via getting a restore HD in the mail… Still it is excellent value as an ADDITIONAL precaution (“belt & suspenders”).

I am on my way to rely on “get several external HD and keep the Aperture data on it, cloned from disk to disk”, managed.

What seems to be always not mentioned that one CAN include an external HD with Aperture Data on it in TimeMachine:

The external HD shows up in the options panel in the TimeMachine systems preference panel, EXCLUDED by default. Change that to include it by deselecting it, optional choose to include only the folder with the Aperture library and exclude all the rest. Bingo: Aperture library on external HD (managed or referenced (include the storage place for the masters following previous example) is kept in TimeMachine. Very much space economical (only the changed bits are backed up) and even versioned.




Was curious, Joseph, if you have any thoughts on CrashPlan at all even though you use BackBlaze.  Comparing the 2 for their services.  Perhaps anyone else reading this post might chime in with some thoughts?

Steve Hadeen

I did some research a while ago, but I honestly don't recall how I felt about it. Obviously I went with (or rather stuck with) Backblaze, but I don't doubt they are great. I think Crashplan, Carbonite and Backblaze are all excellent brands.

— Have you signed up for the mailing list?

Thanks, Joseph, for your input.

Steve Hadeen

Steve Hadeen

I use CrashPlan. With the ability to use their software as a free offsite and local backup tool, it’s easy to start backing up with them.  I do use their CrashPlan Central plan, and seeded it over several days while I was staying with a friend who has faster pipes than I have at home. The price is fair, and the times that I’ve restored files (thankfully not often), it’s worked well.  Their iOS app is good.  Really, I have no complaints and think they’re excellent.

The only problem, to me, is the fact that the desktop app is Java, and probably a little more memory-hungry, and definitely not as polished-looking a UI, as a result.  But considering how little I need that UI, it’s a pretty minor concern.

Thanks for your thoughts, Joe.

Steve Hadeen

Steve Hadeen

Do you back up your current Aperture/Photos Library to BackBlaze, or are you backing up a cloned version of the Library?  I was curious if there was any potential of file corruption if the Library happened to be open when BackBlaze was backing up.

I ended up going with Backblaze quite a while back and haven’t regretted it. To answer your question, I do both clone and Backblaze and haven’t noticed any corruption myself.

Steve Hadeen

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