Hard Drive Toaster making my workflow “like butter”

I have been hearing reports of desktop ‘hard drive toasters’ a lot recently. To the point where I did the research and ended up ordering one to try out. I do have an external hard drive enclosure in my studio that holds 5 drives. I can change out drives to do backups using a screwdriver, but the desktop version is a much more realistic option in terms of actually doing the regular backups and now gives me the option of doing backups wherever I happen to be.

The EZSTOR working away in the background running a backup while I type this post...

I’m writing this post while stationed at the Life Flight Trust at Wellington Airport. I am syncing older materials to my desktop machine (pulled the hard drive out before coming in). It’s literally plug and play, USB – works as you would think. The one I got was the Welland EZSTOR SATA Docking Station. This is USB 2.0 which is the same speed as my on location USB external drives.

The big Aha moment I had recently while on a run was that I can change my entire workflow to suit my way of working. My existing workflow consisted of having a location based system, with lightroom running on the laptop, and 1 external drive holding the photos + 2 more as backups. Then the process was to transfer these to a separate set of drives at the studio. It meant working through a series of folders to keep track of what was ready to archive and what still needed work done. The down side of this workflow was that I did not have access to all of the curent years work while on location.

My new workflow is to have the current years photos stored on one ‘master’ drive (external 2.5 inch USB) which is with me at all times. On download, the files are backed up to 2nd 2.5 inch USB drive – which at the end of a working session gets updated using Chronosync to lock in the edits made on the ‘master’ drive. I also backup up to a temporary 3rd 2.5 inch USB drive while on location. When I get home or the studio – the ‘master’ gets mirrored to a 3.5 inch HD. At the studio, the 3.5 inch HD is housed in my ‘server’, an old G5 machine which powers the hard drive enclosure with currently 5 Hard Drives containing every photo I have taken.

At home, the ‘master” gets mirrored to another 3.5 inch HD using the Toaster. This is a simple matter of connecting the ‘master’ and the backup drive to the laptop + running Chronosync. I also make sure to make a backup of the Lightroom catalog to the ‘master’ before running Chronosync so that all my work in progress is preserved. The current years work has 4 effective homes. At the end of the month, I backup to 3rd 3.5 inch HD which is housed offsite at my parents home, I just bring along my handy dandy toaster to do this transfer! I always have the last 12 months work with me at all times.

On the ‘master’ drive there are 4 folders:

1_Captures: This is where the photos get put when downloaded from the memory card. I put each shoot into a dated folder with the job number and a brief slug or description of the shoot. For example today’s shoot (if we go up in the Helicopter would get filed as: 2011_12_09_1321 Life Flight).

2_Capture_Archive: These have monthly dated folders like 2_February, or 12_December which the processed raw files (converted to DNG) get filed. This becomes the permanent home of the raw capture files on the 3.5 inch HDs.

3_Derivative_Working: The files get output from Lightroom as TIFF or JPEG into a JOB folder. Eg ‘1321 Life Flight’ These then contain the dated output folders like 2011_12_09_1321 Life Flight and other Utility folders such as the final delivery folder for the client, organized and named to how best suits each client.

4_Derivative_Archive: Once the job is done and ready to file away, its filed in the Jobs folder. The jobs all line up in the order they were assigned and are easy to retrieve. In addition to this, I keep a database of the work posted to my online Assignment Archive. These are saved out to the same structure as appears online (usually date format). This is very handy as I have an offline backup of what appears online – say if I choose to use a different provider or their website were to go down – I can still locate and deliver archive files on request (great for stock requests).

The entire Derivative archive can be separated out from the Capture or RAW archive at any point or kept local longer if works in progress go longer than 12 months. I tend to give all work a job number, even personal shoots.

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