Hard Drive Costs Late January 2020

Current hard drive costs at a glance with links to purchase from Amazon. I recommend Seagate hard drives because they continue to test as some of the longest lasting drives at backblaze.com.

Highlights for January include a minor price increase on 6Tb and 10TB external drives, as well as slight changes to internal drives as noted. The days of storage prices dropping quickly seem to be over as drive capacities become so large. Also of note is that 2Tb external drives are now all “portable” meaning they are 2.5″ laptop drives that are bus powered. For my main storage I prefer to have external 3.5″ drives that are plugged in to an external power source, so that means buying a 4TB drive or larger.

10TB external drives are still a big savings over 10TB Internal drives. Also, on a cost per TB basis, 10TB drives are getting close enough to the sweet spot of pricing to make them attractive if you need that kind of storage. But I generally don’t recommend buying more than a year’s capacity at a time to protect from price changes. Also remember that a properly backed up “storage set” requires three drives, so buying more than you reasonably need (over provisioning) can suck up a lot of money.

Sometimes external drives are less expensive than internal drives. Advanced users may want to explore “shucking” external drives to save money as the external drives are often, but not always, SATA drives that can be used as an internal drive.

EXTERNAL

2TB $59.99 ($30 per TB) 2.5″ USB powered portable drive
4TB $89.99 ($22.50 per TB)
6TB $109.99 ($18.33 per TB) +$10Change
8TB $139.99 ($17.50 per TB)
10TB $199.99 ($20 per TB)+$20 Change

INTERNAL

2TB $49.99 ($25 per TB)
4TB $79.99 ($19.99 per TB)-$10 Change
6TB $131.99 ($22 per TB)
8TB $149.99 ($18.75 per TB)
10TB $252.98 ($25.29 per TB)+$12 Change
12TB $327 ($27.25 per TB)+$15 Change
14TB $439.99 ($31.40 per TB)
16TB $484.99 ($30.31 per TB)+$6 Change

I’m an Amazon affiliate so I receive a small commission from each sale.

A Cheaper Storage Upgrade

Seagate 2TB External Drive

If you are sick of my articles on Drobo/NAS/DAS/RAID storage solutions because they are just overkill for your needs, you are in luck. I’m laid up with the flu, which is a perfect time to dump out some different storage solutions because it doesn’t require the same part of my brain the creative photography content does. 

Talking with a friend yesterday about some upgrades for his mac that was running slow and we got around to his current storage shortage.  (Yes, I have a lot of photographer friends, a side effect of this incurable disease I have called photography 😉

After helping him spend about $300 on a RAM and SSD boot drive upgrade for his 2015 iMac, the budget was tight for storage. He wanted to set up a new Storage Set that would be dedicated to RAW files, and include his existing archive of 700GBs of existing RAWs. (See my Freemium Backup and Storage Plan article for an explanation on what a Storage Set is. )  

He settled on buying three 2TB external drives for a total cost of about $179. One would be the master, and two would be exact clones using CarbonCopyCloner. This would let him transfer his existing 700GB of RAWs to the new storage set, and leave maybe a years worth of space for new RAWs from his 45mp camera. The $179 price is an easy bill to afford, and way less than film and processing used to cost, so even if it ends up being a little undersized, it gets him through till his high season for photo sales. 

Putting all your RAW files on a separate drive is a great way to segment your data. Since these files will never be modified directly, the backup needs are greatly minimized for that master volume. Your modified RAWs can live on a volume set aside for more active files in the case of Photoshop, or in your catalog for DAM (digital asset management) programs like Lightroom. 

So why not a RAID in this case? While RAID is a very nice to have, it’s not always a need as long as you are very diligent in doing regular backups. This solution works in keeping the data safe and accessible for very little money. 

My storage articles over the last few weeks weren’t meant to say you need RAID, but rather to explore what they do and how to manage them based on my experiences managing a lot of spinning disks in Mirrored RAIDs and Synology NAS systems. I used to be able to heat my office in with three Mac servers and forty odd hard drives West Coast Imaging required, so to say I’m very close to this subject is an understatement…lol. 

Sometimes inexpensive solutions are the best solutions, and as I shared with my friend, there are always more things to spend money on in photography. Saving money for him means more days on the road having more adventures and making more photographs. So “just enough” is always the right size. Owing spinning disks is not our goal in life. 

Monitor Recommendations November 2019

A friend’s long used Apple Cinema Display is dying and asked if the recommendations I made earlier this year for color accurate displays still hold true. His expectations are similar to mine, which is very high, as the work he does is for fine art prints, books, and magazine publication. Here’s what I shared with him.

Here’s my current recommended color accurate displays:

PA271Q-BK-SV  27 inch model for ~$1450 from newegg, BH, or Adorama
PA243W-BK-SV  24 inch model for $899 at Amazon and Newegg

What about that new 31 inch display?

NEC replaced their previous color accurate 31 inch display with the new PA331D. Based on my past experience with NEC, I am confident the color will be great . What gives me pause is it’s pixel pitch of 149 pixels per inch on screen. The other NEC displays I recommend have a pixel pitch of about 100 ppi. Higher ppi on a display makes it more difficult to judge images at 100% Actual Pixels Magnification. This means it could be more challenging to preview sharpening effects as they will be hidden by the higher resolution. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding a new methodology to view the image at a higher magnification, but it’s a bridge I haven’t had to cross yet.

I’ve also recently had the chance to preview the quality of one of the Eizo line. From my brief examination, it seemed incredibly accurate. But I still don’t have enough personal experience with it to say which model will produce the results that I’m used to.

I’m fighting a flu that has taken down my whole family, so I’ll cut and paste what I shared with my friend about buying a color accurate display:

There is a 31 inch model that is quite a bit more. For imaging I think 24 inches is a good fit, and larger can get overwhelming, but the extra screen resolution and size of the 27 inch makes it great for working on two documents side by side and other layout/non photoshop type products.  Even with the 24 inch, I cover up have the screen when dust busting at 100% because it’s just too much screen to take in all at once. 

Make sure to get the exact model listed as the PA243W-BK doesn’t contain the calibrator that the PA243W-BK-SV does. You should buy the calibrator as it allows you to use the NEC calibration software that calibrates at 16 bits and it really does let you resolve more tones than other systems. The technology has advanced sufficiently that i’s time to upgrade whatever calibration system you have. 

Figure this monitor will like last 7-10 years based on my past experience with NEC displays. 

These are a pain to buy from Amazon because their listings often don’t include enough information to make sure you are getting the right model. No idea why but that’s been the case for years. 

Bad Reviews for Drobo on Amazon

I’ve been doing a lot of articles lately on the Drobo. These came out of my experience working with a friend to upgrade his storage system and replace a 5 year old Drobo that failed. While I don’t own a Drobo, I understand the underlying technology and how to manage its RAID like storage from owing a Synology and previously managing Mirrored RAID servers for a long time.

My recent PetaPixel article have several comments from Drobo users who had bad experiences that piqued my curiosity. I dove into this thinking the Drobo just worked well based on the positive things I’ve heard about it, and peoples acceptance of it. And on paper it looks like a good DAS option that should be easy to use.

So I dove into the Amazon reviews (and B&H) to get a bigger sample of users, and I’m not too excited by what I see. The percentage of 1 and 2 Star reviews is pretty high for the rock solid reliability I want in a storage device.

I didn’t read every negative comment, and it’s nearly impossible to measure the experience level of every person commenting. But 25% plus total 1&2 star reviews stands out to me. Based on this new knowledge, I don’t feel comfortable recommending the Drobo. It might be a good device, it might not. But I don’t want to deal with the risk that those reviews are correct.

Even with a solid backup system, dealing with storage failures is a nightmare. I’ve been there enough to know I want to eliminate as much risk as possible. The time and stress to fix faulty storage is just too high a price for me to pay, let alone the experience you need to troubleshoot. I had thought the Drobo would be a perfect solution from non IT savvy photographers, but I guess I was wrong.

I still have a couple more Drobo articles I’m going to post, with links to this article. And then I’m going to work on some articles about SoftRaid from Other World Computing which I have considerable first hand experience with over nearly 20 years using it for mirrored raids on hundreds of drives. OWC also sells some excellent drive cases, some with built in RAID. They take a little more experience than the Drobo to use, but my experience with OWC is that they produce excellent kit. I’ve also used them as my RAM supplier for my businesses (at least 35 Macs upgraded), and my laptop has been running a 1TB SSD drive from them for the last 4-ish years.

If you are putting together a storage upgrade, I encourage you to give OWC a look. And look at my consulting services if you need some more in depth help.

Storage System Consulting

Need help ensuring your photos are properly stored and backed up? Losing the time, energy, and effort spent making your photographs, let alone the potential revenue they represent, is not an option.

 Let me help. I’ve built systems to serve the single photographer all the way to 20,000 clients and a million files. I can put together a simple but robust system that works for your individual needs. I focus on cost effective solutions because I don’t like wasting money on things you don’t need. 

Email me and let’s start securing your archive today. 

Will PC drives work on a Mac?

Sometimes you’ll see a great deal on a external hard drive, but pass on it because it’s labeled “for PC” and you are on a Mac.

These drives will work on Macs too, you just have to re-format them.

What they mean when they say “for PC” is that it’s been pre-formatted from the factory to work with a PC with no additional configuration. Since most users aren’t IT people, that’s makes life easy for them. But all us Mac users have to do is use the Disk Utilities application to reformat that drive to Mac format and it will work exactly the same as a drive sold as “for Mac and PC.”

If you are not familiar with the Disk Utilities application, take some time and get to know it. It’s one of the basic tools you need to master to manage your storage. It’s a “dangerous” tool because you can completely erase disks, but no more dangerous than how you format memory cards in your camera. Just like formatting your memory cards, it’s a basic skill you need to master. So practice with it next time you have a new drive with no data on it, and always take your time to think things through.

Drobo volume/partition size recommendations

A drobo is like a regular external hard drive in that it can be split up into smaller volumes or partitions. Just because you have 20TB of storage doesn’t mean you actually want a 20TB volume.

I recommend your volume size be based on the size external drive you are using for backup, so that each volume can be easily backed up to a single external drive.

For example, if you are using 8TB drives for backup, you might want to make 6TB volumes on your drobo. You want the backup to be bigger than the “master” volume on the drobo because backup software can allow you to keep snapshots of old data that allows you to go back in time if you accidentally delete , erase, or overwrite a file, or if it becomes corrupted. The more extra storage on your backup drive, the further “back in time” you can go (no DeLorean or flux capacitor needed.)

This means you’ll likely have multiple volumes/partitions on your drobo, and you should consider how you use them.

I recommend separating “hot” or frequently changed data from “cold” or seldom accessed data. Hot data is things you are regularly using, like your lightroom catalog, your latest photo shoots, etc. Cold might be where you sort older shoots that you are not accessing, as well as files that don’t need frequent modification. For example “2019 Raw Captures” might get it’s own volume.

Really cold data could be moved to an external drive to free up space on the drobo.

There are lots of ways to play this, but I’ll leave those details up to you.