Multiple Computers - One backup

Started Dec 11, 2013 | Discussions
jkbraun
Regular MemberPosts: 337
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Multiple Computers - One backup
Dec 11, 2013

Here is my situation.

My wife and I run a small photography business (about 100 sessions/year) and it's getting too cumbersome using external drives and backing them all up.  What I am really looking for is a solution to work across 2 computers without having to physically swap drives back and forth to back them up and edit.  This may be a Drobo type drive, online storage or anything else you can recommend.

I need to be able to simultaneous access the drive from both computers, be able to open/edit images from either computer and most importantly have a brainless (automatic) way of backing up all data without having one of us to physically remember to back up after editing.

Thanks in advance.

gaussian blur
Veteran MemberPosts: 4,763
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Re: Multiple Computers - One backup
In reply to jkbraun, Dec 11, 2013

jkbraun wrote:

Here is my situation.

My wife and I run a small photography business (about 100 sessions/year) and it's getting too cumbersome using external drives and backing them all up. What I am really looking for is a solution to work across 2 computers without having to physically swap drives back and forth to back them up and edit. This may be a Drobo type drive, online storage or anything else you can recommend.

I need to be able to simultaneous access the drive from both computers, be able to open/edit images from either computer and most importantly have a brainless (automatic) way of backing up all data without having one of us to physically remember to back up after editing.

Get a Time Capsule and enable Time Machine on both computers. They will automatically back up to the Time Capsule in the background, without you needing to do a thing. Set it and forget it.

You can also use some of the space on the Time Capsule for shared storage although it's preferred to have a separate network drive for that.

Every so often, clone your drive and put a copy offsite, which protects against fire, flood, theft, etc.

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noirdesir
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Re: Multiple Computers - One backup
In reply to gaussian blur, Dec 11, 2013

gaussian blur wrote:

jkbraun wrote:

Here is my situation.

My wife and I run a small photography business (about 100 sessions/year) and it's getting too cumbersome using external drives and backing them all up. What I am really looking for is a solution to work across 2 computers without having to physically swap drives back and forth to back them up and edit. This may be a Drobo type drive, online storage or anything else you can recommend.

I need to be able to simultaneous access the drive from both computers, be able to open/edit images from either computer and

You want shared access to a volume with all your images. For that you need network access to storage, ie, a 'server' that can give access to the same files to more than one user. In principle one of the computers could act as a server to give the second computer access to the shared storage. But that requires that this computer is always running. And while OS X server (ie, OS X + the $20 add-on applications that Apple sells, which make configuring and running a server easier and more powerful) is a good server there are just too many dependencies that make this solution a bit fiddly.

Thus, a dedicated device, ie, a NAS (network attached storage) is probably the better way to go. And while the TC can do this, it is not exactly optimised for speed. And while it can be expanded via USB, the speed of that connection has been shown to be really subpar. Therefore, I'd recommend a third-party NAS. Things to decide there are if you want multiple disks and some kind of RAID of if a single HDD (ie, 4 GB max currently) is enough for.

But you still need to sort out how you will ensure that concurrent access to the same files doesn't cause problems. For single images that probably can be handled with a bit of human cooperation. For DAMs (in particular those that offer image adjustments, eg, Lightroom or Aperture) concurrent access is not really possible. Only one person could use such a catalogs at the same time (you can of course set up multiple catalogs, but you'd still need to coordinate the use of them and all images within one catalog are inaccessible to user B while user A is using the catalogue containing them). Another option is to have two libraries, one on each computer, pointing to same original (of if you store your results as rendered images) image file. But that requires that all images (or all images that might be used by either person) be imported twice, ie, into each catalog separately.

With read-only access that could work very well, except for the issue of deleting images. If person A deletes an image that person B might want to use, person B might not be too happy (and might have orphaned files in their library which for the sake of sanity should be deleted as well, which could be done by regularly looking for orphaned files and deleting them). The other option would be for both persons only to delete the image from their catalog but not the original file from the NAS. That would then create orphaned originals on the NAS if both sides delete the image only locally. And all work put into images, metadata and adjustments by person A would not be visible to person B. One can write metadata back into an image file (or a sidecar file) and with DNGs and LR also write adjustments back into it. And then update the other catalog reading from the original file. But how to know for which files one would need to do the update is not trivial. And before doing any adjustment work, one should check wether the other person has already written adjustment settings into the DNG file (how I don't know), better to use different virtual copies (LR)/version(Ap).

And all that should better be over a wired network connection.

most importantly have a brainless (automatic) way of backing up all data without having one of us to physically remember to back up after editing.

And that was just for giving two person access to the same images. Backing up is much easier compared to this. The brute force approach is to get a second NAS and let one of the computers on an automatic schedule make/update a clone of the primary NAS. But this could also be locally attached drives on one of the computers. I'd certainly add a TM backup for each computer on an AFP share on the NAS and a clone of each computer to another HDD on each computer. All that can be automated.

Get a Time Capsule and enable Time Machine on both computers. They will automatically back up to the Time Capsule in the background, without you needing to do a thing. Set it and forget it.

You can also use some of the space on the Time Capsule for shared storage although it's preferred to have a separate network drive for that.

Every so often, clone your drive and put a copy offsite, which protects against fire, flood, theft, etc.

This is pretty much what I described just using a TC as the NAS except it doesn't have the backup of the NAS/shared content. And it puts the clones of the computers off-site (which cannot be automated unless you can program a quadrocopter to do this …).

A good deal of my answer was inspired by a couple of post by the photographer James Duncan Davidson about how he handles storage and backup: http://jdd.io/tagged/storage

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Jen Yates
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Re: Multiple Computers - One backup
In reply to jkbraun, Dec 12, 2013

Hi

A few tips:

1. Avoid simultaneous working (On the same files / project).

2. Ensure you keep your working files, and your backups on separate systems. Don't even think about using a single NAS / TC as a shared source for the work files AND a backup destination.

3. Avoid 'two way' sync type arrangements. They 'might' work for you but beware of how easy it is to lose data when using them.

4. Avoid having two 'working' copies of the same project. It's real easy to get confused and delete the wrong one or lose some changes when you merge them.

5. The 'proper' way of doing this will be to use a central shared repository that runs a 'check out' 'check in' type source version system (Like http://www.perforce.com). But it adds hassle to your routine and isn't for everyone but is possibly the most secure.

Now they're over the way, here's a some setups to think about.

A)
Setup file sharing on the two machines (You don't need server and it's real easy to do).
Decide which of the two machines is the 'master'. This could be for all projects or on a project by project basis with some projects living on A and others on B.
On the 'client' machine you'll need to access the files over the share (a bit slow) or copy the needed files over locally and copy them back. A folder naming convention could help keep this straight as it could get messy.
Use the client of 'CrashPlan' to backup each machine to the other one. So A backs up to B, and B to A.

B) - Unlikely this will work for you.
Same as above, but keep the working files on two external drives, one for each machine. Split the projects between drives. There will be a bit of shuffling from time to time as you may need to move a project from drive to drive if you both need to access projects located on the same drive. Most of the time hopefully you'll both be working on different projects and can just swap machines / drives as needed
Make sure you trust your backups with this system!

C) - This is what I would do
Use dropbox as a shared repository. You'll probably have to pay for enough space (I do) and maybe think about archiving off older projects to save space. Dropbox will sync files to both machines and back them up to the cloud. This gives you a little bit of extra 'backup' as a backup to your primary backup.

D) - I do this as well as C above
Same as any of the above but using Time Machine as a backup to a NAS / TC. Or use two Time machine configs to backup each machine. A large USB drive on each Mac is one way to go.

E) - I do this as well as C & D above.
Same as any of the above but using CrashPlan as a backup.

I personally use DropBox, CrashPlan and Time Machine. DropBox has a paid account as does CrashPlan. This way I get files synced to multiple machines, two offsite backups and one on site. I'm not counting using DropBox sync to a 2nd machine as a valid backup.

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