My Dream of a Near Perfect Photo Backup System Now in Place
It was a bit of a long, arduous journey, but I finally have what I consider my dream setup for protecting my precious images. Let me share some of the details so you too can think about how you might want to make sure your equally important pictures are safe.
It all began with an introduction to the photo program with the funny little name known as Mylio. Funny name but quite appropriate when you realize Mylio stands for My Life Organized. It was probably about a year and half ago, my good friend and fellow Lumix Luminary, Keven Gilbert, introduced me to this new way of working with pictures and I was immediately impressed.
When I first became aware of Mylio I was in a bind, hoping desperately Apple was going to bring us an updated version of Aperture. Aperture users had been waiting for years hoping for features that would compete with Adobe, and as for me I had invested heavily in the Apple ecosystem. It was Aperture that inspired me to switch our entire studio over to Apple products back in 2004. To think Apple would kill Aperture was completely crazy at the time. But they did. It took me awhile to understand why, but they had solid reasons, and Mylio has proven better than even Apple’s replacement for Aperture, a program they now call Photos.
Mylio: What’s the difference?
For me, Mylio’s major benefit has been a huge increase in speed. When I say speed I’m referring to how quickly I can scroll through my photos and see batches of pictures. Photos I had forgotten I shot. With Lightroom and even Aperture, scrolling through my 950,000+ image collection was virtually impossible. Many of you reading this may have experienced the painfully slow process if you have even a moderately sized library of say 100,000-200,000 pictures. In Lightroom I
scroll, 50 images will pop up, the spinning beach ball of death appears, and I wait, anywhere from 10-60 seconds before I can get through another 50 images. Aperture wasn’t a lot better. Both Adobe and Apple have suggested I make multiple catalogs but I’ve always replied, “Are you kidding? Computers are made to crunch massive amounts of data. There’s no reason I should have to have multiple catalogs that don’t allow me access to all my images at the same time.” And we’re talking about a brand new Mac Pro–the fancy new trash can model–that was just one tier down from the most expensive Mac I could buy. And it’s stuffed with 32GB of RAM. This is a monster machine and it should be able to handle it but it can’t. So I began my search and I found Mylio. Well, not really, actually Mylio found me, so I have to chalk it up to dumb luck but I’ll take it however it comes.
All of us, no matter amateur or professional, adore our pictures. Our photos are costly to produce with all the gear, travel, and educating ourselves to be better at our craft. A costly hobby combined with our emotional ties to our daily lives such as family events, special vacations, and our growing offspring, are all great reasons to have a rock solid backup plan.
Mylio’s special redundancy technology—that nobody offers that I’m aware of—replicates your originals to as many places as you tell it to. In my case, I have a 40TB Drobo device in my studio where Mylio stores all my originals. I have a duplicate of
this Mylio/Drobo setup in my home. Mylio at the studio can see Mylio at the house via the Internet, and through the magic of the web, Mylio places another set of originals in Mylio home, safely offsite from the originals at the studio. All of this happens automatically, even if I’m far off in a foreign country like Romania, where I first had the experience of my originals beating me home from foreign travel.
Not only do the studio and home Mylio libraries see each other, but it’s the same for my MacBook Pro laptop that acts as my main Mylio repository. While on the road, I load all my photos to my laptop’s external hard drive. Those images go into Mylio on my laptop, which if I’m connected to the web, Mylio studio and Mylio home also recognize. Once they see each
other, even if I’m thousands of miles away, Mylio begins copying my originals from my laptop to the studio, then the studio to the house. While in Romania I shot about 8000 images. With 3-4 hotels where I had decent Internet speeds, over a three
week period, Mylio shuttled all my originals over to the two Drobos in my home and studio making all my new images available to my office staff before I even arrived home. Just to be clear, Mylio does not take the originals off my field drive if I don’t want it to. It sends copies of the originals to my home and studio.
The number of main devices you keep originals on is basically limitless and I currently have Mylio syncing originals on three different computers. I have an additional two computers, Tanya’s MacBook Air, our office assistant Jill’s iMac, and my iPad and iPhone that all have the entire Mylio catalog, though they don’t hold originals.
The magic continues with Mylio’s ability to see all these devices which allows you to update an image on one device that replicates those changes to ALL other devices. And it does it nearly instantaneously. So I can crop, change white balance, add a caption, keywords, or any other update and these changes get sent across to all other devices almost as fast as you can snap your fingers.
Even More Backup
The Mylio redundancy is truly futuristic and quite simply amazing but it’s only part of my backup strategy. To be absolute sure I never lose my images, I’ve added another layer of redundancy by way of a set of G-Tech drives that are not connected to Mylio in anyway. These drives are on their own, out of the Mylio system. Why is this important? Mylio does a great job putting your images in lots of places but if you should completely screw up and delete an image or even a folder of
images, they get deleted across ALL devices. The good news is Mylio puts them in the Trash so you could potentially recover them. But if you empty the trash you are out of luck. So having another set of drives that are used for just raw footage is a good idea. I use the G-Tech’s specifically because they’re different than my favorite Drobo’s since it’s always possible that a renegade firmware update could affect or destroy devices that are all the same brand or model. This assures a firmware update won’t take my system out.
Mylio In The Field Backup
Finally, the one last piece of the backup puzzle involves my original Field Drives. The first one is a Seagate 4TB USB BUS powered portable drive that holds my entire 950,000+ library of images in Thumbnails and Previews. This is the drive that I Import to via Mylio. I have an additional second Field Drive which is currently a Seagate 1TB USB BUS powered drive that
I make a copy of my originals to, images that are copied from the main 4TB drive that were imported with Mylio. This drive is basically a Field Backup, just in case Mylio doesn’t’ have the ability to connect to the Internet. When I return from my shoot this drive is then deposited in a pelican case that’s kept offsite separate of my other Drobos and G-Tech’s.
Does it all sound a little paranoid? I agree. But like I often say about digital capture, “Easy come, easy go.” I don’t want to be left high and dry the day one of those drives fail. Having quality, EASY, backups of my photos is not only good business sense but good for my heart as well knowing all my family pictures are protected as well.
Mylio’s Ease of Use, Speed, and Omnipresence is Great Business
As I’ve mentioned above, one of the huge benefits of this new software is it’s ability to have my pictures available on many different devices. Why is it important you might ask to have access to almost 1 million images on a moment’s notice? For me it’s all business. More than once Tanya and I have been flying from one Invitational Photo Tour destination to the next.
During our our long flights or hotel days, she often works on planning and building the web page highlighting an upcoming tour. It’s been very helpful to have access to all those frames when she asks if I have a certain photograph that might help show the beauty of a coming destination.
I also mentioned Mylio’s speed. Another good example of how speed pays off took place a month or so ago, just before our last trip to Iceland. I was scrambling getting ready to leave for a month’s shoot when we received a call from a production company doing a film for National Geographic. They had seen a video I shot and produced of an amazing fight between
hyenas and lions in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The film was on my YouTube channel. At this point I‘m not actively marketing my video work so it’s not well organized but this was a nice opportunity. That said, I knew finding that footage and editing it for them to look at was going to take at least several days and I didn’t have days, I had hours. I told them I could put raw footage together but it would not be edited and if they were willing to sift through it all I could make it happen. They agreed and I went to work with Mylio finding all the lion footage I had shot in the Mara that season. It took less than 30 seconds to find it all, then another 15 minutes to copy it to a small hard drive, and a final five minutes to pack it up and ship it via Federal Express. None of this would have even been possible using Lightroom or Aperture. It was only because of Mylio I made a nearly five figure sale.
Why so speedy?
Mylio’s speed, based on what the guys I’ve worked with tell me, is all due to its so called “gaming engine.” This sounds kind of boring, but it’s the basis of why we saw Apple kill Aperture. Gaming software, as many of you may know, runs faster than anything I know of on a computer. It’s made for speed and the newest gaming engines are years ahead of what Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom were and are written on. Now you know why Apple killed Aperture. They knew Aperture was using 10-15, maybe even 20-year-old technology and there was no way it was going to make it into the future. Like Apple’s known to do, they scrubbed it. Out with the old and in with the new. Anyone heard about the missing headphone jack on the iPhone 7? You get the idea, but to see how much of a difference there is between Photo Mechanic, Lightroom, and Mylio, take a look at the comparison video I shot below.
What about Adobe’s Lightroom? Don’t get me wrong, Lightroom is a very sophisticated, powerful program that overpowers Mylio when it comes to making changes in your pictures. But to get through tens of thousands of images or even worse, hundreds of thousands of images, Lightroom falls on its face with a horrible thud. Adobe is often slow to fix such issues. They get entrenched and they’re content to go with what got them there, seemingly unwilling to tear something completely apart. Some folks don’t mind that but me, I’m impatient. I need access to my images and the faster the better. Lightroom’s other obstacle is it’s lack of ability to share across numerous devices. They recently released Lightroom mobile, but from what I’ve seen it’s not ready for primetime since it doesn’t even have the ability to add a watermark to your photos. Why any serious photographer would send an image out without a watermark from a mobile device is beyond me. You would think Adobe would feel the same, but it’s been over two years since I first brought the subject up on the Adobe forums. And Lightroom Mobile is the extent of Lightroom’s ability to share across your iPhone or iPad. There is no option to have access to the Lightroom library on other computers across the office as we’re currently doing with Mylio.
When I first started working with Mylio I was no different than anyone else who had found them on the web and I had a few questions I needed help with. Mylio has a great tool on the left panel labeled simply HELP. When you click HELP you get several options but the one most interesting is Contact Mylio Support. Up comes a screen requesting more information than any program I’ve ever used.
It starts at the top with Subject of the help request. Below that you have the ability to add Comments and further down is a list that starts with Send Screenshot, Include Catalog, Include Logs, and Send Additional File. Wow, they take support seriously, getting a ton of info from you about your specific situation and the machine you’re running on that helps
them nail your problem down. When I first sent a Help request it was less than two hours and I had one of their terrific support staff contact me. If they can’t figure it out via email exchanges, they have the ability to hook up your computer and actually see what you’re looking at on your machine. It’s a huge time saver and takes a ton of guess work out of the support exchange
As time went on the Mylio support team realized how large my catalog was and elevated my support issues to international status. Well sort of. Actually they connected me up with the Mad Man Coder from Canada, JP Duplessis. JP’s Canadian, but he now works in Seattle. Even so, he’s got that really cool French Canadian accent that makes me feel we’ve got international relations going on. Maybe it’s just me. I refer to myself as the Mylio “Test Dummy.” JP considers me a mega challenge. Between the two of us I would try to break the system with my massive number of pictures and he would write a few bits of code and make it all work again. My connection to JP has been ongoing for over a year and I’ve never, ever worked with anybody more patient than JP. So if the main Mylio support team can’t help you, you may get lucky and receive an email or ZOOM request from the international man of mystery JP Duplessis. If you do tell him Dan says hello.
Mylio Tools and Features
I’ve covered some of the main reasons why I’m so throughly impressed with Mylio but we haven’t covered the ins and outs of how it works. Let me give you a list of things is does and doesn’t do so you can get an idea if it would meet your needs.
Lets start with the basic tools all good workflow programs have and Mylio is no exception:
- Information panel showing Caption, Keywords, some EXIF, Metadata
- Maps for GPS locations of photos
- Develop tool (under the develop tool you have)
- Red eye reduction
- Before and after view
- Revert back to original
- Develop panel includes
- White balance
- Temp K
- White balance, Temp K and Tint
- Color or Black & White
- Reset all edits
- Edit using RAW
- White balance
The Brush Tool
The Crop Tool
Highlights and Shadows Overlay Tool
Share Your Pictures Protected by a Watermark
Mylio has ditched the word Export in the first window and replaced it with Share which I believe is considerably more friendly and intuitive. Export does show up for those situations that it’s most appropriate for when you get to the second window. Below is a screenshot of the many options the Share option gives you.
Sharing includes exporting your image for any number of reasons. If you plan to release your pictures out across the web I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you add a watermark. Thankfully, Mylio allows you to do this very easily. Below is screen shot of the Watermarking window.
For those unfamiliar with the term watermark, it’s simply a line of text that goes on each photo telling the world who owns that image. You’ll notice on the sample below that mine is includes my name and web address with a © symbol at the head
of the text. On the Mac you can create © symbol by pressing the Option + G keys. For Windows hold the Alt key down and type 0169 to get the © symbol.
Only Share With Copyright & Contact Info Added
I mentioned earlier that one flaw in the Mylio workflow is a lack of the industry standard IPTC Notepad that allows the photographer to embed all contact information that proves to the world who owns your pictures. What exactly does IPTC stand for? It’s an acronym for International Press Telecommunications Council, and these guys are a bunch of office types who’ve created a fabulous tool to help keep track of ownership of all media being produced around the world. Hey, trips to Kenya are expensive. You shot those photos, you’re proud of what you created, you should be able to mark your pictures with your own personal contact information. Here’s what the IPTC Notepad looks like in Adobe’s Lightroom.
All good workflow programs have this feature and Mylio should adopt it sooner rather than later. In my discussions with the Mylio team, they suggest that most people don’t care about this. “Only professional photographers care about extensive IPTC,” they say.
I say Bull Hockey and I don’t mean cows on skates. Have any of you seen the ads for Apple showcasing a normal person’s images in worldwide commercials? Those images brought those photographers, most of them complete amateurs, big money. What if Apple had seen those photos or video and had no idea how to contact that photographer? Apple wouldn’t
have used them and the photographer would have been out of luck. Watch the Apple video above shot on iPhone by Tim W. You can bet old Tim W. has an even better camera in his bag due to Apple knowing who shot this video and how to contact him. The IPTC Notepad is a very boring title for what I call Contact Information. It’s your business card and if your workflow software supports it, which Mylio currently doesn’t, people can track the owner of that image or video down and negotiate payment. That sounds like fun right? Doesn’t everybody dream of being a published photographer, one that’s been paid for their creativity? Most people I know do. But without contact info/metadata, there is no check, no opportunity to beat our chest with pride that your iPhone image is part of an Apple commercial. I want more chest beaters. Help me push Mylio to get the IPTC Notepad added ASAP.
What’s Missing and What Needs Improvement
To be completely fair, some of the above tools are not nearly as powerful as their counterparts in Lightroom. Here’s a list of the basics I would love to see Mylio improve or bring to the program.
- Highlight tool. Mylio can recover the highlights but not as effectively as Lightroom. It helps but it could do better and I know the Mylio team is aware of its short comings and are diligently working on improving it.
- Noise reduction tool. There is none and that’s a huge oversight. Once again they know it’s needed and are currently working on adding it in future upgrades
- Official IPTC Metadata Notepad for adding detailed photographer contact information that goes out with every image. Just like the one in Lightroom, Aperture, Photo Mechanic, and all other serious photography workflow solutions.
- Keywording improvements. Mylio needs a hierarchal keyword tool similar to or the same as Lightroom’s.
- Auto Complete in the Caption field, preferably 100+ captions remembered.
- Auto Complete for keywords as well
- A much simplified image numbering system. The current version looks like computer coding.
The Drobo Connection to Making Mylio Work
All these benefits of Mylio are possible on even the smallest of machines but for really big libraries a good RAID/NAS device is essential. Raid boxes are nothing more than a collection of hard drives working as one unit. In my case I’m using Drobo 5D’s which now have updated firmware and hardware that support Thunderbolt 2 data speeds. I won’t bore you with details on how fast is fast but suffice it to say that Thunderbolt 2 runs at 4X the speed of USB 3.0. That’s a big difference when your transferring terabytes of images and videos.
I’ve been a big fan of Drobo since they were first released many years ago. Drobo has had their growing pains but I’ve trusted their products since day one and they haven’t let me down. Early on Drobo was invented and managed by a group of initial inventors who were great engineers but not so skilled business people. Those in business understand that it’s not enough to have a world-class product, you have to get that product to your buyers to make it a success. Drobo had some tough years getting quality product and equally quality support out the door, thus frustrating some early adopters. Thankfully, I never ran into the issues some folks did. But now all that’s behind them. A little over a year ago a relatively young man by the name of Mihir Shaw bought the company and they’re now back on track making quality products and upping their game on service and support.
Drobo is a big part of my Mylio backup program since Mylio runs best when all the originals are on one drive or a series of drives configured in a RAID box such as a Drobo 5D. The support crew at Mylio can get you set up if your pictures are across more than one drive, but for ease of use and speedy access, one drive/RAID box is the way to go. It took me awhile to get all my images on a single Drobo due to drive size restrictions on the original Drobo 5D. At the time I was only able to use 4TB drives in each of the five drive bays. I needed 8TB drives in those same bays to get nearly 1 million original RAW files in one place the way Mylio works best. A call to Drobo informed me a firmware update was coming that allowed for increasing the size of the drives in each Drobo 5D. That was all I needed to not jump ship to a different RAID device and eventually they came through. This was just one more part of the puzzle that was partially responsible for this project taking almost two years to finish.
How does a Drobo RAID device work? To keep it simple, it’s a box that holds five very large hard drives. Software takes all my pictures and distributes those photos across all five drives. This allows for one of those five drives to die without losing any of my pictures. If a drive fails, I simply add a new one, the Drobo rebuilds what was on the failed drive from information on the four remaining good drives, and I’m back on track with no loss of data. The 5D can also be set up for a two drive failure. The downside is that you have less room overall for pictures, but it is the way to go for absolute safety. I’m hopeful Drobo will be bringing us their 8-drive Drobo option with Thunderbolt connections. If and when they do I will then set my Drobo’s up for two drive failure.
Why Drobo you might ask? Admittedly, there are other options, including Synology, QNAP, and others that do similar things as Drobo. I tried the Synology but returned to Drobo after experiencing the horrible user interface Synology uses. Maybe they’ve changed, but Drobo has by far the most user friendly, graphically appealing Dashboard of any NAS/Raid devices I’ve ever used. There are cheaper boxes, but you don’t get the superb Drobo interface, simple setup, and drop-dead
ease of use. They also have a reasonably good support call center. It isn’t Apple Care but they’ve done an admirable job helping me with issues in the past. Even better is the lack of need to call them. The Drobo’s are very reliable. They do have some inconsistencies with initial setup which can be a bit flaky at times. I would love to see them streamline the first experience, right out of the box, to be flawless. Once your Drobo is setup you can basically forget about them. It just sits on my desk at the studio, in my closet at the house, backing up thousands and thousands of images, all onsite nothing in the cloud.
Part 2 Tomorrow
Tomorrow I’ll be adding additional information about Mylio’s amazing Calendar and other tools as well as ideas about some of my favorite programs that can help Mylio when serious editing–tweaking–of images is needed.