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Hey, welcome. Here we are in my office, and I thought it would be worthwhile to step back for a few minutes and talk a little bit about digital asset management-- in particular, talk about hard drives and hardware. What I want to do first is introduce this topic, kind of philosophically talk about hard drives and different approaches to saving our photographs. Then near the end, I want to give you a few recommendations in regards to what hard drives you might want to pursue integrating into your overall workflow. Now, before we get to the hard drives themselves, I want to show you a couple of pictures.
I recently got back from a trip to New York, and, in New York, I had a phenomenal time. One of the things I was doing was a photo shoot and other thing was meeting up with photographer Rodney Smith, and here are some test prints from that shoot. Although these are test prints, they are images that I value. You can see that I am just working through some of my ideas here. And Rodney is a fascinating person. He is someone who inspires me, a mentor of sorts. You can see some of his photographs sitting behind me. The reason why I wanted to bring these photographs up is that whenever we are talking about hard drives, it's not about pixels or ones and zeros.
It's about the photograph and even a test print that has value to me, reminds me somehow that the images that I make have some kind of a distinct and inherent, important value to me; therefore, as we start to think about what hard drive approach, what digital management approach, digital asset management approach we take, we need to take one that matches that value, that saves those images for us now and also for the future. Well, what are the two approaches? Typically, the two approaches are referred to as JBOD or RAID. First, JBOD.
JBOD stands for Just a Bunch of Drives. In other words, you can get some inexpensive drives, like the ones that we have here, and you can use a number of different drives. Now, the advantage to this is that they don't cost a lot of money. You know how you can get really a high- volume, high amount of storage for really low price right now, and you can have a lot of these drives. The downside to this, of course, is that you are going to have a lot of cables, a lot of chords. You're going to be powering these drives on and off quite frequently.
Now, sometimes you just need to do to that. Say when you're traveling, you need a couple of small travel drives that you have with you, because you always want your data in at least three places: perhaps on the hard drive of your laptop, and then also on each of your external drives where other times in your studio you will have two different drives and typically you buy drives in pairs, so you can have data in two different places. Yet, the downside with this approach is that hard drives will always eventually die. If you were to call up a hard drive manufacturer and say, "Okay, well, how long do your hard drives last?" They are going to tell you three to five years.
That isn't a lot of time. Now that's assuming that you're really pushing a drive, you're really working with it. But the point is that eventually your hard drive will die. So when have a bunch of drives, it's hard to keep track. When did I buy that one, how much have I used that drive, and also is that one kind of on its final legs? One of the things that happen often when you're working with hard drives is that you'll notice the performance starts to slow a little bit. Then maybe you hear some strange sounds. Well, we like to convince ourself that we haven't heard anything.
So, a drive will start to click, click, click, and we say to ourselves, "Oh, I didn't really hear that," or "That doesn't really matter." Then all of a sudden the drive dies. I can't tell you how many students have students have called me-- I teach college-age students--and they call me after they graduate, and they say, "Chris, the last three years of my photography was on a hard drive, and it died. I've lost everything. What do I do?" I say, "Okay, well let's take a deep breath, and let's consider our options," and we look into data recovery, and typically that data recovery costs so much that is not worth it, and they've lost absolutely everything.
We don't want that to happen to you, or I don't want that to happen to you. So, what we have to do is say, okay, we have some kind of built-in redundancy. In other words, we need data on one drive that's also on another drive. Now, as we think about that, in any scenario, we of course need to have our drives perhaps together, where we copying data across where we are cloning it from one drive to another. Then also we need to have another version of that off-site, so we have that data backed up in another location in case there is a fire or theft or flood or who knows what.
So again, one approach is this idea to have just a bunch of drives. Another approach is RAID. RAID stands for Random Array of Inexpensive Drives and here I have a really good RAID box. It's the S Drobo. What this box does for us is it puts these drives together, and it builds in a little bit of logic. Here you can see I've a number of different drives stacked up. What that will do is when I copy an image onto my Drobo, I don't necessarily know there are a lot of drives in there via the interface, but Drobo takes care of putting that image in different locations for me.
In other words, if one of those drives dies, I don't lose the image. It also will give me an indicator saying, "Hey, this drive's acting a little strange." I can then swap it out and then put in a different drive. It will rebuild the data without any loss of information. Now you can learn more about Drobo by going to their site, so I don't want to get into the specifics. But what I do want to talk about is this concept of RAID, a random array of inexpensive drives. The type of RAID that we typically use as photographers is one which puts our information across multiple drives in order to have a secure, a more stable version of our files.
Now of course when you are using a RAID, you also need to have another version of this backed up somewhere else. It's kind of like wearing a seatbelt, so to speak. Just because you're wearing a seatbelt doesn't mean you can drive recklessly or really quickly or really fast. So what we need to do of course is have our data on here: a nice, stable, strong place. But then we need to back those files somewhere else. The way that I work that in my own workflow is that I have another drive where I clone all this information from this and bring it to an external location, and at that external location, I have it in a fire and waterproof safe.
Now, that safe, or those safes, only cost $60 or $70. So it's not a huge expense, and it's well worth it to protect that data again in that off-site location. So we've talked about these different approaches. So, what about advice? What about recommendations? What should we do? Well, a lot of it depends on our budget. A lot of it depends on how we shoot, and also we want to think about how we can create a digital asset management system that works today but is also forward thinking.
Will this work in five years or in ten years? Will it work to have just a bunch of drives? Am I going to have 20 different drives 10 years from now and not know which one to plug in, or turn on or off, or how am I going to do with all those cables and power connections, et cetera, et cetera? So again, we want to think about some of those issues. Now the JBOD approach is going to be more affordable. So maybe you say, "Right now with my budget that's the approach I am going to take. I am going to start buying drives in pair. I am going to have multiple versions of my content across these two drives. I am going to have two at one location then I'll have a third drive perhaps in an off-site location." Or maybe you say, "You know what, I really want to go for it.
I am going to save up, and I am going to get a RAID device. I am going to use that so I have this just really secure, really strong, really great way to save and store my photographs." Again, this is the approach that I use. You could also take another approach, where you are using a hybrid combination of both of these. Perhaps you are using JBOD when you are traveling, your small travel drives that you bring with you, and then you have a RAID device that you use when you back it in your studio. Now in regards to particular drives, I have a number of different brands here: LaCie, G-Tech, Western Digital, and Drobo.
I don't get anything for recommending any particular hard drive, but all of these I think are really good and strong. The one thing that you want to keep in mind as you get your drives is that you want to buy a drive that's good. You don't want to skimp when it comes to hard drives. You want to buy at the top of the line. So, a lot of times what that means for me if I have to recommend anything out of this set I would say these G-Tech drives are phenomenal and then also I think the Drobo, the S Drobo, is a really strong device. Now again, what you want to do in your own scenario is do some research.
You can do this online, and you can find a ton of information about the different drives that you can use. But most importantly, get the drives that are going to make sense for your own workflow, because keep in mind, remember when I started this off with, it's about our photographs; it's about our images; it's about something of value to us, and we want this to last. In photography, a lot of times it's easy to get caught up in the moment of capturing the photograph, or of working on it post-production, that sometimes we forget to have good and strong and stable backup.
We want to have a workflow that's tight, that's strong, that stable all the way around. Ultimately, by investing a little bit in hard drives or in digital asset management it can help us create more compelling photographs. It can give us that extra confidence. It obviously can help us with our client services and our own management of those files, because we get drives that are fast, and we can access our files quickly and deliver them to people. Also though, it will help us create a system, or an infrastructure, which will kind of launch us, or move us forward, in the future, so that as we move forward we can continue to create compelling, intriguing, and engaging photographs.
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