Data Back-Up, Revisted

Things have changed a little bit since I last wrote about data back-up. The basic principles are the same, but the migration to Lightroom and Tracktion have required me to adjust my process a bit.

Photo Back-Up

Capture  My camera provides two SD memory card slots. I've configured it to write the RAW file for each photo to both cards. So from capture I've already got a back-up.

Import – I import photos from one of the cards into Lightroom, at which time the RAW images are copied to an external USB drive that is my primary working drive for photography. Once imported, I try to keep the RAW images on the SD cards until that working drive is backed up. Otherwise I'd be flying without a net.

Post-Processing – While the RAW images are stored on the external drive, my Lightroom catalog is kept on my computer's internal drive. I do that in order to take advantage Lightroom's Smart Preview feature that allows me to edit photos even when the working drive is disconnected. To use Smart Previews, the catalog needs to be on the computer's local drive. However, I've configured Lightroom to back up the catalog to the external working drive every time it exits, so the catalog is always backed-up as well.

By the way, the default behavior in Lightroom is to back up the catalog once a day upon exit of the program. But I don't like that scheme because of the way it's implemented: it will back up your catalog the first time you exit Lightroom for the day, then it won't do it again until the next day. I'm likely to exit Lightroom several times a day. In event of a catastrophe, this means that instead of losing "at most" a  day's worth of edits, I'm likely to lose most of a day's worth of edits. So I have it back up on every exit. It doesn't take too long at my current catalog size and I'm assured at losing at most a single session's worth of edits. Maybe once my catalog grows really big, I'll change my scheme but for now while the catalog is small, this makes the most sense.

Off-site – After the RAW images and catalog backed-up are on the external drive, I will take the drive to work at the earliest opportunity and back-up its contents to another external drive I keep at my office. I use FreeFileSync for that. It works great and the only way it could be priced better is if they paid you to use it. So with this step I have an off-site back-up for both the RAW images and the catalog. I can now remove the RAW images from the SD cards.

Export – When I'm done post-processing my photos, I take all my favorites and export them as high quality JPEGs. These "Finals" are written to the external drive and to my Google Drive, which uploads them to the cloud and distributes them to all my computers that have Google Drive installed. The Google Drive also gives me ubiquitous access to them from anywhere on the Internet. Any new Finals photos are also backed-up to the drive at work whenever I do the off-site back-up. Honestly, I'm most concerned about the long-term preservation of the Finals photos, as they are the keepsakes in my mind, not the RAWs.

Audio Back-Up

My audio back-up strategy is much simpler due to system performance and data size constraints. The working copies of my audio projects are kept on my computer's primary hard drive for performance reasons. A single Tracktion project consists of lots of little files - audio clips, MIDI clips, rendered files, etc, During a project, I will regularly export an archive file (a Tracktion file format that stuffs all the various files associated with a project into a single file) to the same external drive I use as my working drive for photography. Then, when I do the off-site back-up of my photo files at my office, I include the audio project archive files as well. My final mixed and mastered audio files are put on my Google drive to provide online back-up of the audio "finals", similar to what I do for photo Finals.