Thursday, January 18, 2007
Toolbox: Archival Storage
How the pros do it
Industry information indicates that optical discs may last between 100 and 200 years while rewriteable discs have a life of about 25 years. However, there are concerns that the dyes heated by the laser when burning may be subject to degradation over time, resulting in reduced life. Therefore, it's essential that you choose high-quality discs to maximize life as well as use alternative media, such as an external hard drive, to ensure that your images are protected.
Regardless of whether you're using discs or hard drives, it's a good idea to keep up with industry trends relating to storage. Recordable discs will likely be around for years to come, but be keen to when a recording medium is seeing the end of its run in the computer industry. Think of the fate of the floppy disk and consider the importance of the files you're storing with today's media, and you can see why keeping on top of changes is crucial.
External Hard Drives
Improvements in manufacturing and the power of the marketplace have resulted in a huge reduction in the cost of hard drives, which has proven to be a boon to photographers. With a 250 GB hard drive available for less than $200, and capacities reaching the terabyte range, the options available to us as photographers have not only grown, but have become more affordable, too.
External hard drives, whether in the form of a dedicated unit that sits on your desktop or a portable model that fits in your pocket, have quickly become the preferred archival storage system for many professional photographers.
While increased capacity has influenced this change, likely the biggest reason is the easy accessibility photographers have to their images. Since drives are connected via USB 2.0 or FireWire, you can gain access to any or all of the images on an external hard drive with ease. Where discs require you to pull them out of a sleeve and insert them into a computer, a hard drive makes the process as simple as drag-and-drop.
"When I arrive from an assignment, I'll download images to a secondary internal hard drive, which I use as a clearinghouse," says photographer Carlton Ward (www.carltonward.com), who uses multiple 250 GB LaCie external drives. He often assigns individual projects to specific drives. "I will then copy those images to an external hard drive. Then I'll copy the contents of the internal hard drive to DVDs. That redundancy is definitely important."
When it comes to portable external drives, one benefit is that power is derived from the USB 2.0 or FireWire bus rather than an AC power adapter.
As with any tool used by pro photographers, reliability is a must. The specification that reflects the expected drive's life and reliability is its MTBF (mean time between failure) value. This value, measured in hours, represents the average amount of time that will pass between random failures of similar drives. The average is based on 1,000 drives of the same type. This rating ranges from 300,000 to 1,200,000 hours for most current drives. Remember, the MTBF isn't a reflection of a specific drive, but a large number of units of a similar type.
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