Keep It Safe: 16 Storage Solutions for Preserving Your Photos
June 19, 2015
To appreciate how digital storage is progressing, consider this: You’re reading the first hard drive roundup in PDN history to use the word “petabyte” (that’s 1,000 terabytes, or 1,000,000 gigabytes). And while a petabyte might seem extravagant today, we’re confident that with the advent of 4K video and 50-megapixel DSLRs, it won’t be very long before such a staggering number starts to seem increasingly reasonable for at least some users. Until then, we’ve assembled a variety of sub-petabyte options to house your digital files instead, including desktop, portable and cloud options.
G-Technology G-Speed Studio XL
The G-Speed Studio XL builds off the G-RAID Studio we reviewed in the December 2014 issue ofPDN, only instead of the RAID’s two drive bays, the XL makes room for a total of eight removable enterprise-class 7200-RPM hard drives. The result is a system that offers a maximum 64TB of storage with data rates topping off at 1350MBps. Hard drives are loaded through a door on the front panel. The Studio XL has several RAID modes, including RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, 50, 60 and JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks), and like other products in the Studio line, it can be daisy-chained via dual Thunderbolt 2 ports to boost speed and capacity.
LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2
The 5big delivers ample capacity for long-term photo storage with 10-, 20- and 30TB options. Thanks to a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports, it has the speed you need for 4K video editing. You’ll enjoy data-transfer speeds of up to 1050MBps, but if you leverage Thunderbolt 2’s daisy-chaining capabilities, you can bump up both your capacity and speed by adding more 5bigs into the mix. In fact, if money and studio space are no object, you can link a total of 36 5bigs together and enjoy a full petabyte (there’s that word) of storage with transfer speeds reaching a toe-curling 3000MBps. The 5big supports several hardware RAID modes, including RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD. You’re not stuck with a single RAID configuration, either. With five hard drives to choose from in a single enclosure, you can assign one RAID setting to, say, three drives and another RAID setting to the remaining two drives. The hard drives are hot-swappable in all but RAID 0, so you can replace drives on the fly without gumming up your workflow. The seamless aluminum-cast enclosure dissipates heat and keeps audible clicks and whirs to a minimum.
The StudioRAID is available in capacities from 2–10TB using fast 7200-RPM hard disks. You’ll have the option to configure the drives in two RAID settings (RAID 0 or 1). If the drive is already connected to AC power, the StudioRAID will automatically power on whenever it’s connected to a PC via USB 3.0 or FireWire 800. If you use the eSATA port to connect the drive, you’ll enjoy transfer speeds up to 600MBps. On-board disk monitoring will trigger a warning light if it senses that drive failure is imminent. A $59 rack-mount accessory lets you secure two StudioRAIDs to a single steel rack using eight screws.
It may sound like a remote research outpost from a sci-fi novel, but Buffalo’s TeraStation series is really a haven for your digital files. It’s a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device that offers remote access to stored files from web browsers and mobile phones, provided the drive is connected to the Web via Ethernet connection. The 1200 series drives can be set in several RAID configurations—RAID 0, 1 or JBOD—and you’ll get 11 free licenses of NovaBACKUP Business Essentials backup software for Windows-based PCs and servers. The TeraStation 1200 series offers a pair of hot-swappable 2.5-inch hard drive bays for between 2–8TB of capacity. The 1400 series sports four drive bays for between 4–16TB of storage, with two additional RAID configurations: RAID 5 and 10.
One of the virtues of cloud storage is that having files stored off-site can save them from natural disasters like fires and floods that would otherwise destroy a hard drive in your studio or home office. The ioSafe 1515+ goes some way toward mitigating those risks. It’s a drive system enclosed in a fire- and water-resistant housing. It can withstand temperatures up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 minutes and can be submerged in up to 10 feet of water—including salt water—for up to 72 hours. Port access can be padlocked for extra protection. Beyond its bombproof exterior, this NAS drive has five drive bays with hot-swapping capability, USB 3.0 connectivity, four Ethernet ports and user-upgradeable RAM to improve encrypting speeds. Out of the box, the drive’s 2.6-GHz quad-core processor delivers encrypted transfer rates of up to 448MBps when reading and 191MBps when writing. Forgo encryption, and transfers hum along at 450MBps read and 396MBps write. The 1515+ offers a capacity range from 5–30TB. The N513X expansion unit will give you a total capacity up to 90TB for your digital archiving.
Lexar Professional Workflow HR2
The HR2 is a compact storage hub that blends memory card readers with storage drives to streamline image transfers and archiving. It sports four bays that you can load with storage drives (256GB or 512GB capacities are currently available) and/or card reader modules, in any combination you wish. The HR2 features a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports and a USB 3.0 connection.
Storage to Go
Connected Data Drobo Mini 8 TB
If you need a portable storage solution that offers more generous capacities, Drobo’s Mini 8TB bundle could fit the bill. It features four hot-swappable 2.5-inch drive bays pre-loaded with four Samsung Spinpoint M9T 2TB hard disk drives. It uses the company’s BeyondRAID technology, which preserves your data even if one or two drives fail simultaneously. If a drive does fail, the Mini automatically repairs itself and returns to a protected state while providing full access to all data. It connects via Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 and weighs just 3 pounds.
WD My Passport Wireless
Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless is a versatile travel companion. With its Wi-Fi capability, it can receive images from wireless FTP transmitters from Nikon and Canon. It can also connect up to eight mobile devices to view and share images stored on the drive, including streaming HD video to up to four devices simultaneously. There’s an SD card slot on hand for transferring images, too. The internal battery is good for about six hours of continuous use and about 20 hours of standby time and capacities range from 500GB–2TB.
If you’re worried about the security of your images as you travel, the Hawker HX should thwart all but the most determined hackers. It sports a shock-resistant aluminum enclosure and uses hardware encryption with access provided by a secure digital key, in the form of a USB drive (three are included with the Hawker). The drive is available in 1- and 2TB capacities using hard disks and 500GB and 1TB capacities in SSD. The 1TB hard disk model is available in either 5400 RPM or 7200 RPM versions, while the 2TB drive will only be sold in the slower 5400 RPM class.
Transcend Portable ESD400K SSD
At 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.4 inches, Transcend’s ESD400K portable SSD is slightly larger than Samsung’s T1, but it’s still a featherweight relative to a traditional hard drive. The drive connects via USB 3.0 and delivers up to 1TB of storage capacity in its shock-resistant build. A free software download (Elite Data Management) lets you back up your computer files to the portable SSD drive with the touch of a button.
Samsung T1 SSD
This slender solid state drive (SSD) crams up to a full terabyte into a miniscule enclosure that’s just about the size of a business card—2.8 x 2.1 x 0.4 inches. It boasts transfer speeds up to 450MBps and employs AES 256 encryption and password protection to keep files secure. It’s available in capacities ranging from 250GB–1TB.
Barracuda Networks Copy
Copy is an attractive alternative to OneDrive and Box, since there’s no file-size limitation and the service saves 180 days worth of your file revision history. Where you do face limitations is in storage. While Copy has a 1TB option that’s cost-competitive with Dropbox, to enjoy unlimited file storage you need to opt for a “Copy for Companies” plan with a 10-user minimum license, driving up the cost to $900 a year. Still, if you have employees, this option provides the ability to control folder privileges, plus offers an unlimited file revision history and much more.
While services like Dropbox and OneDrive work on the basis of synced folders, Backblaze is more automated. It provides backup for your entire computer, so in the event of a crash, every program, document, email, and music, video and photo file is preserved, no matter where it’s stored. What’s more, Backblaze also automatically backs up the contents of any external hard drive connected to your computer, so photo and video files stored on those drives can also be secured. There’s no storage limit and there’s no limit to individual file sizes, making Backblaze a great value for still and video shooters alike
Box’s best storage tier is the business plan that offers unlimited file storage, although the largest single file you can upload is 5GB. Box saves access to up to 50 versions of a file, so you can retrieve prior versions if you lose—or are just unhappy with—a current edit. Unlike some of its competitors, Box has been honing its cloud service for use in enterprise and government, so its uptime and security is one of the best among cloud providers.
Last year, Dropbox consolidated its Pro membership around a single, 1TB offering. Beyond more generous storage, the company has introduced view-only permissions for shared folders which will enable users to share files without worrying that their recipient will make unwanted changes or edits. Shared folders will come with three permission levels (owner, editor and viewer) to better control who can do what with Dropbox files. The company has also added password protection for shared links, as well as an expiration feature that will disable a shared folder after a set date. Users will have the option to set a custom expiration date or choose between 7 or 30 days. Dropbox Pro users will now be able to remotely wipe Dropbox data from any device linked to their account. There is no limitation to the size of a single file you can host on Dropbox, either.
If you subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, you’ll enjoy unlimited file storage on the company’sOneDrive (formerly Sky Drive) cloud service. Another way to look at it is paying for unlimited OneDrive storage and enjoying free access to Microsoft Office. The largest single file you can upload to OneDrive is 10GB—which will hamper this service as a destination for video files—but it’s still a good value for high-res RAW and JPEG images.