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Why Footage Archival Is Vital to Your Small Video Business

Tori Lumen

Footage archival might seem intimidating, but don’t let backing up your footage scare you! Take all the time you need to back your work up. Here’s how.

I’ve heard countless horror stories, from the ever-common corrupted drive, to puppies chewing up entire SD cards. The takeaway from every chill-inspiring tale has one common theme — back up your footage and back it up ASAP. Treat your card, and your drives, like sweet, little babies that need to be duplicated to survive.

According to CrashPlan (a cloud data backup service), 140,000 hard drives fail every week! Unitrends (another data protection service) says 93% of companies filed for bankruptcy within one year of losing their data center for ten days or more due to a disaster. In a study done by the University of Texas, it was determined that 94% of companies suffering from catastrophic data loss don’t survive.

Let’s make sure you’re never on that list. First, let’s talk cloud vs. local (physical drive) storage. Which way should you go?

Cloud vs. Local Storage: Advantages

Cloud vs. Local Storage: Advantages

Cloud storage is a safe, convenient way to store your files. Image via Simon Bratt.

Cloud storage is said to be one of the safest ways to store your files. It’s incredibly convenient and, for the most part, a plug-and-go situation. There’s the initial setup that can be a little tedious, but after that, there’s no real work. It’s reasonably priced, and if you need your files physical, you can download them (this can take a very long time) or a drive can be shipped directly to you.

Another great thing about cloud storage is that you access it from anywhere. Say you’re editing on the go and your laptop or portable drive goes funky. Just download the files you need from anywhere with an internet connection. Problem solved.

Local storage has its advantages, as well. First and foremost, it’s physically with you and there’s a certain comfort in that. Hard drives are quick to get your hands on and easy to find in larger sizes. They don’t rely on an internet connection to access your files, which can come in handy if you’re somewhere remote.

Which leads us to our disadvantages.

Cloud vs. Local Storage: Disadvantages

Cloud vs. Local Storage: Disadvantages

Backing up your files with an external drive is a measure worth taking. Image via dourleak.

With cloud storage, in a situation of being remote, your files cannot be accessed. Or, if you’re in a place with a slow connection, it can be near impossible to get any work done. Cloud services only back what they have been directed to store and what they can see, which can lead to human error.

A friend of mine was using a portable hard drive to store all of her photography work and cloud storage to back the drive up. Which meant the cloud would back the drive up when the drive was connected. She lost the drive and was prepared to regain all of her files through her cloud storage, but it turns out, she hadn’t plugged in her hard drive in a couple of months so her backup was out of date. Her files were gone.

One of the biggest fears when using cloud storage is a data breech in your cloud service. In 2020, the chances of this happening are slim, but the risk is technically still there. Cloud storage services pride themselves on their extensive security. They’re in the business of keeping your files and keeping them safe, and that’s just what they do.

In the case of my friend who lost her drive, we see our first disadvantage of local storage. Hard drives are physically at risk. They can be lost, dropped, damaged, melted, stolen, water damaged, infected with a virus, and so on. At this point, I can’t even count the number of crashed drives I’ve seen in my life. I have a box of dead drives I’ve collected that I can’t seem to get ride of. It’s like a little data cemetery.

As much as having your data in your hand is important, what if you have the wrong drive with you? Or, you’re missing the connection cable and you’re away from your office or home? Without cloud storage, you’re just out of luck.

Beyond the fear of losing data, hard drives that are fast and have a large capacity can get pretty pricey, especially when you’re filming in 4K or 6K.

Storage Services: Backblaze + CrashPlan

Backblaze Logo

Image via Backblaze.

So, where does that leave you? How do you choose? For me, I do both. I have the advantage of having built my own PC so I chose to include a large internal hard drive, along with an identical drive that acts as a redundancy of the first. In addition, I use Backblaze as cloud backup directed to my drives. So, if something happens to my main drive, I can use the redundancy. Then, if something happens to both of those, because they’re physically in my workspace, Backblaze will send me a hard drive with all of my files.

The top cloud companies for video are Backblaze and CrashPlan. What puts these two at the top of the game is that they offer unlimited data storage, data recovery, and file backup automation, so you don’t even have to think about it. Automation and data recovery are huge factors when looking at cloud services.

There are tons and tons of other cloud backup services out there, but I’ve found that many of them fall short. Most top companies cap their single file sizes and data storage size at limits that aren’t enough for video files. Many companies are just cloud services for you to share your files, but don’t offer any kind of recovery, beyond downloading files individually. In the end, that just makes the other companies file sharing services, rather than data recovery services, which really doesn’t protect your business at all.

CrashPlan logo

Both Backblaze and CrashPlan are affordable and user-friendly. Image via CrashPlan.

Backblaze is only $6/month and has zero limits on single file sizes or bandwidth speeds. It initially comes with a thirty-day version history, which you can now upgrade to an unlimited file history for an additional $4/month. It’s easy to add extra computers to your plan. They offer three forms of restoration —  free zip drive download, an 8 TB USB drive for $189, or for smaller situations, a 256 GB flash drive for $99. It’s interface is incredibly user-friendly and straight-forward. And, there’s a free fifteen-day trial.

CrashPlan comes in at $10/month and is also user-friendly. There are no single file size restrictions and they also make it easy to add computers as you go and grow. Unlike Backblaze, CrashPlan allows you to control the length you hold on to the version history of files. They also offer file restoration through free download or a free hard drive.

Organizing Your Files

Organize Your Files

Be fastidious when organizing your files. Image via PAPALAH.

Beyond where you put your files, another major piece to archival is how you organize your files. This is just as important. Files can be lost just based on poor organization alone. Figure out the naming convention that works for you and keep it simple.

For example, my wife and I own and operate a wedding video business, so I use our business name (Lumen Studios) and the names of our couples throughout my drive. My main drive is called “LUMEN” and from there, it breaks down into years for specific weddings or other business-related things — Logos, Photos of Us, Blogs, Effects, Website, etc.

Get super-specific with everything. It’s impossible to lose things when they’re all named in a way that makes sense to you.

So, how does this actually break down?

Organizing Video

On a wedding day, we operate with three cameras and three lavaliere microphones. When I copy everything from the wedding day to my drive, I start at my LUMEN drive. From there, I choose my year. So, in this case, I’d go to my 2020 folder and in that, I’d create a folder with the couple’s names (i.e.: Megan+Jen).

Within that folder, I make another folder I call “RAW” that contains all of our media from the day. I break it down even more from here. I make a folder called “Chelsie” and it’s everything from Chelsie’s camera. I do the same with a “Tori” folder, and I also create a “Sandy” folder. We call this folder Sandy because it’s all the footage from our third camera — a Panasonic Lumix GH5S. The “S” stands for Sandy. It started as a joke, but it stuck. It’s a little weird, but I know what it means and I stay organized, which is the whole point. This is what works for us. Go with what works for you.

Organizing Audio

To organize my audio, I make a folder called “TASCAM” where I put three separate folders, one for each mic that we use. This makes it easy to quickly access my audio.

In the top “Megan+Jen” file, I’d also include a “Music” folder. This is helpful as I begin my song selection so that I have a destination to keep them organized.

Organizing the Edit

To keep Premiere on my level of organization as I edit, I make sure to direct all of my Premiere project files to the “Megan+Jen” folder location. I also create a folder for all of my exported videos that relate to this specific project.

The system seems detailed and tedious, and it is. But, it also saves so much time as I begin editing, and it creates consistency. It creates so much consistency, in fact, that my wife is able to use my system to edit. She has only done this twice before, but it’s so simple that an absolute beginner can use it effectively.

Plus, to this day, I’ve never lost a file.

Secure Your Files

Footage archival can easily make or break your business. Knowing your options and securing your files across various platforms, as well as physical hard drives, is an excellent way to ensure your small business is safeguarded against data loss. There are tons of options available to you for protection — try them out, see what you like, and find what fits best for you.

Staying organized with the structured side of your business will give you more freedom to be creative and serve your clients!

While we’re on the topics of organization, structure, and storage, here’s some related content:

Cover image via Boibin.