I think this is a good subject to blog about. Capturing a photo these days is very cheap, all it takes is to press the button and a new photo is born. Due to this ease and low cost, the amount of files just keeps piling up.
Having your files safe and well organized is very important. Not being able to find a file in short time means not having it when you need it. You practically lost it even if it is there hiding in some directory.
Here is what I do:
I have a separate disk 1 TB connected by USB to the computer. I keep my photos on this separate disk. I also have another similar one for backup identically organized. The reason for this is that I can upgrade the computer or work on more than one and have the data ready without copying it. Also when a computer gets a virus or crashes the C drive can be affected. There is a smaller chance to get the E drive wiped out unless there is a HW failure in the disk itself. But for this situation I have the backup disk.
The root of this disk E: has a dir I named Photo. Under it, I have directories for each year, starting from 2000, my oldest digital photos, till now 2011. Inside each year directory, I keep a separate directory named by the date the photos were downloaded to the disk. I noticed it is a lot more work to group your photos based on subjects or any other method or naming convention. I can remember approximately when the photo is taken so it is easy to narrow down the search to just a few directories. Also while searching I kind of know if a photo was done before or after so I know which direction to search.
I am shooting RAW+JPEG. After I copy the files from the SD card onto the appropriate directory, I open a new directory RAW in the same location on E drive and move the RAW files there. Thus I keep the JPEG and RAW files separated but still connected as the RAW directory constitutes a sub directory of where the jpeg files are located.
To view the files I am using Picasa which is a Google app. It comes free. One can do some primitive editing on it but I am not using those functions for files I am submitting to DT. The main advantage of this program is that it has a great capacity and it will not choke even when it deals with many tens of thousands of photos. It can be downloaded easily from Google.
Files that I am submitting to DT get processed from RAW and converted to jpg and saved in a different area so they do not override the original jpg file from Drive E:
In the past I used to create CDs to archive photos. Later on when DVDs appeared I started using them because the capacity is larger. Still a DVD can only store around 4G data. This is not a lot these days. I stopped using them because they take long time to write and also the medium is not that reliable in the long term. Also it is a hassle to do the backups. One ends up with hundreds of DVDs in shoe boxes. Takes time and also costs money.
In the future I plan to buy a RAID disk system that stores data with redundancy so even if one of its disks dies the data can be recovered and also by inserting a new one the data is rewritten so redundancy is kept.
No system is foolproof, but as they say the only certain thing in life is death and taxes.