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Thoughts on backing up Lightroom cloud?

Laura Smith

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I'm finding myself using Lightroom cloud much more than Classic, so I'm looking for workarounds for the things I still use Classic for, to see if I can stop using it completely. One thing I still use Classic for is a local backup. It'd be great to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of different approaches to backing up Lightroom cloud without Classic.

Option 1: "Store a copy of all originals at the specified location"

Seems like a no-brainer: just do this and then backup that directory using my normal backup system. But I have a small SSD in my laptop, so the originals would have to be stored on a USB disk that isn't connected all the time (that's what I do with Classic at the moment, and just have the current month's photos on the SSD). Has anyone tried that on a removable disk? How does Lightroom cope if you try to use it without that disk? Does it just happily use its cache and pull originals on demand as usual? Or does it get confused?

Massive downside of this idea: I don't have a local copy of edits.

Option 2: "Export Original + Settings"

This will give me a local backup of edits, as well as let me put it on a removable disk without any hassle. Periodically I would go to All Photos, sort them by Import Date, select all and export to the USB disk (which itself is backed up locally on another disk).

Downsides: It's a manual process that I have to remember to do and has the room for human error.

If you've got anything to share on these two options or if you've got an Option 3 of your own, that would be great to hear!
 
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Lightroom (cloudy) stores local data in the "Lightroom Library.lrlibrary". Using your system back up app for that file is sufficient along with a backup of any original image files stored at the specified location. What your goal should be is to recover from any catastrophic disk failure. Adobe has adequate protections in place to preserve any user data in the cloud.
 
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Lightroom (cloudy) stores local data in the "Lightroom Library.lrlibrary". Using your system back up app for that file is sufficient along with a backup of any original image files stored at the specified location.
I respectfully disagree. In theory this may be correct, but only in theory. The XMP metadata will be very hard to find if you would ever need to retrieve the edits from a backup of this library.
 
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Lightroom (cloudy) stores local data in the "Lightroom Library.lrlibrary". Using your system back up app for that file is sufficient along with a backup of any original image files stored at the specified location.
Backing up the local library appears to be a waste of time and disk space. The catalog inside the local library is subservient to the catalog in the cloud, so if you make a big user error (e.g. changing metadata inadvertently on multiple selected images) you cannot restore the local library from a backup taken before the error in order to revert to the pre-error state. As soon as you replace the local library with the backup, then launch the desktop app, the local catalog is immediately updated to the same state as the (erroneous) cloud catalog. As soon as I found that out I removed the local library from my backup procedures.

Backing up images is easy, backing up edits is less so.....it's either a manual export with settings, as Laura is doing, or periodic use of the Downloader app (which is really buggy as at the last time I tested it earlier this year). Or jump through some hoops to keep originals in Classic and Cloud in sync.
 
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I respectfully disagree. In theory this may be correct, but only in theory. The XMP metadata will be very hard to find if you would ever need to retrieve the edits from a backup of this library.
The complete picture is this comment that you ignored. “Adobe has adequate protections in place to preserve any user data in the cloud.”


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Backing up the local library appears to be a waste of time and disk space. The catalog inside the local library is subservient to the catalog in the cloud, so if you make a big user error...
I was not considering the lack of version control with Adobe’s cloud service. But for preserving your correct image data the Cloud is adequate. And that was the basis of my comment.


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Laura Smith

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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts - invaluable as ever! It's got me thinking to clarify what I actually want the backup for. As you say Cletus, Adobe has the data protected more carefully than I could. So for a disk failure I would happily rely on it being there and just pull everything down from the cloud again. I think there are probably four reasons I think I want a full local backup:
  1. To be able to access my images if I have a local internet failure. On reflection, I could probably cope: I'm not doing this for a living.
  2. Because I've always gone by the idea of owning my own data, in open or at least commonly interchangeable formats. Because it just seems like a good idea, because you never know what might happen. Perhaps this is just a principle I could learn to live without - does it actually serve any practical purpose in this instance? Adobe could disappear overnight. But even in 2020, the year of the unexpected, that seems pretty unlikely. Doesn't it?!
  3. To ensure my family can easily access sentimental photos if I'm not, well, here. I think is actually important, especially given that my edited photos in this category live on Lightroom web galleries. So there is no copy of output files elsewhere. Would unedited originals serve this purpose? Probably.
  4. To account for user error on my part. Perhaps deleting a load of images accidentally and not realising until a year down the line when I go looking for them, by which time they aren't in the cloud bin. This seems pretty important to me. And probably the most likely use case for a local backup, at least in the immediate future!
I'm a reboot away from finding out what happens if Lightroom wakes up without the external hard disk where it has originals stored (I can't for the life of me unmount the darn thing without rebooting, but that's another story). I'll post back shortly...
 

Laura Smith

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Well that seems to fail pretty gracefully:

Screenshot (488).png


There's a question to ponder about how well it manages the cache without the originals directory present. But assuming it does that well, then that's definitely an option.

Of course, that doesn't give a backup of edits, just originals. But it has automation going for it where exporting Original + Settings doesn't. Decisions, decisions... Thoughts?
 

Laura Smith

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[...] or periodic use of the Downloader app (which is really buggy as at the last time I tested it earlier this year). [...]
I hadn't come across this. Just downloading it. What were the bugs?
 
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  1. To be able to access my images if I have a local internet failure. On reflection, I could probably cope: I'm not doing this for a living.
  2. Because I've always gone by the idea of owning my own data, in open or at least commonly interchangeable formats. Because it just seems like a good idea, because you never know what might happen. Perhaps this is just a principle I could learn to live without - does it actually serve any practical purpose in this instance? Adobe could disappear overnight. But even in 2020, the year of the unexpected, that seems pretty unlikely. Doesn't it?!
  3. To ensure my family can easily access sentimental photos if I'm not, well, here. I think is actually important, especially given that my edited photos in this category live on Lightroom web galleries. So there is no copy of output files elsewhere. Would unedited originals serve this purpose? Probably.
  4. To account for user error on my part. Perhaps deleting a load of images accidentally and not realising until a year down the line when I go looking for them, by which time they aren't in the cloud bin. This seems pretty important to me. And probably the most likely use case for a local backup, at least in the immediate future!
1. I use the option to download smart previews (I don't store originals locally because I use a fully integrated "hybrid" Classic & Cloud workflow). They'd probably be perfectly adequate to use if you are offline.
2. It depends on how much faith you have in Adobe, and more importantly whether you'd be confident of being able to get to your cloud data in the event of a major issue. As I've said earlier, backing up images is easy, backing up edits/metadata is not so much.
3. That's really what the Downloader is designed to do, i.e. provide your family with up to 12 months to download your content should anything happen to you. Or for you to download it should you decide to switch away from Adobe. The issue for me with that first case is wondering what my family would make of a bunch of Raw+XMP sidecar files, many DNGs, and some Jpegs. Because I have Classic and Cloud in lock-step, I can "publish" all originals to jpeg, and in fact I did start that process last year but with other things happening that project is currently stalled.
4. It would depend on how effective your local backup solution is. Bear in mind that if you accidentally delete a load of images from the cloud, those deletions are automatically applied to the folder containing the local copy of the originals. So you'd have to have some effective version control for your backups that would allow you to access images deleted from the original source over a year ago.
 
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I hadn't come across this. Just downloading it. What were the bugs?
There were a few niggly things which hopefully will get corrected. The main issue, however, is that metadata changes applied in Cloudy are (were) not included in the downloaded files....edits are, metadata isn't. That may be a bug, or may be by design. I've communicated my findings directly to Adobe, but their Downloader "team" aren't terribly communicative....so until I retry following the next update I don't know if it has been fixed/changed.

I don't know if you intend to run it, but you might get some surprising results. One of them is that for Jpegs that have been edited a separate "edited" version of those files is also downloaded, which has the edits baked in.....which makes a bit of sense, but no exif data is included, which doesn't make sense. And why just edited Jpegs, why not generate baked-in Jpegs for all downloaded files?

Another is that if you have imported Raw+XMP into Cloudy (not via catalog migration), the downloader will download the Raw+XMP.....but only if you have applied subsequent edits to those raw files in the cloud. Thus if you have imported previously edited raw files with an associated XMP containing those edits into Cloud, obviously in the cloud apps you will see the resulting edited image....but unless you subsequently apply another edit in the cloud, the Downloader will only download the original raw file without an XMP sidecar.

Hopefully these issues will be fixed in due course, but until they are you really need to consider the Downloader as the lifeboat (leaky) that it is intended to be, and not think of it as a means of backing up your edits and metadata. If you are really concerned about having that complete backup, exporting Original + Settings is the only really viable solution as things stand today.
 

Laura Smith

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1. I use the option to download smart previews (I don't store originals locally because I use a fully integrated "hybrid" Classic & Cloud workflow). They'd probably be perfectly adequate to use if you are offline.
That's a definite possibility for me - would certainly be more than adequate for offline use. My SSD is only 224 GB. Smart previews for my catalogue so far would be 20 GB, for 17,000 images, and I have perhaps 10,000 more to import. That's heading towards a decent sized chunk of my internal disk, which is probably okay for now, but further down the line (without the option to choose a date range for storing smart previews) could become a problem.

3. That's really what the Downloader is designed to do [...] The issue for me with that first case is wondering what my family would make of a bunch of Raw+XMP sidecar files, many DNGs, and some Jpegs.
That's about what I'd arrived at today - I think you've helped me to realise that I probably need two stores of photos: a backup for me, and an outputted selection of edited JPEGs for my family. Do my family really want 100 similar unedited images, or just the one pick that's been edited and saved as a JPEG?!

4. It would depend on how effective your local backup solution is. [...] So you'd have to have some effective version control for your backups [...]
Current backup system is rubbish, but part of this process is fixing that - so yes, that would be the aspiration.

There were a few niggly things which hopefully will get corrected. The main issue, however, is that metadata changes applied in Cloudy are (were) not included in the downloaded files....edits are, metadata isn't.
Metadata! Thank you for saying that - I'd been preoccupied thinking about edits and hadn't considered metadata. I've made the decision to do all metadata input on cloud. So even my current local backup done through Classic isn't collecting metadata any more. That's quite a biggie. I'm spending quite a bit of time during lockdown going through the best part of 20 years of photos adding metadata. Any backup that doesn't have that metadata in it is hardly a backup, come to think of it. So that's probably just ruled out everything except manually exporting Originals + Settings, hasn't it? Backup through Classic: no metadata. Backup through Downloader: no metadata. Backup through getting cloud to save originals locally: no metadata. I think we have an answer!

I don't know if you intend to run [Downloader], but you might get some surprising results.
Oh dear that all sounds like it really is a Leaky Lifeboat of Last Resort! I installed it and had a look at it. Beyond the bugs, the other issue for me is that you can only download everything at once. I don't really want to have to download everything every time I make a backup. I'm on 195 GB already. So as you say, it's a tool that isn't designed for backup, but that isn't perfect at doing what it's designed to do either.

So I think my solution is to:
  • Periodically (when I get around to it?! Eeek) export Originals + Settings to an external disk, keeping a series of versions as I see fit. Once I get all my old photos done with metadata and do a full export, I think I can probably happily live with just downloading the full current year (or current quarter, or something) every time. I'm unlikely to make big edits to anything old, and if I do, I can live with redoing them. After all, I'm doing this for fun, I'm not a pro spending hours retouching and earning a living from it.
  • Periodically export edited selects at full size to a separate directory on the external disk, organised in a way that would make sense to anyone finding them.
This gives me a full, versioned backup for myself and a useful collection of photos for my family. All on one external disk. I think there's probably little value in me keeping a backup of the backup: because at the end of the day this is all just a backup of the Adobe cloud. So the chances of the two failing at once are so slim it's not worth worrying about. Although I might take one copy of the 20-year archive on another disk once I've finished organising it.

Not perfect. Not automated. But actually appears to be the only solution that backs up originals + edits + metadata. Thank you all for your help to understand what I need!
 
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Not to be negative, but I think a Backup of a Backup does make sense. As an example, Garmin has been dealing with a Ransomware issue for the past week or so. Were our friends at Adobe to be a victim AND you had a hard drive failure, you could lose a lot. I use a separate backup service to back up my Mac & External Hard drives so I have more control. (I am pretty happy with BackBlaze - though, with any backup service, that first backup takes a LOOONG time.)

I also have a TimeMachine backup going. While probably overkill, I thought I lost about 15 years of photos a few years back and that taught me a lesson...

And thanks for such a thorough and thoughtful thread. I plan to dig into all you learned as I improve my strategy for backups.
 
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So I think my solution is to:
  • Periodically (when I get around to it?! Eeek) export Originals + Settings to an external disk, keeping a series of versions as I see fit. Once I get all my old photos done with metadata and do a full export, I think I can probably happily live with just downloading the full current year (or current quarter, or something) every time. I'm unlikely to make big edits to anything old, and if I do, I can live with redoing them. After all, I'm doing this for fun, I'm not a pro spending hours retouching and earning a living from it.
  • Periodically export edited selects at full size to a separate directory on the external disk, organised in a way that would make sense to anyone finding them.
FWIW, I'm a huge fan of setting monthly reminders for manual repetitive tasks like this. I also agree with jcsnyc that while Adobe shouldn't ever have a problem, if they do lose all your photos no matter how much they say sorry you've still lost all your photos. Controlling your own disconnected backup is a good idea if you consider them irreplaceable.

Also, I really like the idea of a curated set of edited JPGs in a separate directory for others and am going to steal it! Mind you, I'm also coming to the conclusion that the only photos that will survive me long term are the ones in printed photo books…
 
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Somewhat related, this is the message on image.canon at the moment:

On the 30th of July, we identified an issue within the 10GB long term storage on image.canon. Some of the original photo and video data files have been lost.

We apologize for any inconvenience.
ouch!
 
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A really interesting thread. I’ve finally decided to go fully cloudy, as it all works so well with latest versions of PhotoShop, and there’s a lot of useful information here. Especially the curated folder idea, which I’ll also steal :)

My desktop will be my main system and I’ll store originals there, but I’m unclear about what to do about local copies of smart previews. Is it best to just to do this for my laptop and iPad for when I’m offline?
 
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