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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hard (Drive) Decisions


In the era of high-megapixel cameras, storing your large image files requires the use of a separate hard drive

Labels: Gadget Bag

This Article Features Photo Zoom

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You can set your watch by it—well, your calendar, anyway. Within 30 days of buying a new 12-megapixel camera, photographers everywhere are smacking themselves on the side of the head and asking, “Where am I going to keep all of these large image files?”

Having a large number of large files is a good problem to have. A large file means lots of data and, ultimately, that means more options for creative expression. If you shoot RAW, you already know that gives you expanded control over the final results—but that control comes at the expense of file size. Plus, many cameras nowadays have built-in editing and “art filter” functions that, because you may save more than one version of the same file, once again, increase your need for storage space.

The good news is that we’re living in the golden age of data storage. The porosity of storage media has increased faster than average image file sizes have swollen, and cost per gigabyte has tumbled to all-time lows. The most popular place to store images is still the hard drive, although other options—like online data centers and Blu-ray optical drives—are gaining momentum.

Your computer came with a hard drive installed, but in the final analysis, it’s the worst place to store your images unless you have a beefy, automated backup system. Even a largish, 500 GB internal drive soon will be filled if it’s used for everything including your operating system, program applications and image files.

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Imation Apollo Expert UX
The best approach is to deploy matching sets of two or more hard drives installed in a RAID configuration. RAID is an acronym for “redundant array of inexpensive drives.” The most popular configuration for photographers and graphic artists is RAID 1. The drive controller creates identical copies of a set of data on two or more drives. If one fails, the others are unaffected, and at least one full set of data remains intact.

Although it may sound like a Star Wars character, a JABOD system gets its name from the fact that it’s assembled from “just a bunch of disks.” It’s a collection of dissimilar physical drives that are configured to be read as a single virtual volume. This works great for those who keep adding drives to their systems because it allows them to consolidate their searches and backups.

You can set up a RAID or JABOD system using internal or external drives. Choose your drive controller carefully. Some specialized RAID controllers, for example, can be set up to read two data drives simultaneously, compare the data and correct any errors that are encountered.

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