What’s the best way to backup your design files?

I get questions all the time about running a design business and usually, I can kindly point readers to a past post on Graphic Design Blender, but I absolutely LOVE it when a reader stumps me with a question.

Why do I love it?

Because now I get to ask you and learn from you!

That’s right. Today, the tables are turning and I need your help answering a reader’s question. Here’s a summary of the email I received from Suzy:

My name is Suzy and I am a graphic designer for a small graphic design business. We were recently exploring our options for backing up our files and were wondering what you think is the best option? We currently use Time Machine, but we wanted to have something else. (We also do CD archives.) What do you think is the most robust backup system to use for graphic designers? What do you think will best serve the graphic design industry? What do you currently use? We love your blogs! Keep up the great work!

First of all, Suzy, thanks for the kind words and for a great question!

Here’s what I do

I mostly design for the web, so my files aren’t quite as large as a print designer, flash editor, video editor etc. So I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I keep all the PSD and Illustrator files on an external hard drive as well as stored online through my hosting services Dreamhost, where I get unlimited storage space for a pretty good price.

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But that’s probably not the best answer for a designer or a design firm who does much higher volume thatn I do.

What do you use to store design files?

I’d like to write a post of the top places for designers to store their design files. To have your opinion included in the post coming up, leave a comment on this post and let me (and Suzy) know how you store your design files.

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  1. Hi, best system i have worked with for backing up huge piles of data..(Video files) was when i worked at Frolich&Plaisier, mainly video commercials, docu’s and company presentations..

    one part of the backup went fully automated, the second part were the client projects, after finishing the project they were backed up to two 2GB harddrives (not the external casing ones) by using an extender were we pluged in the drives, filling one drive with all the files, related projects and everything related.

    after finishing number one.. we then made a clone of the drive.. one went in to the archive room the second was stashed on a secure place (i think the owners house)..

    this way we secured about 100GB a year..

    1. Correction:
      the two 2GB drives.. should be 2TB drives… same for the 100GB a year.. it should be 100TB…

      sorry 😉

  2. I’m using OneDrive since it comes with my MS Office subscription. 1TB is enough for my backup files.

  3. Really interesting read, seeing what folks use. I’ve struggled with this all year not knowing the best method. I’ve got a 1TB local HDD a 1TB external HD 40GB at Skydrive, 25GB at Skydrive Pro.

    In the midst of a backup for the new year, and think Im decided on my method for now. At the end of my first full year as a freelance designer, and I’ve totted up around 100GB of PSD’s docs and reference for projects etc. (Even after stripping & archiving into 7z files. (These are pretty heavy PSD’s – Im a UI Designer for Mobile/PC Games so these things end up being pretty huge.

    Client files are backed up by & shared by the studio I work for on box.com (Arguably the best current option for collaboration). Obviously want a backup here though too so I aim to backup all projects to Carbonite and use the Skydrive for personal projects & photos etc. Also currently using Skydrive for resources, (fonts, textures, custom shapes, etc) – this integrates nicely into the file explorer in Windows 8.1 so I can create a library for quick access. I’ll probably backup the resources folder locally every few months or so.

    I’ll keep the 1TB external drive for a local backup, at 100GB a year should be good for a few years yet.

    Main reason I would want to reaccess the files is to grab a font reference, or a rasterized copy of the images for portfolio use etc, so will keep the flattened copies on skydrive or somewhere in case the archives get corrupt somewhere along the lines.

  4. I primarily use Carbonite, since it continuously backs up and I love that when I go to meetings I have instant access of my files via iPhone or iPad. As a means of working on large current projects, Dropbox is pretty cool because there have been times when i switched workstations and had ease of wokring withiut skipping a beat—-also availabe for iPhone and iPad, doubling my options just in case one provider may not respond as quickly (or not cooperating at all) and the best part, my Dropbox folder also syncs with Carbonite (after experiencing many tech nightmares, I’ve learned to be extra safe than sorry).

    I’m now looking into trying out Livedrive. It looks like a pretty cool setup that merges the perks of both Carbonite and Dropbox that I know will benefit my company as it grows.

  5. It’s so important to back up files! It’s not a matter of if hard drives will fail — it’s when. Every hard drive will eventually fail. Usually when it’s least convenient. It’s happened to me a couple of times in the 12 years I’ve been in business. Even without a hard drive failure, sometimes a software failure (ever have your e-mail inbox disappear because you overstuffed it? I have. Not pleasant.) or even operator error will make you very glad that you have a solid backup plan in place. Every day.

    I have multiple external hard drives, and buy a new “primary” backup hard drive every year or two. That covers me for onsite backups. For offsite backups, there are lots of options too. I decided that Backblaze has the features I need, and I’m in the midst of their 14-day free trial. So far, I’m very pleased. Pricing is very reasonable, I like that it encrypts my files on my computer, before transmitting them over a secure connection to their server. It does take a while to run the first backup, but I don’t really notice any change in performance, which was not the case with some other backup options I’ve tried. Using their “continuous backup” option means that I’m protected throughout the day, and not just when I run my local backup at the end of the day. Your files are stored as separate files, not as one giant file that will take ages to split up so you can restore the one thing you need.

  6. I’ve been burnt in the past and am now a little paranoid about backup.

    For all my current work and files I have an additional hard drive on my desktop Mac with 2 partitions, one with a Carbon Copy Cloner bootable Clone of my Boot drive, updated regularly, the other partition with time machine backups. I also have an external hard drive with the same setup that is stored off site, and that drive is updated weekly.

    I also have my documents folder stored on Dropbox, and I backup to S3 using “Arq” from haystack software.

    For archives and storage of bulky video and audio files I use a Drobo FS, which has already saved me from a drive failure. The files stored on the drobo are also periodically backed up on external drives and stored off site.

    I’m pretty sure that I’m covered with onsite, offsite and cloud backups of pretty much everything.

  7. I just use my hosting and backup all my file manually. Locally I use cobian backup and it automatically does backs up on an external drive every night.

  8. I recently was faced with said question. We archive client files on a 2TB NAS, with Time Machine (backing up current projects). All our current projects are also backed up to iDrive.

  9. I have a raid 0 array for redundancy with 1 TB drives on network storage. I also have a free Drop Box account, but I use it more to share files with clients than to store my information.

    I’m looking into fire safes as well as I have an external hard drive backup with personal/work data that I’d like to store in the event of a REALLY bad day at my house.

  10. Don’t most webhosts protest when using their space for hosting personal files? We use USB 3.0 portable drive and make copies.

  11. We currently have a 4Tb Western Digital World Edition II which had two drives and one mirrors the other in case one fails. Current and recent work plus often used resources are stored on it and files can be accessed remotely from it if required. Content of networked Mac’s is also backed up to external drives that are at least twice the size of the ones in the Mac’s and use Time Machine. Each client’s work is offloaded onto Backup DVD’s as soon as there’s enough to fill one and two copies are made of each DVD, one as a duplicate backup and one to use for frequent access. As far as I’m concerned you can never backup too much. It only takes the loss and recreating of a couple of large jobs to reinforce that decision! Am also looking into the following offerings as they all come highly recommended – Mozy – Backblaze – Drobo.

  12. I use Time Machine for local system backups only. Everything else is on a mini Snow Leopard server, where Super Duper clones a data drive to a separate backup drive each night (there’s a setting to just grab new/revised files). For incremental backups, I also use Retrospect to target specific folders, backing up to a smaller drive several times a day.

    Overkill, maybe, but I’ve lost a complete drive to failure. It cost $1800 to recover them. Not a good feeling….

  13. I use Drobo + Carbon Copy Cloner.

    Drobo has a few products for business and personal use. I personally use their 4bay solution. Their BeyondRAID tech is awesome. I keep all my files on there and also use Carbon Copy Cloner to have a duplicate of my Macbook drive in case that ever fails.

    You can schedule CCC to backup your drive whenever you like. I personally have it set up to backup as soon as I attach Drobo.

    Hope it helps!

  14. I’ve recently subscribed to Carbonite. It’s not overly expensive (starts at $60 a year), for unlimited backup your computer. Anytime a document is updated, it’s backed up, and you can access your files from other computers or mobile devices. You can access older versions of documents too, sorta like Time Machine. Man, I sound like a sales person :/. I should ask for commission :D.

    I still use Dropbox a lot, but more to share heavier files with clients (very useful since so many people have trouble connecting to FTP servers!), as it seems like the most widely used cloud storage at the moment.

  15. I have a 1 tb hard drive that I back everything up to once a month or so and then I have Carbonite, so I also have a web-based backup, which I can access from any computer, anywhere. Carbonite is kind of slow when it comes to a full restore and, depending on how much content you have, the initial upload can take days, but it runs in the background and doesn’t interrupt anything. I love that it’s only $59.99/year and you get unlimited storage space.

  16. I’m sure there are a few of you out there using this, but Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich Software does a GREAT job for me… It handles my system and data backups and has saved my skin once or twice. Best of all, it’s free, but I would recommend you donate to them if you end up using it because it is first class backup software. http://www.bombich.com

    -Victor Mabry

    1. +1 to this. CCC does an automatic backup for me every night, don’t have to think about it. Great product.

  17. Greetings fellow designers!

    What to do with 7 years worth of graphic + web design files, 1 full-time employee, 1 intern, and 3 computer systems for a home based design business? This was a dilemma I faced this year, and I now present to you my solution . . .

    100 GB of Dropbox – Used only for ACTIVE client projects, allowing cloud access on any computer system synced up to the dropbox folder. Cost = $200 / year.

    6 TB worth of storage via Drobo.com – Recently purchased the 5 Bay Drobo FS device to be housed locally in the office. I plugged it into my Apple Airport device and—viola—any computer hooked up to the office’s wireless Internet can access any file on Drobo. All client projects are archived directly onto drobo. The device currently has three 2 TB devices that enables me to duplicate my archives as an extra measure of security. I can add additional storage to it in the future. It was worth every penny of approximately $1300 + shipping.

    Over the last several years, I’ve utilized numerous external hard drives and ended up scattering my files all over. It was a nightmare. I was wasting precious minutes of my day, every day, searching and navigating all the drives to locate an archived file. To be able to consolidate thousands upon thousands of files was a dream come true.

    Additionally, one my old external hard drives became corrupted and I was not able to access any files on it. A huge nightmare. After having various technologically gifted friends inspect it, I ended up having to ship it off to a Data Recovery specialist. Recommended by an IT associate, I used http://www.crucialdatarecovery.com. They looked at the hard drive for free and quoted the recovery to be a flat price of $759. If they couldn’t retrieve any files, I wouldn’t have to pay anything. Long story short, my files were recovered and delivered safely back to me within 7 days! I highly recommend you hold on to their information for any potential disasters.

    Now everything is organized, consolidated and running smoothly. With a system in place, we are able to allot more of our mental energy to doing what we do best — create! Plus, I ended up with some extra deductions for the accountant. 😉

    Cheers to Millo for providing a fresh and delightful website. Many thanks for your efforts!


    J. Brand

    1. Hi Jessica!
      I know this is a reply to a very old post – but just wondering how your storage system is going 2 years on?
      How do you find drobo – have you had any problems? Also do you use any additional software to facilitate a regular backup onto your drobo?

      Much appreciated!

  18. I have two internal backup drives and two external drives. I use FBackup to automatically backup updated files to all of the drives every two weeks. I highly recommended to backup to an actual device, instead of (or in addition to) an online service.

  19. I have rotating hard drives that I backup on. I have one in my office and another one in a safe spot outside of the office. That way I am covered if something happened at either locations.

  20. I’ve been using SuperDuper for a few years now. For daily backup of work, it’s brilliant and so simple – set it up at a specified time to a specified HD it only writes new data, so whilst all data is backed-up it doesn’t take a long time to update each day – no more than 15 mins for 300GB. When done it then sleeps the computer. One-off cost of about $30.

  21. I use Wuala for almost 2 years and it never let me down.
    Just add any folders that contain your heavy graphic design or lightweight code files and forget about it.
    I must admit that Goggle Drive price is unbeatable, but Wuala’s desktop app is way better.

  22. Triple redundancies for me, because you never know what could happen. Everything is backed up on the external first, then each client gets their own 1GB flash drive that stays in the fire safe, and finally a copy goes up in the cloud (I use Dropbox).

    This was extremely useful 2 years ago when my apartment complex caught fire. We weren’t allowed in the building for nearly a week, but I had the external with me, so even when I couldn’t access the cloud I could still work.

  23. Oh, also, I went to carbonite / online backup after my external back up drive was infected by a virus! Ack!

  24. I use carbonite.com and love it. The initial backup can take a few weeks depending on how much you have to backup. It backs up in the background and you can customize the settings to do it at any time. Peace of mind for me. <3

  25. I work on a 500GB MBP, so all my backups run through a program called SuperDuper on to external HDDs. I have an HDD that creates an exact copy of my current MBP drive and then several other HDDs for various heavy-sized PSDs.

  26. As the previous comment stated, your best bet here is working in the cloud. There aren’t a lot of differences between Dropbox and Google Drive here.. If you aren’t sure how much you would like it both services offer a limited amount of space for free that you can toss a single project on and see how you like it.

    Both Dropbox and Drive will retain revisions of your files as you work on them and allow you to sync those files and revisions between multiple machines and for multiple users. So there really is no excuse to not be using these sorts of options.

  27. Previously I used dropbox, but i just passed to Google Drive and i’m liking it a lot (:

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