How I store and backup my photography

Storing and backing up efficiently and securely more than ten years of photography is a complicate technical task.

At the center of my setup I use a Synology DS1515+ NAS, with 8 disks configured in Raid 6 for a total of 14.54TB of available storage.

I wrote about this set up a year ago, but I recently updated it to be more streamlined and secure. 

The Adobe Ligthroom catalog I use to organize and edit all my images must be stored on a local drive and not on a network drive.

This is a limitation of Lightroom that I have to work around.

I still want full automatic back up of the catalog and hourly snapshots to be able to quickly recover mistakes or corruption. To store and synchronize the catalog, I use Synology Drive, a software similar to dropbox. The files in a Synology Drive are stored locally, but they are automatically synced to the remote NAS as soon as there is any change.

All recent versions of the catalog and images are also stored on the NAS and can be easily recovered when necessary.

Another advantage of this setup is that I can share my Lightroom catalog with any machine on my network, be it my Macbook or iMac: in other words I can import images on my Macbook, edit on my iMac and eventually go back to my Macbook to prepare a prepare a print.

All changes are shared automatically across every computer.

It also means, for example, that I can import images from the camera on my Macbook while on the road and eventually see my images replicated on the NAS as long as I have an internet connection or as soon as I come back home.


And automatic.

My older images that I rarely access are copied to a shared network folder that is only stored on the NAS (and not locally).

I can still access this network driver from anywhere in the world across the network in case of emergency. It's obviously much slower than locally available files, but I don't need to use precious local disk space.

All remote communication goes through an encrypted HTTPS channels, which is very secure.

Both the dropbox-like folder and the shared network folder are snapshotted every fifteen minutes by the Synology NAS: in other words I can recover anything image older than fifteen minutes up to a year.

Snapshotting has saved me more times than I can count at the expense of some limited NAS storage (the system is very efficient).

Last month, for example, Lightroom found that my catalog was corrupt and refused to open it. Ten years of carefully tagging and annotating every image gone. I immediately reached to the versioning database, but I couldn't find a good version of the catalog to roll back to. 

Snapshots to the rescue: I recovered a snapshot of the catalog from the day before that I knew was safe, restored it and Lightroom was again happy.

I had two more levels of redundancy beyond snapshots, just in case.

White Dunes

In fact, both the dropbox-like folder and the shared network folder are backed up automatically every night on an external USB disk connected to the Synology NAS, with full history. Should anything happen to the disks on the Synology NAS or should I make any mistake, I can recover images up to a year old from the external USB backups.

All my images are also constantly backed up automatically in the cloud. 

I use Amazon drive which is free for Prime users: when any image is automatically stored on the Synology NAS, the images are also automatically copied to the cloud. along with the Lightroom catalog.

I must stress the point that, once set up, all the redundancy happens automatically without any intervention from me.

I use Lightroom as usual with the only caveat of closing it once the work is done and copying old images to the shared network folder once a year.

Lightroom handily keeps track of the location of all my images and lets me search by tags when needed.

I recently reworked an Image from Iceland I took in 2010: the raw file was stored on the server, indexed by Lightroom and readily available to me.

Gullfoss watrerfall, Iceland.

Having the peace of mind that I can recover all my work should any disaster happen is invaluable.


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