Loosing photos is extremely unpleasant, and I am somewhat paranoid about it. Particularly as time goes on and I generate more and more photos, and more and more memories I do not want to loose.
So, from the shutter-click to long term off-site storage, this is my information flow and back-up process system.
Initially, you have only a single copy of each each image you take on your memory card. Some higher-end cameras can write to two cards at a time, a great back-up solution, but for arguments sake, I am ignoring this. One copy of anything is not safe, so the first thing I do is transfer my photos onto my laptop using adobe Lightroom as soon as I can.
On Lightroom, I have the set of images on my internal HDD. This allows me to go through all the images from the that session on a large screen and delete the disastrous ones. Once I have done that, i will make a copy of this folder to a NAS (Network Attached Storage), and a USB external HDD.
Since I now have copies of the images I want on 3 devices now (my laptop, the NAS and the external USB drive), I can format the cameras memory card ready for the next shoot! :)
These three storage locations have distinctive roles, capacities and usage lifespans. I will try to explain.
1 is for processing : The Laptop I consider as short-term storage. The HDD is too small for anything long-term, but it is a SSD drive, so very fast which makes image processing a lot easier and faster. I tend to keep only the last 3-6 months of shots on there. Once my HDD is getting 'full', i delete the RAW images from it, knowing I still have 2 copies. Lightroom will no longer be able to find these images (as they are deleted), but I simply point Lightroom folder to the corresponding folder on the NAS storage.
2 is for permanent access: The NAS is a large storage (4TB) network accessible drive. I store all my images on this at the moment, but one day i will have to expand. I use this to get access to all my images that are not on my laptop HDD. It is a lot slower than having the images on my laptop, but by this point, I have done my edits, so it is more for quick access. Also, because it is a network drive, anyone on my network can access the raw images if they wish. I always make sure that this storage is up-to-date BEFORE I delete anything off of my laptop HDD!
3 is for storage: The USB storage is my off-site, long-term storage. I rarely access this drive for use, but have all my files spread over several USB external drives, and keep them off-site. They are small, cheap and light. Once a month or so, I bring the recent disk home, make sure it is up to date, then take it back off-site. I always make sure that this storage is up-to-date BEFORE I delete anything off of my laptop HDD!
4 is forever: There is, however, a final level of back-up i would recommend anyone else to do. Print your best images... Why? Read this!
ps - the binary image I used for the post image actually says "I want to share what I do to back-up. Don't loose your images, ever!" I got it from here!