Hard drives fail. Plain and simple. It's happened to us and we ended up owing WAYY too much money to the data recovery center, not to mention several weeks of stressing and waiting…
Fortunately, there are easy and simple methods to backup your photos. The simplest is by buying an external hard drive. And for only $50-100 a 1 TB external could be the difference between paying $2000 to a recovery center (plus down time while you wait, and stress as they may not be able to recover…) and having instant access to the images even though your computer's internal drive failed.
The other approach is by using an external service that will automatically backup your drive over the internet. This however, can be slow, and if you don't choose a great company, will run the risk of losing your data if they runs out of money or shut down. Amazon has a service for this and Apple will be running their iCloud by the end of summer that should work very well and be totally reliable.
The nice thing about this is you won't have to worry at all! External hard drives at home can fail, especially if you don't back those up to another drive every several years or so. With an internet storage option you can make sure to prevent this from happening without giving it a second thought. They do cost more so keep that in mind.
So you're sitting there thinking "My drives won't fail, that's not going to happen to me!". Well, we were in the same boat…. and our drives failed… Fortunately, we had a camera insurance policy which is another great investment.
We know that you're now thinking how expensive photography is, but isn't it the best job in the world, and well worth the cost? Camera insurance can cover hard drive failures and is fairly inexpensive. It also protects your gear against theft, breaking, and most accidents. All in all it's a great investment, especially if you are a professional photographer and spend your days shooting in rain, mud, dust, and water with athletes that sometimes get "a little too close to the camera".
How often should you backup your drives? This one depends on how much you're shooting. If you shoot everyday, then you probably should backup every day to prevent that day's shoot from being lost. If you only shoot once a week, then backup once a week. This way, when you backup, it won't take nearly as long to copy all of the files.
There are many programs available for backing up hard drives. For Apple users Carbon Copy Cloner is a great free solution. Also, the Apple Time Capsule that is built into the system works incredibly well. Both of these allow you to auto backup at times you select, and will only copy the newest files, or changes to old ones, rather than taking forever to copy the whole drive. For PC users we recommend GFI Backup or Paragon (free) Advanced Backup.
Now that you've spent time learning about backing up, have you taken the first steps yet?? Backup those photos now, it's scary when they all go missing with a possibility of no-return! And if you can, back them up twice, and store one of the drives in a different location in case of fire or flood!
What are you waiting for? BACKUP YOUR PHOTOS!!