I get a lot of questions on my hard drives. I guess because people can see them in the background of my videos and I think it looks MUCH MUCH more fancier than it really is. So I thought I’d do a quick write up on what I use and why.
Don’t expect too much of a techie discussion here. And please DO NOT try to convince me I should change something. Judging from the comments and questions I get from people who watch my videos, I’m the least techie person you know. I have worked REALLY hard at developing the creative part of my skillset over the last 20-25 years. I didn’t start out as a creative person to begin with, but I wanted to be. I personally value that much more than any technical stuff – and I don’t have time to develop both. I deliberately (and almost enthusiastically) avoid tech at all costs.
I don’t look at what’s new in computers, phones, cameras, drives, cars, stereos, etc… unless I’m specifically in the market for something. For example, I bought a new MacBook Pro in 2021. It works great. I’m probably years away from needing a new one, so when Apple announces new stuff I literally don’t even read or watch anything about it. I’ve got way too many things on my plate running a business, and that’s how I compartmentalize things – I ignore them 🙂
The Drives are from G-Technology which was rebranded to Western Digital years ago. I bought them originally in 2016 because a friend told me to. You’ll see 4 identical drives, that are each 8TB in size.
Two of them are for photos and two are for my courses/videos that run my business. So if you’re looking at 4 drives, you should really only concern yourself with two of them because you probably don’t have an online training business to run.
One of the photo drives (Photo 1) is my main photo drive where I work off of. The other drive is simply just a backup of it (Photo 2). I have the same system for my Video drives. Video 1 is the main one that I work off of, and the other is a backup.
In case it matters, the Photo 2 and Video 2 drive are typically unplugged and powered down most of the time. I turn them on once a week when I backup to them. And sometimes I forget once a week and it stretches to a month. That’s fine for me because I just don’t use them that much. I have a job to do and editing and working on my own photos every week doesn’t always fit in to it 🙂
Sometimes I forget to turn them off and leave them on. Like I said… if you think I put any more effort than a casual 10 second “Hmmm… I wonder how my backup drives are doing”, you give me way too much credit 😉
I know some one is going to ask me what type of connection they are. I honestly don’t know what it’s called. UPDATE: I just looked it up. It’s called Thunderbolt and it looks like this. In order to have all of the drives connected at once I have to do what’s called daisy chain them together. So one drive connects to another, connects to another and eventually connects to the computer.
Storing My Photos
I don’t want to make this a photography workflow article and I want to keep it on just the drives. My Lightroom System course covers all the technicals on what I do. But, at a high level, I create Descriptively named folders on the drive. I copy the photos from my card reader after a shoot to that descriptive folder. Then I import them in to Lightroom, or just simply use Bridge to browse them if it’s not a shoot I care enough about to bring in to LR.
How I Back Up?
I backup with an app called Carbon Copy Cloner for the Mac. If you google search “Cloning backup programs for PC” you’ll find some equivalents. The nice part about a “cloning” app, is that when I run a backup (which I run about every week or so), it just backs up the changes. That’s what a cloning program does – it makes one drive look like another. If I just did it manually, I would never really know what was new/changed on Drive 1, so I’d have to do an entire Copy/Paste of Drive 1 to Drive 2 every time which would take a while.
However, if you knew that you only edited files from one folder, you could easily copy/paste that every time and skip the Cloning app. I just don’t think that fits most people’s workflow and it’s too much to keep track of for me.
So it looks much fancier than it really is. As far as photography is concerned, I have two drives. One for the photos and the other to back it up. My thoughts on hard drives are that it is not a matter of “IF” it will fail… it’s a matter of “when”. They will all fail at some point. That’s why I always want a backup.
What About a Catastrophe? Cloud Backup To the Rescue!
So what happens if there’s a catastrophe? That’s where my next line of defense is a cloud backup. I use Backblaze’s cheapest plan (I think it’s $7.99 a month). As long as I’m connected to the internet, and my drives are connected to the computer, It backs up my entire laptop computer and every hard drive I have connected to it.
I don’t know the specifics of how Backblaze works, so their website would be the best place to go if you want more info. I have deleted a file or two accidentally from my laptop, and found it very easy to go on to their site and recover it. But I’ve never totally lost a drive so I’m not much help there. I do know they offer you the option of recovering online, which could take a while, or paying to have them send you a drive.
What About That Other Drive On Top
That drive on top is a two-bay hard drive that let’s you pop in and out 1TB hard drives. I use this for business and it’s not something I think most of you would need.
For example, let’s say I’m heading out to teach somewhere. I can’t afford for my laptop to crash on me while I’m away. So I backup my laptop to one of those drives every so often, and I bring it with me. The drive is bootable, meaning I can connect it to my laptop and recover from there. This has actually happened to me once when I used to do a lot of live seminars, and it was a lifesaver. I was up and running from a crashed laptop in minutes. Again, I don’t think most of you need this – but at least now you know what it is.
RAID, NAS, GAS, WTF and Other 3 or 4 Letter Acronyms?
I know that some drives have RAID and NAS and who knows what else. I can barely spell them. And, while at a VERY high level I know what they are, it’s just too complicated for me. I know there’s some IT dude out there screaming at their computer – insisting to me how easy it is for them to have a full RAID system with NAS so they can access their library from underwater on the moon if they needed – and that everyone should do it – but I come from the KISS method. I like keeping things very simple. It works for me, and many others.
What Would I Buy Today
As I said in the beginning, I’m pretty useless when it comes to tech, so I’m not going to be much help for what to buy today.
What I can tell you is this. I bought 8TB drives 7 years ago. About twice a year, that main Photo 1 Drive starts approaching full. Rather than go out and buy bigger drives, I just go in and start deleting stuff. From 2004 through 2017 I used to bracket every landscape shoot I went on. That means I have tens of thousands of photos of over/under exposures that will NEVER get used. Plus, many of those bracketed photos are just bad. So it’s a good exercise to force me to go back in to some folders of photos and delete the bad stuff that I’ve never used in 20 years. Sure, storage is cheap so you can feel free to buy a bigger drive. But for me, there’s a certain peace to having less photos and less clutter on my drives. The more I delete, the better I feel.
Anyway, if I did have to buy new drives today I’d ask a friend who I trust what they use. I’d do minimal online review searching because I personally think most online reviews are crap, and confuse people more than anything – unless it’s from a reputable person that I know and trust. While I’m a fan of Google searching things, I would never google this one because there are too many websites that game the system just to get clicks and affiliate revenue. Or if I did, I would only read/watch things from people who’s names I recognize.
I probably wouldn’t buy the most expensive drive out there even if it touted incredible failure rates. But I probably wouldn’t buy the cheapest either. I may even buy a Western Digital because the name sounds familiar to me.
I’d buy something that would grow with me, by doing some calculations on how much I shoot each year and multiplying that by 8 years or so of growth. And most importantly, I’d buy two. One for the main photo drive and the other as a backup because, as I said before, I believe that it’s not if the drive will fail, but when.
I hope that helps shed some light on my hard drive situation. It’s not fancy, it’s not technical, but it works and make sense to me. Take care!