My Archival Workflow…


In regard to the last post, “dPS: 5 Ways To Never Lose Your Photos“, I thought it would be good to share the workflow that has served me well for the past couple of years:

  1. Copy/move from CompactFlash

    The first step is pretty obvious, get your photos off the card! (Generally, I move them off the card at this point, but if I don’t have any available media for step 2, or the pictures are incredibly important, I’ll leave the originals on the card and switch to my backup card.)

  2. Backup to CD/DVD

    Now it’s time to backup to the first type of archival media – I use two 2gb CompactFlash cards, which lends well to being backed up on DVD if they’re both full (since a DVD typically holds 4.7gb of data on a single layer). If I haven’t taken a full 4gb of photos in a day, I’ll either wait until I have 4gb of photos to back up, or just back up to a CD.

  3. Copy to small external HD (120gb)

    First step in the department of redundancy department, use SyncToy to synchronize my recent photos to my external hard drive. I use SyncToy instead of merely copying the files because this ensures that any straggling data gets copied over to the external HD, and because it just makes the process simpler. No half-completed file transfers I have to dig through to figure out what did and didn’t get transferred – it will give me a report at the end.

    You can find SyncToy for download here: http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/synctoybeta.aspx

  4. Copy from small (120gb) to large external HD (750gb)

    Second step in the department of redundancy department, similar to the step above, though this is a longer-term storage, and it only involves files that have already been archived to the 120gb drive, not directly downloaded to my computer from the CompactFlash card. The reason for this is, of course, redundancy and data integrity. Since this transfer happens less often than the transfer to the 120gb from my computer, there’s less likelyhood of data corruption, and I always try to verify (to the best of my ability) the integrity of the data I’m about to transfer to “cold storage”. I haven’t yet filled up this 750gb drive yet, but as soon as it gets close, I’ll look into getting a Drobo: http://www.drobo.com/Products/drobo.html

  5. Review past archived media (CD/DVD)

    Any type of data gets outdated at some point. Luckily, there are some basic photographic standards that have been pretty solid throughout the years (TIFF, JPEG, etc.), but it’s always worthwhile to look at old media, pictures or otherwise, and make sure that both the media is still in good condition and that the media is easily accessible by modern hardware/software.

That’s my process for now, and has worked for me for the past couple of years, as I mentioned above. Unfortunately, it took me some trial and error to find out this approach, and there were some photo casualties along the way. I’m still trying to dig up my old (pre-2003) photos, but multiple location moves and changes of hardware may have lost these older photos for good.

Remember, backup, backup, backup!

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