• Brian Dean


Well, it's 2020. With all new years, come the new years resolutions. I usually don't bother, but since this is a completely new decade, I thought it would be ok. Just this once. As part of my resolution, I'm going to jump start my blog. My goal is an entry every 2 weeks. Not too hard. Should be easy to stick to. We'll see how it goes. So this is my first entry. And it is a cautionary tale of a very expensive lesson I learned at the end of last year.

If you work in media, be it photos or videos, you probably require a lot of disk space. I have lots of video, and lots of photos. I also have lots of little side projects which generate gigabytes worth of data in models, scenes, renders, etc. So, my desktop computer has about 10 drives in it. I don't need to tell anyone the dangers of digital media: it is prone to data loss. You can have a drive crash, you can accidentally delete something, you can have files corrupted . . . there are lots of ways you can lose your data. And so telling you it is wise to have backups will not be anything you haven't heard a million times. But come here . . . closer . Look at me . . . back up your data.

I've been making stuff long enough to remember making cd archives. Then came the DVD's. Wow, burning to DVD! Amazing! Then drives got cheap enough where you could have a couple extra offline as backups, or maybe setup a redundant backup system. But, these things require maintenance and upkeep. Then came the cloud. With the cloud, everything is automated. Your data will be backed up automatically at a specified time with specified frequency. And it will all be off site. So heaven forbid you computer suffers any physical damage, such as a fire, (or you throwing it across the room or kicking it because After Effects crashed again), the data will remain safe. So, of course I signed up for a backup service which now takes care of all this for me.

However, I still run into storage issues. As drives get cheaper and larger, I systematically upgrade the older, smaller drives with larger drives. And then I move all the old data onto the new drive. The problem with this is twofold. First, larger drives means more data loss if something goes wrong. Second, with a cloud backup service, you have to make sure you add the new drive to the backup schedule. This is where I got into trouble. The last drive I added was a 6 terabyte drive, and I never checked that little box in my cloud backup dashboard to add it to the scheduled backups each night.

So, when my drive crashed, I was in for a shock. First, it was one of my largest drives. So there was more at stake than if one of my other drives went down. Second, it was my newest drive. So it was, theoretically, the least likely to fail. And third, when I went to pull down the files from my cloud backup . . . they weren't there.


I had to think what was even on that drive. I started browsing through my directories and seeing what was stored where. Then I noticed most of my Quick access shortcuts were offline. This was because they were all pointing to directories on the bad drive. And then I really started realize how bad the situation was. Most of my projects were on that drive; things I had been working on for several years. It was a catastrophic data loss.

My next step was to look on line for possible remedies. I tried downloading a few scanning/repair utilities. My computer could see the drive, but it wasn't reading it. It showed up as a raw storage volume. So, I was confident I'd be able to use one of these utilities to get the data off. Even if I had to pay $100 for one of these utilities, it would be worth it. That confidence soon disappeared as every attempt to scan the drive failed; sometimes even crashing my computer in the process. There was clearly something seriously wrong with the drive.

So, my last resort was a data retrieval service. There just so happened to be a drop off location across the street from where I work. So, I decided I'd hand it over to them and see what they could do. Within a few days, they told me the drive has physical damage and would require some effort to retrieve whatever data was still intact. They told me they had experience with this kind of damage, and they were confident they could recover most, if not all, data. Of course that was contingent on my handing over my credit card. Their quote was high. I mean, like, high. So the question was, what was the value of the data on that drive? Was it worth it? I decided yes. So I told them to go ahead.

Let's skip to the end. They retrieved all the data. I've since copied it over to a new drive and restored all my directory structures and projects. Once everything was back in order, the very next thing I did was open that backup dashboard and include the drive and data. The data is backed up on an external drive until my cloud backup catches up. (It'll take a few weeks.)

So, let this just be a cautionary tale. We've all heard it. Save often. Backup. Crashes happen. Apps crash, and unsaved work is lost. Drives crash and saved data is lost. So have a backup system. It's one of those things you don't think much about, and may not think is all that important until you need it. Not to sound like a commercial, but data loss will happen to you. How painful it is when it does happen is entirely up to you.