Digital Asset Management Strategies

21st September 2015 Digital Asset Management


Digital Asset Management is a major issue for the modern photographer. Whether you're a full time professional or a complete amateur, the images we make have real value, whether it be financial or sentimental. Anyone serious about protecting their investment should have a well considered digital asset management policy in place.

Don't say it won't happen to you! Learn from the example of Olgas Truchanas, one of Australia's most famous 20th century photographers, who lost the bulk of his images to bushfire in 1967 - a lifetime's work lost in minutes.

Given any luck, bushfire won't be an issue in your life - but Almost everyone these day will be effected by media failure at some point - whether it's the all too common dead hard drive, a virus infection, or simply cheap burned CDs that start to rot away after just a few years, it will almost certainly happen to you at some point.

A good digital asset management system will have four features :

  1. It must be safe
  2. It must be easy to use or you won't use it.
  3. It must offer fast access to your files when you're working on them, and if you need them again several years down the track.
  4. It must be affordable

Possible Digital Asset Management strategies

At the moment, their are 5 basic, commonly used Digital Asset Management strategies - each with their own pros and cons. Here's a quick summary of the major options:

@TODO [JD - Are these still your reccommended strategies? I updated the Online Storage one to be the #1 but may just need to be re-worded slightly. Would be good to have this one up to date as its the shortest article and more of an overview.]

Online Storage

This is in many ways an ideal solution to the problem of backup. Keep a local copy, and upload another copy to the other side of the world, for storage on a massively backed up, highly redundant disk farm. Recent developments in the Australian internet marketplace have made this the best option with cheap unlimited internet plans readily available.

This is our recommendation for your primary day to day storage system.

Multiple disk based servers

(often called RAID machines, or NAS 'Network Attached Storage')

Can be effective, fast and relatively cheap. But it can also be complex. However modern NAS systems can now offer ease of use, excellent data reliability, very high storage capacities and fast access.

This is our recommendation for your longer term secondary storage system.

Burnable Media

Probably still the best option for longer term storage. Very cheap, and easy. Burn multiple copies and store in multiple locations. The major issue here is media quality. Cheap CD and DVD media will often only last for a year or two. However, high quality media should last upwards of 100 years. Select a good brand of media, such as Taiyo Yuden, and be a bit disciplined with your processes, and it should be easy to implement a highly safe, inexpensive, easy to use back up system. Combined with another back up system, you would have the best of all worlds - speed, convenience, and very high levels of safety.

This is another recommendation for your longer term secondary storage system.

Tape Drives

The classic corporate approach to data backup is to use tape drives. Old, slow, and notoriously unreliable over time, this is generally a bad idea these days. It can take ages - hours and hours of tape spooling - to retrieve a specific file you have lost.

Not recommended.

Removable Hard Drives

These are fast, and can actually be a surprisingly cheap option in the long term. However, they're based on moving parts, and MTBFs (Mean Time Between Failure) for single hard drives is measured in years, not decades. Leaving hard drives unused for long periods of time tends to increase the unreliability.

Not recommended.

Online Storage is your most secure option for a reliable digital asset management system. We have an extensive article on how to [Build the Ultimate Back Up System]. All in all, long term data backup is all about redundancy of data in geographically disparate locationsand this is currently the best method for maintaining this.

It's not enough to have your backups stored somewhere else in your house or elsewhere on your own property as unfortunately far too many bush fire victims have discovered. Even if you have an excellent, reliable backup system like the Drobo, that alone is not enough to prevent total loss through theft.