Restoring From Physical Media

dancing in the street

Remember DVDs? Last night while looking for the original photo of this dancing in the street photo I was horrified to find an empty directory!

Empty Directories

I had no idea when they were deleted. I searched my backups but of course the directories had been synced a long time ago and they were gone. I checked Backblaze and there was no sign of them. I even checked Google Plus for their backups but still no sign of them. I must have deleted them more than two years ago.

I hate that. I have multiple copies of every photo just because this might happen and yet it wasn’t enough! My backups sync every night so any deletes were synced within twenty four hours.

Almost. Later, I remembered that I had backed up photos to DVDs before I started using multiple drives and Backblaze. They were up in the attic!


It didn’t take long to get them, the first DVD worked and my photos from The St. Patrick’s Festival in 2006 were restored, but the photos from April 20th were on the second DVD. The second DVD didn’t work. Nooooo!

The rest of the photos did survive their stay in my cold, damp attic and were restored. I’m thinking now about monthly offline backups to a drive I’ll plug in occasionally.

Do I have any photos from April 20th, 2006? I remember the day well because I was in St. Finbarr’s Hospital with my wife helping a family member. While the others waited I went outside to take photos of a derelict building at the back of the hospital grounds. People passed me going to work while I was take pictures of the daisies, flowers and old architecture. Soon enough a security guard showed up but he just asked me to stop taking photos. I do have a few photos. We called to a friend later in the day and I got some shots of her cat so that’s here too. :)

What’s the take home message from all this?

  • You can never have too many backups.
  • You need versioned backups (of a few days at least) in case you notice a mistake a few days later after your backups have been synced.
  • You need an offline backup that’s synced periodically.
  • You need cloud backup that will keep your files safe for a length of time after they’re deleted. Backblaze holds on to your files for thirty days after they’re deleted!
  • When you export files from Lightroom, Photoshop or whatever graphics app you use, always make sure you export a full size original version, not just a web version.

I’m sad that those files are gone, but glad I have a few reminders of an eventful day.

3 months free Backblaze cloud backup!

Argh, I just handed over $95 for 2 years worth of Backblaze cloud backup and now they’re offering 3 months free if you sign up through this link before March 31st! It’s to celebrate World Backup Day, something I’m all in favour of since backups saved the day in 2008 when an external drive died on me.

BTW, both those Backblaze links are affiliate links but I’m a happy customer and I’m currently backing up over 700GB of data to the cloud. 681GB of that is 13 years worth of photos! My upstream bandwidth is horrendous but I still managed to upload 50GB over the last 20 days. At this rate it’ll be a few months before everything is uploaded but the backup hasn’t really impacted on my day-to-day work. Websites and videos still download and display promptly which surprised me. Uploading anything from here usually makes everything else crawl. I told the backup client I wanted faster backups too!


It’s not all sunshine and roses though. The client has an exclusion list of directories so it’s easy to exclude directories you don’t want backed up. Sensibly, it doesn’t backup “Program Files” or other system directories by default. However, I’d rather have an include list because on this machine I really only care about my photos, some documents and my Thunderbird mail directory and I know where they live. It’s a small quibble and probably one I’ll soon forgive when my machine goes belly up and I’m desperately looking for a secure cert or the settings for some obscure program!

Backblaze Pod

Curious about where your data lives when it’s in the cloud? That’s a Backblaze Pod there, and it has a raw capacity of 135TB but this post goes into a lot of detail about it and how it’s made. This slightly tongue in cheek post then explains why you don’t want to do this at home!

So that's where all my photos are going
So that’s where all my photos are going

Further on the subject of backups, you should really listen to this episode of The Naked Scientists podcast. This interview with Leo Enticknap, University of Leeds deals with backups but also file formats that scares me. I hope the Canon CR2 raw format is durable enough that it can be read in a few decades, or I may consider converting those files to DNG (which is probably just as likely to be unreadable in the far future TBH).

Try Backblaze, they have a 15 day free trial (or if you’re reading this before March 31st, use this link to get 3 months free) where you can upload data and perform restores to see how well it works. It’s a reasonable price for peace of mind and convenience. My photo archive currently resides in 3 drives on 2 separate computers (using rsync, Samba, Synkron and cronjobs to sync daily) and that won’t change but having an offsite backup like this gives me some confidence in case some local disaster should happen!

So, sorry for the affiliate links but Backblaze is a great service and I hope I’ve made you at least consider duplicating your important files somewhere before it’s too late.