Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gear: Hard Drive Heaven

In photography there are essentially two camps. One is a bunch of engineer-ish, super-nerdy gear-heads who do essentially nothing but talk about cameras, lenses, computers, software and all the STUFF that is used to create photographs. On the other side there are the purist, artistic (holga-using) people who despise talking about gear and would rather talk about composition, texture, color, weight, and all the STUFF that actually applies to the image itself.

Either way, photographers are just a bunch of people talking about STUFF.

This post is about stuff.
Specifically - computer stuff.
Its also long.
You have been warned.

Most digital cameras these days are 8 megapixels and higher. Most people shoot either high quality JPEG or RAW, which means that though creating pictures with a digital camera is free, storing those pictures can be an entirely different matter.

Before we get into the nitty gritty - lets just look at size.

bytes are small
1 kilobyte is 1000 bytes
1 megabyte is 1000 kilobytes
1 gigabyte is 1000 megabytes
1 terabyte is 1000 gigabytes (I measure things in terabytes)
1 petabyte is 1000 terabytes
1 exabyte is 1000 petabytes
1 zettabye is 1000 exabytes
1 yottabyte is 1000 zettabytes

Each year I have to buy more hard drives. At the rate that I am currently consuming storage space, I estimate that by the end of my career as a photographer (assuming camera resolutions don't go any higher - Ha -) I will generate about 12.5 terabytes of photos that don't suck so horrifically that I delete them immediately. (I estimate I keep about 250gb of photos every year and that I'll be shooting in some capacity for about 50 years).

At today's market prices, I'd have to spend $1300 for enough hard drives to hold all those pictures. In the photography industry, where "pro" cameras seldom cost less than $5000 and similar quality lenses often cost even more, a mere 1300 clams doesn't seem too bad. As it turns out, over the next 50 years storage space will continually get cheaper and cheaper. In the end, I'll end up buying fewer and fewer hard drives, each one having larger and larger capacities until eventually 50TB drives will allow me to store an entire life's worth of photography on one hard drive.

Until then, however, I've managed to come up with a whole bunch of hard drives with smaller capacities. Specifically - 10 Terabytes worth of hard drives, each one 250gb.

Above: In the bottom right corner is a power strip. Next to it is a powered USB hub. Directly above that  is a 500gb drive I use as a Time Machine backup, and above that is a 750gb drive that backs up only my photos. On the far right is a box containing 10TB of hard drives. In the middle is a magic black box that allows me to hot-swap those 250 SATA drives.
Through a friend (who will go un-named lest my faithful readers bombard him with requests for hard drives) I managed to get these hard drives for FREE. As I understand it they are no longer compatible with new (much larger) server racks. Thus, they are mine. In addition to being quite heavy, they take up a lot of space. Enter: the ottoman thingy.

It comfortably holds all my hard drives, the USB hub and the power supply for all of the above. Don't worry - it remains open (while in use) and extremely well ventilated (courtesy of a fan) to ensure my precious hard drives remain cool.

Next up on my list is a fireproof, waterproof, idiotproof box that can hold backups of my stuff in case the house burns down.

Now I can comfortable store all the data I can create (and then some) for the next few years.
In addition, I expect having the magic black box (linked above) will allow me to spend less on each new hard drive I purchase - internal drives are generally cheaper than drives that come with external enclosures, cables and their own power source.

Photographers aren't the only people who should have external hard drives. If you own a computer (and presumably you do) then you should have at LEAST one external hard drive that you use to back up your data. Music, word documents, business spreadsheets, photos, movies... whatever. It isn't a question of IF your hard drive will fail, but WHEN. Having a backup will save you from the pain and suffering that usually comes with a dead hard drive.