If you are a digital photographer, which is most likely (well you are here reading this isn’t?), one particular aspect of your work is inherently touchy; and that is data management. As you may be aware by now, shooting hundreds and thousands of photos each month takes a toll on your computer hard drive. At the end of the day, hard drive capacity is finite and that means sooner rather than later you would run out of space to store your photos.
If you have been using the same archaic data management system that was developed right after personal computers came into the commercial scene, that is leaving everything on your computer hard drive and occasionally backing up something on a disc or portable hard drive, then you are in for a shocker. Wake up and smell the coffee. This is 2015 and data management has evolved in leaps and bounds since you trashed those worn out 3.5” floppy discs.
I sincerely hope that you don’t retain that same old notion about data management. The minimum that you should do is have an external hard drive that is at least as big as the primary hard drive sitting inside your computer and back everything up at least once a week. That way if something happens to your computer you don’t lose more than a week’s worth of work.
But what about recent work? Even if you lose one single photo from a single shoot, say completed 3 days ago, you are in for trouble. First thing is you will have to redo everything, which may not be feasible (say it was a wedding the photos of which you just lost) and then there is the embarrassment that you will have to endure of having screwed up memories of your client’s best day. Not to mention the legal implications that will follow.
The bottom line is no matter what happens, you can’t lose your photos, period.
So how do you implement an effective data management plan? Now, this is something that is definitely subjective. No two photographers would be happy with whatever plan the other one is having. It depends on the volume of data that one needs to be managed and backed away and also on the associated budget. Another consideration is the scalability. Whatever plan you adopt it must be scalable and future-proof.
A basic outline can be like this. Mind you this is not the only method nor is the absolute best method, just one way of solving your data management requirements. Your requirements may be different and warrant a solution that’s different to what I am about to divulge here. Ok, so here it goes –
By default your operating system and all your programs / applications are installed on the primary hard drive. That’s installed on your computer. You need a backup of this. You will need a reliable high capacity drive that can back up your entire primary drive. If your photos, Lightroom and Photoshop presets, Lightroom catalogs and quick collections are also on the primary hard drive (which is highly likely) then you will need a backup of that as well.
Finally you will need a backup of the backup. In IT terminology we call this redundancy. Unlike elsewhere, redundancy is good when it comes to backing up your data.But, how much redundancy is good? Well this is again subjective. There are no dearth of paranoid people who would give anything to keep a copy of their computer on some place out of this world. Just in case the world is about to come to an end. I am less paranoid. I feel about three backups is a reasonable insurance against most things that Mother Nature can throw at you. Well, if she decides to put an end to everything then no amount of insurance is enough. Two of the backups can be on the same physical location as the computer being backed up though not necessarily in the same room and at least one backup needs to be off-location.
When backing up data locally, ideally, you should employ a RAID 1 backup architecture that would allow your business the sense of security of data and continuity of operations even in the event something happens to one of the disks. In a RAID 1 architecture each of the individual hard drives used would contain the whole data. The beauty of the system allows for a failsafe. If one hard drive fails you have at least one other backup. It is to an extent the same thing as copying data on two physically separate disks, except in this case they are joined together and are managed programmatically.
If this is too complicated or you don’t want to invest in an I.T. Manager maintaining two separate disks locally is a better idea, so long as you remember to back them up.