I'm new to Nikonians, and found this thread incredibly informative.
I'm not a pro and don't have a huge amount of money to spend on dedicated computer or backup systems. The approach I take uses a simple laptop, USB external hard drive and DVDs. I'd be really grateful for any comments on the robustness of this approach given my need for a low cost solution:-
File Formats I always shoot NEF Raw + High Quality JPEG. The JPEG files remain completely unedited, the RAWs I work on in Capture NX. My reasoning for retaining an original, unedited copy in jpeg format is that I believe there exists a much higher long term risk of camera specific NEFs being unsupported by future software than exists for industry standard JPEGs. There seems little point in archiving if the file format isn't supported when you come to access the archive!
Initial Download Initially my images are downloaded from Camera onto folders on my laptop hard drive.
Folder and File Renaming Folder structure is 'yyyy-mm-dd-Description' File names are changed globally in View NX to 'yyyy-mm-dd_hr-min-sec'. The above ensures I can always search chronologically for a recognisable description of the shoot. The file naming ensures that the file names are always unique and if files are inadvertently moved from their folder they can be relocated by the yyyy-mm-dd naming.
Copyright Tagging Copyright information is set in camera. Additional IPTC/Exif is added globally in View NX.
Initial Backup Once re-named, the files are copied to the external USB hard drive to ensure the files exist in two locations before culling and editing takes place. Once copied, the files are deleted from the camera compact flash card.
Culling and Editing Poor images are culled from the laptop by tagging and deleting in View NX or Capture NX (remember I already have a backup copy on the external hard drive in the event of me being overly critical!). NEFs for each shoot are edited in Capture NX on the laptop and converted to JPEGs or Tiffs which are placed in a subfolder called 'processed images' (the original in-camera jpegs remain unaltered as my long term compatibility backup).
Backing up Processed Images Once I have finished editing a shoot I overwrite the changed NEF's on the usb external hard drive with those from the laptop and copy the relevant 'processed images' sub-folders from laptop to usb external hard drive.
Archiving Once a month I backup new folders from the usb external hard drive onto DVDs and store these in my office (the usb drive is stored at home). I then delete the files from my laptop to free up space.
The process involves only a basic computer (my laptop), a relatively basic external hard drive and a bunch of DVDs. All files are uniquely named in a way that links them to their dated folders. At every point in the process I have two copies of the images (including the original in-camera jpegs).
As I said at the start, this is a basic low cost solution and I've not got a great deal of experience in computer backup systems. I'd be really grateful for comments that may make the process more robust.