Late last year I made the switch to Adobe’s Lightroom 4 from Aperture and Picasa for a variety of reasons, but a big one was photo/file management. As my photo collection got larger I found that I’d need more than my laptop’s hard drive to store them all. Despite all the things I liked about Aperture and Picasa, both had clunky file management and the burden was enough to make me consider alternatives. I’m now very happy with the workflow described below using Lightroom, Dropbox, Crashplan, and a Linux file server.
What I Want to Accomplish
I want my setup to enable the following:
Mobile Photo Management: To be clear, when I say “mobile,” I don’t mean smartphone. I take my Canon 5D Mark III everywhere and like to transfer photos to my Apple MacBook Pro immediately. It’s important that I be able to do whatever I need to do no matter where I am, i.e., I don’t want to be tied to my office.
Large Photo Archive: Photos (especially RAW photos) consume a lot of disk space. I want a file server to store any photos that I’m not actively working on. It has to be huge and scalable.
Passive Transport: I want my files to get to my file server as quickly as possible, but I don’t want it to be an active part of my workflow, e.g., I don’t want to get stuck waiting on a FTP program to finish its batch before I can disconnect from a wifi spot or put my computer to sleep. I’d rather it just happen when the opportunity arises.
One-Time, Offsite Backup: Once my files are on the file server, I want them to back up from the server only (i.e., I don’t want my laptop doing a second backup). Also, as I’ve noted before, I like offsite backup of my photos. A local copy isn’t good enough.
Accessibility. When home, I want to easily access all of my photos, whether they’re on my laptop or in the archive.
A few days ago a good friend of mine, Jami, sent me this question via email:
… a while back … you wrote about cloud back ups and I believe you recommended Crash Plan. I tried the free trial but was disappointed because it was SO slow. I like drop box, but couldn’t figure out a way to get it to automatically back up my whole computer like time machine did. I tried hooking up my old time capsule that we used to use as a router directly to my computer via ethernet, but I couldn’t get that to work. SO, I thought maybe it was just a random thing that Crash Plan was so slow the first time, so I signed up again in desperation. For 150+ gb, it says over 57 days?!? Do you think that seems right?
Do you have any other recommendations? I want something that worked like time machine did, preferably cloud based. I’m curious what you’re using.
The following is what I responded with via email, but I’ve actually gotten this question from a few people lately, so I thought I’d post it here. Continue reading →
In the early 90s, my friend’s father took me to EDS where he worked at the time. I remember him saying, “this is one of the largest data centers in the world. They have over 3 terabytes of data in there.” In the homemade box tucked away quietly in my hall closet is a 6x1TB RAID with another 1TB disk for the OS. Add in the media center and 3 laptops and I’ve got a lot of data just waiting to be lost with a disk failure, theft, or an accidental rm -rf.
What I Need in a Backup Solution
As I thought about my data, I came up with a few criteria before I started scouring the net for a solution.
No constraints on backup size – The data I want to backup exceeds 2TB and is growing. I’ve used cool apps like DropBox that have arbitrary upper limits like 100GB. However, the coolest app though won’t do me any good if I can’t backup everything I need. (To be fair, backup is just one tiny element of what DropBox does. I highly recommend that app for the other things it does, like sync.)
Highly configurable – That 2TB I mentioned lives amongst tons of other stuff that I keep as sort of a cache, but wouldn’t miss it too much if it got deleted. I need to be able to clearly specify what data I actually want backed up. Moreover, I need a high degree of control about backup policies, security, etc. I like solutions that make things simple, but in this case there also needs to be a way to get as complicated as I like.
Distributed backups – Part of the reason I have that 6x1TB RAID array is for super-fast local backup. Obviously that won’t do me any good if my house burns down, but if a laptop crashes is way easier to grab 500GB from a local machine than it is to pull it across the net. I want to be able to backup to a service as well as many other computers that I specify both in my house and on the Internet.
Smart, low profile application – Modern OS’s like Mac OS X keep a log of what files have changed. I don’t want a dumb service that does things like that on its own and consumes my computers’ resources. I need something that will run in the background and not make any noise.
Accessibility – I need a service that runs on any platform, specifically Mac OS X and Linux. Moreover, I need to be able to access my backups from the web.
Cheap – I want to pay for storage, not bandwidth. Less than $10/mo is my general rule of thumb.
There are other minor points, but those are the non-negotiable items.