Award-winning professional photographer Michael Grecco is a big proponent of storing your working archive on local hard drives. We spoke to Grecco earlier this year about inspiration, creativity, and gear in our Finding a New Road article. His latest initiative is a new resource dedicated to sharing helpful information on the topic of archiving your work.
The workflow that Grecco prefers involves the careful storage of individual hard drives in filing cabinets, using a special kind of padded inserts to properly protect the hardware. In a sense, this procedure takes the terminology behind a computer's graphic user interface full circle: The metaphor of the computer's "desktop" was created to give the user a sense of what the environment was supposed to be. That's why we have terms like "files" and "folders," to help us make navigate the digital landscape. When you start filing away your hard drives in actual file cabinets, the metaphor that defined computer terminology no longer seems valid.
Another key tip from Grecco is to use raw hard drives (the same kind that are used internally in desktop computers), as opposed to portable hard drives, which have additional external casings and power supplies. The main benefit that internal hard drives offer is their lower price, but you also benefit from not having to wrangle an army of various-shaped external drives and their messy AC adapters.
Finding a solution for long-term file storage can be a daunting and unpleasant task for photographers, video producers, and musicians. Numerous uncomfortable questions arise: what files should you keep, and how long should you keep them? Do you create redundant backups and maintain copies in multiple geographic locations? Do you rely on physical hard drives, do you use a cloud-based solution, or a combination of the two?
“You never know when an old client will knock on the door asking for something from your archive."
The task of figuring out an archiving strategy may not spark your imagination and get the creative juices pumping, but it's a good idea to get a system into place that enables you to locate and access content from your library quickly. You never know when an old client will knock on the door asking for something from your archive. Being prepared will help you seize these opportunities, and the speed at which you can access and deliver the files will speak volumes for you, professionally.
In regard to the local storage versus cloud debate, I keep my most important files backed up using both options. However, I only do this with family pictures and a select collection of files that I want to make absolutely sure I preserve. If I extended this practice to every single file that I created, it would quickly become impractical. This is often the case if you work with both still images and video in your productions. Backing up a day's worth of HD or 4K video footage to a cloud service requires a lot of bandwidth and great deal of time.
There are many more tips and tutorials available at Michael Grecco's new website howtoarchive.com. If you're looking for long-term storage solutions outside of the cloud, this new website is a great resource.