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Friday, October 31, 2008

Buyer's Guide 2009: Storage

By Brannack McLain Published in Storage
Buyer's Guide 2009: Storage
Every photographer needs a backup strategy. Trust us when we tell you that hard drives fail, and when they do, you'll be really glad you had copies of your photos and other irreplaceable files on multiple drives. External storage solutions like those included here offer an affordable, convenient way to safely archive your photo library.

Desktop drives offer the most capacity for the best price and come in a range of models and configurations. Portable drives give you the extra security of taking a copy of your files with you wherever you go. They're also handy for backing up photos when traveling with a laptop.

CAPACITY


The 12.3-megapixel Nikon D300 produces RAW files of approximately 10 megapixels and up (depending on the subject and scene). Files of this size add up quickly, especially if you have multiple versions. With some camera resolutions pushing upwards of 20 megapixels, the need for more storage space is perpetually increasing.

So get yourself some space. Considering that you can pick up 500 GB of external storage for well under $200, it's a small price to pay for peace of mind. If you're backing up your computer's entire internal hard drive, double its capacity and consider that a minimum for your external drive.

CONNECTIONS


There are three main connections used for external hard drives: USB, FireWire and eSATA. USB 2.0 is the most commonly used today for practically all peripherals and transfers data at up to 480 Mbits (60 MB) per second. Windows users will find USB 2.0 the most convenient option. Mac computers include FireWire ports in addition to USB. FireWire 400 is comparable in speed to USB 2.0, and FireWire 800 is, not surprisingly, about twice as fast as FireWire 400, at about 800 Mbits (100 MB) per second.

The transfer rates with these connections, while very fast, are still significantly slower than the transfer speeds you'd get from an internal hard drive. That's where eSATA comes into play. eSATA delivers speeds of up to 3 Gbits (300 MB) per second-much closer to internal drives than USB 2.0 and FireWire. The only problem with eSATA is that it isn't as common as the other two formats. Most computers don't have eSATA ports, meaning you'll need to install an eSATA card in your computer before hooking up a new hard drive.

If you want to share your data over multiple computers, you may want to look at a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. These devices work through your network via Ethernet or WiFi, so you can back up all of your computers on a single device. Speeds will vary based on your network, but this can be a convenient option for multi-computer households.


Specs
Connections: USB 2.0, FireWire 800/400
Size: 7.3x6.0x1.5 inches
List Price: $169 (500 GB)

Desktop Drives


The sleek, aluminum-clad drives of the Seagate FreeAgent Desk range in capacity from 500 GB to 1.5 TB and come in two editions. The Windows version includes Seagate Manager software for scheduling backups. The Mac version is optimized for use with Mac OS X Leopard's Time Machine backup utility.


Specs
Connections: USB 2.0, FireWire 800/400, eSATA
Size: 6.8x6.3x1.7 inches
List Price: $189 (500 GB)

Want a system that can grow over time? TheLaCie d2 Quadra is available in capacities from 500 GB to 1 TB and is designed to be daisy-chained with other d2's via FireWire when you need more space—LaCie even offers a special stand for stacking multiple units. The aluminum body is corrugated for greater surface area, creating a heat sink instead of a fan-powered cooling system. For use with Windows and Mac, it's compatible with Time Machine and comes bundled with Retrospect backup software.


Specs
Connections: USB 2.0, FireWire 800/400, eSATA
Size: 6.5x6.0x3.9 inches
List Price: $319 (1 TB)

One of the Western Digital My Book-series drives, Studio Edition II comes preformatted for Mac computers (but can be easily reformatted for PCs). The drive is actually two drives housed in a unique fan-free casing. The drives arrive configured for RAID 0 (which enhances speed), but you can easily reconfigure them to RAID 1, which causes the two drives to mirror one another for a dual backup solution. The individual disks can be replaced through an easy-open service door, and there's a handy capacity gauge on the side. 1 TB and 2 TB models are available.


Specs
Connections: USB 2.0, FireWire 800/400, eSATA
Size: 6.5x6.0x3.9 inches
List Price: $319 (1 TB)

Buffalo's DriveStation Combo drives offer a variety of capacities from 320 GB to 1 TB at a good price. Compatible with Windows and Mac, Windows users also can take advantage of the included Memeo AutoBackup software and SureLockWare for data encryption.

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