Offloading and backing up images and video can be a drag, especially after a long day of shooting. Even talking about data isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about, I know we would all rather talk about the newest offerings from Sigma or newest camera releases from Leica. What most people seem to do is drag-and-drop transfers using Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows) and assume everything will be alright. Backing up this way can potentially lead to data corruption, particularly if you are backing up to multiple drives at a time; and in some cases cause a complete transfer stall.
First things first, you should never rely on one copy of your data, whether it is a regular external or a RAID solution. If you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule you know that you should have three backups of any file in case anything were to go wrong. Certain cameras can generate very complex media folder structures and if they aren’t all copied in the correct order a situation can arise where photographer or client can’t access any of the data.
Verification is an important step because it looks at the original camera media and makes sure that file and file structure is exactly copied to wherever you backing it up. Many photographers I know apply a “set it and forget it” implementation and do not verify the transfer. When a client is paying for your services, it can be a costly mistake if something were to go wrong, and when using the built-in solutions of your computer you never really know that every bit of data is correctly transferred unless you verify each transfer with a checksum.
What is a Checksum?
You may have noticed that when you download files from certain websites, they have a very long string of numbers and letters. These strings have multiple names like checksum, MD5 checksum or SHA-1, etc. Basically, they act as fingerprints for that particular file. Checksums are used to ensure the integrity of a file after it has been transmitted from one storage device to another, either downloaded from the internet, or simply between two computers on the same network. Checksums are used not only to ensure corrupt-free transmissions, but also to ensure that the file has not been tampered with.
This is exactly where data management software comes in. There are many options when it comes to copy and verification utilities. However, a good many of those apps are either slow, outdated, more complex than they need to be, or the free version is severally gimped. Something like Hedge, not only offers an excellent free version, it does it with a simple to use interface.
Hedge is a delusively simple tool that uses a very simple user interface that anyone familiar with a Mac will find easy to use. Hedge enables the user to make multiple backup copies of their camera media and have those copies fully verified. This Mac-only application will automatically detect any drives you have mounted to your computer, showing up in the middle of the interface. You drag your source over to the left column and your destinations to the right column and then hit start transfer.
Free vs. Paid
There’s a real-time panel showing the progress of the current transfers. Variables like disk names and customizable incremental numbering can be accessed through the preferences. Fully utilizing the bandwidth and system resources of your computer, Hedge is capable of importing files while verifying others.
While the free version is fairly capable, there is a paid version as well. The free version supports up to two simultaneous transfers, queuing all other transfers automatically. After finishing 2 transfers, you are prompted to click a button to continue with the next 2 transfers.
The paid version has no such stipulation and provides a fast output, dubbed Fast Lane. With Fast Lane verified transfers get as fast as a standard non-verified Finder copy/paste. I created a quick comparison for reference:
Along with the Fast Lane, the premium upgrade provides, unlimited simultaneous transfers, NAS and RAID support, and Apple Script wizard – so you can configure Hedge to do additional tasks such as transcoding, tagging, and renaming.
Our photographs and videos are our passion and for some their entire livelihood. For years I have used the simple drag-and-drop method to copy my client’s files over to my backup solution hoping that everything would be alright. Hope isn’t enough.
Adding Hedge into your backup workflow may add a few extra steps, but it’s well worth it for peace of mind. I have been using the free version for about three months with no problems with just cashing in my free trail to do the speed comparison.
You can learn more about Hedge on their website here. When you download the program, a prompt will come up for a free 10-day trial, that you can use you when you are ready. After the trial, it is $99 to get a full upgrade.