Posts tagged: backup

Digital workflow

A while ago when I got my camera (well, the “real” camera) and the first week of euphoria and countless of useless pictures passed, I realized that I need some sort of archiving mechanism. So I did some research and after much reading I arrived at the solution that I used ever since. It’s a combination of what I read on various sites and blogs (unfortunately I don’t have their addresses any more) and some of my own ideas.

I usually work either on my computer at home or on my laptop when I am away. I could either keep the images on the laptop/desktop and sync them when I am at home or just work on a portable hard drive. The portable disk made more sense so I got myself a 320GB Seagate FreeAgent Go USB drive, storage is quite cheap these days:

The drive is nice, physically small, fast and big enough for what I need. I just connect it to whatever computer I happen to be using, the desktop at home or the laptop while I am on the go.

To manage the photo collection I use Adobe Lightroom, which is in my opinion the best tool for the job. Lightroom organizes photos in “catalogs” and I personally have 4 of them:

  • Incubator: this is where I import the pictures from the camera. Once the pictures are imported, I go through them and delete the trash right away. Then, the most important step, I edit the pictures’ Metadata which is made very easy by Lightroom. On import I already insert common copyright info (my name, website, etc) but now I also update the image location, the city and country. Based on this info and the image timestamp, Adobe makes managing very large collections quite easy.

    After I do that, I work on the images and I edit them in Lightroom as needed (brightness, contrast, exposure, noise reduction, sharpening, color correction, etc). Depending on what I want to do, I might send them to an external editor for further processing: Photomatix for HDR or maybe Adobe Photoshop for more complex editing. Only after the processing is done I decide what to do with the image. I use 2 color labels for that:

    • Green: images which I consider to be “keepers”, this is where I choose the pictures I might publish on Deviantart or other similar websites.
    • Blue: personal images. They are things like portraits, family pictures, and so on.
  • Selected: This is where the images labeled as “Green” go.
  • Personals: This is where the images labeled as “Blue” go.
  • All Raw: This is where I copy every image from the Incubator catalog. It includes images of both blue and green labels as well as the raw images. This is a sort of backup catalog and I don’t usually look here often unless I need the raw version of a image to recreate something. This is also the biggest catalog since it contains all the pictures I made so far.

Each catalog has its own folder on the USB drive and images are organized based on the date: Year – Month – Day. That is done automatically by Lightroom when the images are imported from the camera. The powerful filtering makes it quite easy to sort through thousand of image:

I almost always shoot in RAW and not in JPEG. Yes, the resulting image can be up to 20MB, much bigger than a JPEG and you need to spend some time to post process it in Lightroom but you are much more flexible and the end result is far superior. I only export JPEG copies of the images I want to upload on the web. So far I don’t have problems with the space, the biggest catalogs are the AllRaw and Selected, with 42GB and 17GB.

Once the images in the Incubator are copied to the other 3 catalogs and I make sure they are correctly imported there, I empty the Incubator. This whole process works ok for me. The portable hard drive makes it easy to switch between laptop and desktop, where I have the same tools installed.

Of course, backup is important too. The catalogs themselves (which are actually the Lightroom databases) are backed up on my home NAS server, as well as the physical images. I may switch soon to backup to the cloud backup everything on the Jungledisk account. The whole portable drive is fully encrypted with Truecrypt  so even if I somehow loose it, nobody can really rummage through my personal collection.

That’s about it. I don’t know if this is the best solution and I am sure it does not work  for everybody or it might be overkill for some but it suits my purposes ;-)

Digital life and backups

More and more of the data in our lives these days is in digital format, rather than plain paper or other physical media. The information we gather on our computers at home grows each day, there is a constant influx of it: new documents, emails, music, pictures, videos and so on.

Some years ago I started scanning every single letter or invoice that I would get. For the important stuff I am still keeping the paper version filled in  folders but most of it is now in digital format. It’s a lot easier and faster to work with it, if you need it. And of course a lot faster to search for something.  Of course ,when you have so much digital data then you don’t want to lose it, you need to back it up.

Some time ago I bought a small network server, a D-link DNS-323 NAS, and I put inside two 1TB hard drives in a RAID-1 configuration (which basically means the hard drives mirror each other). So if one drive fails, I don’t lose anything.  It sits on our home network and we use it to store all our documents, pictures, music and movies. You might think 1 TB is a lot or space but when you talk about movies and music, it’s not.

But what happens if the whole box breaks down ? Or gets stolen, or blows up,  or gets hit by a micro black hole, or whatever ? That will be a huge inconvenience and some data on it is  actually irreplaceable.  So I’ve been looking into ways of backing  up my stuff online.

There are many options out there, from using your own webspace, to dedicated backup services, to cloud backup, some free some not. They all have their advantages and disadvantages you have to take into account. For example today’s home internet connections are indeed fast and they get faster but that’s only the downstream. The upstream is usually a lot lower than that and that is exactly what you use when you back your stuff up online. In order to get around that, you have to upload only what is changed, so that you keep the transmitted information to a minimum.

Then of course, you want your information to be secure. You don’t want to depend on your backup provider on that, you want your data to be encrypted while it’s being transmitted and also while it’s being stored.

After pondering all kind of solutions I decided to go with Jungledisk. The software does incremental and encrypted backups and you can choose between 2 cloud storage providers. One of them is Rackspace Cloud (Rackspace actually owns Jungledisk) and the other one is Amazon S3. The advantage of cloud storage is that the data is not stored in a single datacenter, in a single location. It’s actually spread over more datacenters in different geographical locations, which means it’s a lot less likely to lose everything in case of a major disaster.

In the $3 monthly fee you have 5GB included but if you go above that, you only pay what you use. I chose to go with Rackspace as a storage provider and you pay $0.15 per stored GB and no transfer fees, which is really dirt cheap I would say. Jungledisk is cross-platform, having 32bit and 64bit versions for Windows, Linux and Mac. In my case I run it on my home Ubuntu server, where data from the home computers as well as from the NAS is backed up to the cloud. If you want you can also access your files securely over the web.

So far it’s working fine and I think $3/month for your peace of mind is not much at all.