External Hard Drives - Backing Up and Saving Your Images: Part 2 - Digital Photography School
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External Hard Drives – Backing Up and Saving Your Images: Part 2

Save it, store it, back it up and back it up again – if you work by this, you may never have to experience that tummy churning sensation of remorse. In this section of our backing up series (read part 1 at Backing Up and Saving Your Images) we look at external hard drives, which are arguably one of the most cost effective and simplest ways to store your images.

Shopping for a suitable product may seem like a complete headache, especially if you are unsure of what specifications are good and which is average. Below you’ll find some short explanations to help you get started.

Capacity

This refers to how much information your device can hold in the same way a memory card or your computer’s hard drive does. As mentioned in Part 1 you can pick up a ‘cheap’ 1TB for around £60, but this isn’t necessarily the best deal as purchasing several slightly cheaper yet lower capacity units will reduce the risk of lost files if your one and only external hard drive breaks. The range of capacity is vast; you’ll find everything from a USB pen storing as little as 1GB of information (which may enough for the very casual photographer) to larger data backs offering 2TB or more (perhaps more than even the most professional shooter will need). Ideally opting for something around the 250GB gives you the best of both worlds and should only set you back £40 ($60). With 250GB of space, photographers will easily be able to store up to 80,000 images (depending on resolution), so a terabyte will provide room for around 320,000 – much more than many will need. It is also worthwhile knowing that although you think you are buying say ‘250GB’ of space, as much as 30GB of that could be taken up with pre-installed files such as for virus protection and operating software, etc from the manufacturer – so you never quite get as much space as you think you will.

Connectivity

There are two main ways to connect an external hard drive to your machine; USB and FireWire. USB, the predominantly used connection variant, simply plug in and your computer should detect it automatically. Firewire, similar to the USB in its plug and play operation, but is available in two speeds: Firewire 400 (which matches the performance times of most USBs) and the faster version; Firewire 800 which is mainly compatible with Macs.

Speed

Calculated by how quickly the discs inside the drive spin, a hard drive’s operational; speed is quantified in RPM (rotations per minute). How fast is fast? Well the short answer is the higher the number the faster the transfer and upload rate, for example 7200 rpm is quicker than 5400rpm. Most devices tout times of: 7200 RPM, 5400 RPM and 4200 RPM, with 5400 RPM being the most common. Upload speed is measured in megabytes per second (MB/s), and again the more the better; with 100MB/s being an attractively fast speed. Seek speed may also be mentioned, as this is rate at which the device sources your files. However it is fair to say that this speed is fairly levelled across the board and will only range into milliseconds.

Buffer

This refers to the internal memory of the product, which after searching and retrieving a file will temporarily load any extra information it predicts the processor could ask for next. The larger the buffer size the smoother the flow of information. The best external devices will hold a buffer of 8MB or 16MB.

Other factors

As well as the features worth noting above take care to assess the dimensions and overall design of the product – will it fit with your current set up and do you like its appearance? There are so many varieties of external hard drives available today, produced in a rainbow of colours, shapes and sizes – so don’t feel like you are restricted to a bulky black box if bubblegum pink or bumblebee yellow is your thing. Also check what software the unit comes with, as today most should include virus protection. Check the product is compatible with your computer, and ensure the product comes with a warranty as accidents do happen.

Handling

Until you buy the device you can never be completely sure of how it will operate, for example how noisy it will be, how hot it will get, how sturdy or reliable it is etc. With this in mind source a few reliable reviews either written by technology journalists or customers who have purchased and used the device. Both of which can be found online.

Who’s who in the external hard drive market?

There is a plethora of products pouring into this market, all designed for different users, in different colours, for different purposes, made from different materials and methods, and all claiming to be the best. Separated by specifications, design and budget – there is literally an external hard drive for everyone. However, as with other technology markets there are a handful of established key-brands to look out for, and here they are…

Seagate

Producer of sleek, business orientated devices, Seagate manufacture a range of large and small storage units. One of its most recent launches was the ‘FreeAgent Go drive’ pledging an entire terabyte squished into a petite and pocketable drive and its BlackArmor has become a popular seller, as an all-in-one USB 3.0 toolkit that combines a 500GB 7200RPM 2.5–inch portable hard drive, power cable and PC express card, delivering a transfer speed of up 100MB/s, which is three times faster than current USB 2.0 devices.

LaCie

Lacie was one of the first external hard drive producers to shake things up with interesting styles, shapes and colours.

Today, as well as providing popular portable units for casual users, LaCie has brought out a professional range of devices into the mainstream, with the well regarded D2 Quandra; LaCie’s entry level professional storage solution which is available for less than $160 and is available in capacities up to 2TB (as well as other configurations).

Check out the complete range of external hard drives from Lacie over at Amazon.

Western Digital

western-digital-my-book.jpgFamed for their attractive and sleek ‘Passport’ range of small and portable devices, WD has a reputation for good-looking products. In particular its My Book family has received much praise for a svelte build whilst covering capacities of up to 4TB.

All is not lost…

“Ah but what if your external hard drive corrupts?” I hear you ask. Well if you have fallen victim to data loss because your storage device breaks there are new methods in which you can recover files. For example, memory card manufacturer Lexar now produces products with Image Rescue software that recovers and restores lost or deleted images from any memory card even if it isn’t a Lexar-branded product. Similarly hard drive manufacturer Western Digital incorporate a similar program called SmartWare with the hard drives it ships, and there are more and more manufacturers following suit. Before buying a drive, plough through its list of contents to discover whether this feature is included.

If not, be sure to read part four in this backing up special guide (next week) as we explain how to recover lost or damaged files. Make sure you are subscribed to dPS to get all the rest of this series.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some older comments

  • Jordan Elderkin

    July 18, 2011 11:12 am

    It is so important to backup your files and photos which hold so much sentimental value.
    Over the years U have lost so many important files and family photos back before external hard drives were about which is why I make an effort to always backup my data regularly and thank god I haven't lost any more sentimental memories since lol

  • flagpoles

    July 12, 2011 03:09 am

    Great info! I've had many problems with my computer crashing and info being lost.....very frustrating!

  • American flag

    November 20, 2010 11:50 pm

    By having an external hard drive saved all my data. It was the best $150 dollars I've ever spent. My hard drive on my computer crashed, and my external drive had a backup of everything!

  • Doughnut Days

    October 28, 2010 12:12 pm

    Great article and posts...my head is swimming with info overload.
    Three questions :
    ~when I back up photo files from my internal drive (RAW, JPGS) to my external hard drives, I just do a drag and drop. Is there another way that I should be backing up my files. Perhaps using some kind of software? I use a Mac so what kind of software is recommended.
    ~Am needing a new external soon. Any suggestion? I've had a few iomega drives - and they've been reliable for me. any other recommendations?
    - online storage for RAW files: Crashplan or Backblaze?

  • Joe Sherrill

    October 9, 2010 03:59 am

    I have found that when an external drive fails, that it is not always the failure of the drive but the failure of the enclosure. You can buy another enclosure online and I have found a number of these at www.tigerdirect.com where I bought mine. There are several different drive sizes and interfaces such as IDE, SATA and others. I suggest that before you throw a drive away that you try a new enclosure. I paid about $20 for the last one that I bought. Before you buy one, take the drive out of the enclosure and get the model number on the drive. Go to the manufacturer's web site and get the specifications for the drive. It will include the interface and size. Use this information to get the proper enclosure. I have also use these to recover data form pc's that had their motherboards fail.

  • lilnassau

    October 8, 2010 02:22 pm

    From experience, I'm a nature photographer and I also from time to time photograph weddings and portraits. I have a 500gb seagate external automatic back up drive that i use to backup my files. Ive had this drive for over3 years. I recently decided not to depend so much on that drive and bought a WD Passport 1tb external drive. So now i had a back up to may back up and a back up for my desktop and laptop. Sad to say less than months after feeling secure that all my information is safe the WD decided to not respond, it just was not being recognized by any computer, and when i ran retrieval software nothing was able to retrieve any information. I lost everything on that drive. Of course I went through the meaningless task of contacting the manufacture and they suggested the same things i already did so in the end it was all gone. The good news is that the seagate 500gb drive is still up and running but with only 40gb of space left, deliberately so as to avoid any malfunction.
    Im in the process of looking for an online backup company, i wont back up every file just mainly the most important ones like weddings some portraits and those difficult to get nature shots.

  • loni

    August 24, 2010 02:17 am

    DO NOT BUY WESTERN DIGITAL!!!!!

    I have had problem after problem with 1TB My Books from them (2 different versions), and it has caused me a lot of grief (now I back up my back up and have back up DVD's as well because I'm a bit jaded).

    I now use mainly Seagate, and I've had no problems at all.

  • Simon

    August 22, 2010 07:45 pm

    This topic is already outdated - what about eSATA or USB 3.0?

    Wouldn't consider anything other than these two for bulk backup...

  • flag poles

    August 22, 2010 08:05 am

    The LaCie hard disks I purchased over time are versatile in terms of connection, quite generous in terms of software support, and solid in terms of performance. If you’re in the market for an external hard drive, LaCie definitely deserves consideration...

  • Guy Wills

    August 21, 2010 05:14 am

    I bought a Western Digital 2TB My Book Mirror Edition dual-drive storage system USB unit for photos and another for normal bakcups. As the disks are mirrored I "only" get 1Tb of useable space. But what I do get is automatic backup of the data onto 2 disks incase one decides it doesn't want to play nicely. I thought that would keep me going for a long time, but I'm already (1 year later) over 300G. I can see my spare being dragged in next year.

    What we tend to forget is we don't store just one version of the image. At worst there's the initial RAW file, an even larger TIFF or PSD file for manipluation in PS and then the final JPG. Some will possibly have muptiple versions for different reasons. So one "image" from my D300 can easily eat up 50Mb. At best it's the RAW and JPG at ~19Mb. I'm sure those lucky enough to own the top end Canons must see >100Mb per picture if they keep everything.

  • Joe Sherrill

    August 21, 2010 02:22 am

    I have been working with computers since 1966 so I have seen a lot of hardware failures. I currently have 3 external backup drives because I know at least one of them WILL fail at some point. I use a software product called SyncBackSe that will allow you to setup backup jobs for one or more folders. It will can be set up to backup only new or changed files so after your initial backup, it will take less time for later backups. I make a point to backup at least once a week and more frequently if a lot of files are created. I always backup to all 3 drives so that I have 3 copies of everything important. It is also important to keep at least one copy at another location.

    You WILL have a failure one day. You can not have too many copies of your files.

  • Jen Clark

    August 21, 2010 12:26 am

    I just wanted to add; Buy.com has great deals... I got an email this morning for an Iomega 2.0 USB external 1TB drive: $77. Not bad! eBay also has good deals as well.

  • Steve

    August 20, 2010 05:53 pm

    Just a small point, but don't go rushing out to buy a USB 3.0 drive expecting lightening transfer speeds. Most PCs don't yet support USB 3.0. By all means futureproof yourself and buy it now, but you will have to upgrade your PC (or at least a component in it) to benefit from USB 3.0 transfer speeds. The one mentioned in the review is shipped with the adapter card that does allow you to benefit, but not all do. Be careful what you buy!

    Whatever you choose to do - do back up. Regularly. As mentioned this doesn't have to be expensive, burn to DVD periodically and leave the discs at work, with a family or friend. You won't regret it.

  • Scott C

    August 20, 2010 02:49 pm

    I recently went on holiday/ vacation. I had taken over 1200 photos over the four days and I was unable to back it up to my Time Capsule. I fell through the floor when I went to put day five on to my computer and it wouldn't boot up.
    HARD DRIVE FAILURE!!! Lost all those previous day's photos. Now I don't take any chances with photos.

    BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP. Never forget to.

  • Ray Goniea

    August 20, 2010 12:39 pm

    First time to post here. I work for a local school district as a systems administrator and have handled our backup processes in the past. While we have an enterprise backup in place we had our humble beginnings.

    One type of storage I didn't see mentioned was JBOD or Just a Bunch Of Disks. Basically what that means is you can add any size storage and it will add it to the total amount of storage available. If as I do you have some older smaller hard drives laying around you can add them to the JBOD array along with any newer larger ones you might have. This does take a JBOD controller card installed in your computer and I am not a MAC person so I don't know if they have the controllers for the MAC.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Ray

  • Tomas Sobek

    August 19, 2010 03:09 pm

    Useful article, thanks! What to do if external hard drive fails? Just buy a new one and copy the files from the surviving mirror as soon as possible. Personally I am running simple 3 copies setup:

    1. Primary files on my hard drive.
    2. Mirrored copy on my external hard drive. I am using excellent utility rsync which is part of any Linux distribution as well as Mac OS (yes it is a clone of BSD). Newer editions of Windows have comparable tool robocopy.
    3. Another copy on second external hard drive off-site. Swapping those two external drives from time to time. If I ever lose both copies at home (fire, burglars) I am back to the last swap.

  • Vlad

    August 19, 2010 05:32 am

    Andy...I completely agree with you. However, you statement about backup solutions is generally true...there is no backup solution that is 100% safe...no matter what combinations one chooses.

    I agree RAID is no different, and yes it only minimizes risk of disk failure. I have had disks that failed...not too often but it has happened and I was glad for my external drive...even though it was not RAID at that time. RAID can fail as well (whether disks are made from the same batch or not) ...RAID just minimizes the risk and downtime as you point out.

    For me the RAID solution is very comparable in price to the regular one drive external drive. For pretty much the same money I would rather buy a RAID than a single drive while minimizing the risk of failure and downtime. This smaller risk is worth it to me.

    My point was that I was surprised that RAID was not mentioned in the article. Since the article addresses consumer backup solutions, I thought that RAID should've been covered as well.

  • Andy MIlls

    August 19, 2010 05:21 am

    Okay. People keep going on about RAID. For those who do not know, RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks) is a way of connecting hard drives together for speed, space or redundancy .

    RAID 0: AKA "striped" or "striping". Adds two or more drives together to give extra space (2x 250Gb = 500Gb). A side effect of RAID 0 is that read and write times can be quicker.

    RAID 1: AKA "Mirroring". The same data is held on 2 drives of the same size. This is so that if one drive fails, you still have the data on the other drive. You replace the faulty drive and the mirror is rebuilt on the new drive. But you should replace the other drive as well, once the mirror is rebuilt - chances are that both drives were bought at the same time (and possibly even from the same batch), and may fail within a short period of each other.

    RAID 5 & 10 are (in simple terms) variations of the above with extra drives to add less chance of losing your data.

    The most commonly used RAID type used in home storage is RAID 1.

    While people keep going on about RAID, there is at least one important thing to note: RAID IS NOT 100% RELIABLE! RAID is not used to keep your data safe, it is used to mitigate downtime and it should not be used as your sole means of backing up - RAID storage devices can still fail and corrupt your data (yes, this *does* happen), and they are still vulnerable to fire and flood, etc.

  • Vlad

    August 19, 2010 03:10 am

    Surprised that the RAID configuration that Western Digital offers was not mentioned here. I think it's probably the best solution for home photographers. It creates two copies instead of one and the drives can be changed when full.

    I have a 2Tb Western Digital My Book Mirror Edition set as RAID 1 running the WD Green Power drives which are very quiet and run very cool. I recommend the Mirror Edition to all my readers. Yes, it's more expensive than the regular MyBook edition but I think it's worth the extra money. They have a special now for $60 OFF until 8/31/2010.

  • kate si

    August 19, 2010 02:34 am

    While I'm happy with my two external hds I wish this article came out before I bought them because I was trying to find comparisons and there really weren't any. I bought a 300ish gb from LaCie, it's been great but it wasn't enough space. Strangely enough I thought it was a 250 but the capacity seems to be slightly less than 300 instead. I was confused. I thought it would be enough to at least last the first year of having it but it lasted 3 months before I filled it up, mostly because of my computer's backup. I bought a 1tb LaCie recently and moved the hd backup to that one. Now I use them both AND burn dvds because I'm paranoid.

  • karen@fidelisartprints.com

    August 19, 2010 02:06 am

    Hi, I've been following several posts at DPS this week, and must say that I agree with Andy's feelings about some of the commenting. Although this particular group of comments isn't bad, some of the others have been very disrespectful to their author(s).

    I realize that some people comment using text from their phone, which often ends up sounding short or curt (bordering rude). I suggest that if this is the case, that folks wait and comment from their laptop/home computer.

    Article writing is often limited to 300-500 words which means that some information is bound to get left out. The objective of blog posts are to introduce topics and get us "thinking". By commenting we can share what we know and ADD to the content. If you don't agree with the author (or another comment), its okay to say so, but let's be professional about it. We are here because we love photography, not to copy-edit or belittle some else's authority on the topic.

    Just like Photoshop...there's over 100 different ways (paths/techniques/tools/actions) to get the job done. Let's appreciate that every author (and individual) has their own point of view, opinion or way of tackling the job. There are no expert rules, we can ALWAYS learn from one another.

    Thanks Andy for bringing this up, it had been bothering me too.

  • Matt

    August 19, 2010 12:54 am

    Seagate has a 5 year warranty. VERY important. Most others are just one year. And Segate has been a leader for decades.

  • Andy MIlls

    August 18, 2010 11:05 pm

    I think some of the comments here (and other articles recently) have been bordering on being rude, no actually, probably are rude and quite condescending. As an article author myself, I have been on the receiving end of this.

    Yes, the article is not perfect - the author's views on space does not match everybody's, and it doesn't mention RAID (did any consider this may be in one of the next articles?)

    But as an introduction it is good, and some backing up is better than no backing up at all.

    I really do believe that some people need to think before they post and make the effort to be helpful, rather than negative.

  • Bob

    August 18, 2010 07:47 pm

    I keep my photos backed up on three different hard disc drives. One internal on the PC, One external connected to the PC and one External off site. I still keep me fingers crossed.

  • Marco

    August 18, 2010 05:51 pm

    6. Connect your external disk to the rear USB connectors on your computer for better reliability. Often the front connectors are connected you your MB with very cheap wires and are therefore often unreliable. This can result in slow transfers or even loss of connection which can lead to broken data or filesystems.

    7. If your harrdisk breaks and your data is worth something, don't try to rescue the data yourself, you might destroy it beyond repair. Contact Ontrack or another reliable data rescue company (don't go cheap there or your data is worth something!)

  • Marco

    August 18, 2010 05:44 pm

    Just my few cents to add:
    1. Thanx for the post! Backup is essential not only because your Disks could fail but because you might accidentyally delete or destroy your data. And there, even RAID is no help!

    2. For external drives with USB 2.0 connection you don't have to care about disk speeds anymore. Even "slow" disks make more than 50MB/s and no USB 2.0 device has ever reached more than about 40MB/s. And for backup, access times are not really an issue.

    3. Be careful if you intend to conntect anything with more than 2TB to your computer with eSATA! It might destroy the data on the drive (Overflow/Wrap-Around stuff). Not an issue if connected by Network, USB oder Firewire.

    4. For easy and fast backups where different versions of the data can easily be accessed take a look at rsync-backup stuff. Maybe http://www.heise.de/software/download/rsyncbackup.vbs/39087 (it's in german, but there are others around as well)

    5. Opt for slower disks (5400rpm) since they tend to be quieter and stay cooler and are still fast enough for backups.

  • Mark

    August 18, 2010 11:58 am

    Drobo or any other type of raid storage seems to the standard for any professional i know. This type of storage wasn't mentioned.

  • Cee

    August 18, 2010 09:24 am

    All these articles are great. Showing how easy it is to backup your data. However, what about encryption? It is true that it takes a bit longer to copy but imagine this. You go shooting and backup your memory cards onto your drive while out and about. Most likely that copy is your only copy. What if that drive is stolen? Whoever has that drive then possess the only digital copy of your shoot.

    That happened to a friend couple months ago. Even though she hasn't seen any of her photos on Internet, yet. It is an uneasy feeling. I installed TrueCrypt on her laptop and her external drives are encrypted. It just takes one extra step to use the drive. All you have to do is mount the drive with TrueCrypt then proceed to copy your files onto it. If you lose the drive, your data is encrypted. At least you have one less things to worry about.

  • James

    August 18, 2010 06:35 am

    Another option is to backup another set to the 'cloud' that is external Internet based storage services such as Amazon Web Services where you can use software to sync files while not at the PC. This may not replace the external hard drive but is a good 'off site' method which can be quite affordable and will scale with your storage requirements.

    If interested I suggest you use Google or Bing, or another search engine, to look for 'online storage' and just browse the options. I am sure you could get advice through the forums here or on the service providers.

    This kind of approach will become more attractive as boradband speeds improve and those with large quantities of files are no longer put off by slow upload speeds.

  • v8280z

    August 18, 2010 06:27 am

    What about Drobo's products? By far my most preferred external drive array.

  • Tigraine

    August 18, 2010 06:16 am

    I just wanted to point out that there is usually nothing on an external drive.
    The reason why you are loosing data is because drive manufacturers count gigabyte different than programmers do.
    Drive manufacturers count in 1000. So one gigabyte is 1000 megabyte. Programs and operating systems count 1 gigabyte as 1024 mb. The same goes for mb and terrabyte. We loose on 1 terrabyte 24*1024 of space due to this counting mismatch.

  • Randy

    August 18, 2010 05:58 am

    We are just getting started with our photography business and struggled to find a good backup solution. We shoot RAW, so online was too expensive. We don't want the hassle of multiple drives in multiple locations. So we finally opted for a single external drive connected to our Mac backed up via Time Machine. The drive is an ioSafe fireproof and waterproof drive. Thankfully, we've never had a failure or disaster to test the system.

    This may have been mentioned already, but don't use DVD-R's to archive data. They simply don't have the archival quality that a CD-R does. They only last 5-6 years, compared to a CD-R which lasts 100 years. I don't trust either format myself.

  • Caleb

    August 18, 2010 05:56 am

    I can tell this was written for a not so tech savvy person (and written by). But what about people who NEED a lot of hard-drive space and need it to be fast. Why didn't you mention RAID drives and Array's?

  • Jenson Lightwave

    August 18, 2010 04:59 am

    Important to keep in mind- the above drives (all-in-one externals, i.e. Maxtor One Touch, MyBook, etc) contains a single 3.5" hard drive stuffed (literally) into a cheap plastic casing with very little ventilation. Not good for a drive.

    A better alternative is to purchase an external HD case (go to newegg.com/tigerdirect.com/amazon.com and search for an external drive case) They're cheap- mine is a Rosewill i got from newegg.com for like $40- it allows you to put in 2 drives- in my case, i have a 2tb in slot 1 and a 1.5 in slot 2. The advantages of my drive is the entire case is aluminum, so it's a giant heat sink as well as containing a built in fan that routes air out of the case- and it's built like a tank. I have 2 of them each with a capacity of 6 tb of data, not to mention a One Touch which i carry with me.

    With externals, you can also configure them so the drives run as separate drives, as one giant drive or as a RAID. And if a hd dies or you decide to upgrade, pull the case off, pull out the drive and push one in and you're done.

    If you buy an all-in-one external drive, you're stuck with the drive you bought and don't even think about upgading it (though it's not hard to crack open the case to do so).

    Don't forget to use a good sync software- the best i've used is GoodSync on both my mac and pc. Chronosync for the Mac is also a good app but GoodSync is way easier to use and sync with. Lots of freeware and shareware- look around. I don't use Time Machine because it's fairly ridiculous program- my backups are true one to one's so i can take my external, plug it into another pc and i'm ready to go.

    When you're done syncing, TURN OFF your hard drive! This is important because if you get hit with a virus or your pc crashes and your drive is still mapped, you're gonna be in very bad shape. Disconnecting the AC cord from the wall or device is good practice in case you get a lightning strike also.

    Like the person said above, 2tb isn't that much space nowadays- my raw shots are about 12 megs, but my photoshop composites lately have been averaging 500 megs *per file*. All that adds up quick.

    Lastly, buy a giant hd and back up everything to that, then take it to another location as an off site copy. That way if your cat pees on your computer and fries everything, you still have that backup waiting for you.

    - Jenson

  • Andy MIlls

    August 18, 2010 03:27 am

    I don't know if this will come up in one of the upcoming posts, but something a lot of people overlook is using a surge protected extension lead - these are very inexpensive and can save your hard drive being fried in the first place. It's important to put the external drive on it as well, if it has its own power supply.

    Even better would be to use an UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) which will give better protection than a surge protector. It also means that your computer will carry on in the event of power loss, and will give you enough time to shut it own properly.

  • dan foy

    August 18, 2010 03:11 am

    Small point, but there is no way that preinstalled software is going to come anywhere close to 30GB - it sounds like what you're describing is the difference in ways of measuring a GB.

    Computers work in base 2 rather than decimal, which makes a GB 1024MB rather than the 1000MB it is sometimes shorthanded to. Marketing companies produce hard-drives with decimal-based GBs in order to make it look like their products are bigger than they actually are. 1024B in a KB, 1024 KB in a MB, 1024MB in a GB. Manufacturers will tell you that 1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes; actually, it is 1,073,741,824 bytes.

  • Colin

    August 18, 2010 02:23 am

    Martin; We use eSATA when downloading HD Video. It is crazy fast. Even making Firewire 800 look slow. Thing is, eSATA connectivity is a fair bit more costly and I am not sure the extra speed will be that noticable with images, even RAW, and when it crashes (all things with moving parts will break some day) you are out more $$$.
    Opnion; LaCie 500GB units with Firewire give you a lot of bang for your bux. They make cool 4 port hubs so you can work off of several HDs at the same time.
    I expect "Flash" options will soon compete with HDs.

  • Julie Bernstein

    August 18, 2010 02:10 am

    Also I agree that the idea that 2TB is "perhaps more than even the most professional shooter will need" is ridiculous. My RAW+JPEG files are over 20 meg right out of the camera (21 mpx, not unusual for a modern dSLR), and I sometimes shoot over a thousand photos at an event. I am trying to get better about throwing out bad shots right away, but I've only been in business for a couple of years and I've already filled up half of my 4TB Drobo.

  • Julie Bernstein

    August 18, 2010 02:04 am

    I store my Lightroom catalog on my internal Mac hard drive and back it up to an external 2TB external drive automatically with Time Machine. The photos themselves, both digital negatives and processed JPEGs, are stored on a Drobo with four internal 1TB disks, which I will eventually upgrade to 2TB disks. (I followed a tip to format the Drobo as double the capacity I started with, so I can replace individual drives and increase the capacity without reformatting).

    All of the processed photos are uploaded to Zenfolio, my pro photo host, so I have redundant backup there. In addition, I made a copy of my entire catalog and all digital negatives to another 2TB external drive and shipped it to a relative out of state, a plan which I will repeat periodically. (I have a second 2TB drive ready to load, and will have the first one shipped back to me so I can keep backing up and swapping.)

    I investigated the online backup route but it is too impractical for our relatively slow DSL upload speed (we would pay for higher if we could but can't get it in our neighborhood) and the huge volume of data I have to back up.

  • Janet

    August 18, 2010 01:50 am

    I have both an external 1-TB hard drive for data storage and another 1-TB internal hard drive for backup. Last fall my 500 GB external data drive went belly up and the much smaller internal back up drive had failed to backup any of the data because it exceeded its capacity. I was nearly sick at the thought of losing years of photos and other data files. Fortunately, a local company was able, with the specialized tools they have, to access and recover every bit of data from the bad drive. That's when I invested in the 2 1-TB drives. The local computer repair company transferred all my data from the old to the new drive and within days I was back in business. Thankfully, it didn't cost an arm and a leg in the process. Though, they did tell me that there are other companies with more extensive resources that might have been able to recover my data if they hadn't been able, though at a significantly higher cost.

    My advice is 1) listen to your hard drive. If you start hearing "funny noises" (think fingernails on chalkboard), then immediately shut down your computer to limit any damage to the hard drive and contact a good repair shop (ask your geek friends/family, I'm sure they'll have some suggestions).

    2) Have at *least* another drive for backup (it should be as big if not bigger than the drive you are backing up) and, if you can afford it, it's not a bad idea to invest in a remote back up service. Any drive can and will eventually go bad and generally when it's least convenient for you. A backup service provides another layer of redundancy.

  • karen@fidelisartprints.com

    August 18, 2010 01:48 am

    Thanks for this great follow-up post. Backing up your photographs (digital data) is SO critical! We manually back up to 2 separate hard drives, which get stored in 2 different locations off site.

    Insurance for loss of digital data is crazy expensive, which means for commercial shooters, who are responsible for archiving their images, this is a must.

    I also recommend the LaCie HD over the Western Digital. Also, make sure that the HD has an ON/OFF switch. If not, it will stay on 24/7/365 and will burn out faster. If you have one that doesn't turn off, always unplug it after back-up. This is good practice if your home or computer is not protected from power surges.

  • LibraryJim

    August 18, 2010 01:31 am

    I sent my 15 year old son off with a digital camera and two 4GB cards to the Boy Scout Jamboree and told him "I doubt you'll need the second card. I have never come close to filling up ONE yet." I forgot a) he was going off for a week + and b) that I download the card onto my computer and external drive (backup) almost daily.

    Yep, between movies and stills, he filled up the first card, and when he came home was on the second card! And took some great photos, too!

  • mattew blassey

    August 18, 2010 01:12 am

    great post. Over the weekend my 2 western digital drives experienced failure. now i am in the process of having western digital send me two new drives to swap out my damaged ones. one of these drives I purchased just 5 months ago. Just goes to show that drive failure can really happen at anytime. I am now thinking about buying an additional backup drive just to keep off site somewhere or at a family members house just to protect my photography files. this experience has been a wake up call that bucking up $200 bucks to buy another backup drive is a tiny investment in the long run of potentially losing all of your photography images and business files !!

  • noë

    August 18, 2010 12:50 am

    I use two 1 tb Western Digital Elements external drives. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001JTQCU8/ref=wms_ohs_product) They're not very pretty, but they're as solid as bricks and stay perfectly cool. They've even taken a couple of spills with no damage to the data.

    I don't like backup programs. I want to be able to see and access files on the backup drives just like the main drive. So I use a free Microsoft program called SyncToy (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=C26EFA36-98E0-4EE9-A7C5-98D0592D8C52&displaylang=en) to synchronize folders between my PC, laptop, and the two externals.

  • Jamie

    August 18, 2010 12:44 am

    The idea that 2TB is "perhaps more than even the most professional shooter will need" is cute, if not completely realistic. I have about 4.5 TB sitting on my desk, and another 1TB in portables.

  • Martin

    August 18, 2010 12:41 am

    What about eSATA? It's becoming more popular these days, and is faster than usb2.

  • John Dezember

    August 18, 2010 12:40 am

    I would recommend ioSafe (http://iosafe.com) USB drives for additional security against fire, flood and shock.

  • Tom Husband

    August 18, 2010 12:40 am

    Or how about a Thermaltake BlacX and a couple of SATA 640GB hard drives backed up using Acronis?

  • Peter Arboine

    August 18, 2010 12:22 am

    why isnt g-raid or g-drive mentioned in this?

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