Data storage

The part of my job that I dislike the most is working at the computer. I'd much rather be outside taking photos! For me this is the major downside of digital photography. However, there's no way around it so I just have to accept it! In order to spend as little time as possible in the office, I like to make sure I have a quick and responsive computer, especially when it comes to downloading and backing up thousands of images.

My external data storage devices can be kept anywhere, which helps to keep my office workspace clear.

I recently had to replace all the hard drives that store my images in my main Mac Pro office computer, as the current ones were almost full. Filling a hard drive to capacity is never a good idea, as it slows the computer down considerably when reading and writing data. I now have all my images stored on a pair of internal 4TB Hitachi hard drives configured as a striped volume (the computer sees them as a single 8TB volume that runs at twice the speed of a single drive, also know as RAID 0). I stuck with Hitachi drives through recommendation and due to the fact that none of my eight current Hitachi drives have failed over the last four years. This 8TB volume should be enough to see me through to my next major computer upgrade. Inside my Mac Pro I will have another identical 8TB volume set up for Time Machine (Apple's hourly automactic back-up system). This acts as an "always on" back-up of my data and also allows me to quickly retrieve any images that I might have accidentally deleted when editing! My OS and apps will continue to reside on a separate SSD (Solid state drive), which is also configured to act as my scratch disk for Photoshop. I use a separate laptop for non-photographic work and for internet use.
As a professional photographer it is essential for me to have a reliable back-up strategy. My livelihood depends upon my image collection, so I need to have multiple back-ups in place. My Time Machine volume inside my Mac Pro is the only backup that remains connected to the computer all the time. I have three external hard drives (now all RAID 0 8TB Hitachi volumes) that are used to clone the data from my 8TB master volume inside the computer. Every week I backup all my image data to one of these external drives. Two are kept off-site at different locations. They are only ever connected to the computer when backing up, as that is the time when they are most vulnerable. I use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy my data incrementally. This speeds the backing up process by only copying data that doesn't appear on the source volume. It also deletes anything on the back-up drive that doesn't appear on the source volume - useful when I have been deleting unwanted images from my master volume. This means that my back-up drives are always an identical clone of the master volume inside my computer. When a back-up is complete I verify data integrity using Diglloyd Integrity Checker.
Until I switched to Mac five years ago I knew absolutely nothing about computers (and I still only know the few bits that are necessary for my work). Everything that I have learnt comes from Lloyd Chambers excellent website MacPerformanceGuide, which has highly detailed and easy to follow information about setting up Mac computers specifically for use by photographers (and now videographers as well). I buy most of my computer equipment from an American company called OWC. They are brilliant to deal with, excellent at giving advice and quicker to deliver than most UK based stores! They also have detailed online video tutorials for setting up various items of computer equipment. I have no affiliation to either of these companies, I'm simply recommending good resources and services.

My new Synology NAS allows me to remotely access my entire image library.

Update: Due to a friend’s recommendation I now also have a separate 12TB NAS which is permanently connected wirelessly to my Mac Pro. This not only serves as an additional backup (with redundancy) but also allows me access to my entire image collection from wherever I have internet access. I can even access image files from my phone and send them directly to clients.

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