This is an issue I cannot stress enough. You must be diligent about backing up your photos, videos, and other important data, especially if you are using that information professionally.
Hard drives have a 100% failure rate, are not reparable in most cases, and may often corrupt data. With multiple options of backup available and reasonable costs, there are very little excuses for not being safe. While everyone should have at least one copy of all important information, the level security you use for your backup options will depend on your situation. For most personal information, a 2 copy backup system is usually ok. Ideally, your second backup would be located off-site at a different location, but even a dual copy same site backup is better than a hardcopy. If the information you are storing is of a professional nature, where loss of that data could literally ruin your business or income, I recommend at least a 3 copy backup system, with 1 copy always stored off site. This method should protect you in almost all situations.
Online backup solutions. Online backup has become increasingly less expensive. With places like Dropbox, Mozy, Carbonite, Amazon, and others offering inexpensive and often free backup space. The downside to these services is they are usually slow and expensive for large file sizes. As a result, these services tend to work better for document storage such as text files, business plans, and other documents that may constantly change. Most of these services offer automatic backups of any file or folder on your computer and are a reliable means of security. In addition, most offer the ability to retrieve or access these files from any computer, phone, or tablet at any point in time. This allows a great amount of flexibility and document control.
Physical Drive Storage. It is no longer uncommon to find 2tb external hard drives for under $100. This amount of space would be sufficient for most people and allows for easy upgrading as technology progresses. Physical drives are small, portable, easy to store offsite, and can be attached to multiple computers or networked through your home or business. This allows for all files to be accessed by anyone in range of your wireless network. These drives may be secured as needed depending on the types of files stored. Although this type of storage is convenient for one time backup, it may be difficult to work off of an external drive and begins to get time consuming for frequent updates. Software is available to aid this process and automate portions of it, but is still a laborious process by comparison.
RAID Storage. RAID drives, while still expensive, have been very popular for heavy duty storage and backup. It can allow automatic redundancy of every file on many drives as needed. Unfortunately RAID is also device specific so if the device that houses the drives goes bad, you cannot simply remove a drive and put it in a new system to recapture your files. It is also storing the files in the same location keeping you at risk from external failure such as lightning, fire, flood, or physical destruction. As a result, I never count a RAID storage device as multiple backup copies. Consider it as a single device that is more secure than a single external backup drive. If, for example, you run a 2 drive mirrored RAID 0 setup that you count as a 2 copy backup system, you have increased your risk of disaster verses 2 separate external devices. You are at larger risk of physical damage since the 2 devices are located in the exact same space, device failure (not drive failure) could ruin both copies of data and make it difficult to retrieve, and you have made it impossible to ever store your data in separate locations.
While every situation is different, the system I have found that works well for me is as follows:
Online backup solution for documents and other small file types that are constantly monitored and copied.
2tb external drive networked for easy accessibility for my laptop and wired to my desktop setup. This also allows for easy continuous backup when I am connected to my network. If you desire RAID storage for extra security, this would be a great device to implement it on as it is the one you will be accessing most frequently.
A second 2tb external drive backed up every 1-2 weeks and stored offsite.
A smaller 500gb portable usb powered drive that I use for immediate backups after a shoot or event when I don’t have access to my home network. This is a project drive and temporarily stores any projects immediately being worked on.
This setup can be implemented for under $250 for 2tb of backup or under $150 for 1tb of backup. It is also a setup that should last at least a year and allows you to upgrade the storage capacities for each drive as space requires. It protects from multiple hard drive failure, physical failure, flood/fire/building destruction, and device manufacture failure. No matter what backup option you chose, make sure that you have at least one floating copy of all important data that can easily be retrieved when something happens. Device failure, even on new devices, is a guarantee. It is just a matter of time.