Synchronizing Changes


Today’s Question: On my primary computer in my home office I have a primary backup and a secondary backup that sync via Carbon Copy Cloner. I have a tertiary backup as well but I keep that at my other office in another town. I can see a problem when I want to bring all of the copies of my images together to create a unified synchronization. Is there a way to sync the files that have been changed on all three drives so ALL of the changes, regardless of on which drive it took place on will happen?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Put simply, this type of workflow is very difficult to maintain. Unless you’re using a software tool that specifically enables synchronization across multiple storage locations, it is very difficult to update images in multiple storage locations and have your changes reflected across all copies of your photos.

More Detail: Lightroom provides a good example in this case. While you can work with Lightroom across a variety of computers and mobile devices, this type of workflow requires that you synchronize specific images within your Lightroom catalog. You can’t achieve the same benefits by working with your photos directly on various hard drives, as opposed to images managed by a single Lightroom catalog.

In general, if you want to maintain synchronized information about your photos, you need to make sure that you are making use of a centralized source of information about your photos. In other words, you can’t work with backup copies of your photos to update metadata about your images, and expect to have that information updated for the “master” copy of your photos.

While Lightroom is somewhat limited when it comes to synchronizing adjustments across multiple computers and devices, I highly recommend limiting yourself to this type of workflow when you want to update photos in multiple locations. In other words, you can’t simply update a backup copy of your photos and expect that the “master” copy will be updated as well.

In theory it would be possible to update multiple copies of your images and synchronize those updates across multiple devices. But in reality that is a challenge that can lead to updates that don’t get updated properly. Thus, I highly recommend working with a single “master” copy of your photos, along with a catalog if you are using software such as Lightroom. That translates into a scenario where you only update one copy of your photos, and synchronize those updates to your multiple backup copies.