An external drive—or a few of them—is essential for backups in the event that your computer’s built-in drive fails, but you may want to consider using them for primary storage. A pair of external drives in a mirrored RAID configuration allows you to move your photo library off of your computer’s built-in drive, which may be necessary as your library continually expands. If you’re capturing HD video along with still images, you know how quickly the gigabytes add up.
Drives like those featured here offer big capacities, much larger than what most computers typically include, so you’ll be able to back up all of your important files with room to spare.
For Mac users, Apple’s Time Capsule is designed to work seamlessly with Apple’s Time Machine software (part of OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion) for automatic, wireless backups of your data. One nice feature of Time Capsule is that it doubles as an 802.11n Wi-Fi router. All of the Mac computers on your network can back up to the device, and can share the Time Capsule as a network drive. It also includes a USB port that allows you to share a printer or an additional external drive. List Price: $299 (2 TB); $499 (3 TB).
Buffalo Technology’s CloudStor drive makes your files available wherever you have an Internet connection, even from mobile devices, through a secure and simple interface. The base model CloudStor has two drive bays, and includes one 1 TB drive in a design that makes it easy to add a second drive for RAID data mirroring. CloudStor is also available in a version with one 2 TB drive. Both models offer USB 2.0 and Ethernet connections. Estimated Street Price: $129 (1 TB); $169 (2 TB).
Drobo is an expandable storage system that can easily grow along with your library. What’s different about Drobo is that it doesn’t include any drives, so you can determine the capacity you need to start and add drives over time. The base model 4-bay Drobo is probably the best choice for most photographers. This model currently supports drives up to 2 TB, but a firmware update coming later this year will support 3 TB drives, and the company plans to continue to support larger drives as they become available. Drobo connects via FireWire 800 and USB 2.0. List Price: $399 (without drives).
Now available in capacities up to 3 TB, G-Tech’s G-Safe is a dual-drive mirrored RAID system. G-Safe comes ready to use with two fast 7200 RPM drives that are hot-swappable, meaning you replace the drives without powering down, handy if you want to take a drive with you for the added security of off-site storage. G-Safe offers three connection options: FireWire 800, USB 2.0 and eSATA. An LCD displays system status. List Price: $399 (1 TB); $549 (2 TB); $699 (3 TB).