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needing serious storage
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Jul 24, 2006, 07:09 PM
 
Hi All,

I'm a professional photographer with storage issues. I'm looking for advice on a drive(s) to buy.

At the moment I have almost 2TB of hard drives full of photos and edited projects (very often a shoot will generate up to 30GB of files, and all of my completed projects have added up very quickly).

I used to archive projects to DVD to free up drive space, but archiving projects started taking too much of my working day and I've let my archiving slide (fyi: my second 500GB drive was _supposed_ to be for automated backups, but it's now filled with archived work instead).

Now, I've filled up my drives and have to either put aside literally a week to burn discs to free up space, or buy another drive or drive system. I've decided it's far more cost effective to buy more storage, and I'm coming here for insight.

My primary machine is a dual G5 2.0GHz, my secondary is a PowerBook 12". I'm not running gigabit ethernet (my LaCie 500GB ethernet drive is too slow for my needs, so 100baseT solutions won't help). I have two internal drives in the G5 that I use for active projects and for scratch space, and I have three external drives (all LaCie: the 500GB ethernet drive and two "Big Disk" 500GB firewire 800 drives).

I'm looking for a drive system or strategy that offers huge storage and versatility. Redundancy a secondary consideration. The "I" in RAID isn't always "inexpensive", but I'm thinking that this may be the way to go (though I am even considering just buying large drives without cases, loading them into a case, filling them up, taking them out and shelving them. That wouldn't be so great for quick access though).

I know a few photographers who keep buying external drives in the 250GB range, fill them up and shelve them. I don't want to end up with a cupboard full of external drives, but I'm guessing that that cupboard will be smaller than the one filled with zillions of DVD cases.

I know that I'm just going to be producing more and more data that I have to keep indefinitely (you never know when a client is going to come back and ask for a particular photo). I need to have ample storage available for me to work, but I also need to offload projects from my working drives so I can keep working.

I know I haven't been very clear, I hope somebody can help me out with some pointers to either specific products, or strategies.

Thanks in advance for any help,

Chas
     
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Jul 24, 2006, 10:33 PM
 
I have one word (ok, initialism) for you: eSATA.
It's wicked fast, but more importantly, wicked cheap.

First get a SATA controller with external ports: $50 gets you 2 ports.
Then pick up a pair of eSATA-SATA cables for $20/ea.
Now add as many 750GB drives ($400) in SATA enclosures ($23) as you need for storage.

Multi-drive enclosures are available, but using 750GB drives instead of 250GB drives really cuts down on the clutter your friends are seeing. Sure, they cost a bit more per gig (53 cents/GB for 750GB, 32 cents a gig for 250GB), but this way you can fit everything you have today on 3 drives. When they release 1 or 1.2TB drives next year, you can start buying those instead of 750s. Basically every time you fill up a drive, put it away and buy a new one.
     
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Jul 26, 2006, 06:39 AM
 
Hi mduell,

Thanks for that, just the info I was looking for. I'm going to have to learn a bit more about the technology, I take it it's not a matter of daisy-chaining, if I'm going to need multiple cables.

It's down to tape vs. eSATA now :-)

Chas
     
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Jul 26, 2006, 09:23 AM
 
What about something like the xServe RAID?

Chris
     
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Jul 26, 2006, 09:30 AM
 
Take a look at Infrant ReadyNAS depending on your budget. Partitions are upgradable on the fly, the hardware chassis design that I've seen is excellent, and the pricing isn't as crazy as the xServe RAID (ie. not "enterprise" pricing).

Caveat: Infrant is still working on the embedded OS and their new version is supposed to be taking care of several bugs that have been affecting authentication (in a Windows AD domain) as well as handling foreign file names (something you probably won't have to deal with). Also, for some reason, copying data over the built-in USB port seems to have some issues.
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Jul 26, 2006, 10:26 AM
 
An external SATA enclosure is not the right solution for you. First of all, your storage requirements exceed that of an external SATA enclosure (you said, you already have 2 TB worth of photos), so if you were to use 4 500 GB drives in a SATA enclosure, you would have those 2 TB and not more. Furthermore, there is no protection against disk failure, it is absolutely necessary to use a RAID (IMHO RAID 5 would be the right choice) which means that you get essentially 1.5 TB worth of storage with four drives. Since you need this for your business, a hardware RAID is absolutely advisable. Otherwise unplugging the drives and plugging it into another computer might accidentally delete all your data!

Hardware RAID enclosures have been discussed in this thread. A hardware RAID enclosure will set you back at least $1000 + drives (easily another $1000). Plus you would need two to satisfy your needs.

A ready-made 5-drive enclosure with five 750 GB drives (the largest currently available) will cost you over $5000. If you were to configure a hardware RAID5, you would have 3 TB of usable capacity. However, this is as good as it gets right now with external SATA enclosures.

Hence I would recommend going for an XRaid (XServe RAID): compared to other RAID solutions, they are relatively inexpensive, expandable (!) and offer the features you need. 3.5 TB will cost $8,500 already (i. e. 3 TB of usable space), but this is server-grade hardware. Also, you can put 7 more drives in it which gives you some room to expand.
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Jul 26, 2006, 10:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by legacyb4
Take a look at Infrant ReadyNAS depending on your budget. Partitions are upgradable on the fly, the hardware chassis design that I've seen is excellent, and the pricing isn't as crazy as the xServe RAID (ie. not "enterprise" pricing).

Caveat: Infrant is still working on the embedded OS and their new version is supposed to be taking care of several bugs that have been affecting authentication (in a Windows AD domain) as well as handling foreign file names (something you probably won't have to deal with). Also, for some reason, copying data over the built-in USB port seems to have some issues.
The OP complained about the performance of an external (FireWire) HD and usually NAS offer even less performance than external FireWire harddrives. Plus the total capacity tops out at 2.25 TB (4 750 GB drives in a RAID5).
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Jul 26, 2006, 10:33 AM
 
Perhaps this thread is of interest to you as well.
Originally Posted by mduell
I have one word (ok, initialism) for you: eSATA.
It's wicked fast, but more importantly, wicked cheap.

...

Multi-drive enclosures are available, but using 750GB drives instead of 250GB drives really cuts down on the clutter your friends are seeing. Sure, they cost a bit more per gig (53 cents/GB for 750GB, 32 cents a gig for 250GB), but this way you can fit everything you have today on 3 drives. When they release 1 or 1.2TB drives next year, you can start buying those instead of 750s. Basically every time you fill up a drive, put it away and buy a new one.
I don't think this is a good idea. It's simply too small for his needs and uses a software RAID instead of a hardware RAID.
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Jul 26, 2006, 08:57 PM
 
Oreo: The OP didn't say he needed all of the storage online at the same time; his reservation about buying single disk enclosures was that he'd be swapping drives in and out of them constantly, and his friends had massive collections of drives. eSATA relieves both by providing cheap enclosures so you can easily buy one per drive, as well as supporting large disk.
I'm not sure why you even used 500GB drives in your first post, since we both know 750GB drives are available and cheaper per gig.

If he wants everything online, then the Weibtech is a good idea, but don't buy it pre-loaded. The empty RT5 and 3.75TB (Seagate) disk is under $4000. I think the Xserve RAID is all-around the wrong way to go; it costs $2000 more with only 1TB disk and it requires a much more expensive host adapter.
     
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Jul 27, 2006, 08:17 AM
 
AFAI understood he wanted to avoid swapping drives and have all his projects available at the same time. Since he has about 2 TB of data already, any solution must provide at least 2 TB of usable space, preferably more. Hence the idea you have outlined in your initial post is the wrong way to go IMHO: buying cheap enclosures and putting large drives in them. Also since the data is critical, a hardware RAID is a must.

In Germany, 500 GB drives cost less per GB than the 750 GB Segate drives (0.42 Euros/GB vs/ 0.49 Euros/GB), hence my decision to use 500 GB drives in my example.

I've outlined both alternatives. Sure he can buy drives and the WiebeTech RAID tower separately and save some money, but in either case, it'll be a significant investment, $4000+. Just one more thought: if you decide to go for the WiebeTech tower, you can also plug it into your PowerBook and use it as an external hd (you need to get an SATA adapter, though).

At first sight, the WiebeTech tower might be the cheaper option, but on the other hand, there is no way to expand it, other than to buy another one or replace all harddrives (which will not be easy since they are in a RAID and he has to transfer all the data onto the new drives; plus the cost of 5 new, larger harddrives will be substantial). With an XRaid, he has room to expand.

So I think the two solutions I have proposed are the only ones suited for his needs if he wants to avoid to shelve harddrives like his colleagues do.
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Jul 27, 2006, 07:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie
Just one more thought: if you decide to go for the WiebeTech tower, you can also plug it into your PowerBook and use it as an external hd (you need to get an SATA adapter, though).
The 12" PowerBook has no expansion slot, so a SATA adapter is out. Fortunately the RT5 has Firewire and USB ports.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie
At first sight, the WiebeTech tower might be the cheaper option, but on the other hand, there is no way to expand it, other than to buy another one or replace all harddrives (which will not be easy since they are in a RAID and he has to transfer all the data onto the new drives; plus the cost of 5 new, larger harddrives will be substantial). With an XRaid, he has room to expand.
With the Weibtech, he'd buy one RT5 and 5 750GB drives today ($4k today) for 3TB. When he runs out of space, he could buy another RT5 and 5 top-of-the-line drives (figure 1 or 1.2GB) for another $4k. With 4 eSATA ports on the higher-end PCIe cards (which are still cheaper than the fiber channel card you need for the Xserve RAID), he can go on like this for quite a while. When he runs out of space on the third enclosure (I'm guessing 5 or more years down the road), buy a fourth, copy the data from the original 750 setup to the fourth, and now you have the first enclosure available again really big drives.

Even a 3TB Xserve RAID (same capacity as one RT5 after RAID) costs more than both the first and second loaded RT5.

I think the RT5 is a good solution if he wants to have all his data online.
I think the individual enclosures are a good idea if he wants to save money and doesn't need all his data online (but still not at the point like his friends with a dozen or two 200-250GB drives).
I don't think the Xserve RAID is a good solution due to price, and it also can't be accessed from his PowerBook (independently... could share it over the network from his G5).
     
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Jul 28, 2006, 09:39 AM
 
Chas, it sounds like you don't necessarily need a RAID system, just an expandable storage system. I recommend you get something like the Wiebetech SilverSATA II ($379) external RAID and use it in JOBD mode (Just a Bunch of Disks). So it works like two normal drives. It does have RAID 0 and 1 modes if need extra speed or redundancy. Buy some extra trays ($29) and big hard drives when you want to expand. You can hot swap the drives when you want to get to other projects stored on another drive. You'll want a SATA card for you G5 that provides an external connection. The SilverSATA II also has a USB port you can use with your Powerbook.
     
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Jul 28, 2006, 10:16 AM
 
I strongly disagree. Since he uses the system professionally (with no backup!), the least he needs is protection against failing harddrives. RAID1 is pointless as the effective storage is too small and RAID0 or JBOD is way to unsecure. Hotswapping a RAID0/JBOD doesn't seem like a good idea to me by the way, as the RAID0 or JBOD will simply be destroyed

If he has configured the tower as a RAID1, the enclosure will try to restore the data from the remaining drive onto the new drive -- also not a good idea.

The only way to use hotswapping is by using no RAID level (including JBOD) at all. Basically this solution corresponds to a fancy way of shelving drives (all drives are now in drive trays which is certainly preferable to storing them `nakedly').
( Last edited by OreoCookie; Jul 28, 2006 at 10:23 AM. )
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Jul 28, 2006, 10:28 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie
I strongly disagree. Since he uses the system professionally (with no backup!), the least he needs is protection against failing harddrives. RAID1 is pointless as the effective storage is too small and RAID0 or JBOD is way to unsecure. Hotswapping a RAID0/JBOD doesn't seem like a good idea to me by the way, as the RAID0 or JBOD will simply be destroyed

If he has configured the tower as a RAID1, the enclosure will try to restore the data from the remaining drive onto the new drive -- also not a good idea.

The only way to use hotswapping is by using no RAID level (including JBOD) at all. Basically this solution corresponds to a fancy way of shelving drives (all drives are now in drive trays which is certainly preferable to storing them `nakedly').
If the enclosure is configured as JBOD, how does removing one destroy data . Are they not independent disks in this mode?

Edit: I went re-read the specs for the SilverSATA II and it does not support JBOD only RAID 0 and 1. So maybe a Silver SATA I and extra trays maybe more appropriate if all you need is an expandable storage system. Wiebetech also has the Traydock that has FW 800 and USB 2 ports and accepts either SATA or IDE drives but it's a bit more expensive than the SilverSATA 1.
( Last edited by kikkoman; Jul 28, 2006 at 11:01 AM. )
     
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Jul 28, 2006, 10:40 AM
 
No. JBOD concatenates the space of several drives without any performance benefits. Let's consider the example of 2 500 GB drives and compare RAID0 and JBOD.

In a RAID0, only every second byte is stored on drive 1 and 2 so that both drives need to be operational at the same time. In theory, this doubles your read and write performance. Practically, seek times remain constant and if you write a lot of non-sequential data, the performance increase is not very substantial anymore.

If you configure the two drives as a JBOD, the first 500 GB of data are stored on drive 1, the latter on drive 2. If you remove drive 1, then the first 500 GB are not available anymore. In theory, all the data on drive 2 should still be accessible. Practically it's not. The software RAID that is built into MacOS X cannot cope with this situation and all of your data (including the data on drive 2) is lost.

JBOD and RAID0 cannot cope with hotplugging (the hardware can, but your data will be lost), RAID levels larger than 0 can. RAID1 disqualifies itself since storage space is cut in half. The only reasonable RAID level at this point is RAID5 which practically needs 4+ disks.
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Jul 29, 2006, 11:57 PM
 
I would go for a RAID 5 card with the external SATA ports. Pick a card that allows you to grow your RAID 5 volume when you need to. I'm pretty sure I saw one that supported the Mac somewhere. This way your protected from a drive failure and when your out of space plug in another drive up to the limit of SATA ports you have on the card.

Have you thought about backing up all this storage? I mean back up as in off-site? What are you going to do if there's a fire, flood, theft, etc?

Brad
     
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Jul 30, 2006, 03:18 AM
 
Another good reason that he look at non-local storage options if he's concerned about data safety. Higher end NAS systems allow for hot-swapping in case of failed hardware and is not dependent on your OS to support that.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie
JBOD and RAID0 cannot cope with hotplugging (the hardware can, but your data will be lost), RAID levels larger than 0 can. RAID1 disqualifies itself since storage space is cut in half. The only reasonable RAID level at this point is RAID5 which practically needs 4+ disks.
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Jul 30, 2006, 06:03 AM
 
Originally Posted by legacyb4
Another good reason that he look at non-local storage options if he's concerned about data safety. Higher end NAS systems allow for hot-swapping in case of failed hardware and is not dependent on your OS to support that.
He said that for his needs, even his external (firewire) harddrives aren't fast enough. And even Gigabit NAS of the $1000 class (e. g. Buffalo's Terastation) has a throughput that tops out at 13 MB/s (reading) and 7.4 MB/s (writing) -- which is less than one third of a FireWire800 drive.
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Jul 30, 2006, 03:15 PM
 
I know price is important here but the best solution here would be to get an xServe RAID set-up as a RAID 5, and add drives as needed. For backup of the xServe RAID either get another xServe RAID or burn DVDs (or Blue Ray) and store of site.

Another solution would be to purchase online storage and make sure that they have solid data recovery plan. This solution would allow for unlimited expansion and back-up of data is done by the provider and you can back-up locally on hard drives or DVDs. One of the downsides would be slow access of data (try downloading 30GB of RAW files across 1.5 DSL) finding images would also be a challenge.

I looked at offsite backup and found a couple of services but my client did not need more than one terabyte of storage or had the budget to pay the monthly fee (hopefully that will happen in 2007).

Good luck on your decision and think about the following:

- How long will the chosen solution last?
- Will the solution keep pace with your growth?
- Is the solution redundant?
- Does the solution allow for quick access? Do you need quick access?
- Does the solution allow for searching, cataloging, etc..
- How much work/time does the solution require from you? You want to take pictures and not worry about hardware/software.

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Jul 31, 2006, 08:47 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie
He said that for his needs, even his external (firewire) harddrives aren't fast enough. And even Gigabit NAS of the $1000 class (e. g. Buffalo's Terastation) has a throughput that tops out at 13 MB/s (reading) and 7.4 MB/s (writing) -- which is less than one third of a FireWire800 drive.
Really? 13 MB/sec??
I get 40+ MB/sec off my file server (a PowerMac G5 2.5GHz dual, and a 320 GB RAID 0+1 on the FireWire 800 bus) over gigabit ethernet.
     
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Aug 1, 2006, 12:20 AM
 
Originally Posted by Cadaver
Really? 13 MB/sec??
I get 40+ MB/sec off my file server (a PowerMac G5 2.5GHz dual, and a 320 GB RAID 0+1 on the FireWire 800 bus) over gigabit ethernet.
This is why I built my own server as well. I'm doing RAID 5 via EVMS in Ubuntu but with large files I get from 40 - 50 MB/sec. I don't think I've read a NAS review that did more then 20MB/sec.

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Aug 1, 2006, 06:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by Cadaver
Really? 13 MB/sec??
I get 40+ MB/sec off my file server (a PowerMac G5 2.5GHz dual, and a 320 GB RAID 0+1 on the FireWire 800 bus) over gigabit ethernet.
Now that's a real computer. Remember that cheaper NAS devices are built around very slow chips that simply cannot manage more than that.

It takes already 30-40 % of the cpu horse power of a P3@450 MHz to saturate a 100 MBit Ethernet link. If you want more than 12 MB/s, you need Gigabit Ethernet end-to-end (Gigabit ethernet hubs aren't too expensive these days). Then you need to add some more for the networking protocol and the RAID.

A dual G5 is a lot faster than that and nothing like the $1,000-class NAS I was talking about.
( Last edited by OreoCookie; Aug 1, 2006 at 07:31 AM. )
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Aug 1, 2006, 04:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie
A dual G5 is a lot faster than that and nothing like the $1,000-class NAS I was talking about.
True, but I was going from the assumption that $1000 was a lot for a SOHO-targeted NAS. Guess not. But I concede your point that a dual processor G5 is a whole lot more expensive than $1000.
     
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Aug 1, 2006, 06:15 PM
 
Well, I quoted test results for Buffalo's TeraStation -- which is high-end for the SOHO market, you're right about that.
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Aug 1, 2006, 11:48 PM
 
Although it is out of most people's price range, the Xserve RAID with Xsan would be precisely what you need. Xsan volumes can be expanded without reformatting (add additional drives or Xserve RAIDs). Xserve RAID connects via Fibre Channel which averages 140 MB/s (yes, that megabytes, not megabits) per port. Plus, multiple systems can be connected to one Xsan via a Fibre Channel switch and they all act as if the storage was directly connected (i.e. 140 MB/s).

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Aug 2, 2006, 12:40 AM
 
You also need to consider off-site storage, for backup purposes. All it would take is one act of mother nature, to wipe out all your work.
     
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Aug 2, 2006, 08:40 AM
 
i think chasg is asking for two things here:

1. a fast storage solution for live projects
2. a backup solution

the storage needs to be fast and as people have mentioned, should offer some redundancy in case of hardware failure. from my reading of it, the storage doesn't need to hold every piece of work ever. instead just the current work. a SATA set-up with a couple of big drives would handle that i think.

then chasg needs to backup. burning to DVDs takes too long. hardrives in separate cases could lead to a space storage problem(!). so options are tape or drives. if data retrival is not needed super fast, then tape may be an option? or have a second SATA array, with no RAID and the work just gets copied to it and the drive pulled out and stored when full. not sure about storage conditions of these though?
     
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Sep 19, 2006, 12:22 PM
 
Woah! Aren't I supposed to get notifications of replies? (must've turned it off for this thread, somehow). My most sincere thanks for all of the replies and wisdom, and my apologies for not being polite enough to reply.


chabig: an xServe would be great, but I can't justify what it offers for the price, when it seems I can get the same (or better) capability from 3rd party suppliers (though I will admit ignorance and say that xServe may offer something of which I'm not aware, after my sparse research).


legacyb4: thanks for the suggestion, but I'm going to stay away from NAS solutions as I've been very disappointed with the real-world throughput of ethernet-based storage


OreoCookie and mduell: you've both given me a lot to think about, thanks. What I envision happening now is going with a multi-bay eSATA enclosure, prob 5 bays. I'll start small with one or two drives (largest I can afford), and slowly fill it with 5 drives as necessary/as I can afford it.

I hope that, once I've got 5 drives running, I can set up this way:

-drive A for "active" projects
-drive B to mirror drive A
-drive C & D striped for high speed use (eg. as scratch disks for PShop, iView and Realviz Stitcher)
-drive E as "archive" disk (as projects on A are finished and no longer "active", they'd get moved here to E, and when this drive gets full, I'll pull it, shelve it, and replace it)

I understand that there is a difference between a "hardware" RAID and a "software" RAID, but I'm not entirely sure of what that difference is. It does seem that a hardware RAID is quite a bit more expensive than a software RAID, but I haven't been able to learn enough to decide if one or the other is sufficient for my needs.

My existing, full, pair of LaCie Big Disk drives (500Gb each), I'll just put on a shelf, as they're surplus to requirements (seems a shame).


kikkoman: An expandable storage system is at least what I need, though a little RAID functionality would be helpful (see my reply to OreoCookie and mduell just above). I appreciate the exchange you had with OreoCookie talking about whether or not JBOD disks can be hotswapped. I'd assumed that they were able to be hotswapped, glad I didn't find out the hard way!

nerd: I'm going to have to read more on RAID 5, it's still not clear to me. Are you saying that I can get a card that supports RAID 5 (or is this a card that has 5 ports on it?).

Backup is only critical for the drive with "active" projects. When I finish a job, two copies of the final, edited and retouched, photos go to the client (which takes anywhere from two DVDs worth, up to 10 for the largest project so far). So far, I've been keeping every project on my drives (which is why I'm running out of space!) and I'm ready to access any files that a client might come asking for, but, they do have what I consider the definitive versions of the files. If they lose those two discs, and I don't happen to have what they've come to me to get (because I've run out of space and have deleted the original project), then they're out of luck. I'd much rather it not go this way (I look unprofessional), which is why I've in the past been backing up to DVD-R, but now my projects are getting so large that, time-wise, it's not practical to backup to DVD-R (thus my starting this thread!).

So, backups are only necessary for projects are on the go (and yes, I don't have off-site backup. Crazy, I know, but it's lower priority at the moment).


nica: wish I could afford an xServe, I really do! I'm a good photographer, but have only been in the professional arena for a couple of years, and I'm still building up my stock of equipment. No budget for an xServe, at the mo'.

Online storage is a nice idea, but the throughput bottleneck is crippling. Conversely, finding images stored off sight isn't really a problem, if they've been catalogued prior to offsite storage (I use iView Media Pro for this sort of thing, and catalog each of my archival DVDs when they're burned. Easy to search on any of the keywords I've put in).

The questions you've posed are good ones, similar to what I've asked myself. Sure, what I'd like is a solution that'd let me keep everything for all time (and backed up too), but I'm hoping that some sort of multi-bay enclosure will be a good compromise.


Cadaver, OreoCookie and nerd: interesting expansion on the NAS issue. I don't have a spare G5 to act as a file server, but I do have an old G4 tower that might fit the bill (500 MHz, if I remember correctly). This would require: gigabit ethernet cards for my G5, G4 and 12" PowerBook, gbit switch to replace my 10/100 switch, and fast drive solution inside the G4 (which at least has a decent amount of space for drives). Something to consider, if anyone can tell me if a G4 can serve up 40MB/sec (I know that the Cube I've got running as my webserver under OSX Server Panther wouldn't be able to handle it :-)

ptb: yeah, the xServe really is out of my price range, at least at this time. Too bad, sounds like a great solution (sure wish I was a multi-national corporate ;-)


bgarlock: it wasn't so long ago that _I_ was a serious backup evangelist! (Retrospect, tape drive, offsite storage). But now, my circumstances won't let me backup anything but my primary working drive (everthing else could go and I wouldn't be sued, but that primary...<shudder>). Read a little further above, in my reply to nerd, about what data needs to be backed up, and what could go without it being the end of the world.


othello: you've about hit it on the head (though my original post wasn't too concerned with backup, I'm coming to be more aware of it, again). I want fast access to and from active projects, I want to be able to archive finished projects (but not on hundreds of discs, inefficient use of time), and some redundancy would be an added bonus!

Are you suggesting I get _two_ SATA enclosures? I hadn't thought of that. One for work, one as backup which could then be swapped out when full. I'd much rather have the same solution in a single enclosure, but I'm worried that the hardware wouldn't be able to support multiple drives inside a single enclosure, being used in multiple ways (see my reply to OreoCookie and mduell above, where I list my idea for a 5 drive enclosure).

Ok, that's a reply for everybody to date. I know that many won't be back to this thread, but I appreciate their having come in the first place. If anyone else visits, I'd love to know if I can get my 5 drive enclosure idea working the way I want it to (with different drives working under different criteria, one to be swapped out once in a while). The enclosures that seem to be within my budget are:

SilverSATA V: WiebeTech Micro Storage Solutions - SilverSATA™ Series - External FireWire and USB SATA hard drive Enclosure
TrayDock eSATA (4 bay version): WiebeTech Micro Storage Solutions - TrayDock eSATA™ (I know, only 4 bays)
Sonnet Fusion 500P: Sonnet | Fusion 500P - 5-Bay Serial ATA Drive Enclosure with Port Multiplier
MacGurus Burly 5 Bay PM Enclosure: MacGurus:Burly Port Multiplier SATA Enclosures

The SilverSATA seems much more expensive than the others. I don't understand why, does it have some functionality that the others don't?

Chas
     
   
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