How I backup and sync Lightroom catalogs by Neil Alexander

The topic of today's post is a follow up to last week's ditty on backing up images. 

The background; I hate keywording, and I'm lazy. I'd much rather sit in front of the TV with my Macbook Air on my lap and keyword watching some Sky Atlantic dross than be chained to my desk late into the evening pouring over images. So after some painful trial and error I managed to put together another pivotal stage in my workflow which I couldn't have done in the days before "The Cloud".

I want to have my two primary catalogs - client work & personal work (along with a host of archived catalogs) available on my iMac and I also want the two primaries synchronised and available on my Macbook Air for when I'm travelling or keywording in front of the TV in my pyjamas. Thanks to the marvel that is Dropbox , I can pick which catalogs I want on my Air and keep them in sync with my workhorse iMac. Once I've been through and bashed out some more keywords  (Cradoc's fotoKeyword Harvester is invaluable for this), I simply close down Lightroom and within minutes it has synced back up to my Dropbox account and replicated back to my iMac. If I've performed a substantial import into Lightroom on my iMac, then the sync can take anything up to an hour but it all takes place so seamlessly that once I've had my dinner, or put the kids to bed then my Macbook is bang up to date and ready for keywording, tagging etc. 

In the event that it doesn't sync properly or a conflict occurs, then the Dropbox service will creative a duplicate .lrcat file and append the name of which ever machine the conflicted copy appears on. It's then a simple case of deciding which version I want to keep - but this happens very rarely and when it does, it's usually down to "user error".

Never one to entirely trust my data to someone else, my Dropbox data is all synchronised once a week using Chronosync to my Drobo, which in turn is piped back up to Backblaze, so once again I have everything in triplicate. I even have Lightroom set to backup and optimise my catalogs once a week, and these are also Dropboxed.

It's not the cheapest service in the world (I have 200GB for $199pa and store all manner of documents and artwork in there) but it works all the time, every time. Far more convenient than having to cart around an external hard drive which can be a right faff when using a laptop on your lap. 

Using Dropbox, it also means that all the important business materials; accounts, invoices etc are also available on my iPad or iPhone when I'm out 'n' about.  

If you've never used the service, then use any of the links above and take it for a whirl. You might be pleasantly surprised.

And the images up top? They were shot on a recent trip to Malta - see more of them here.

How many backups is enough? by Neil Alexander

Over the years I've been bitten by one too many IT failures (well more like twenty too many but that's another story) so I've honed my download and backup procedure to the point that it now requires minimum human intervention and cost and provides maximum resilience. I'm sure there are probably better and more efficient routines, but mine works just fine form me, thanks. So just how many backups are enough? Well in my opinion; if I lose one local copy, then I'd want immediate access to another local copy. If both local copies go, then I want instant access to an offsite backup too. But I want a secure offsite backup system that is automatic and provides speedy access to my data should I need it. Unfortunately this is one box I have as yet been unable to tick, so I have an extra step. But I'll outline all this below.

So my procedure is as follows:

  1. I download cards via Lightroom onto an external 2TB USB3 drive. Copying of the files themselves is generally very quick. 
  2. The conversion to DNG and the generation of the Lightroom previews takes a little longer, but whilst this is going on I kick off Chronosync which runs a cloning job to another external 2TB Western Digital SATA drive that I have sitting in a USB caddy
  3. Once this data begins to appear on the secondary backup drive, the BackBlaze application begins to upload the new images to my encrypted backup cloud service. 
  4. The problem with storing backups on the cloud is that there are now over 4TBs worth of my files up there. If I wanted it in a hurry, I'd be stuffed. So what's the extra step so that I can have almost instant access to Terabytes of backups?  I have another external USB hard drive caddy that I also clone to using Chronosync. I only do this once a week and store it in a secure location in a fireproof box within handy access of my office but in an entirely separate building (AKA the garage - it's about 25 yards from my house).

Some time ago, it became apparent that no matter how diligent I was at deleting rubbish, that 2TB of primary disk space was going to rapidly run out. So at the end of each year, I archive the year before last's files off onto my Drobo and this is also synced with BackBlaze. I found to my determinant that using a Drobo as a primary access drive was a far from reliable solution so essentially it serves as backup of a backup for my photographs and runs as a music server for the entire house. 

There you go. Simples. I have one primary working drive and 3 backups. Maybe it's overkill but it gives me peace of mind that I wouldn't have without any of the individual steps.

So that's all fine for image files I hear you say, but what about the just as critical Lightroom catalogues - what do you do with them? Well for those little nuggets of goodness, you're going to have to swing by next week…..

Oh and the images above? They were shot at Chatsworth Country Fair last year on my little (in size but big in ability) Fujifilm X-Pro 1

Selected from the web - April 14th by Neil Alexander