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April 17, 2023 Paul Tice

Optimizing Storage and Backup for AEC Photo Documentation

image of a desktop computer and mobile phone on desk to optimize storage and backup of aec documentation

The average large infrastructure project can generate as many as 55 million documents and millions of emails and workflows.

AEC photo documentation plays a crucial role in capturing the progress and details of construction projects.

The volume of photos generated in these projects can be overwhelming, and effectively storing and backing up this data presents a significant challenge for AEC professionals.

Unlike other industries that may rely on photo documentation, the AEC industry has specific needs, such as capturing details of construction phases, changes, and compliance with regulations.

As the use of photo documentation continues to grow in the industry, optimizing storage and backup solutions becomes crucial for managing this data effectively.

This article explores the challenges of storing AEC photo documentation and gives you solutions to optimize storage and backup to streamline workflows and reduce costs.

Assign Responsibility for Data Management

Technically, anyone who takes construction photos, uploads them or accesses them is responsible for optimizing storage and data management.

After all, they could cause security issues, cause drives to fail, or inadvertently delete critical documentation.

That being said, there should be one person that oversees the storage and optimization of photo documentation.

The person responsible would depend on the size of the project, the complexity, and the AEC firm’s organizational structure.

This could be an IT manager or the IT team. Many AEC firms aren’t large enough to support an entire IT staff, so this responsibility could fall to a project manager, data manager, or site manager.

It’s necessary to have someone in this position that has clear responsibilities for the management and maintenance of storing and optimizing not only photo documentation but all project documentation.

The main responsibilities are to develop storage and backup policies, ensure standards are followed, and that all stakeholders get trained on these policies and procedures.

Create a Photo Documentation Management Plan

A strong data management plan is an effective way to ensure that project data is secure, easily accessible, and can be used to inform future projects.

Start with an organization plan. Photo organization is a system of naming conventions, security protocols, and training. This is a starting point for your storage policies and procedures.

Data Retention and Classification

Part of the data management plan is an outline of how long you keep data and when to delete it. Photo documentation needs to get classified according to the level of importance and how data gets classified by importance, level of sensitivity, and who needs access.

Be sure to review data protection regulations and any other compliance issues as you create this part of the photo documentation plan.

Your project Compliance requirements can include data security and privacy regulations, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

There might be contractual obligations that define how long to retain data. These issues extend to third-party vendors that you use to store photo documentation as well.

Plan for Disasters

You probably have contingency plans for your project in case of weather delays and similar issues.

That plan needs to extend to AEC photo documentation storage. Disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, or cybersecurity breaches can cause data loss, including photo documentation, in any industry, including AEC.

More than two-thirds of construction companies  faced cyberattacks in 2018. The threat continues to grow, and the likelihood of an attack is very high for small and large firms alike.

A disaster plan outlines how to protect data in case a disaster does strike. Options may include redundancies or off-site storage.

The starting point for a disaster plan is a security audit and risk assessment. This identifies potential threats and vulnerabilities to the project’s data and operations.

You’ll need to create a backup strategy to ensure photo documentation gets backed up regularly. The strategy should include the frequency of backups and where the backups get stored.

A recovery plan outlines the steps to take in the event of a disaster. This plan should include a clear definition of roles and responsibilities, a communication plan, and a recovery timeline.

A plan isn’t complete without testing maintenance, and training. These steps are essential to know that the plan works, and the team is aware of their roles and responsibilities should disaster strike.

This also minimizes the damage and ensures your project recovers quickly.

These policies and procedures may seem like an overkill, but they can’t be overlooked if you want to ensure that photo documentation data is secure, organized, and easily accessible.

Include Redundancies

In most situations, redundancies can be expensive propositions. In AEC photo documentation, redundancies can be project savers.

Redundancy in the IT world means that you have multiple locations for storage and backups. You never know if or when a drive fails, or a power surge takes out a storage drive.

Multiple drives and locations prevent total data loss and minimize costly downtime.

There are a few ways to include redundancies in your AEC photo documentation storage plan beyond using redundant storage drives.

Redundant backups ensure you can recover photo documentation and other important project data in the event of a major failure or disaster.

You can even implement redundant power supplies like Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) to ensure your team stays on task. Network connection redundancies keep photo documentation backed up in case a network connection goes down.

Optimizing AEC Photo Documentation Storage

Does it seem like the document management policies, procedures, and plans are increasing the storage costs for your firm?

There are ways you can optimize storage, keep costs under control, and be prepared in the event of disasters.

A cloud storage solution is one of the simplest solutions for storage optimization. A cloud storage vendor can be a partner in your disaster recovery plan, too.

You can scale up or down depending on the needs of your project and reduce the costs of managing storage on-site.

As mentioned earlier, your photo documentation plan should dictate how long images get stored and when they can get archived.

AEC firms can implement a strategy where they have high-end storage devices, which contain the most important and frequently accessed files.

They also have less expensive drives which hold less important photo documentation, or photos that are ready for archiving.

Before implementing this strategy, review the compliance standards and contractual obligations to make sure you can implement them and stay in compliance.

Utilize file compression, which reduces the size of files. You do need to be aware that with compression, you risk losing image quality. That can become an issue during or well after the project if you need to access small details in an image.

That’s why a cloud-based storage solution that can handle large volumes of data is your best option.

Deduplication identifies duplicates and deletes them. This reduces storage space, and some tools can automate this process for you.

Keep AEC Photo Documentation Safe and Secure

Is it possible to keep AEC photo documentation safe and secure while reducing costs and storage needs? It certainly is. You can maintain the integrity of your project by creating a data management plan, and a disaster recovery plan, and follow the tips in this article to reduce and optimize your storage needs.

If you want to know more about cloud-based storage solutions for your AEC project, check out RESolute today.


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