I heard a long time ago that there are two types of photographers. Those who have lost thousands of images when a hard drive fails, and those who are going to lose thousands of images when their hard drive fails. Hard drives fail. They have moving parts. Even Solid state drives fail eventually. Your photos are your legacy. Don't throw them away.
In 2000 the newspaper I worked for made the switch to digital. That meant hundreds or even thousands of photos a week being placed on electronic media. I kept copies of my images for my portfolio and just to have a backup. The newspaper did not have an archiving system in place at that time to handle the volume of images we shot, so I kept a copy myself. That went from floppy disks to CDs to 100 and 250MB Zip disks to DVDs and then to large capacity external Hard drives. Over the years I have accumulated a library of more than 750,000 images. And it was chaos.
I bought a 5TB Seagate external hard drive and spent a considerable amount of time transferring everything from other media onto that large drive. I also was putting new images onto it. I would occasionally get time to sort a few weeks worth of images, deleting a lot of old mug shorts and car ad photos, bad sports images and more. The plan was to clean up the entire drive, delete the duplicates (because of the move from small media to larger I had lots of duplicate images to get rid of) and when I had the catalog cleaned up copy the cleaned archive to another 2TB drive I have.
It was taking me a long time. But still I stuck with that idea. Clean up the catalog, then make the copy.
The week before Thanksgiving I had the drive on my desk in my classroom so I could find some file photos on it to show to students during class. The drive was on a stack of papers. You already know where this is going.... A students asked for an old assignment sheet, which was in that stack. I dug through the stack and in the middle of digging the drive slid off the back of my desk and onto the floor. I still had not made the cleaned up copy.
I unplugged the drive, placed it inside the desk and let it sit for a few hours. I finally got the courage to plug it back in. There was power, and Windows saw the drive - but as an unformatted local drive. All of my approximately 750k images were now missing. I tried to run data recovery software. No luck. I tried chkdsk.exe and the computer saw the partition and format, but couldn't restore it. I tried to reformat the drive so I could then do a photo recovery. The reformat wouldn't work.
I have a lot of the old images still on the smaller drives and even on DVDs. But from mid-2014 to early 2017 the only place I had the original files was on that drive. Some images are stored on Flickr, but they are smaller sized. Some are on my web site for clients to order and view, but they are also generally under 2400 pixels. The missing originals included two weddings and three years of graduation ceremonies for my high school. I could live without some of the personal images, landscapes and so on, but the wedding photos I need back.
I did some hunting and decided to send the drive to Seagate for data recovery. For $50 they were willing to analyze the drive (part of that cost included prepaid shipping from them - so not horribly expensive). If they could not retrieve data from the drive there was no further cost.
If they can recover the data they have flat fees. Plug in the drive information, serial number and they generate a no-haggle price. My drive was 5TB so the fee was pretty high: $600 for the data to be made available for cloud download, or $700 to have the data transferred onto a new drive and shipped back.
The email I got on Tuesday was bittersweet. They recovered my data (though there is probably some loss due to physical damage to the drive, so I am not sure how much I will get back). They also are billing me for the remainder of the fee. Ouch.
I have been cheap about my images. I'll admit it. Not being a full time shooter and being a high school teacher I have limited funds and did not want to cough up money for redundant drives and cloud storage. I use OneDrive for 1TB of cloud storage, I use Flickr for my iPhone images, and I put medium resolution images of some of my sports images up on my personal website. It is piecemeal and not even close to a system.
Over Thanksgiving break I bought a 6TB desktop drive and a 4TB portable drive. Regardless of the success of the data retrieval I am going to have a minimum of two copies of my archives. Then the new drive coming back from Seagate will be a third copy. My cloud storage services have now been expanded to include 200gb of storage on iCloud, and I see that Shutterfly labs allows customers virtually unlimited uploads and storage. I also am gong to be taking advantage of the Amazon Prime feature of cloud storage.
Take the time to create a D.A.M. plan. (Digital Asset Management).
If a drive ever crashes to the floor again I want to simply be out the cost of the drive, not several hundred dollars for data recovery that may or may not be able to retrieve everything.