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Hard (Drive) Decisions

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

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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Western Digital My Book Essential

External hard drives—in all of their colorful glory—are reliable, inexpensive and abundantly available. All are portable (and some are quite pocketable), and all are plug-and-play. One advantage is that they can be connected without opening your computer, so they’re perfect for laptops and sealed Macs. And they can be freely switched from one PC to another—providing a great way to share large amounts of data. Another popular option is the network drive. Everyone has a home network these days, often with several computers involved. A network drive allows all of the connected PCs and Macs to share images, music, videos and other files. Many models even have built-in print servers.

Seagate Barracuda 3.5-inch internal hard drives will add up to 1 TB of additional storage space—that’s 1,000 gigabytes. Available with PATA or SATA interface, the 500 GB Barracuda features 7200 rpm platter rotation and a 32 MB cache (for high performance and short access times) and comes with Seagate’s five-year limited USA warranty. Helpful hint: Make sure your PC has room to add another drive before you make the purchase.

gadget gadget
Buffalo Technology LinkStation Pro Duo

Buffalo Technology offers a wide assortment of NAS (network attached storage) solutions, including the 1 TB LinkStation Pro Duo. It contains two separate 500 GB drives that can be set up in RAID 1 (or high-speed but insecure RAID 0) configurations. The LinkStation
Pro Duo features a gigabit Ethernet connection for fast access from anywhere—all that’s needed is Internet access and a web browser. It comes preloaded with Memeo AutoBackup software for Windows or Macintosh. New or modified files are automatically backed up so you’re less likely to lose them. And you can add more storage by adding any USB 2.0 hard drive directly.

The familiar My Book series from Western Digital includes the My Book Essential, an easy-to-use, easy-to-afford storage platform that simply plugs in and is immediately ready for use—no tedious drivers or setup routines required. The Essential drives are very thin—about the thickness of a book—and they nest together as you add more volumes. Available in a broad range of capacities, the My Book drives are the ideal desktop storage and backup solution. Western Digital also offers pocket-sized storage in the form of the My Passport series. The My Passport Studio, for example, comes in sizes up to 500 GB, provides both FireWire and USB 2.0 connectivity and works with Apple’s Time Machine (or other Mac or Windows backup software).

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Seagate Barracuda ES
LaCie LaCinema Rugged

Checking in at about 10¢ per gigabyte, the Iomega Prestige 1.5 TB external USB 2.0 hard drive is compatible with both Mac and PC platforms. It features an 8 MB cache and 7200 rpm performance. PC users receive a license key so they can download EMC Retrospect Express software for easy file backup operations. It’s also available in 500 GB and 1 TB versions.

LaCie LaCinema Rugged
gadget Iomega Prestige

It comes as no surprise that a company whose name is synonymous with data storage—Imation—offers one of the most versatile portable drives on the market. The Apollo Expert UX is bus-powered, so there’s no AC adapter to fool with. It features a unique integrated swivel stand that allows it to be positioned vertically or horizontally, a low-capacity data indicator to alert users when the drive is full and one-touch Imation Live backup software. Built with travel in mind, the Apollo Expert is covered with a textured, rubberized skin that protects it from scratches. It’s available in 250, 320 and 500 GB capacities and is compatible with PC or Mac computers.

LaCie is widely known for highly reliable products, an innovative cosmetic design and a relentless commitment to data safety. (As they put it, “You can replace a keyboard, processor or printer but you do not want to lose your data.”) But the coolest product for photographers is the LaCinema Rugged. It’s a 500 GB multimedia hard drive that features HDMI upscaling, which allows you to watch stored movies and television programs on your HD TV—or even enjoy your digital camera images—in full HD resolution. Created for LaCie by world-renowned industrial designer Neil Poulton, the LaCinema Rugged features a shock-resistant, “all-terrain” design so you can safely take your shows on the road. It provides USB 2.0 throughput and comes complete with a dedicated remote control.

Buffalo Technology
(800) 456-9799

(954) 660-7000

(888) 516-8467

(503) 844-4500

Seagate Technology
(877) 271-3285

Western Digital
(877) 934-6972