Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Storage and Backups

As is my habit, every year or so I will audit my backups. Around that time, I generally put up a blog post for you, my ever-so-loyal readers, discussing my storage system in its current incarnation.

You can see previous iterations of a similar system from 2010 and 2011

Not a lot (in terms of my digital storage) has changed in the last year, but we'll go over it all just the same. My workflow has changed significantly since I decided to quit fucking around with programs that need to load large libraries and use a lot of RAM simply to exist. I'm talking to you, Aperture and Lightroom.

I now use Bridge because it's lighter and faster and better.


I'm still using my (aging) 15" macbook pro as my photo processing machine. It's got a 500gb internal hard drive where I don't keep any photographs. That drive is for my operating system, documents, music and movies, though most of those things live in the cloud as well through Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Player and Spotify.

My photography digital storage lives on a RAID 1 array named "Juniper." RAID 1 means that each drive is an exact copy of the other. I have two "slices" (hard drives) in this raid, though I could add more for additional backup measures if I wanted.
This is the drive that I keep the most recent years of photographs on. Right now it has all of 2011 and 2012. I expect I will be able to go about halfway into 2013 before I have to buy a new set.
They are each Seagate 500gb USB portable drives. I have had great luck with Seagate drives. Not so much with WD. Your mileage may vary.

When I load pictures from my CF card, the first thing I do is convert them from NEF to DNG file format. NEF is a pain simply because every file you edit comes with an ".XMP" sidecart file that you have to make sure you keep around. If you lose that file, you lose your edits.
DNG files keep their edits inside the one file, so you don't have to worry about those pesky sidecarts AND you still get all your "raw" editing capabilities.

I use Adobe DNG Converter to do that. It's a free download.

Once they have been converted into DNG, they go into a file structure that looks like this

Drive --> Year --> Month --> Date w/ subject --> file type or export folder

This allows me to stay organized and means I can access any shoot by knowing either when OR what I am looking for WITHOUT opening any fancy software that will eat through my very limited RAM. Yes, I'm still running 2gb of memory.

You'll notice three other mounted drives on the left column of that screen shot.

  • Rawr is my 750gb archive drive. It is full and will be upgraded to a 2tb drive this winter.
  • Time Machine is exactly what you think: the continuous backup of my internal drive. I will not lose my movies when my internal drive fails. I'll install a new 500gb internal drive and let it restore while I'm at work.
  • Juniper is my main photo drive
  • backup2012 (getting less creative here) is the backup of JUST 2012 on from Juniper. It consists of two 250gb drives stuck together in Mac OS Extended Journaled format. These are hot-swappable, so I can swap between backup raids very easily. When not in use, this backup lives in my fireproof, waterproof, locked safe, in case the house burns down or someone breaks in and steals all my drives.

The image above is one section of my hard drives: 4 drives and a fan. That fan is very important. When I'm asking these external drives to do a lot of work (long copies or audits), I always keep a fan on them. Moving that air will help keep them cold which will prolong their lives significantly. It has something to do with the lubricant that they use to keep metal parts that spin really fast (5400-7200rm) from deteriorating... or something.
When I'm asking my computer to do long processor-intensive tasks, I generally keep a fan or two on it as well to help get rid of that heat.

Now you know! Keep your stuff backed up! If you lose years worth of work because of a failed hard drive, you have no one to blame but yourself.