Here at the studio there a few types of barriers we tackle on a daily basis. One of the most prevalent being technology, which as photographers and videographers we rely on these tools to execute tasks in order to work. When this equipment fails, we also fail in some way, delaying deadlines or creating stress in the work environment which in turn, stresses us. It is my goal to reduce this photographer’s stress and have these pieces of equipment instead work best for me. You’ve most likely heard this in discussion in a variety forms from digital media artists when optimizing their ‘workflow’. As a videographer the biggest component of my workflow involves in many forms archiving, accessing, organizing, and backing up data. This is important because this data is stored on physical hard disks, which over a period undergo physical wear & tear and have a probability to fail. I am not a specialist, but in this post I will do my best to explain different ways to backup & store large volumes of media across separate disks that have worked for me personally, while also still remaining cost effective.
On average I store around 80 gigabytes of video after a wedding. At twenty weddings a year, that’s 1.6 terabytes alone in media from wedding specific shoots! Add on other divisions of work, project related files, and completed videos- and your left with a lot of very important data that needs to be stored in a secure location. This is where hard drives come in to play, and more importantly the format they can be utilized within. Here at the studio we store all of our data primarily first on external RAID arrays. Gizmodo has assisted in explaining where exactly this acronym is derived from, “Raid arrays sound vaguely scary, like something you do to a French village if you’re a Viking or what you do on a Saturday night if you’re a lonely, sad person, but really it just stands for redundant array of independent disks”. By independent disk, they are referring to independent hard drives, which are placed in an array (most commonly four) to function as one by creating a larger capacity in sum. It is then the total of the drives can serve as ‘failsafes’ for the others, or work in tandem to perform faster, or mirror one another to create backups. There are six RAID storage configurations available, and if you’d like to read more about them in detail you can here.
We use external hard drives to store our data that operate in only RAID 5 arrays. RAID 5 in particular is neat because it tries to encompass the best of both worlds, meaning it provides a balance of speed and redundancy, or data security. Rather than store your video or image on one physical disk, it uses three or more disks and saves portions of your data across them. If one disk were to fail, it can be replaced and the others will rebuilt the portion that was contained on it. This ultimately creates for an environment where you can overcome the probability of disk failure, and in theory have a relatively safe environment to store media for an extended period of time. It is important to note that because of this configuration, the total capacity of the drives in the array does not equate to the capacity of the RAID array. To explain, if you have 4TB of space available across 4 1x TB hard drives, a portion is allocated to the data-striping that allows it to rebuild one if it were to fail. In the case of a four drive array of 1x 1TB drives, you would have 3 terabytes total capacity to store data. Four 2 terabyte drives would then equate to 6 gigabytes and so forth. A simple calculator to determine the available capacity is here.
Now that we have all of that tech-nastyness out of the way, yuck! No, in all seriousness really I love that stuff. Okay so what if you’re like us and dread emptying your trash can? A fancy hard-drive-raid-thing can’t save you from deleting things off it? You are absolutely right, it can’t, which it is why I take an additional step in backing up my data to another source. In addition to the array, you can purchase a single bare drive that can hold the entire contents of a 4TB array (3TB in size configured as RAID 5) for around a hundred dollars! Bare 3.5” hard drives are an inexpensive alternative as opposed to portable, external drives because there much larger in size, and require a SATA to USB adapter. The adapter I use to connect SATA drives via USB can be found at the following link on Amazon. With your data in two places, even if a portion were to be deleted off your RAID array, you still have it backed up on an entirely separate disk. You could also store these bare drives in a separate location, if damage by fire or water were to occur. I keep bare 3.5” drives in a little clear cases such as these which allows me to quickly reference which is which when looking for certain files.