In a typical day, it’s not unusual for a professional photographer to capture far more than a 100GBs of data. This might be audio, video, design files and, of course, image files. Finding ways to store all this data in a safe, secure and accessible way is a challenge.
In Part 1, we looked at the software side of the storage equation, along with the burning of images to DVD. But burning images and other files to DVD is not a complete or even ideal solution. For one thing, the burning process is slow. Secondly, DVDs really don't hold a large amount of data, meaning that you have to burn lots of them. Despite these problems, you should be burning content to DVDs. But you need more.
DVD backups can be very slow to access. You first need to find which disk has the image or file you want (that's where the asset-management software from Part 1 comes in). Then you have to physically find it, load it into the computer, and access the file. In many situations this is far too slow.
To overcome the speed limitations many photographers store their most recent content on hard drives either in or connected to their computer. So let's look at some smart options for this.
By storage here we are talking about hard disk storage. This can be in any of several forms:
- Internal hard disks in your computer
- External hard disks attached by USB or Firewire
- Network Attached Storage (NAS), which is a hard drive system attached to your local network
- Server-managed disk drives
Internal hard disks are a great place to put files you are actively working on, because of their speed of access. However they are often limited in capacity (especially on laptops, which more and more pro photographers use as their main workstation). They also place all your eggs in one basket. If anything happens to your computer it also happens to the files stored on it, unless they have been backed up.
External hard disks are an attractive option. They are cheap, can be moved between computers and, depending on their interface, can be quite fast for accessing large files. However they also do not provide any real security, because if the disk fails you lose the data.
Network Attached Storage, or NAS, combines one or more disk drives with a simple computer interface so that it can sit on a network and be accessed by multiple computers. The better of these include multiple hard disk drives that can be configured in various RAID configurations to either provide extra security in case of drive failure or extra performance.
HP has an integrated array of storage products that are all scalable with your needs. The X-series NAS systems scale from 5-10TB up to several PetaBytes and are easy to setup. They include RAID. For backup they have disk-to-disk systems that will automatically backup your main storage and workstations, yet provide the quick access to backups that disk offers. For archival and offsite storage they offer highly reliable tape systems that will fit in with an automated disk-to-disk system so that, for example, overnight backups go to disk and weekly backups go to tape. Tape is still the cheapest for archival and offsite backup.
In some future articles we will look more closely at some of HP's storage products and how they work for photographers.
A server is a computer that is accessible over your local network. Not only can a server host many attached hard disks and make them available across the network, while using whatever level of RAID protection you want, but they can also run applications for you.
Running applications on a server can range from hosting your own websites to running the server versions of digital asset management software, such as Portfolio and Cumulus. There are so many options when it comes to server-run software that it is definitely worth exploring. Server software is available to drive large-format printers or smaller printers, create proofs that simulate final output devices, and even manage fonts.
I've used and specified HP servers for many years and they really do have solutions for every budget. The Proliant Micro Server (shown here) is a great entry point to using servers, is low power and very quiet and is a perfect solution to the home office or one photographer studio.
Larger solutions from the HP Proliant ML 300 series to the Proliant DL rack mount 360 or 380 models allow for up to 12 hard disk drives and plenty of power for running complex applications.
The great thing about the HP solutions is that they all come with the iLO remote web-based server manager and can be configured with the iLO Advanced and the InSight Control Environment software. This means that experience you gain on the small servers travels with you as your needs grow. The larger servers can generate significant fan noise, so they are best placed in a separate room or at least well away from your quiet workspaces.
The Server Buying Guide on the HP website includes a quiz that can help you assess whether your studio could benefit from a server.
Additional backup for your NAS and servers should be considered beyond just relying on a RAID configuration. Getting your backups off-site to somewhere else can be essential and this needs either a tape or removable hard drive backup system. HP also has a range of these to integrate with your storage and servers.
Since your server or storage is only as good as the power that drives it you should look at a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) system. These can make a huge difference to the reliability of your solutions. They not only provide enough battery power so the server can shutdown nicely in the event of a power outage, but they also condition the power to a high quality level that helps to keep your gear working well.
HP works closely with channel partners who specialise in configuring storage and server systems to meet your needs. Some of these may have specialised experience in dealing with photographers. If you are comfortable, you can also buy the systems direct from HP and do it yourself.