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06-18-2019, 07:09 PM   #1
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USB Stick for storing RAW Files as back up/general storage

Greetings...

Recently my 3 TB Hard Drive was tapped while copying much of my RAW files... it failed.

I do not think I want to spend again on a high capacity hard drive. Thinking that maybe 3-to-4 64 GB USB sticks can be used to safe keep my "master" files.

Anyone else does this? Any other strategy? I cannot burn CDs...

06-18-2019, 07:24 PM   #2
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A good option I think.
As long as you also keep a backup somewhere ... more USB sticks?
06-18-2019, 07:37 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jpzk Quote
A good option I think.
As long as you also keep a backup somewhere ... more USB sticks?
The good old back up of the back up of the back up!

I'm also pondering keeping the SD cards as "back up" - basically, once one fills up, on to the next (I just clear the garbage shots).
06-19-2019, 04:44 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by edom31 Quote
Greetings...

Recently my 3 TB Hard Drive was tapped while copying much of my RAW files... it failed.

I do not think I want to spend again on a high capacity hard drive. Thinking that maybe 3-to-4 64 GB USB sticks can be used to safe keep my "master" files.

Anyone else does this? Any other strategy? I cannot burn CDs...
I employ a number of strategies for archiving my RAW files.

I have a 3 drive RAID array built with three 2 TB hard drives. If one should fail, the other two have identical copies of all my images.

I also burn the files to DVD (used to use CD, until I built a computer with a DVD drive rather than a CD drive) as I acquire enough to fill one. The double layer DVDs can hold 8.5 GB, where the single layer only holds 4.7 GB, so that is nearly double the storage capacity.

DVD RW drives are cheap these days, and if you don't have a desktop, they are also available in USB configurations to connect to a laptop.

I also have a few 2 TB USB hard drives for archiving other files, and keep a copy of my RAW files on them as well.

That should cover me in the inevitable event of a disk failure. so long as I am diligent about backing up my files frequently.

06-19-2019, 06:44 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by edom31 Quote
I do not think I want to spend again on a high capacity hard drive.
Go solid state!!! With a bit of looking, 1 TB solid state drives (SSD) are not much over $100 a piece. They are nearly indestructible - I dropped one on the floor two days ago and didn't think anything of it, it still works perfectly. I can swap them in and out of my PC in seconds via an easily available SATA port, so I can read/write them at full SATA speed (several hundred megabits per second). I have 4 of these with everything multiply backed up (as well as several 1 and 2 TB USB 3.0 drives).

For example: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/sandisk-ultra-1-024-tb-internal-sata-solid-stat...?skuId=5969508
06-19-2019, 06:49 AM   #6
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I would steer clear of USB sticks for large backups unless you want lots of USB sticks as they will get expensive. Flash memory has a limited number of writes. This isn't to say it will fail after 3 writes or some other small number, but the lifetime gets shorter with smaller cells and denser capacities. Mechanical drives also wear out but a good quality hard drive will typically last a long time. I would say base your decision on how much you want to store

USB flash drives use the same memory that is used in SD cards and have similar controllers. This means that their wear leveling isn't as good as what is in SSDs. Hence you should formatting them every now and then o that they can move the file allocation table sectors which is what will see the most wear. SSDs will do this automatically which is why it isn't an issue with them.

If cost is a concern a single 4TB external hard drive of reasonable quality can be had for under a hundred bucks. A 256GB flash drive of reasonable known quality can be had from about $25. So to get the same storage capacity with flash drives it would cost you about 4x more. If you don't need 4TB of storage a 1TB external drive of known reasonable quality can be had for about $50.

This isn't to say that USB flash drives aren't a viable solution but they really need more redundancy than just one copy. I use them for backing up important documents and have a few 32GB ones. In my use of them I use several of them. One is in my pocket, one is in my car, one is in my desk drawer at work, and one is in the fire chest at home. There is also an electronic copy of the documents on my computer at home and any paper documents the originals are in the fire chest. Now this is a lot of redundancy in a lot of places but these are actual important documents. For backing up images I wouldn't say you need that level of redundancy, unless you are a pro photographer where having the images means eating while not means starving, so having the originals on the computer, and 2 external drives would probably be more than enough.

Once I replace my existing computer here in a couple of months the existing one will be converted into a NAS which will add in another layer of redundancy provided that I don't do a RAID 0 configuration. For important things like those documents I will probably still keep them on USB sticks as well but they will live on the NAS. My images will eventually live on the NAS but I will probably go down to just one external hard drive for a backup.

QuoteOriginally posted by Racer X 69 Quote
I have a 3 drive RAID array built with three 2 TB hard drives. If one should fail, the other two have identical copies of all my images.
With a 3 drive setup RAID 1 seems like a waste when RAID 5 would get you expanded capacity and resiliency against a single drive failure.
06-19-2019, 06:54 AM   #7
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I just keep the files on the camera until I back up my main data HDD, then I format the SD.
That way I always have the files on at least 2 different mediums.
06-19-2019, 07:03 AM - 2 Likes   #8
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Data Security

Security of your files is neither the easiest task, nor the cheapest.

I would not recommend using USB Sticks.
- they can be lost easily

- they can break easily trough a few bad handlings
- they won't be more reliable than a usual harddrive

Before you buy into stuff, you should consider this common and good working rule for securing your data.
The 3-2-1 Rule:
- 3 Copies of your Data
- 2 places for them
- 1 out of your house (a friends house or a family members house)

Why is this a common principle?
- Some people say Data stored at one place should always be considered lost, no matter on what physical storage it is safed. (Harddrives fail, USB Sticks fail, SSDs fail, SD Cards fail, everything failes eventually)
- Data at your home can still be lost. For example through fire, lightning or burglary.

So, what are common solutions for this.
You might buy something like a NAS. (Network attaced Storage.) QNAP builds some of these and they are easy to use. (But expensive)
Thant NAS would then be filled with several HDDs. (Make a RAID 5 and you are safe from the failure of one drive.)
After that your data should still be safed on a additional HDD. Maybe again a RAID System.

Yes this is quite an expensive solution. But recovering 1 TB of Data through a qualified Service Company will cost you almost as much AND there will be no guarantee, that your Data can be restored.

If you have the money to buy expensive lenses an cameras, you should not spare on your data security.

06-19-2019, 08:17 AM - 1 Like   #9
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Discussing the best way to back up files is much like discussing the best religion, we tend to expect others to whole heartedly accept our beliefs and are offended when challenged.

I've been using computers on a daily basis since 1980, first in university, then in my job and personal life; while I have experienced a few backup failures, the value of the lost data has never exceeded the value of my time spent recovering from the computer failures that made me go to my backups. I strongly suggest looking at backup on a cost/benefit basis and chose a system that gives you the best value. No backup system is foolproof, but the most common point of failure is a failure to backup in the first place. So, first thing, find a way to make sure you do backup on a frequent basis while spending the least amount of your time, because if you have to think about doing it, you will have more backup failures. Second thing, read your backups from time to time, that is the only sure way to tell if a backup device has failed while you still have a chance to do something about it. Third thing, back up your data to a different device than the computer you generate the data on, operating systems fail to operate more frequently than hard drives fail to keep a magnetic record of your data. Do those three things, it doesn't really matter how slow or fast or durable or unreliable your backup system is.

In terms of the original question, USB sticks (or any other form of flash memory) have advantages over online backup in terms of speed, convenience and cost but for storage of 1 TB or more, nothing beats the value of hard drives. Flash memory deterioriates over time, even if it never gets read (go find some old CF or SD cards and see if you can still read the files on it). The reliability of flash memory is more variable than hard drives, especially at lower price points, whereas conventional hard drives have been around for almost fifty years and the drop-off in quality with less expensive drives is not as steep.
06-19-2019, 08:34 AM   #10
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So much good info here!! A bit overwhelmed and at work right now, but I want to go through every suggestion carefully - thanks!!
06-19-2019, 09:07 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by edom31 Quote
The good old back up of the back up of the back up!

I'm also pondering keeping the SD cards as "back up" - basically, once one fills up, on to the next (I just clear the garbage shots).
I had a lab customer that did that very thing. She treated her camera cards like rolls of film. Once the card was full, she just swapped it out for a new one and put the full one in storage.

---------- Post added 06-19-19 at 10:18 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by edom31 Quote
So much good info here!! A bit overwhelmed and at work right now, but I want to go through every suggestion carefully - thanks!!
If you decide to go the hard drive route, I've been using Drobos for well over a decade now. My first one was the original USB unit. It is still working just fine, though I no longer use it for new work as it is impossibly slow. I have a newer 5 drive unit these days that allows dual disc redundancy and ample ability to upgrade space as my needs increase.

The really nice thing about them is that they truly are dead simple plug and play units. Unpack the Drobo, put some hard drives into it, plug it in and allow it to set itself up. While it's doing that, download the interface application from their website and you are good to go.

Last edited by Wheatfield; 06-19-2019 at 09:19 AM.
06-19-2019, 10:30 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by MossyRocks Quote
With a 3 drive setup RAID 1 seems like a waste when RAID 5 would get you expanded capacity and resiliency against a single drive failure.
I set them up as RAID 5.
06-19-2019, 01:33 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by edom31 Quote
Thinking that maybe 3-to-4 64 GB USB sticks can be used to safe keep my "master" files.
You might as well just rotate a set of SD cards out of the camera. The tech is the same as is the safety factor.


Steve
06-19-2019, 06:00 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Racer X 69 Quote
I have a 3 drive RAID array built with three 2 TB hard drives.
never heard of this, thanks for this info. As to DVDR'ing, I know that it is reliable, but it is too timeconsuming for so small amount of data...
06-19-2019, 06:02 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
Discussing the best way to back up files is much like discussing the best religion, we tend to expect others to whole heartedly accept our beliefs and are offended when challenged.
Established principals of backups/archiving is not a religion - it is a discipline.

QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
I've been using computers on a daily basis since 1980, first in university, then in my job and personal life; while I have experienced a few backup failures, the value of the lost data has never exceeded the value of my time spent recovering from the computer failures that made me go to my backups. I strongly suggest looking at backup on a cost/benefit basis and chose a system that gives you the best value. No backup system is foolproof, but the most common point of failure is a failure to backup in the first place. So, first thing, find a way to make sure you do backup on a frequent basis while spending the least amount of your time, because if you have to think about doing it, you will have more backup failures. Second thing, read your backups from time to time, that is the only sure way to tell if a backup device has failed while you still have a chance to do something about it. Third thing, back up your data to a different device than the computer you generate the data on, operating systems fail to operate more frequently than hard drives fail to keep a magnetic record of your data. Do those three things, it doesn't really matter how slow or fast or durable or unreliable your backup system is.
I disagree with the "few backup failures". In my 30+ Enterprise IT experience in Data Centers, the most often replaced parts where hard drives. Individual drives fail quite often which is why large storage arrays are used running the appropriate RAID configurations. Even with large storage arrays (I am talking about Multiple 100+ Terabyte sized arrays) even the chassis are prone to failure now and again. (In one instance we got a pallet of SATA III drives that were faulty into the data center, a redundant power supply failed in the array chassis and killed almost a half a Petabyte of data). In another position, when we did have the need to use backups to restore data, our Enterprise Backup/Archive system failed about 66% of the time. We took to recognizing that the systems were getting "flakey" and manually copied the "important" stuff off to another device. If the backup worked, we removed it from the "alternative" device so we could keep the business running. The backup group was not happy about our little tricks and our management was not all that happy either, until we got the important data back onto the "fixed arrays".

QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
In terms of the original question, USB sticks (or any other form of flash memory) have advantages over online backup in terms of speed, convenience and cost but for storage of 1 TB or more, nothing beats the value of hard drives. Flash memory deterioriates over time, even if it never gets read (go find some old CF or SD cards and see if you can still read the files on it). The reliability of flash memory is more variable than hard drives, especially at lower price points, whereas conventional hard drives have been around for almost fifty years and the drop-off in quality with less expensive drives is not as steep.
This is just good practice. It is the data that are fragile and digital images don't do well if left sitting in a drawer regardless of the media they are on.
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