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.

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Restoring From Physical Media”

  1. As well as backups I need to be notified if anything is deleted from my photo archive. It’s practically read-only most of the time as nothing is deleted, or at least it rarely happens. DNG and CR2 files and original Jpeg files should not be modified, ever!

    I initially thought monit was what I should be using but it turns out that inotify is much better suited to the task. Point it at the right directories and tell it to watch out for deletes. Here’s a simple script I wrote to email me whenever anything in my YYYY directories is deleted:


    inotifywait -r -m -e delete /mnt/photos/20* | while read dir ev file; do
    if [ "$ev" = "DELETE" ]; then
    echo "$dir$file" >> ./delete.txt
    echo "file deleted: $dir$file" | mail -s "File Deleted: $dir$file"

    It works like a charm and I receive an email as soon as a file is deleted! Should be plenty of notice for me to restore from backup if required.

  2. In IT land, the solution to this is known as GFS, (Grandfather, Father, Son). What media it is on is up to you. I actually did an article on this problem having gotten fed up with some people demanding everyone had backups of ALL their data some time ago which is really a bit of a stab at these people. My reality is I choose the important data and use rsnapshot. There would be gazillions of tools that do something similar to rsnapshot I’m sure, but in your example (and myself being a photographer too so I understand) I’d make a big drive, use rsnapshot and make a backup of that to another drive which is offsite, or taken offsite. If you use mac – they do a fair job of this with time machine. Hope that helps!

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