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I've got a few photographs. OK. I've got a lot. Scanned film, digital and video - the film photos go back to 1973. All in all there are about 5 Terabytes of photos (many are in two formats: JPG and Raw.)

My Network Attached Storage (RAID with dual disk redundancy) was getting kind of full. One disk died. I replaced it. Another disk died. I replaced it. But it was time to separate my photos from my other stuff, so I bought a new RAID NAS and copied my photos over.

  • Shock number 1: some files wouldn't copy.
    I captured a list of these files so I could get them from backups.
  • Shock number 2: many of the files that copied successfully were actually damaged. Somewhere along the way, 'disk rot' had set in.
Image:This was looking kinda bad (photo backups) 
Disk Rot: a photograph that still exists as a file, but with most of its contents corrupted.

This was a concern.
  • Shock number 3: the 3TB backup drive I expected to find in my offsite storage wasn't there.

All was not lost: For all photographs from 1973 - 2009, I have (duplicate) DVD backups. I haven't counted them, but there must be something approaching 1000 DVDs. My mind was quivering at the thought of restoring photographs from DVDs. This was made worse by the fact that (apart from looking at each photograph individually), I don't know of a good way of working out which photos are corrupt. I also had a range of hard disks with different sub-sets of photos, which looked as though I might cover everything from 2010 to present.

Also: my cloud backup (Crashplan) has been running long enough to have backed up about 15-20% of the collection. The order in which it is backing things up looks random to me: different pictures from different years have been backed up. Currently it's a bit of a lottery what has been backed up. The cloud backup was only ever intended to be a last resort solution.

Tonight I had a Hallelujah moment:
  • I discovered the backup drive that ought to have been in storage sitting in a corner of my office. It has got good (uncorrupted) copies of all photos from 2000 to June 2012.

A lot is dependent upon that drive for the next ten or so hours while I copy it. The drive isn't the only copy of my photos, but it's the only entirely clean, consolidated version of them. Spin little disk, spin until you've copied every bit of goodness on your platters!

Lessons:
  • I repeatedly back up, and have those backups in four different locations. While multiplying the backups (older smaller hard disks with only some of the pictures, DVDs of others) is good - it's important to ensuring I've got usable consolidated backups that can reasonably be restored in a single action rather than by loading hundreds of DVDs and many hard disks,
  • And this is the one I've ignored until now: I'm going to need to come up with a way of ensuring my pictures haven't corrupted.
    I know that you can calculate hash values for files that confirm their contents haven't changed. This, however, is going to be an intimidating task to do for hundreds of thousands of photographs.

Comments (1)
Anthony Holmes March 9th, 2013 09:53:13 PM

 Comments
1) This was looking kinda bad (photo backups)
Michael Mc 1/05/2013 6:34:11 PM

Gosh Anthony, listening to your primary school voice from 1976 must be eerie. And well done on all of your prescient collecting of historical artefacts (or is it perhaps your unwillingness to throw anything out? ;) Sadly, I threw out my old cassettes years ago in one of my many house moves, and every now and again mourn those lost voices. Indeed your whole post raises an interesting point - how much of modern (i.e. late 20th and early 21st) history will be lost as the former technologies that recorded our every day lives have now aged beyond repair and/or have been discarded? We've not just seen cassette tapes fall out of use but home-movie reels, photographs taken with instant cameras, floppy disks and even video-tapes. So much of what was recorded (and by extension, what we considered as important) in our daily lives could soon be gone, and the fragments that remain may only give us an partial and fractured view of what really happened...

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