Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about using the Vault with referenced images. Because a lot of people still seem a little confused by the question of backup when choosing between managed or referenced images, I thought I’d review a couple of important concepts.
When you import an image as a referenced file, which you do in the Import dialog box by setting the Store Files pop-up menu to “in their current location”, Aperture leaves your original master file where it is and imports a pointer to that file. Next, it builds a JPEG preview of the file so that even if the master goes offline, you can still see a high-res view of the image, for keywording, organizing and rating.
As most people know, Aperture’s Vault system does not back up original files that are imported as references. Instead, you have to take care to back up those files yourself, using whatever method you like. Josh Anon covered a few excellent options Synchronize Pro which is what I use for backing up my original master files, as well as lots of other things, such as my iTunes music library. Synchronize Pro can be used for both synchronizing two folders (making sure that both folders have identical contents) or backing up one folder to another (making folder B look like folder a).
Synchronize Pro has a very simple interface, and it provides an easy way to perform progressive backups. That is, a backup that only copies files that are different or changed, rather than re-writing files that were copied in a previous backup. This is how Aperture’s Vault system works, and it makes periodic backups much faster.
However you choose to back up your referenced files, though, you still need to keep a Vault backup also. With a Vault backup you’ll preserve your library structure, all of your previews, and most importantly, all of your edits, versions, and metadata. If you only back up your referenced masters, a crash will wipe out all of the actual work that you might have done in Aperture.
After a crash, or other calamity, you’ll need to restore both your Vault backup, and the backup of your referenced masters that you performed by hand.