Managing photo and home movie collection
August 6, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I share cameras and devices and would like to have a shared photo archive and management system. Because he has a PC and I have a macbook and movie clips and editing are making our library huge, ideally I'd like to manage all our photos and home movies from an external hard drive. What software would be best for this?

Maybe some relevant info:
- I've bought a 1TB external hard drive
- Most of my library is managed by Picasa right now, which I'm happy with
- We would like to use the portable hard drive for managing home movie clips and making basic movies also.
Also, how likely to crash are modern portable hard drives? If this is our only archive of photos, what would the best (cheap and secure) way of backing up this photo library, assuming we didn't need easy access to the library? Burning to discs? Cloud storage? Another hard drive?

posted by hannahlambda to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You're looking at the edge of the rabbit hole of digital media management for the home.

I was thinking about different media management solutions and remembered I had come across this article I had saved to Pocket some time ago:

I'll give you a quick rundown of how we manage a lot of digital media in our home. We have two NAS (Network Attached Storage) which, between the two have a capacity of approximately 14TB. These are connected to the home wireless network and a battery backup (UPS) and are available 24/7. After fighting with a number of different pieces of software over the past decade, I've been rather happy with using itunes for managing a very large music (approximately 1.5TB) collection, and Picasa/dropbox for my photos. We have a very large movie collection, and I have found that the most reliable setup to date has been mapped network drives (windows) and auto-mounted (by adding to start items in OSX, and some terminal shenanigans in Linux) shares, which we access via file browser.

I have recently installed Plex on my NASs, and while it looks to have great potential as a media management app (and I was going to mention it to you) I have been super busy, and as neither Mrs. Chosemerveilleux nor I have problems having any movie or TV show on the network on whatever screen we choose in a half a minute or less, I haven't really felt the need to really delve into it.

External hard drives are really meant to be used in a backup capacity primarily, and not as an always on/available server. Not only are most of the external HD enclosures not suited to being run 24/7, the hard drives which come with them aren't really suited to that duty either. If you are fine with plugging in the drive and turning it on every time you want to access your media, then I guess you'll be able to get away with it. Many media applications get grumpy when the media folders they're linked to come and go, so YMMV.

You definitely do not want to have only one copy of whatever data you have. Having been working on and around computers and their hardware for the past 20 years, when it comes to harddrives its not an "if" but a "when" argument as to failure. There's a reason why most hard drive manufacturers have shortened their warranty periods, and that is in part because as capacity has increased, failure rates (at least with some manufacturers) have risen as well. I used to really like Seagate and the Western Digital Green or Blue drives. You couldn't give me one of those drives now. As you amass more important data, you're going to want to invest in a more robust way of storing it, and that's going to mean stepping up to more reliable/appropriate hardware (Drobo, QNAP, etc) which will provide not only more reliable anytime access to media, but more reliable backups.

To close, I do use cloud storage for sharing/collaboration and small backups, but cloud storage is still not cheap (at least when you get to large amounts of data), and when it is cheap (Google Drive)you have to worry about the fine print in the terms of service, ownership of data, security, etc., etc., etc. I don't think that, for a large media (1TB or greater) collection, using the cloud as your safety net for data loss prevention is a really viable option, at least in a non business capacity. Rotating multiple backups of important data, preferably with one copy kept at another location (in case the house burns down. Seriously) is really the only way to keep data loss worries to a minimum. PM me if you have any specific hardware questions/concerns. Good luck!
posted by chosemerveilleux at 9:44 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

After my honeymoon I was backing up my backup hard drive when my wife knocked the hard drive off the table. Instant hard drive death. It is possible that some, or even all the data was recoverable but because the files were stored elsewhere it wasn't a worry.

My home setup is currently this: External hard drive stores all of my photos. This is my primary storage because it is too big for my laptop hard drive. I back this up via ftp to my NAS every month or so or when I am going to be emptying my memory cards. I like doing this via ftp because it makes it harder for malware or an accidental key press to delete everything. Everything up to June has been copied to a portable hard drive that is in my office desk. Next year I will buy a new hard drive to use as my primary storage and the existing one will come to my office as offsite backup.

I also make use of the cloud. Using Lightroom I export JPG files of all my images to my Flickr account and the images stored there would be sufficient for most printing needs in the event I were to lose everything else. I have also sprung for 1TB of Google Drive storage and have copied all of my raw files there. For me, the Drive account is equal parts backup and sharing. Flickr isn't enough because it doesn't work with raw files. Something like Crashplan isn't enough because it doesn't treat my raw files as photos, but only as files. Plus Drive/Google photos has features like auto awesome and stories that I find to be good prompts to actually do something with my photos.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:20 PM on August 6, 2014

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