I read someplace that March 31st was
National Computer Storage day, or some such. I can’t find anything about it on the internet, but World Backup Day, and in honor of hearing this I’ve decided to do a blog about something I get asked quite frequently which is; what do I do for my mobile storage solution(s). Notice the S at the end of that. There is more than one way to win at a game of Tic Tac Toe, Euchre or Photoshop and this is no different. There are many ways to manage storage while on the road, on location, or on your desk and while this may not be perfect, let me explain how I do it so it’s online someplace. As a Full time freelance on the road Photographer not only must storage be plentiful, but it must also be readily accessible and in most cases it needs to be fast. My storage is either with me on my person, in my backpack with Lappy, in my camera bag, car, or stashed around the house even. The really big question for on location is Paranoia the need to back things up for the “just in case”. Just in case being things like broken memory cards, or lost/stolen hard drives, or a meteorite hitting your house/car/computer with surgical accuracy. The secret to this whole process for me is that it’s always changing, and evolving because needs change over time with both work, and the technology in your camera bag. With that all in mind I’d like to introduce you the new Thunderbolt Rugged RAID from LaCie.
(Photo courtesy of Roberts Camera’s website)
The great folks at Roberts Camera are no different than regular folks sometimes as they asked me about what I do for my on site storage, bringing to my attention LaCie’s new Thunderbolt Rugged Raid. I am a long time LaCie drive user, and really it was about time I looked into a new one so with one of the new LaCie Thunderbolt Rugged Raid drives in my possession I was ready to see what this thing could really do for World Backup Day (which was March 31st, but due to some technical reasons explained in a bit the blog got pushed back a little bit). I’ve been using this drive for a few weeks, in replacement of my old LaCie 500gb Triple interface drive and I love it. I’ve have used LaCie Drives for a long time so I wasn’t expecting this drive to provide me any surprises. In fact, all the LaCie drives I’ve owned have been pretty similar in appearance and top end performance. This new drive has bright orange bumpers just like the two or three year old LaCie Triple interface USB3/FW800 drive that I already have and use regularly. The big upgrades with this new drive include being 4TB instead of the 500gb of my original drive, the thunderbolt rugged raid is also in fact two physical dives in one for the raid functionality; and it uses Thunderbolt/USB3. I was expecting a straight up speed increase from the LaCie Rugged Raid over my USB3/FW800 drive (which is admittedly SLOW these days topping out at 60mb/s on USB3), but nothing could prepare me for the fact that in a RAID 0 Configuration (using the drive to it’s full 4T capacity) it nailed its own on the box 240mb/s almost exactly. To say that is a big deal is an understatement considering that I’ve got some XQD Cards that advertise 440mb/s but top out at 350mb/s… Anyway, that may not seem crazy fast to some of you thanks to the continuing appearance of SSDs out in the wild (Example being the laptop inside my 2013 i7 Macbook Pro); but for a rotational drive sporting 4 flippin Terabytes 240mb/s is insane! That’s fast enough to edit off while still having space to store ALL THE THINGS!
Now some back story. For a while I owned a Western Digital 4T Thunderbolt Raid which I loved for on location shooting because it backed everything up as a RAID so if one drive failed/died the data was ok. If I have used LaCie drives in the past why did I jump to WD in this instance? Because when this drive came out, it was the only ON site raid solution I was aware of powered by the computers Bus. That and Sometimes trying new things can be good for you. Anyway, while the data was more than safe on that drive, and I used it many times on location to sleep better knowing the data was immediately secured and duplicated; that WD drive got stolen. (Anticlimactic since RAID won’t defend from that situation, amirite?) and I never replaced it. If I slept so well with the data sitting on that drive why did I not replace it you ask? Great question, glad you asked! I never replaced that WD drive because it was expensive, because it was LARGE (literally size of a brick) and because it was SLOWWWWWWWWWWW. It was also relatively loud with a built in fan to cool the drives. I obviously don’t have WD drive to compare it to the LaCie I have here on the counter with me, but I can tell you that LaCie could easily add a Third drive into their Rugged Raid and it would STILL be smaller than the WD version I used to have. The LaCie is faster also. The LaCie, while in RAID1 is not as fast as RAID0 but that’s expected. It still holds an impressive transfer speed of 126 write and 107 read while in RAID1 though. (I saw the write get up to 150 at one point which is really impressive). To put that into perspective, here is a Seagate USB3 1T drive that is only a single drive. It’s the same speed as the LaCie, but like a lazy coworker it’s only doing half the work that it could be doing. Nice job LaCie. While as a RAID1 its about as fast other drives, but remember your data is SAFE from all kinds of Tom Foolery thanks to the Rugged Raids design. It can be dropped from up to 5 feet, and they say it can be run over by a 1 Ton vehicle. It’s splash resistant, dirt resistant, and likely resistant to lots of other things that aren’t children under the age of 5. During all these things it keeps your data safely asleep in its bed. Not only that, but most importantly your data is protected from drive failure with the hardware raid design. I’m not going to intentionally test some of those more “hardcore” protections that the drive offers, because with this I’m going to be doing a more long term road test to give a much more clear understanding of how it performs over time. (More on that in a bit)
(The Rugged Raid next to my old Triple Interface. Drive on the left is 4T RAID with TWO drives in it, one on the right is just a single 500gb drive…)
Anyway, back to the out and about/mobile storage thing. When I’m out and about, or on location it’s significantly different than when I am home. Not in a sense of that the computer is on a desk at home, or that all drives that are even connected (all of my long term backups are in cold storage which is outlined in this post). When on location things are obviously a bit different. I don’t have a RAID6 array to back everything up while on location, and a backup still needs to be done. Generally it’s all done manually on location and the process is always changing. Usually everything comes off of the memory cards right away and goes onto the laptop’s onboard drive. The files are then sent to an external drive based on what needs to happen to them next. Photomechanic allows you to ingest the data to two different locations automatically which is super sweet, but until now has been limited by the slower of the two drives. The LaCie Rugged raid isn’t quite as fast as my SSD, but It’s not longer a pain to wait for files to be split between the SSD and a regular rotational drive. If these are files that I need to edit they will go to and stay on my laptops onboard hard drive AND they will go onto an external drive (the LaCie) for safe keeping for the just in case. When that is done, the photos exist in three places (memory cards, laptop and external Hard drive) Once I’m home (if I’m not already) they go directly to the Synology for safe keeping and the memory cards are clear to be formatted. To recap, the photos are always in three places, and all three of those places are rarely if ever in the same place at the same time. (Technically they are all at home at some point, but they are not in the same local vicinity and this is not to include anything I keep offsite). On occasion I’ll be shooting an event like the NCAA Swimming and Diving event I mentioned HERE, or the Gymnastics Championship I mentioned HERE that requires all the files be stored AND easily accessible for editing. This is where a drive like the LaCie Thunderbolt Rugged RAID will really shine for me beyond the setup that I had before. My Macbook Pro’s on-board hard drive is only 500gb, which means with the operating system, software, photos I’ve taken, and obscure cat videos I save I don’t have an extra 600-800GB sitting around for an event like I just mentioned. On top of that while I do own a USB3 Samsung 500GB SSD drive, that still requires splitting that much data into multiple pieces which to be honest can be logistically challenging as it comes to doing the editing quickly. Plus nothing changes in the fact that I still need to edit those files as quickly as I can on location. The LaCie not only keeps all of the files safe as a RAID1, but as a RAID0 it’s one of the fastest portable rotational drives I’ve seen that I’d have no trouble tossing in my backpack and running to the next assignment (sometimes literally).
So it sounds like I’m gushing about the LaCie, and I kind of am; but lets face it the thing is pretty sweet. It comes with an extra little orange plug for the end of it to protect the Thunderbolt cable, and USB port, as well as it also comes with (from what I can tell) every power adapter known to man so if you’re a traveling photographer you should be set. The Thunderbolt cable attaches to the drive with a little magnet with the cable tucking into the orange bumper for safe keeping and fully extended it will reach all the way from one side of my macbook pro to the other, which is great for shooting tethered on location. Totally unrelated the drive also came in a nice set of packaging too as you can see in the photo below. It’s a nice touch to see that someone still really cares about packaging. So I admitted I was gushing a bit but here’s the rub. When using Thunderbolt the Drive is bus powered which is great and honestly that’s probably the only way I’ll ever use it. With USB though you need to use the aforementioned power cable(s). Bummer. To be honest I’m not sure what the difference in the power requirements are between USB and Thunderbolt is, and like I mentioned i’ll likely never use the USB3 function of the drive but that’s how it goes. SO if you have a PC that doesn’t have Thunderbolt you need to use the USB3 and Power adapter. No worries though, there is zero speed penalty for using USB3. Next; the RAID controller on the LaCie Rugged Raid is a hardware one which in most cases is awesome! (and very rare on a portable drive like this). That means the drive is taking decisions out of the computers transfer process by splitting the data with hardware instead of your computer having to think about it while it’s transferring things to the drive. This probably helps the LaCie attain such a fast read and write speed in RAID1. The process to switch the drive between RAID1 And RAID0 is really straight forward, but just complex enough that you aren’t going to do it by accident. I actually had a problem with my first drive (Remember the technical reasons mentioned before?) and I’m actually on my SECOND LaCie Thunderbolt Rugged Raid at the time of this writing because after about 50 or so attempts to get the drive into RAID1 I was still set up to use the lighting fast RAID0. After a quick interaction with LaCie they confirmed I was in fact doing it right and they replaced the drive no problem, no questions asked. Customer service baby, that’s how you do it. I even got the new one before I had to ship the old one back. New drive? Switched into RAID1 on the first try. Turns out I was doing it right.
So wow, that’s a bit more of a detailed explanation of how I handle my on location backups than I think may have been necessary, but I get this question enough that I feel like it was worth it. To recap, the data goes from the cards through photomechanic onto both the laptop drive and the LaCie Thunderbolt Rugged Raid at the same time. Alwyas have more than one copy. I said earlier that this was going to be a bit more long term of a review, which means you should check back as I’ll regularly be including updates about this drive in my other subsequent adventures. How difficult is it to review a hard drive? Just test the speeds, run it over with a car ect. This isn’t that review. I’ve pushed over 2TB of data through the drive so far, and there are no signs of slowing down. This drive is now in my arsenal and worked into my workflow where my older LaCie used to be. This drive is now ready for the worst the field (or I) can throw at it. Things that are coming up include my review of the NEW Nikon D5, as well as the NEW Sigma 30mm F1.4 for E Mount. These things aren’t even including things that I’ve shot/shoot to make a living as a full time freelancer where this drive will get used pretty much non stop. Until then though, I hope this helps give you some ideas on how to back your stuff up in the field, as well as gives you an idea as to how fast, and great the new LaCie Thunderbolt Rugged Raid drive has been for me so far. Like I said, I thought my LaCie Triple Interface drive was great, but now I can really once again rest easy with my data backed up on location and think more about making interesting photos. More Soon.
(Nikon D5, 450ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR with TC20eIII making 800mm. 1/2000th@F5.6)