Backups - we all know why they’re needed but why don’t we do it?

Backups are daunting if you're just starting out -- how much do I back up? Where do I back it up? What about all those unorganized photos, movies, songs, etc.? Sometimes it's just easier to ignore the whole thing rather than tackling the whole problem of organizing just to to *get ready* to do those daunting backups. Right?

Well, sure, until that inevitable system crash and resulting data loss sends you out onto that ledge.

Here's the straightforward, easy way to get organized: start now with new data and don't worry about the old stuff for right now. Create an organization system for your photos, music, whatever, and start putting the new stuff into it. Then, after a fashion, you'll get so sick of looking through all the mess of the old data that you'll slowly start bringing it into the organized system and, before you know it, you can find things. Every time. Quickly and easily.

But what about the backups in the interim? Easy. Get an external drive the same size as your current computer's drive and just duplicate the whole thing for now, and do it on some sort of regular basis. Many drives come with software that lets you schedule your backups; Apple's Time Machine is a good example, but there are plenty of others.

Back to the organization thing: there are several schools of thought: one is the giant bucket school, and then there's the "lots of smaller buckets" school, and degrees of bucket size in between.

What that means is this: put all your images on a disk into one folder, but keyword them using an application like Adobe Lightroom, Apple's iPhoto, etc. You can then search for the photos with the application by whichever parameters you've used for the metadata. The date and camera info should be there by default, created by the camera when the photos were taken, so there's two search terms already. Some cameras have internal GPS recording, and then you'll enter things like info about the subject of the photos, the client you've taken them for, or any other pertinent data. Metadata is great, so long as your editing application doesn't strip it out, which some Windows photo editors do for some reason.

With that in mind, here's what I do. On my server (or your computer's hard drive) create a folder called photos or some such thing, then fill that with folders named for clients (or subjects like mom, dad, cats, ponies, carnival rides, vacations, etc.) Within each of those folders are folders named for the dates of the photos:

photos>client1>2009-04-03 2009-08-11
photos>client4>2007-02-15

And so on. Yours could look like this:

photos>kids>2006-04-092008-09-26
photos>vacations>cabin>2009-06

And so on. Just give it a little thought before you start and then be consistent and you'll be OK.

Everybody still with me? Good. Next time I'll expand on some of the details above before moving on to the next step.

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