Please help with my major photo backup plan!
May 14, 2012 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I want to consolidate the photo collections from 5 PCs and a Mac, fling them onto one drive (regularly backed up) and then access the drive from any of these computers with great convenience. Have you ever done anything like this? Any pointers? More inside...

I have tens of thousands of photos (estimate around 600gb) spread across about 5 PCs, some of which are vulnerable to failure, others I have just bought.
Wife is always asking for pics and I never even know which PC (or Mac) they are on. Some PCs I have backed up, others I’m not even sure about. I want all my pics to be safe and accessible but this is also about consolidating the collection onto at least one version of the truth.
My dream is to have all photos in one place, on one drive that will be regularly backed up. The drive will be accessible from all PCs, smartphones would be a bonus too.
I’m planning to buy a 1-bay NAS enclosure from Qnap or Synology and add a 2TB drive. Then I’ll add a 2TB usb drive and automate a backup every night.
I’ll also buy a homeplug system so I can get a fast connection via Ethernet in power sockets.
My question is, have you done a similar project, what did you do, has it worked or do you wish you did things differently.
Does my approach look like a good way of solving my problem or have I missed something fundamental?
Any other ideas I should consider? Any software which would help de-duplicate or catalogue the collection?
posted by razzman to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've done something similar for the same reason: photos, but also the music, book and video collections. Both QNAP (our system) and Synology (my brother's) have nice software on their boxes. Network mounted drives are transparent to users and quick with wired ethernet. I make the drive available as both an SMB drive and via nfs. This seems to work for most devices, but I'm not sure about macs. Wireless access is a bit slower, but still usable. I would not want to do NAS admin (ie lots of copying) wireless, however.

One thing you're not doing with that plan is off-site backup. Unfortunately, most of the common on-line backup companies (crashplan, etc...) will not backup a network drive, at least with their retail plans. One option is to mirror a copy back to a local drive in one of the PCs, then use Crashplan or Mozy or whatever to backup the drive. To do network drives directly usually requires a business license, costing a lot more.

I prefer to swap physical drives with a friend or family member. I give periodic snapshots on external drives to my brother and vice versa. An archive that's a few weeks or months old is better than none at all after a robbery or a fire.
posted by bonehead at 2:43 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whatever route you end up going, my first piece of advice is to just dump all of the photos and folder structures onto the NAS/final storage place. If I tried to sort everything before moving it over, I would never finish the migration. Instead, you can have some kind of master Photos folder. Within it, you have 7 folders. 1 is just called Photos, and that's where everything new or sorted will go. The others are named things like "old - Mac" and "old - Windows XP desktop." That's where you dump everything from those computers. If you get motivated you can go through those old folders, organize, and move the organized photos to the new Photos folder. But at least all of your data is moved to a central place to simplify locating pictures and scheduling backups.

I have to admit that I don't understand why people prefer NAS to a USB hard drive, unless you want RAID or your household is going all-laptop. So one option would be to just buy a 2 TB USB drive and make that the network drive. That's what I do - I just have a 3 TB drive attached to desktop computer. It reduces the need for network troubleshooting (since it's directly connected to at least 1 PC) and allows me to use standard tools on my data drive (see next paragraph).

Finally, backups: you really should consider an offsite backup. There could be a power surge, or a virus, or a flood, or a big party with lots of spills, or a robbery that nets both the NAS and the drive. Or you could just do something unfortunate that ends up wiping all of your data on both drives - it's not that hard. Or you could just forget to mirror your drive for a long time. Frankly, the cheapest 2 TB drive on Newegg is $120. You can buy 3 years of unlimited backup storage on Crashplan for that much, and Crashplan has the advantage of being off-site and completely automated. As for the "doesn't work with a network drive" issue, that's not an issue if you just connect a USB drive to a desktop and use that as the shared data drive - and if you're stuck on NAS there are ways around that issue too.

Sure, 600 GB will take forever to upload to Crashplan, but once it's complete the benefits are immense. You could lose every piece of electronic equipment you own in a fire and you would still have your data.
posted by Tehhund at 3:04 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

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