How to deal with ever increasing media storage issues as a photographer
- 8 November 2011 by CaryTheLabelGuy 0 Comments
As camera technology progresses it brings with it much higher resolution as well as higher bit-depth in each image. As things increase, so does the need for increasing storage of these files. We’re already approaching 20-25mb RAW file sizes per image with some camera’s outputting much larger RAW files. With a possible 36 megapixel Nikon D800 looming on the horizon, we can’t help but think about one important issue all photographers will likely face in the very near future: file storage issues. Most of us have been dealing with this issue for some-time now and it’s likely to get a lot worse, very soon.
Work-flow: Your hard drive’s worst enemy
During your work-flow, you’ll develop the RAW files (if you shoot raw, like us) and most likely save the developed RAW image as a .TIFF file (which is a HUGE file extension – can be upwards of 75mb per image), a .JPEG or both. I personally develop my RAWs (.NEF) in my favorite RAW developer then save the developed .NEF file as a .TIFF. At this point, I open the .TIFF in Photoshop and perform my re-touching/artistic edits. Depending on who the client is at what the requirements are, I might save several copies in .JPEG format, .PNG or a host of other formats.
All of these replications of the original .NEF file can be taxing on your storage space. From start-to-finish, the whole work-flow process can eat-up well over 100mb of file space – for ONE image. Now, multiply this by however many images you have in your set. It doesn’t take long to reach well into many Gigs of storage space, for just one set. One wedding alone can put my total disk space usage for that set into the 75-100 GB range. This is using either a 12MP Nikon FX camera(D700, D3s) or a 16MP Nikon D7000.
As the new round of cameras are released with much higher resolution, the storage requirements are going to sky-rocket.
Storage is cheap?
Is storage cheap? Well, yes and no.
It’s cheap if you are:
- Making money off the images the hard drives are storing and even cheaper if you’ve future proofed yourself and have a redundant system in-case of failure.
- Have a large client base that requires safe storage of their images for future use/purchase.
- Have other storage needs that require multiple redundancies and large file storage.
It’s not cheap if you’re:
- Making money off your images and the cheap USB drives you’re using fail, causing a massive loss of data – trust me, this happens all the time.
- Are only an amateur photographer, who can’t really justify the costs of a BIG expensive system that has multiple levels of redundancy.
But – what if I told you that you can have large storage capacity with several levels of redundancy for around $200-750USD for a decent system that anybody can use and appreciate, regardless of your personal storage needs?
I’m sure most of you have heard of NAS or Network Attached Storage. It’s a tailored file server built into a stand-alone computer appliance that’s purpose built for storing and serving files. Basically a small computer, it runs on it’s own OS, has a CPU and RAM and uses an array of hard-drives for file storage and storage of it’s small OS. A NAS can be configured across your whole home network – so every computer in your network can have access to the NAS, making it easy to share files, music and a whole host of other features such a print serving and even an iTunes server.
What makes a NAS so special?
Remember, a NAS is basically a small stand-alone computer that’s built to store and serve files. NAS systems can be bought in several different configurations, depending on the user’s needs. The NAS can have space for 2-10 (or more) hard-drives that are stored in “bays”. Most NAS systems utilize a hot-swappable system for removing and installing drives in their bays. A NAS can also be configured to run in the RAID array of your choice. For maximum redundancy, you’ll want to configure your NAS to run in a redundant RAID array, like RAID 5. (A list of the different kinds of RAID arrays can be seen here). In-other-words, if a drive in your NAS fails, you can easily hot-swap the drive (as long as your particular NAS allows it) with a new one without loosing any data. The NAS can also be programed to create scheduled back-ups of itself onto a USB drive, for off-site storage. Most NAS systems (like the NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+) can even schedule and maintain back-ups of itself with an online back-up service like Carbonite, Mozy or DropBox.
The good NAS units can be upgraded with higher capacity drives at any time. If your NAS supports it (Like the NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+), you can hot-swap each drive, one-by-one, with larger drives to increase storage capacity, while the unit is still running. This allows true future proofing and makes owning a good NAS much cheaper in-the-long-run.
Several years ago, a system like this would of cost THOUSANDS of dollars and would need a dedicated IT professional to set it up and maintain it. With a good NAS, there is very little that can’t be done and done with great ease. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to set a good one up and maintain it.
We personally use the NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+ 4x1TB unit and it’s awesome. We chose the NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+ for several reasons. NETGEAR’s proprietary RAID-X array allows the user to easily scale the system upward as the need for larger capacity arises and as larger capacity drives become cheaper. Features like an iTunes server, print servers, easy access to all of our media through streaming services, a bit torrent client and the ability to easily schedule back-ups also went into our decision to use the ReadyNAS NV+. This particular unit came highly recommended by my best friend, who is an IT manager for a very large firm.
There are other great NAS products out there, too. NETGEAR makes some less expensive models as well as some more expensive models. Although, the The ReadyNAS NV+ is the best bang-for-the-buck. Other companies make great NAS systems; there are plenty of great systems to choose from. The key is to find the NAS that fits your needs and has the features you prefer.
Photo Credits “NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+.” NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+. ‘READYNAS NV+ (4TB: 4 X 1TB) RND4410′ 2006-2010. 8th Nov. 2011 [www.netgear.com].