Disk space and the truth behind saving few GB

 In For Photographers

Disk space was hugely expensive many years ago. Keeping a copy of all your raw files was quite intensive, as disk space came at a premium. Luckily, nowadays disk space is relatively cheap; unluckily, bad habits are hard to die.
This is the story of how I spent few days fixing an issue that would have not been one if I only had spent 1.5p of disk space. Hopefully my story will make you rethink how you manage your data and how much you value your disk space VS your time.
Welcome to my Lightroom Disaster, which luckily ended well!

Disk Space and Time To Live

Before starting this article, I would like to make sure you understand a couple of things regarding disk space. First of all disk space is cheap. A fantastic WD 3TB Red for NAS costs roughly 3p/GB. The second thing, and this may surprise many of you, is that the disk space in a hard drive is not destined to live forever. The more you use a drive, the higher the possibility that the drive will break.
These two things should make you consider other two things:

  1. Even using a RAID1 system, disk space will still be cheap
  2. You should retire your disks every now and again, otherwise it will break

My story of saving disk space

I tend to be quite a “nazi” when it comes to backup, and the fact that I have (almost) never lost a photo comes down to the fact that I value my business much more than I value disk space. That said, there has been one single point where I did not apply this: my “Final Images” Lightroom catalog.
You have to know that after I complete working on a batch of photographs, I always keep copies of the final JPGs in various hard drives and organise them in a single Lightroom library. That library contains all my organised catalogs, all the images used in all the blog posts of this website. Ordered, clean and ready to give me access to my photographs. Well, it contained…
You see, when Lightroom asks me “do you want to backup your library?“, I generally skip it. As I use very small libraries (I keep one library per shoot) I never thought I should have backed up my catalog.
Of course I keep backup copies of the library, but the day the library got corrupted, the issue was automatically propagated in all my backups. The day I opened the library and every action on it resulted in a total and colossal crash, I knew that saving 1.5p/week of disk space (the space needed to keep a weekly backup of my library) had not been a smart choice.

Disk space VS time

Tom Ford once said that there are only two luxuries in the world: time and silence. I totally subscribe. Your time is precious, and investing it in anything is better than spending it because you did not backup your data. That is just stupid, and in the end much more expensive.
Even if disk space would have been 10 times more expensive, I would still backup all my photos in three places. SO why didn’t I have a recovery plan for my Lightroom Catalog? Because I did not think about it. Luckily enough I did not jeopardised my business, but I have learned some important lessons, and I am grateful for it.

What did I learn?

There are four silver linings from my story:

  1. My JPGs were not ruined by my idiocy Re-creating my library has been quite simple. I have spent time to re-create my beautiful and organised catalog structure, but I haven’t lost any data.
  2. I can still access a read only copy of my Library re-creating my library structure in full is going to take time and will be a huge pain, but at least I have a read-only version of my old library that I can use as a blueprint.
  3. I learned two very important lessons I learned that when I am asked “do you want to invest 1.5p to backup your library” it is idiotic to say no. I also being reminded that having a RAID1 protects you if one of the drives fails, but if you ruin your data, a RAID1 will simply propagate your mistake.
  4. I can pass the good deed over (don’t tell I did not warn you) Don’t do like I did in this occasion. Backup your library
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