My Data Storage Workflow

My Data Storage Workflow

After watching a couple of Chase Jarvis videos lately about his studios approach to data storage and backup, I thought I’d wade in and give you my smaller scale version. I might not work on assignments the size of Chase’s (yet!) but loosing my images, even if it’s just my personal projects with no paying client, is still not something I want to experience.

I don’t understand the logic in spending money on the latest camera body and quality glass, then risking every single image to save £20 by buying a cheap and nasty CF card. Even with the 5DMkII’s 25MB RAW files I don’t go above 16GB. 500 shots on one card is enough for me, and I don’t keep shooting until they are completely full so there’s always a quiet moment to swap. Once out of the camera, they go to different places – first into my Black Rapid strap pocket, second into my camera bag etc.

After the shoot I get the data from the cards as soon as possible. This is will either be to my MacBook Pro or main iMac depending on where I am. I use Lightroom to copy the data to the on board hard disk and a 2nd external drive at once. In the case of the laptop it’s a 500GB USB driver, with the iMac it’s to my Drobo. I also leave the data on the cards until I need to reuse them – no point in deleting another backup unless you have to. If the data was uploaded to my laptop, it gets imported into the main library on my iMac and Drobo as soon as I get back to base.

So at the is stage I can lose my iMac hard drive and one of the drives in my Drobo and still have a backup. I’ve also still got the original Lightroom catalogue on my laptop and the corresponding backup – although that won’t have any of the adjustments I have made on my main studio computer.

The final chink in my backup armour here is the location of the drives; pretty much side by side. So if the building suffers a power surge, fire, flood or zombie attack I could be in trouble. Enter another couple of bare 500GB drives containing another copy of the data that rotate out to an off-site location after every shoot. No disused cold war bunker or safety deposit vault here – just a different building far enough away not to be caught up in the same natural disaster.

Not quite on the same scale as CJ Inc. but still similar principles at work.

  • Use quality cards and drives
  • Make a backup of the data on your cards a soon after shooting as you can
  • Don’t erase those cards until you have to
  • Always keep your data on more than one drive and;
  • Ideally keep those drives in more than one place.