There are a good number of questions in this forum about how people back-up and archive photos, or how they organize photos. There are as many answers to these questions as there are Nikonians. And each configuration has its own merits. Here is a setup that I have settled on which I find suits my needs well. I thought I would share it with others who might be trying to come to grips with how to organize their environment.
Like photography gear, you are likely to try a few “exploratory” approaches on the way to an ultimate solution. My first tripod comes to mind when I say this. I knew I needed a tripod to take pictures of eagles with a long lens. And I had read that I should go straight to a quality tripod with a good ballhead or gimbal system. But that didn’t stop me from wasting $35 on a useless tripod (with a built-in swivel head) before deciding that I should have saved my pennies until I could afford a proper solution. The workflow configuration I describe below has already gone through this growing period and represents what I now consider to be the end-result. That is, I don’t really foresee anything being added to my workflow hardware wishlist any time soon.
This workflow assumes you already have photos from a shoot on a set of CF cards or laptop or digital wallet of some kind and you are now home and ready to bring them into your workstation to start working on them.
My main objectives in building this system were:
1. Provide fast editing capability for new photo shoots 2. Provide reasonably fast access to all my photos (old and new) 3. Use a simple organization scheme that doesn’t rely upon any special software 4. Ensure there are two copies of photos at all times 5. Have an offsite archive copy of all photos.
To meet these goals I use the following hardware:
> Workstation with 3 hard drives: Drive1: 140GB, Operating System Drive2: 140GB, Data (photo shoots) Drive 3: 186GB, Backup of data
> USB Drive 1: 750GB, USB drive used in conjunction with USB Drive 2 for rotating offsite archiving. > USB Drive 2: 750GB, USB drive used in conjunction with USB Drive 1 for rotating offsite archiving.
On my workstation I have a folder on Drive2 called “$ActiveProjects”. All new photo shoots go into subfolders of this folder. Each subfolder is assigned a name that starts with the date in YYMMDD format followed by a short description of what I shot. For example:
Directory of D:\$ActiveProjects <DIR> 071204 - Sea Lions in Monterey <DIR> 080109 - Squamish Eagles <DIR> 080116 - Butterfly Exhibit
By prefixing each folder with the date in YYMMDD format all directory listings or browser views of my photo projects are always in chronological order. I use this same folder naming scheme throughout my process. I now have over 150 individual photo folders and I find this provides all the organization I need to find a shot from, say, the trip to Yellowstone in 2003.
Once I have copied my photos into their $ActiveProjects subfolder, I immediately copy that subfolder to my third drive, the backup drive. I then set about pruning and editing the photos in the $ActiveProjects subfolder. The copy of the photos on the backup drive are considered to be a read-only “Safety Blanket” during this pruning and editing phase, just in case I get carried away in my pruning.
When I am satisfied with my pruning and editing I move the photo shoot subfolder from my workstation to my primary NAS server, a Buffalo Tech Terastation. This is a small box that connects to an Ethernet and is a dedicated file server. My 1TB servers provide 750GB of storage configured in RAID 5 (so they have some fault tolerance built in). Although a NAS Server is slower to access than a local hard drive, it is certainly fast enough for the occasional print job or web posting. And it is nice to have all 150 of my past photo shoots available all the time.
My primary NAS Server is configured to automatically back itself up the secondary NAS Server nightly, and send me email with the results. I have the two NAS Servers on opposite ends of the house to reduce the risk of loss due to fire or storm damage. Once I am sure the photos are on both NAS Servers I can comfortably delete the safety blanket backup copy left on my workstation.
Sometime shortly after moving the photo shoot to the secondary NAS Server I use Windows’ file browser to take a snapshot of the secondary NAS Server onto one of my removable USB drives. Then I take that USB drive offsite, bringing back the USB drive that had previously been offsite.
Note that, although I use 3 drives in my workstation, you could easily make due with 2 hard drives. In that case I would create a $Backup folder on the main (Operating System) drive and keep the temporary “Safety Blanket” folders in there.
The Terastation servers are about $550 for a 1TB version or $750 for a 2TB version. The 750GB USB drives are about $160 each. If cost is a primary concern, you can accomplish the same scheme using three 750GB USB drives. In that case you would have 1 USB drive as the Primary Server and use the other two, in an alternating fashion, as the Secondary Server and the Offsite Archive. To set up an automatic backup between a Primary USB server and a Secondary USB Server I would recommend something like Microsoft’s SyncToy utility). And every so often you would want to switch the Secondary USB server with the offsite Archive USB server so that your offsite archive was reasonably up to date.
So, assuming you have a workstation with two hard drives, you can build this configuration for about $1,300 (using 2 terastations and 2 USB drives). If you went with the 3 USB drive approach, then it would only cost about $480.