Earlier this year I realized my photo and video library had finally outgrown my disk storage capacity. Spending money on bigger hard drives is not at the top of my list, so I made some temporary changes to buy some time to figure out how to modify my file management workflow.
Making Room for Video
My original file management and backup plan was based on primarily storing photo image files with an occasional short video thrown in. Over the last couple of years I’ve been shooting video more regularly which has greatly increased my storage needs, and as I’ve started shooting videos with my drone this summer, I quickly depleted my available disk space.
Previously my storage and backup plan utilized a set of 4 external drives: a portable 500 GB SSD for new and recent photos (last ~2 years) and a second 2 TB external HDD as primary storage for my entire photo (and video) library. The SSD for recent files was labeled “PHOTOS” and the HDD was labeled “PRIMARY”. All of the data on PHOTOS, along with my Lightroom catalog (stored on the computer’s internal SSD) are copied daily to PRIMARY using a scheduled backup.
PRIMARY was copied daily to another external 4 TB HDD called BACKUP_A which was both mirrored daily to yet another 6 TB external HDD (BACKUP_B) and continuously backed up to Backblaze (along with the internal SSD of my laptop). Both of the external backup drives are hidden inside my desk so are unlikely to be stolen if my office is ever broken into.
To create more available storage space without immediately buying a new hard drive, I’ve decided to separate storage of my photos and videos on separate drives and re-purpose the 2 TB HDD for storage of video files. This change has freed up a huge amount of space on the 500 GB SSD for storing only photos. The 4 TB HDD which was previously my first backup drive has now become my primary storage for all photos and videos. The downside is that I only have a single local backup drive, the 6 TB HDD; however, since Backblaze offers unlimited storage, I am now continuously backing up both the 4 TB and 6TB external drives to Backblaze.
With this setup, my recent photos are located on 3 local drives, video files are located on 3 local drives, older photos are located on 2 local drives, and everything is on Backblaze twice (not that I need two copies on Backblaze, but I am backing up 2 separate HDDs). Using a 500 GB SSD for recent photos has worked well for me for several years, so I don’t anticipate needing to upgrade to a larger drive, at least until I upgrade my camera and have to deal with larger image files.
For video, it seems to make sense to keep video files on their own drive. While I’m sure working on an external SSD for video would be better, I have not noticed any issues working with an external HDD with either my iPad Pro or my laptop.
My current external hard drive system consists of the following:
PHOTOS (500 GB SSD): recent (~2 years) photos only
VIDEOS (2 TB HDD): videos only
PRIMARY (4 TB HDD): complete photo library (plus videos for now), continuously backed up to Backblaze
BACKUP (6 TB HDD): local backup for all photos and videos, continuously backed up to Backblaze
I take the PHOTOS drive and sometimes the VIDEO and PRIMARY drives with me when traveling depending on the trip. I like having full access to my entire photo library and being able to make a single backup of imported files while I am traveling. I also keep the files on my SD cards for a while, and I always check to make sure those files have made it on to the BACKUP drive before I reformat an SD card.
For local copies and backups, I use Syncback Free for Windows to copy files from the PHOTOS and VIDEO drives to PRIMARY and to backup PRIMARY to BACKUP. Syncback copies and verifies each file to ensure that an uncorrupted copy is made and also includes an option to detect infection by ransomware so that backup copies are not contaminated.
For cloud backup, I am using Backblaze. Backblaze offers unlimited storage for $70 a year. I’ve had very fast upload speeds for backing up data, and I’ve had a good experience downloading files that I accidentally deleted off my laptop a couple of times. I started using Backblaze instead of buying a third external drive to keep offsite. The cost of a drive pays for about 2 years of Backblaze service, and Backblaze continuously backs up my data whereas I would update an offsite backup every 2 to 3 months at best.
Backblaze also includes 30 days of version history and deleted files by default, and this can be extended to up to one year. This feature is incredibly useful if files are accidentally deleted from the backup drive, or if they should become corrupted because an earlier version of the file can be downloaded.