Workflow Step-3 Image File Organization (cont.1)

We’re going to discuss Backup

I’ve spent over a week since the original Step #3 post trying to decide what to say. After all, entire books have been written on this step. I’m still stumped – but here goes anyway.
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The purpose of this step is to ensure that in the future you can locate and retrieve any image – regardless of how many total images you have or how long ago they were taken. Ideally, the image retrieval should be relatively fast. For reference, here are my personal figures –

  • Total images – over 200,000 (some duplicates but over 200,000 image files to search through nevertheless)
  • Time span covered – since 2002 (when I took up this hobby)
  • Typical retrieval time – less than 10 seconds from the time I specify the retrieval criteria (applies to 99% of my searches, not counting the 1% where I messed up somehow)

What does it takes to accomplish reliable and efficient image retrieval?

  1. It starts with you – self discipline coupled with a consistent day-to-day workflow approach. Without this little else will matter.
  2. You’ll need software to assist you in organizing and searching
  3. If you take proper care of your computer’s storage device(s) and their contents, you’re 99.9% of the way home when it comes to image file storage. In a word, it’s spelled BACKUP. If you don’t do regular backups, it’s time to start – you can’t retrieve a file that’s been lost forever in a drive failure.

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Let’s deal with backup first and get that out of the way. I’ll provide the references plus a few observations and leave the rest up to you.
A good reference for almost any topic is Wikipedia. Here is their –

Here is a “Top 10” backup software site. It’s included for the table that lists backup features and functions. You can learn a lot about what to look for in backup software by clicking each of the table’s row entries. Also, glance at the general backup discussion at the bottom of the page. As for the ratings & recommendations – as always use your own judgment and common sense.
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What do I use? It depends on when you asked the question. About six months ago my solution evolved to near perfection – in terms of what I like.
Over the past five years I kept adding external hard drives – usually in the largest size available. As a result I had about eight external drives varying in size from 500GB to 1 TB. Keeping track of these boxes got to be a headache – to say nothing of their impact on my PC’s performance such as adding at least 5 minutes to the start up (or restart) time. Then, of course, the backups were more complicated than I liked. Finally, fed up, I replaced my external drive farm with – Drum Roll, please***********************
I got an HP MediaSmart Server EX/495 (click here for a PC Magazine review) and added three 2TB drives to its spare bays for a total of 7.5TB of storage. The storage can be extended but that’s a story for another day.
The server is remotely accessible and available to every computer in the house (and from the internet as well). It automatically performs daily backups of all four computers in the house (and I can force manual backups at will). In addition to backups I also have it duplicate my shared files (server folders that are accessible from any of the four PCs or from the internet) – which includes all of my image files. This duplication means that as soon as I download my image files from the camera’s memory card, a second copy is created instantly. The overall daily backup strategy is *similar* to RAID in that no data is lost in the event of a single drive failure. Lastly, I can backup the server’s shared folders (already duplicated) to a device (separate drive) that can be stored off site.
In summary, as far as image files go there are two copies immediately after completion of the download from the memory card. Additionally, they are backed up every day (plus they are normally kept on the card until the next day when the card is reformatted) so we have at a minimum of 4-5 copies at any instant. Lastly, the server’s shared folders (two separate copies of each image) are copied by the server to a non-server drive and removed for safe keeping.
This may or may not be overkill – for some it is and for others whose business depends on their image files it may be just the bare essentials. Regardless, it’s what I’ve moved to and, for me, it’s perfect. It takes no extra work on my part once it was set up & configured (being a retired engineer didn’t hurt). Now, if I’m unable to retrieve a file it won’t be because the file no longer exists – somewhere between two copies on the server and two copies off-site I should be able to find at least one.
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Tomorrow – organizing your “backed up files” in order to find ANY image and find it quickly.

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