Toolbox: Archival Storage
How the pros do it
Although adding a secondary internal drive to your computer is an option, recent natural disasters reveal the benefit of having an archival storage system that's easily portable. The ability to quickly escape a catastrophic loss of one's life's work by carrying it with you can't be underestimated.
"You hope that you don't have catastrophic events, but Hurricane Katrina brings to mind the idea of grabbing what you can and getting out of town," says sports photographer Dave Black (www.daveblackphotography.com). "Though I'm in Colorado and a hurricane isn't likely going to happen to me, it's important to know that I can take that external hard drive with me if I need to."
Just a few years ago, recordable discs grew in popularity as a source of storage because of their relative cost-effectiveness compared to hard drives. With capacities of up to 700 MB with CDs and 4.7 GB with single-layer DVDs, the price of recordable media was an attractive alternative at a time when internal large-capacity hard drives were prohibitively expensive. The cost of hard drive space has been dramatically reduced, but recordable discs still play an important role for archiving.
When it comes to storage, an important term that's used is "redundancy." This means having an extra component that isn't absolutely necessary for everyday performance, but provides a backup to the system in case of failure.
Although many professional photographers possess more than a single hard drive for storage, they will also use recordable discs to back up their files. While the likelihood that multiple drives would fail simultaneously is slim, the presence of a completely separate storage medium provides added insurance that images won't be lost in the event of such a failure.
Black uses external hard drives and external discs for backup. "When I get back from an assignment, I just transfer the images from the laptop to the hard drive and DVDs so that I don't bog up my main computer," he says. "I burn the DVDs using the laptop because it's just smart to have two systems. This way, I can work on e-mails or other projects on the main computer in the office. Once that DVD is burned, I transfer everything to the main computer directly from the external drives to begin work on the images."
With higher-resolution cameras capable of filling up a 1 GB card so quickly, the viability of CDs as an archival storage medium has been diminished. In its place, DVDs have proven a feasible alternative. Technological innovations in the form of dual-layer DVDs (approximately 8.5 GB) and the promise of capacities of more than 40 GB with Blu-ray and high-definition (HD) drives and discs make recordable DVDs important tools for digital photographers.