Important: Storage and Backup Solutions For Your Photography

I’m taking it as an omen…

Earlier in the week, I read a story online about some poor photographer soul who lost his entire photo library when his hard drive failed. Following that, I was chatting with a friend in the /Pro division at Apple Computer — he was shaking his head about how few photographers (pro and otherwise) seem to “get” the principles of backing up and storing their image libraries.

So with that in mind, I figure I’d share our studio’s backup protocol. This post is long and is directed at photographers, videographers, or creative studios and is NOT for the weak of heart. It’s not like most of the snipits I like to posts, however I think it’s important and there’s not much info out there for those of us who need powerful backup solutions. While no backup solution is perfect, we’ve worked for many years to develop a system that stands up to the rigors of our busy office, so here’s to sharing for anyone that cares about this stuff… BTW, I owe a big thanks to CreativeTechs here in Seattle for their helping us outline this program and for supporting it as well.

Now, before we get our hands dirty, a word on price and robustness: yes this solution I outline is expensive and it is robust and is meant to deal with a huge amount of data. (eg. I shot 35 thousand pictures for one job last month.) Do you have to do it this big? No. If you’re a busy commercial pro, you probably should. But if you’re growing your business, or you’re just interested in backing up your hobby snapshots, you probably don’t need all the bells and whistles or don’t have to spend yourself silly. But, what’s important here is that the fundamental protocol I’m outlining is solid and should be mimicked. And most importantly, it is scalable. If you don’t need 7TB to keep your images, use a 1TB solution, etc. If you’re low on ducket$, consider cheaper (or smaller) hardware, but the basic premises are the same. Now then…

ON SITE PORTION OF THE SOLUTION: Our studio runs a network of many computers linked together at a hub which speaks directly to a central file serving computer. This “server” can be any computer really, and in our case it is a Mac G5 tower, but it could be a Xserve or a Mac Mini–the point is that its sole job is to retrieve files for the rest of the computers on the network. This server’s external hard drive is the focus of this post. In our case, we upload all our photography raw data onto Apple’s Xserve RAID (photo atop this post). This is a giant hard drive (7TB) that writes (and retrieves) data seamlessly over 14 different drives in an array. This is fancy terminology that basically means that the drives all sync together to act like one drive, but in reality they’re separate drives arranged in such a way that if one drive fails, the server can identify it and, upon replacing the defunct drive, re-create data that was on the dead drive. It circumvents the horror of all your data living on a single bulk hard drive and failing. If that kind of drive fails, you’re toast. By spreading the data over several drives, you’re minimizing your risks. If one drive fails, you’re covered; and theoretically, multiple separate drives are far less likely to die at the same time. Redundancy is the key. NOTE: If you can afford the XServe RAID -get it, it’s sweet and is scalable. If you need to step down, look into buying or creating your own RAID array (some sources here). If that’s still to spendy, have your computer mirror (write an exact copy) to two separate external drives (like Lacie or comparable). Off the shelf software solutions to help are available for this lower end solution with a simple Google search.

OFF SITE PORTION OF THE SOLUTION: Now, the RAID takes care of any on-site single drive failures. You’re backed up at the office. But what about a fire? What if the entire building gets crushed in an earthquake, RAID and all? You need to have at least one copy of your data at a secure location off site. In our case, we purchase a unique hard drive for every job (for commercial clients, we bill them for this and they don’t mind–they thinks it’s wicked-smart how good-n-backed-up we, and they, are). We do NOT recommend DVD’s or CD’s. They are more volatile than hard disks. The data for the job gets put directly onto these individual drives and gets archived off-site. Thus, we’re backed up in case of drive failure AND in case of a dramatic catastrophe. A few smarty-pants folks out there might now be saying: “what if your array gets burned in a fire and your off-site hard disk fails?” In that case, we cry. We’re betting, as all backup systems do, that our redundancy measures will out perform most disastrous situations that occur.

OTHER DATA? Note: The above is our solution for the RAW photo data that is created in intense bursts of large piles of data (shoots), not usually a small daily trickle. All our images live in their original RAW mode (and sidecar files) on the XServe RAID (redundant) AND off site. But what about client work, adjusted image drafts, delivered images, post production in progress, invoices and all the other data that gets changed or updated on a day to day, “trickle” basis? We call this our LIVE (rhymes with hive) WORK and it’s handled in a slightly different manner. It still lives (in a separate partition) on our XServe RAID, and thus had built-in, on-site redundancy. To remedy the off-site portion of the equation we use an automated backup software called Retrospect and three (3) separate 1TB drives we call A(1-10), B(11-20), and C(21-31). Two drives live on-site at any given time, and our IT support group has configured Retrospect to write all of our live work to one of those drives each night, alternating from night to night between the two drive (thus writes everything to one drive A(1-10) on Monday, and the other drive B(11-20) on Tuesday; overwrites the first drive again A(1-10) with Wednesday’s updates, overwrites the second drive B(11–20) with Thursday’s updates, etc). Then, after each 10 day period (in our case the names of the drives correspond to the calendar dates during each month that a particular drive lives off-site), we swap out the third drive C(21-31)–previously living off site–with the next drive in sequence, the A(1-10) drive. The system continues, now writing to B(11-20) and C(21-31) on-site; and A(1-10) spends the next 10 days off-site.

Live Work Summary: What the above accomplishes is important and based on the same basic principle of redundancy that we use for storing our raw photo data. In this case, if a single RAID drive fails, we replace the particular drive in the array and continue working. If all 14 drives in the RAID fail, we are backed up with at least yesterday’s live work using one of the 1TB drives A, B, or C–whichever was written to most recently. If the office gets firebombed, then the most we’re out is 10 days worth of live work and can rebuild using whatever drive was off-site.

Whew! Is all that overkill? Maybe, but the principles behind it are not. Is it smart to be paranoid and extra safe? Probably. I hope that helps frame how important I believe it is to back up your photographs and your work. Take
some, all, none, of this info and put it to use in your studio

Again, depending on where you are in the world of photography, videography, or similar, this is scalable. Regardless of how big or important you view your collection to be, I recommend getting ahold of a tech outfit like CreativeTechs, even if it’s for just an hour to analyze your needs and make some recommendations. Treat yourself to a New Year’s present and invest in protecting your collection. Good luck!

53 Responses to Important: Storage and Backup Solutions For Your Photography

  1. Carson Blume December 16, 2006 at 8:13 pm #

    I am glad that you addressed this issue, so many people around me have the worst file management and are constantly losing files and a few drives that ruin portfolios. I think that a big problem is photographers don’t want to spend the money on a simple RAID system that will save they career.

    3Ware has a new awesome affordable one that is simple you can see it here. Here at Digital Capture System we are using it as our capture drive. It is perfect for the new MacPro cause it is just the right size to back up you whole system and small enough to take with you. Also if you can’t afford a Xserve RAID the Mac Gurus Burly Port Multiplier Enclosures are a great way to go. As long as we are talking about storage this is kind cool too; 8 hard drives in a Mac Pro.

    I absolutely love the LIVE data idea, I have been trying to think of a way to handle that issue for a long time, I do the hard drive offsite also but at the end of the job with everything on it.

  2. Chase Jarvis December 18, 2006 at 3:15 pm #

    Agreed! Photographers need to prioritize their backup and storage solutions. Without it, it’s like the UK not having insurance for the Crown Jewels.

    BTW, thanks for the links to the 3Ware stuff. If you don’t want to throw down for the XServe RAID, this looks like a solid option.

    Live data backup can be made less expensive by only using two drives in rotation also. Alternate weeks, etc. Then if one fails, you’re only out work from 1-7 days max…

  3. Finn McKenty December 18, 2006 at 8:13 pm #

    i’m a little bit drunk right now, so take this for what it’s worth, but ask craig what happens if your RAID controller fails. this happened to us once when i was working in NYC- we ended up screwed- even though 3 out of 4 drives were fine, the RAID controller died, and because it was a discontinued model that couldn’t be replaced, we lost everything. i believe there is a solution for this- some way of setting up the RAID (i think not striped?) that will allow you to access data even if the controller fails… might want to ask about that.

    time for bed.

  4. Chase Jarvis December 18, 2006 at 8:40 pm #

    Great question! (I wish I had a buzz right now…)

    In our case, we’d still be fine. We have all of the photo data on hard drives off site archived by shoot – easy to rebuild that, just upload the drives onto a new RAID/controller.

    Regarding the live work, we’d only have lost one days work, since it would have written nightly (in this case the night before) to one of the 1TB “Live Work” drives, not the RAID.

    I’ll still ask Craig about it however… (bummer for that design studio in NYC!) Thanks Finn!

  5. Craig Swanson December 19, 2006 at 8:53 am #

    What happens if your RAID controller fails? In the case of Chase’s Xraid, if the RAID controller failed, he’d have a couple options.

    A new controller could be installed. Even if the Xraid were discontinued, replacement parts would remain available for some time. The parts for the Xraid can also be purchased as an emergency kit that you can keep on hand.

    The disks could be moved to a new Xraid enclosure (the disks would have to stay in the correct order when moved).

    However, in all cases there should be an offsite backup. If Chases’s building burned down, or suffered a major theft, all his work (within 10 days) would be on one of his offsite backup drives.

  6. Brian Excarnate May 14, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    finn wondered “…what happens if your RAID controller fails.”

    Solaris has both Solaris Volume Manager (SVM, was Disk Suite) and the newer and very attractive ZFS. Download the x86 version of Solaris 10, run it on quality hardware.

    I like the idea of a hard drive per client, for someone smaller like me I plan to have a RAID 5 setup mirrored with external Firewire drives in a similar array (with cases small enough to fit in a safety deposit box).

    Live data, being much smaller for me, can live backed up on a portable notebook drive at my wife’s work (secure, distant, accessible).

  7. Brian Excarnate May 14, 2007 at 9:53 pm #

    Sorry for the Jargon. Solaris is Sun’s operating system. SVM is their old RAID software.

    ZFS is their new disk management/file system software and is released in the current version of Solaris 10. They seem to think it ready for home use, probably it is, but I work with the underlying Unix every day so YMMV.

    Running a software RAID is very nice as you don’t have to care about any hardware but your drives and it lets you do nice things like make snapshots (meaning you can freeze things as they are at any time, making a consistent backup possible while it is in use).

  8. Chase Jarvis May 21, 2007 at 9:28 pm #

    Cool details, Brian. I’m sure my IT support guru, Craig (posts above), is probably dialed into this, but it’s a little heavy for most of the users. I noted on the link to the ‘home use’ post and other threads from there that Apple is looking at it? Seems like it must be pretty hot…

  9. Michael Zahora July 29, 2007 at 7:17 pm #

    I’m glad I found your site Chase. Thanks for the inspiration and information.

    I am now looking at getting 2 more external drives to be used as mirrored RAID drives and having the 3rd drive as the weekly back up that will be kept off site. I come from the old schools days of shooting film, and then filing the film in binders and charging the client for said film. Now, with the price of memory cards being so cheap I thought that I might start charging my clients for the memory cards and keeping, labeling and filing the cards as the original “digital film” in binders in lets say a fire proof safe as another back up method. What are your thoughts on that?

  10. Chase Jarvis July 29, 2007 at 9:31 pm #

    Michael: Your question about saving every flash card is a good one, but I think the method I proposed in the blog – namely getting an offsite archive Lacie harddrive for every shoot — is better. I say this for a couple reasons. 1)I’ve been doing it for years and it works nicely. 2)sometimes I shot 15+ 4 gb cards in a day. If you save those cards and charge a client, that’s potentially 15 x 200 or $3000 you’ll have to charge your clients for “backup media”. Even big corporate clients don’t like those numbers… That stands in contrast to a 250 GB D2 Lacie drive for $150. A better storage media, more space for waaay less money.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  11. Michael Zahora July 30, 2007 at 4:07 pm #

    Chase, for the volume you shoot that makes complete sense. Much cheaper. I on the other hand would not shoot more than 100-150 images in a day, and I usually shoot 10-20 images a day (small product and food photography) in a studio setting. I know for my regular clients I would be able to spread the cost of an external drive over a couple of shoots. Maybe, a solution would be to get a new external HD for my RAW files every 6 months to a year. I have to give this some more thought.

  12. Chase Jarvis July 30, 2007 at 4:18 pm #

    Michael: perhaps you could just buy a 250gb Lacie for each client (charge em $250 or something) and they get to use it until it’s full, could be a year, could be 3 years. Seems to be a nice blend of cost/value and reasonable…

  13. Michael Zahora July 30, 2007 at 5:20 pm #

    Chase, that’s pretty much what I’m going to do with my regular clients and the 1 up/not regular clients will share a drive over the course of 6 months to a year. This way I can keep the regular clients happy and the “not regular” clients won’t be forced to spend money on a drive they will never fill up. The best of both worlds. Thanks again Chase.

  14. andrew October 6, 2007 at 6:52 am #

    I am a bit late to the party here (oh, almost a year), but I had some comments, and also some questions.

    On the comments front.

    I built a RAID-5 (or 6 depending on who you talk to) in 2004 for use as my file server. Back then it was seemingly inexhaustible with a whopping (haha) 1.8TB and 8 drives. Now the size seems trivial. And I wouldn’t go down that road again, and here’s why.

    Hard drive prices go down and down and down so there is definitely an argument to be made for buying only as much (ok, a bit more) storage as you need.

    So there is a trade off – lots of storage right now means that you don’t have to worry about buying new drives, enclosures, etc. But the price that you pay for less on-going hassle is well, money. Depending on how big the array this might be a considerable amount.

    In terms of using HDs as the sole backup/archive medium the one potential trouble spot here is viruses. DVDs, CDs, etc being write-once media are essentially immune to that. Now I agree that burning 40 DVDs for a job is probably a waste of time, but it is worth noting for photographers who go through less volume. The DVDs/CDs might not have much longevity in them, but could be used as a parallel to an already in-place system.

    A number of folks have mentioned the issue of the RAID controller going down, which is a very valid observation. However, there are two things to worry about here: can you get the part, how long does it take you to get back up and running?

    You can have an emergency kit, a rush part, etc., and hopefully it is a simple matter of swapping the part out. However, if it ends up being a bit more complex of a fix you could be ‘down’ for a much longer period of time. Again, a trade-off between cost (how many spares to keep lying around) and productivity (how long can I afford to be to down for).

    What I am hoping to do now that my drives have all been filled up is to take more of a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach. RAID-1 (mirrored) drives in a NAS (Network Attached Storage) box.

    This means that every box would have two (or you can buy different enclosures with more drives) drives in each, each mirroring the other’s data. If one drive goes down you then swap in a new drive (which you have a spare hanging around) and the array rebuilds. If the enclosure dies you can (someone correct me if I am wrong here) simply pop one of the drives out and put into a ‘simple’ (USB/Firewire) enclosure if it is time sensitive thing you are working on and cannot afford to be down.

    The disadvantage of RAID-1 is it is slow. This would be used for archived versus live files.

    An another interesting option that could be used in conjunction with these different strategies is Amazon’s S3 service, where you pay storage/bandwidth costs based on how much you use. Here you get access to Amazon’s server farm and redundancy. And you can access the files anywhere.


    To sum up the far too verbose comments section:

    1 – HD prices continue to drop and adopting a buy-as-you-need strategy saves $. Downside is ongoing need to purchase need gear.

    2 – DVDs/CDs and other write-once media provide a good safeguard against viruses. Downside is cost/time need to burn them and poor archival qualities

    3 – Identifying if you have a Single Point of Failure in your system is critical. That means that if that one thing breaks it takes you X period of time to get back up and running. RAID controller, enclosure, HD, or fill in the blank.

    4 – Amazon has an interesting new service, S3 which is cheap and robust and may help with storage/archive needs

    And now the questions.

    Most of my questions actually pertain to the file folder structure conventions that you adhere to.

    I am struggling right now to structure my files in such a way that they are easy to find and easy to archive.

    I currently have my folders structured around clients, which makes things easy to find (“I shot a job for so and so”) but is a pain in the neck for archiving purposes as those folders include the RAW/’Live’ data mixed together.

    I am wondering how you deal with your LIVE data in terms of the folder structures and the archived data as well.

    I would love to hear a bit more detail, what-works-and-doesn’t on that front.

    Thanks for staying with me this long,


  15. Lasse October 27, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    Great post!
    Do you use any kind of software to keep track of all your images? like extensis portfolio or iview media pro?
    If so do you have a different approach for your stock images vs your client images? (I imagine so, but to what extend).
    I would really value your answer to these questions as you both shoot stock and client images.

  16. JJ2910 November 12, 2007 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi Chase,

    Must say your blog is an amazing read. Came across it via the ‘Pimp your laptop case’ vid! A point of discussion, when you say DVDs are more volatile, how do you mean? I’ve had HDDs locked in safes go dead, but never a quality DVD in a jewel case! Especially for long term archival… Had a fire in the studio building a while back, and it was locked off to all. Just went home, pulled out the previous day’s backup DVD and voila! delivery was done!


  17. Chase Jarvis November 12, 2007 at 9:52 pm #

    @andrew: Valid points you added. I stand close to my earlier claims as well.

    The writing and reading of DVD’s is what I meant when I said they’re more volitile. And to think of returning (as I did just a couple days ago) with 37,000 D2x and Hasselblad H2D files from my last job, the thought of burning DVD’s is totally absurd. Talking like 50+ DVD’s…no way for me and my crew.

    RE: your questions. I use reverse date, plus client/job identifier, plus unique file name (in the case of images we have the camera give the file three letters plus four numbers sequentially). So a file would look like 20071109_NikeGolf_AAA_0012.NEF

    Folders are arranged in a very complex setup due to the breadth of our work. We have multiple X serve raids that we write to. Very generally, however, we have one raid that gets raw data arranged in folders according to date. The other Raid gets anything that’s been manipulated at all. Folders on this level are called: Image Share, Video Share, Documents, and Transfer. Within image share are a variety of folders… eg the image share has every image thats been manipulated, it has our website stuff, it has all things photographic, broken down just like –after 10 years of playing with this– we like it. Video share has all manipulated (cut, etc) video. Documents – all documents…invoices, contracts, etc.

    Archived data is done in two ways (read the post carefully). All RAW data – photos and video is backed up on its own drive from shoot. Very basic file structure according to that job. That drive is used to write files to while we’re on the job, then comes back to the studio to dump onto the RAIDs, then it lives offsite – forever. Any work that manipulated on a daily or weekly basis (basically all other stuff besides raw data) is backed up nightly to a series of 3 two-terabyte drives. One drive is rotated offsite each week, while the other two onsite get written to nightly, and alternatively, so we’d ever only be out one days work, unless we had a total loss (fire) and in that case we’d be out a week.

  18. Chase Jarvis November 12, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    @ lasse: we use the operating system OSX as our image organizer actually. Our volume crushes the current iteration of portfolio and iView media (millions of images). The OS on the other hand, can handle it, so we stick with it (benefit – don’t get stuck with some system that changes every year or two…)

    Also, assignment and stock images are treated the same. Only main difference is in the contractual release (model and or ability to use the image when any moratorium has ended) – that info we store in the metadata (driven by a custom script that we’ve written). Thus that info is searchable, along with any other metadata we added about file info, client, location or whatever, which we add via a custom script on import, and that’s how we tell em apart. Everything is an stock image, unless it has no release saying it is.

  19. Chase Jarvis November 12, 2007 at 10:00 pm #

    jj2910 = see earlier comments, especailly @ andrew

  20. David Farley December 5, 2007 at 8:40 pm #

    I can’t believe that you actually went through your entire backup protocol for anyone to benefit from. I personally would have no objection to sharing info like this, but most designers, photographers, musicians, sound engineers, videographers, etc. would NEVER do what you just did.

    Very cool, and very informative. Thanks for the info! You rock.

    David Farley

  21. Corey R December 12, 2007 at 11:52 pm #

    Hello Chase,
    Your blog is very very informative. I’m currently a freelance Tv Producer/Amateur photographer, and I find myself not even looking at your work on the web site (Which is very good by the way). I tend to read and watch all of your tutorials and videos more than anything. Anyways this post is very informative and detailed. My question to you is this. Where is this, “off-site” location that the 3rd Raid lives along with all the client back-up hard drives? And is this location filled to the ceiling with hard drives? It must be a big space for the amount of work you do.

  22. Chase Jarvis December 13, 2007 at 1:11 am #

    @ Corey: the offsite location is private, but its it’s local (in Seattle), and specifying its locale does not matter. It’s function is only to prevent catastrophic loss (studio is hit by a missile, off site drives survive). What matters is that it’s off site, away from something bad that could happen to the studio. There is not a 3rd raid at the offsite, it’s just shelves and shelves of labeled hard drives for each job/client. Once or twice a year, we send a crew in to spin up all the drives, check for an errors and if there are any (none to date), we scrap that drive and replace it with a new one, written with the same, raw data (copied from the raid at the studio).

  23. Tim January 11, 2008 at 3:23 pm #


    Just came across your blog while looking for info on back up strategies. i use a Macbook Pro for all of my work (PT professional). I’m needing to add external storage for archiving and have been looking at a 5 bay case I can add drives to (and take off site).

    My question: is it risky to have the primary and back up drive in the same case? Should these really be powered separately, with separate esata cards, etc?

  24. Chase Jarvis January 12, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    @ tim: what I think is most important about main and backup drives is that they’re just never stored together. Data can be written using the same mechanism, but just after writing (and verifying) data – you’ve got to separate the drive locations. (kind of like the president and the vice president rarely being seen together, ya know ;)

  25. Rob March 13, 2008 at 6:39 am #

    You mention that you backup all the RAW files, but do you go through them all and clean out anything before backing up? Like shots that are out of focus etc?

  26. Scott Rinckenberger March 13, 2008 at 9:46 am #


    Scott here, studio manager at CJ Inc. We have adopted a long standing policy of keeping every file. There are two reasons for this. One, it takes time to thin the herd by looking for the “outs”, essentially a separate round of editing. And two, sometimes shots that are out of focus, have misfired strobes, or missed exposures turn out surprisingly beautiful. The small increase in storage needs is more than offset by the time saved in editing and the opportunity to find some diamonds in the rough.

  27. Andrew Ptak May 22, 2008 at 6:42 am #

    Chase, I wonder if you would like to comment on an allied subject to this very good post – and that is the subject of editing workflow when dealing with large volumes of files?

    I just got back from a Resort job in Mexico with about 7500 shots and apart from dumping the obvious losers, I don’t know where to start to edit because I have so many similars.

    They were shot at different times of day and on different days, to capture different clouds etc., and I need to group the similars together in order to edit properly.

    However – they’re all in different folders (I had to break them up to import and convert them in Lightroom because it couldn’t handle the whole batch in one run because of memory issues). The obvous answer is to make a list of subects/scenes and copy the keepers to individual folders named for that subject. Then I can view them all together in Bridge and start editing to find the very best by subect.

    Problem is that it has already taken hours and hours and hours to import from the 250 Gig external drive I took with me and then convert to DNG and then TIFF. If I take what appears to be the obvious next step and copy the keepers from each folder, which are just in filename/shooting sequence, to subject folders, I’ll still be at it for a long, long time.

    I won’t even be at my final edit until about a week after I got back. There has to be a better way. As someone who shoots an awful lot of frames on a job, I’m sure you’ve developed a better way of working than me. Care to share? Thanks.

  28. gene May 22, 2008 at 10:41 am #


    enjoy your work and work ethic.

    been an ip pro since ’70 starflash at 14 –

    your approach to backup and recovery is very profound – works well for you i’m impressed – i’d think you were right with me the last 3 decades.

    going to a backup and restoring data is far easier than recreating it. you either spend the money on prevention or the cure

    i like your way

    gene schroer

  29. Tabb Firchau May 23, 2008 at 12:01 am #


    This seems like a great setup you have going. I am working on setting up something similar for our studio but the one thing I failed to understand is what is your workflow for the LIVE work after a project is done and delivered? Does this stay on the Xserve Raid?

    Problem I see with that is at least for us the LIVE work folder would quickly get too big to backup to the 1 or 2TB externals on a nightly basis. Do you move this to the clients archive folder once the project is done?

    Also any thoughts on online backup solutions like photoshelter or Amazon S3? They sound good in theory until I think of actually uploading all that data.

    Thanks for sharing your setup, it provided a nice template (albeit much larger then we need) for us to update the system

  30. scott rinckenberger May 23, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    Andrew: Scott here, from Chase’s studio. Hoping to help with the editing inquiry. We do a lot of editing large volumes of work both for content and for categorization. We like to use Aperture as the editing and categorization tool, not to mention the file prep and output. Our general workflow involves creating a new library for each shoot which is built on a local drive and references images stored on our server. Within this library you can make albums for each category, or you can keyword images as you edit and create a smart album based on these keywords. This keeps all of your work in one place, and it also doesn’t increase your storage volumes by duplicating the keepers.

    The downside of the integrated applications such as Aperture and Lightroom at present is their inability to be shared over a network. This is what prompted us to create libraries for each shoot which we “check out” from the server to a local machine while we work, then return the library to the server for storage.

    Hope this helps!

  31. scott rinckenberger May 23, 2008 at 10:29 am #

    Hi Tab, Scott here. We have found that our live work area on the server has managed to remain relatively small, especially in comparison to our RAW and Video storage. Such a low percentage of our files go on to be finished files, that even a large shoot will often generate less data in the form of finished files than even half a day of actual shooting on the same job. Thus far we’ve been able to continue store all of our live work on the server and back it up to removable 2tb hard drives. There is certainly a race going on between our data volumes and the external drive capacities. We will archive, or further segment our data into manageable chunks should that become necessary, but for the time being, the fine folks at LaCie are releasing bigger drives every time we hit a wall.

    As to the online image hosting, I’m with you. Great in theory, but imagine moving the kind of data we generate via the internet! That said, you can provide them with drives that they will use to upload the data. If you don’t have access to a secondary location for your data backup storage, by all means these solutions are worth looking into very closely. We do use Amazon to host a lot of our web content such as videos, podcasts, etc. Photoshelter is a great solution to have a collection available online from anywhere anytime. We’ve looked into it as a place to host images on a project specific basis, but are not inclined to use it as a backup solution mostly due to the logistical overhead.

    Hope this helps.

  32. Tabb Firchau May 23, 2008 at 10:09 pm #

    Thanks Scott for the reply!

    Take Care


  33. Michael September 1, 2008 at 11:27 am #

    It’s a bit past the time this blog post was originally written, but I’d like to add to the realm of solutions: the Drobo from Data Robotics claims to offer an incredibly simple and fail-safe redundant disk array that uses robotics to manage the storage array.

    The main operation is simple: put up to four SATA II drives in the enclosure, connect it to your computer via USB 2.0 or FireWire800 (a recently added feature), and the total available capacity equals the sum of all drives minus the largest drive, which is used for parity. If you fill up the array, simply pull out a drive and replce it with a larger one. If a drive fails, just pull out that one and pop in a new one.

    Folks like Cali Lewis (video podcaster of and Leo Laporte (podcaster, TWiT network) use the Drobo, so it has to be *somewhat* reliable.

    I’m not a professional (or even really amatuer) photographer, not do I own a Drobo so I can’t vouch for how well it works. However, the concept is attractive on some level.

  34. 27Clicks January 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    Forget the Drobo and other USB or NAS devices. Get a (Windows) Home Server or build one yourself and install the Home Server Operating System on it.

    HP’s MediaSmart Server is probably the most popular and the sleekest. And I believe that they’re now releasing a version that is also Mac compatible.

    It’s the best thing ever (for the average person), making backing up one or more computers on the same network.

  35. John Hildebrand Photography April 23, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    that was a lot of great info. I learned a lot and now just order some more hard drives to back my stuff up.

  36. backupvault October 2, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Would you consider using some of the online backup services as a potential solutions to your disaster recovery/backup needs for all of your photos,loads of these services are available online with mirrored storage.


    John Doyle

  37. RC Cone October 28, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    Thank you! I am still small and growing, but knowing a professional backup system is certainly something to work towards.

  38. Erik W October 30, 2009 at 7:39 am #


    Thanks a lot the very informative post.

    A question: how do you handle the job when everything's done and delivered? Judging by the post; I understand that you have an external drive with the original shoot already archived off-site, but where does the manipulated files etc. end up? Another drive that's backed up twice?

    I'm very thankful for any information about this.


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