I use a fast USB3 External Disk (My Passport Slim from WD) that I store both my master photographs and current catalogs on. I do a second copy of the images upon upload to a directory on the laptop or desktop (whichever the disk is connected to), which I then delete occasionally after I've done backups of either of these machines (I explicitly don't backup these backup folders - see later). I backup the catalog every time on exit, to the hard disk of whichever machine it's connected to. I could consolidate these backups into one place, but I don't since I don't anticipate needing that degree of granularity. The catalogs also get backed-up as does the USB3 disk (with the images on) using Time Machine (I'm a Mac user too) when I'm working on the iMac.
As stated above, keeping all of your photos and your catalogs on an external drive solves the problems of keeping anything synced.
Just be careful to keep a copy of the masters on a local hard drive, and then on a hard drive off site, or in the cloud. Three copies is generally sufficient as long as one of them is not local.
I just learned this trick while watching Lightroom CC tutorials, and I am now completely reviewing my entire catalog (I am recently retired so I finally have the time). Once I know the size of the catalog and complete collection of photos, I will be going out and buying an appropriately sized new portable hard drive for this very purpose.
I don't do much actual editing on my laptop, but I have always had to transfer files from the laptop to the desktop after a vacation. No more. All I will have to do now is make a backup just prior to leaving for vacation and I will be OK using my portable drive as my main catalog.
I am using an external drive as well, but has more used it for backup than rather use it for the main catalogue. I stumbled upon this great presentation of two good ways to keep both your desktop and laptop up to sync. Can recommend it. Please comment if your see any draw backs with his two approaches.
Ditto on using an external drive. I use one dedicated to all images, catalog, catalog settings (Store Preset with Catalog preference on). I clone that to a couple of other drives and rotate them. It is simple and works.
I stumbled upon this great presentation of two good ways to keep both your desktop and laptop up to sync. Can recommend it. Please comment if your see any draw backs with his two approaches.
He lists three ways.
You will notice he starts with the idea of keeping everything on an external drive. I am going that route.
His brute force approach of keeping a duplicate set of images can be a problem with drive space. Making sure that you copy everything over is kind of a hassle. Will you have time when you need to grab your gear and go in a hurry? What happens if you find that you don't have room this time, even though you did last time? (More photos now?)
His Import/Export method is what I have always used up to now but I am going to stop that as soon as buy a new portable drive this month. The problem is that you don't necessarily end up with all of your photos with you on the plane, the job site, or in the hotel room or resort, and you can't ever seem to find the one particular photo you wanted to work on because you left it behind.
I like the idea of having a full set of my photos with me when I leave the house. If I ever had a fire (or theft) and lost my desktop, I still have my photos. Sure I keep a backup on my desktop hard drive and one in the cloud, but it will be a lot easier just to have it on a drive that I can use anywhere. Besides, if I find myself needing to use someone else's computer that has Lightroom on it, I have all of my photos.
Now, granted that I am working on cleaning up my catalog and deleting thousands of images that I will never use. Oh, they are backed up on a pair of external drives I use for such things, because I am a pack rat, but I don't need them in my current catalog. So off they go. That will allow me to work with a single terabyte on my external drive. I just checked and it looks like I can get a 1TB drive for about US$60 at B&H - so probably cheaper elsewhere. But the shipping is free from B&H.
If I outgrow that one, I could keep my current stuff on one and older stuff on another, and then just plug in the main one most days, and the second one only when required. By the time I outgrow those two, the prices on a much higher capacity drive will come down considerably.
Steven, your comment reminds me of something I was going to investigate - but had forgotten in my backup strategy. I think we're basically doing the same thing. One external HD for images and catalogs, etc. I create a copy on the local disk at time of import. I backup catalogs to local disk on exit. I then backup external HD using Time Machine when its connected to the desktop (iMac). I can then delete duplicate imports, and old catalogs if I want to.
What I'd forgotten, and not yet implemented, was a conversation I had with a friend who suggested local personal cloud storage, or implementing shared internet-attached local storage with a friend, for the third (and offsite) backup. Of course you could use GDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, MyDrive etc. for this but these are essentially sync'ing services, not backup and restore which is what you want in the case of total disaster.
Another benefit of the external HD, if you're really paranoid, is that you can take your disk with you whenever you leave the house ... but this would cause me some concerns as you'd increase the risk of damage to it, or loss, and I'd be driven to backing-up that HD as well ... dont go there :-).
OK, watched the video and I'm not convinced. His "brute force" method leaves far too many options for introducing human error, forgetting whether you've done the copy or not. The import/export method I do use selectively already. If I'm taking pictures for an event, a specific location, a holiday and I don't want to take my external HD with me, this is exactly what I do. It works. I've never had the problems he describes with paths, but perhaps I've been lucky. You can move pictures in Lightroom anyway, so don't know where he's coming from on that one.
So nothing in the video convinces me to change my strategy.
Btw - just remembered what I was going to do with cloud storage. I run my own domain(s) on hosted web services with an unlimited storage limit - I was going to set up a service to backup (copy) the folder(s) to that. Must remember to do that now!!
Forget all I've said about using cloud for backup. Upload speeds and sizes of image folders, etc. make it a "no no"! Best off-site backup service (the third copy so-to-speak) is to get another external hard disk and make a periodic copy of it and then lodge it with a neighbour, friend, keep in the office, wherever.
On the subject of cloud storage. Some of us have decent upload speeds and fast downloads. Some don't. I do. Which is luck of the draw I suppose. My cable company has increased my bandwidth by five times the amount it was six years ago when I signed up - at no extra charge.
I believe that relying on taking the time to make an off-site backup and actually taking it anywhere is a problem and most people just won't do it. On the other hand, if you copy all of your current images to a hard drive and take them somewhere, from that point on you could use cloud backup. Every once in a while, perhaps every few months, or once per year depending on the amount you shoot, you could bring that drive back, update the backup, and take it away again, deleting everything on the cloud and starting over with your cloud storage.
That way, even if you had a major disaster, you could get most of your images quickly, and the stuff on the cloud would not take that long.
On the other hand, I live in California not far from where earthquakes are common (had a small one Sunday) and we may eventually have a big one. My guess is that the stuff I have in my safe deposit box at the bank may be difficult to retrieve for quite some time after a major earthquake. Which is why we keep copies of every original document in the box.
Although I did not need to do so, there are online backup services like iDrive that will send you a hard drive to use for backup and then send back to them. That deals with the bandwidth issue. And they can send you one with all of your stuff if you have a disaster. In the meantime, you have everything backed up to the cloud and have access 24/7.
Then there is Mylio - which is tied into Lightroom to make it even easier. It is just photos and not all of your other valuable data, but there is no reason you could not store business info in one place and photos in another.
All I know for sure is that I need a good, safe, reliable, accessible backup. It would break my heart to lose my pictures of friends and family, not to mention the ones I have taken since I actually learned to make photos rather than just shoot snapshots.
I'm David btw - must change that Profile
Let me see if I've got your thinking right. You use your Master Lightroom External USB disk as I do. It holds all your Images and Catalogues. Then say once a year you Copy everything to another External Hard Disk. That drive you park somewhere safe. You then continue using the Master Disk, nothing has changed on it, it's just been backed-up to this other disk. From that point until the next "off-site backup" you create a duplicate of the images at the time of Lightroom import on Cloud Storage, is that right? You also continuously (ie on exit) backup your Catalogue to this Cloud storage, is that right, too?
In the event of total local disaster you retrieve the off-site backup disk, create a new Master Lightroom External USB disk from it, copy the duplicate images from the Cloud onto the new disk as well as the backed-up Catalogue. Is that right?
That could work for me. I think
An alternative would be just to use one of my spare external HD (or buy another one - really no point in worrying about the cost when you consider the cost of the possible loss) and do a copy of the Master Lightroom External USB Disk - the one we both agree is the best way to work on both Desktop and Laptop - occasionally, and as and when I think of it. I could even attach it to the iMac and do a specific Time Machine Backup of that external disk. I'll then ask a friend to look after it for me, until I want to do a backup again.
Think on balance, this might be easier, even if it relies on me getting the disk back and being reasonably disciplined about doing the backups.
I think though, that the reality is that I will end up backing up photos and the catalog on to a backup drive for off-site, as well as a local external drive, then I will delete them from the current catalog. I would not want to lose them, but once all of the work has been done and the JPEGs put into my portfolio, I seriously doubt that I will ever need the originals again. I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy, but that doesn't mean I expect to need both.
In fact, I backed up all of my photos to an external drive recently, and now I am systematically deleting 90% or more of the photos in my catalog. I renamed the catalog so as not to ever overwrite the old one. There were so many shots that were taken before I really learned my way around my camera. The personal shots of people I will keep, but just about everything else is really of no value. But on the off chance that I might need to go back and see something.... well, you know...
In case you're interested Steven (and Joachim), this is what I implemented over the weekend.
No changes re. Master Lightroom External USB disk strategy. This, after watching the video mentioned, is by far the easiest and least likely to fail solution to sync'ing catalogs and keeping all the images on the one disk with access from both desktop and laptop. With USB-3 it's also fast enough as well.
I purchased another 1Tb external USB-3 disk to which I copied c.275Gb of content from the Master Disk in c.45mins. This disk is now at a neighbours house. The Master Disk continues to be backed-up when connected to the iMac with Time Machine.
What has changed is that I decided to download Microsoft's OneDrive, I immediately got 30Gb of cloud storage after I'd also installed it on my iPad and asked for it to backup my Camera Roll. I then pointed the Copy on Import images and the Backup Catalogs in Lightroom to a folder on my local OneDrive. That way they will also be backed-up "in the cloud", as well as from the Time Machine Backups.
In about six months time I will retrieve the copy of the Master Disk from my neighbour. Do a new copy. Delete the Folder on my local OneDrive and start again.
Sounds like a plan. For me, I would add a calendar entry in my e-mail program as well as my phone to remind me in six months.