Digital Storage for Photographers A step by step guide
If you're serious about photography you're going to have to think beyond the lens. Modern day Digital SLRS (single-lens reflex) have long since abandoned film as the means of recording their shots and almost all adapted to the use of digital recording. This is long known, but beyond the clicking of the lens, the amount of technological advancement in what can be done is truly breath-taking. From hobbyists to long standing professionals, many are still need to learn a thing or two about the best photographic studio practices. Backing up, Sharing the smart way and editing those cloud based files in real time are but a few of the ways in which digital storage for photographers and videographers has prospered.
Are you new to the photography arena and need a few good tips or are you a pedigree snapper who just needs to keep up to date? Regardless, why not take a look below at our step by step guide to digital storage for photographers.
Choose the Right "Write" Medium
Whether it is nature or New Years, taking your picture is just the start. Unless you choose the right recording medium for your camera, you might as well leave the shutter on! The majority of modern cameras write onto either Flash Memory cards or directly onto Solid State Drives, or SSD. Click HERE for More
Pro Tip - As a general rule of thumb, the higher the pixel count (px), the larger the file size. So you'll need a storage medium that's fast enough and reliable enough to capture the picture you take. So regardless of whether it's a Fuji, a Cannon, a Nikon or a Sony, this golden rule must be followed.
It's a wrap! You have your hard earned photos and now it's simply a case of transferring them to your Workstation/Editing suite. Only it's not quite as simple as that sometimes. For those in the industry, time really IS money and the act of connecting your camera via USB or fiddling with connecting SSD's externally can soon become tiresome. Luckily there are many ways to shave off valuable minutes ranging from Docking Stations to Memory Card expansions.
Pro Tip - Whether you plan on backing up your files to separate locations immediately post-shoot, or are just looking for a portable means to send your media to a plethora of devices, innovations such as these will give you peace of mind and lightning fast transfers.
In no time at all you will start to see your megabytes (MB) turn into Gigabytes (GB) and your Gigabytes into Terabytes (TB). Suddenly the idea of storing all your media on your trusty Mac or PC suddenly is no longer viable. Now is the time to starting thinking about your Backups. First let's talk about a Local Backup - a Large, Multi Hard Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD) Enclosure with RAID for protection from Hard Disk Failure.
Top Tip - RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It works as a means spreading your data across several drives yet still maintaining the ability to recover data if 1 drive fails. There are many kinds of RAID, Ranging from RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and many more variations. Each weighs up the Pros and Cons of Capacity vs Redundancy (safety).
As reliable and steadfast as local Backup can be, it is not the only way. Realistically you should always have two backups in place (this does not include any on your Mac or PC). But you should always think outside the box and this is where a highly competent and versatile NAS (Network Attached Storage) Solution comes into play. Big and established names like Synology Inc, QNAP, Thecus, Drobo and many more. All providing you with both the ability to store a backup off-site and the ability to distribute your hard work wirelessly - but we'll get to onto that in more detail later on.
Pro Tip - The perfect NAS Solution for you should factor in the following
1. How many users will be accessing this device simultaneously? 2. How much storage will you need? Number of Drives Vs Total Capacity 3. Will you just want to Backup, or do you want to Edit files Live?
So, now you have sufficient backups in place (Synchronized REGULARLY) you should now think about how the new additions to your Photography arsenal can be put to good use. Firstly, your NAS. It's more than just a backup Solution. It can be everything from a work and communication network within your business, to a simple means to work poolside and stay on top with your iOS iPad or Android phone! The options are limitless. Think BIG!
Pro Tip - Don't forget that a NAS is like a Windows PC or OS X Mac when it comes to specifications and potential. The more RAM (Random Access Memory) and the higher GHz (Gigahertz) and Cores the CPU has, the more it can handle. So always factor this in when making your choice.
And now, the moment of truth - Getting everything to work together. You have your Large Scale RAID Enclosure and your NAS, backing your work up, both locally and via the internet. However many photographers and media industry professionals like to have a portable, pocket sized storage device to take with them between studios or sites. With Data Transfer technology (both wired and wireless) becoming faster and more independent of power resources - there is no excuse not to have a USB 3.0, Firewire 800 or even Thunderbolt connected drive in your pocket.
Pro Tip - Always take into consideration when choosing a portable backup:
1. Pick a Universal Connection - USB3, FW800, Thunderbolt2, etc - you will save both time and money if you keep the connections uniform. 2. Compatibility - Whether you are on a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or Windows Laptop, double check the drive will work with your setup. 3. Power - Some drives will require additional power (which will usually reduce the price). Don't be afraid to spend a little more on 2.5" options
Stepping away from the subject of Storage and Backups, another decision you may have to make will be whether to invest your budget into a high-end Desktop setup or a more fluid, portable operation. Traditionally the problem has always been that portable operations via a Macbook, Laptop or Tablet are plagued by Hardware limitations. Not now though. With innovations in Thunderbolt and PCI Express Expansion technology, you can now install Upgrades and Hardware intended for Desktop setups in a highly portable PCIE expansion chassis. Need 4GB Graphics Card power in your Mac book - no problem. Large channelled Sound card - easy peasy.
Pro Tip - PCI-Express cards comes in a variety of speeds and physical sizes. Always check that the expansion you are considering can accommodate the card you have in mind. Look at: 1. Speed - Is it x4, x8, x16? Make sure you buy a PCIE expansion that can accomodate your Card's speed level Such as The Netstor NA211TB which supports all the way upto 16x 2. Profile - Think of this as the Width. If your PCI-E card is not Low Profile, make sure the expansion can house it correctly - the reverse is also true. 3. Height - Whether your card is Half Height or Full Height is also an important consideration. Particularly if you plan on housing more than one card in your expansion. Some units will either house 2 Half-Height or 1 Full-Height...not both!
When it comes to your Digital Media, there is no such thing as too many backups. This isn't just limited to long established professional photographers. Here's an example. You take a selection of photos on your DSLR and decide to copy them over to your PC or Mac. Do you delete them from your camera afterwards? Probably. Then you decide to edit the pic of the photos from that day. Do you want to back up the edited files only? and If so, do you keep the .RAW unedited originals too? And that's just one shoot. Suddenly you are in a sea of files and without synchronized backups as well as efficient destination structure, it is all too easy to imagine an accidental delete here or an ill chosen over-write there. And this doesn't even factor in Hardware failure at some point. So, remember...Backup, Backup, BACKUP!
"Backup and Archive...Aren't they the same thing?"
No, no, no... Never get these two items and processes mixed up. Doing so could one day result in a fateful error, or at the very least result in an ill informed and unsuitable purchase. Both have a set and most importantly tailored function. A backup is a fail safe, a silent protector, the hero when you need it most! Everyone in the photography industry has or has heard a story of 10 years of work reduced to digital dust because they backup poorly or not at all. A backup should not be used for editing of on-the-fly access retrieval. it should spend most of it's time being written to and scarcely read. An Archive is entirely different. The primary role of an Archive is for more read based operations. You only want to have a small collection of current projects and common used resources on your host machine (Macbook, MAC Tower, PC, etc) - anything not considered an almost daily resource should exist on your Archive (ie. Stock Footage). However don't forget to back that up too elsewhere!
"What are the benefits of an online/NAS backup?"
First and formost, the chief benefit is that your work will be off-site. With a synchronized and time-managed online backup, in the event of a fire, catastrophic power failure or industrial espionage (I know that sounds terribly James Bond, but it's alot more common than you think) then you have a complete and upto date record of your work available! That's not all, with more modern and High powered Network Attached Units becoming available, they not only give you the ability to be incredibly flexible about the distribution of your work but many support the ability to edit files in realtime via the NAS units own software. Obviously you should never lose sight of the fact this is an off-site backup and if you intend to edit files, you should set up a system of dual/split storage options within the NAS or at the very least a competant RAID level.
"Why would I want to RAID my storage, won't I lose space?"
This is a common misconception with Photographers and Videographers than suddenly find the need of a large Backup or Archive solution across multiple drives. It is undeniable that as soon as you start spanning a RAID arrangement across multiple drives that you forfeit some storage space, but you can always counter balance this by using larger drives. You can of course use the 2 levels that supply the largest storage, RAID 0 (one giant combined drive that adds up the capacities of all the available dries) and JBOD (Just a bunch of Drive - so each drive is seen individually). However these both also happen to be the least safe in the event of 1 drive failing, Resulting (in RAID 0) in ALL data on all the drives being unrecoverable and (in JBOD) you losing the entire contents of the failed drive and with ZERO recovery options. So that leave you the following options:
RAID 1 - Mirror, this requires two drives and with resulting in half of your total capacity but you they constantly back up your Digital Media all the time. RAID 5 - Spreading, In brief you lose 1 drive worth of capacity and the data will be spread across all the remaining drives and in the event of drive failure, the lost data can be re-created. RAID 6 - Spreading with additional Redundancy, The same as RAID 5 but you can afford the failure of 2 Drives.
There are of course others such as RAID 3, RAID 10 but the most common and relied upon are RAID 1, 5 and 6.