Dealing solely with digital images as an amateur, I rename all my images by the year/month/day/time as read from the file's EXIF data. (There's a great free program for the Mac called EXIFrenamer which will do this as a batch operation upon inserting a data card to a reader.) A typical file will look like "20101028_18-52-18.rw2"
I then depend on software (Aperture originally, now Lightroom) for keywording and folder management. If I have a specific project I create virtual folders for them in that software. Good keywording makes for easy searching, and if there's something I didn't keyword right I can still find it pretty easily by searching within a date-range.
Backups are regularly cloned external drives which sit in a closet when not doing backups (to protect against electrical spikes), and my favorite photos get uploaded to the cloud. In case of a fire or theft it won't save everything, but this is good enough for my non-professional needs.
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