An iPhoneographer’s perspective

I hope you enjoyed my iPhoneography of the past few months. In all likelihood, it will never be displayed in a brick and mortar gallery or exhibition. Untitled with Shadow and Stainless Steel, El Bumpo and more — other than low res online copies, they are now pretty much gone forever.

Do you back up your hard drive? If not, you are inviting disaster. Something horrible WILL happen to your computer. It’s only a matter of time. If your files aren’t backed up elsewhere, you will lose them.

Imagine losing all of your iTunes purchases. Your apps can be redownloaded for free, but the thousands of dollars of iTunes music, movies and TV shows on your hard drive are gone forever if anything happens to your computer. Like real CDs and DVDs, it all has to be repurchased if lost or stolen. Imagine losing all of your photographs — your originals, your worked images, your snapshots. Your memories. Your Vision.

Something bad will happen to your hard drive. It’s not a matter of if, but of when. Over the years, I’ve had hard drive mechanisms completely fail. I’ve had them taken out by lightning strikes (that was fun). I’ve seen data destroyed by hard disk head crashes. Most recently, my laptop was stolen before I had the chance to backup my recent photography. No matter what the reason you no longer have access to the data on your hard drive, something will happen, if it hasn’t already yet.

While I was diligent in doing a daily dragged backup of my work-related files, often to multiple hard drives, I only backed up my personal files before traveling. With a shiny new healthy laptop, I became complacent in my backups and I paid a high price.

Losing the hardware is a pain in the ass. I’m lucky in that my insurance company will cover this. My software is all backed up, as is my financial and password software. I lost about a day there. Doing a clean reinstall of all my applications wasn’t how I initially wanted to spend last weekend, but my new laptop runs so much smoother without all the legacy crap copied over from my old PowerBook G4.

What really bothers me the most — what makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it — is losing nearly all of my photography for the past few months. I lost all my raw images. I lost full size, apped works, including several I considered among my best. I lost some incredible raw photography that I had planned to move back to my iPhone to work. I lost my snapshots from our recent trips to Chicago, Milwaukee, and East Texas — some great once in a lifetime snapshots. They can keep the hardware — it can be replaced. My photographic mementos are now gone forever.

There is no good excuse for not backing up your hard drive. For under $100, you can now buy a good external hard drive with enough hard disk space to hold months of incremental backups. 1 terabyte seems to be the new standard. Macs have had backup capabilities built into the OS for almost two years. Time Machine takes about a minute to set up. Unboxing and plugging in the backup device takes a lot longer. Easy. Most external hard drives now come with usable backup software solutions for Windows machines.

If you have a laptop, password protect it. If you have a Mac, enable Open Firmware Password protection so that a thief can’t start up your device as an external hard drive. It’s a pain to set up, but at least if your laptop is stolen its one less way for a thief to get at your data. I’m lucky in that my old laptop is most likely useless as is because of password protection.

Lesson learned from this? One that I learned years ago but forgot about over time because I was lucky for a stretch. I now obsessively use Time Machine to backup my entire hard drive, not just parts of it. If it’s valuable to you, back it up. If it’s not, back it up anyway. It’s a huge pain to restore.

And always stay diligent about your backup strategy.