Photo Backup - My process

Brian Auer of Epic Edits has a series of articles on this blog discussing the options for ensuring that you don’t lose your photographs due to the various things that can go wrong with a computer hard drive. I thought I would post how I handle this since, as Brian outlines, there are several approaches.

First off, I’m a PC guy, always have been, and don’t see a reason to change now. For catalog management I use Adobe Lightroom 2.0. I have been a big fan of Lightroom and have been using it since the 1.0 betas. Another critical part of my photo backup process is my Windows Home Server. I have a HP MediaSmart Server filled with hard drives.

I do not store any of my photographs on my desktop, all photographs go directly on the Home Server as soon as I transfer them from the Compact Flash cards. Since I don’t have any redundant hard drives on my desktop, its safer in my mind to store everything on the server. Within the Home Server I have a file share called Photos, this share is set to be duplicated within the Home Server so I don’t have to worry about a drive failing and wiping out those files. To make it simple, and to ensure that I don’t accidentally store photographs on my desktop, I map the default pictures user directory in Vista to the photo share on the home server.

To do this find your user directory, within Vista it is usually C:UsersUSERPictures. Right click on the folder, select properties. From the properties dialog, select location, type in the location of your network share, \MACHINENAMEPhotos, then hit the move button. This will now set the default picture folder within Vista to the server share, the server does not need to be a Windows Home Server, it just is in my case. Now every program that wants to store or retrieve pictures will by default look in this directory.

Currently I have Lightroom configured to copy into date based folders within the Photos share. This seems to work best for me, since I frequently take shots of various subjects, and trying to come up with folders based on the subject of the photograph was just to difficult, plus that is what keywords are for anyways.

I currently have all four drive bays filled within the HP MediaSmart Server, 2 500GB drives, and 2 750GB drives. I also have a 500GB external USB drive integrated into the storage configuration. One of the nice features of WHS, is the ability to have various drive sizes within the case, and still enable redundancy between drives. I at one point had a server setup with a RAID-5 configuration, it was good for redundancy, but all the drives needed to be the same size, and with hard drive prices dropping all the time I like the ability to upgrade my 500GB for a 1 TB drive when the price drops.

The configuration I outlined above works great for making sure I don’t lose any files within my home network. The one risk is that if something happens at my home, fire, theft, etc. That is why the next point of protection is offsite storage. I currently use KeepValue as my backup provider. KeepVault has a add-in for WHS that automatically backs up any new or changed files to their servers. The KeepVault interface is very simple, you just pick which shares on your home server you would like to be backed up, and it takes care of the rest. KeepVault for WHS is $100 per year for unlimited 100GB of storage. I could not find a better deal, since I backup all my photos, my extensive music collection (re-ripping all those CD’s does not sound fun), and my family videos.

Well I hope this help anyone that are looking for ways to protect their photography. As photographers we like to get the coolest and latest gear, but don’t forget to invest in the backend of your process, and poor backup strategy will be costly.