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.
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.