RAID Types: The best options for photographers

As a busy photographer, you undoubtedly have terabytes upon terabytes of image files stored on hard drives in your office or studio. Like many photographers, you may not have a viable backup solution in place. If a hard drive fails, of hours of work--and, more importantly, your clients' memories--may be lost forever.

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"It'll never happen to me," were words I said to myself for years early in my career. I figured if I said it to myself enough times, it would somehow shield me from disaster. "It'll never happen to me..."

Until it did.

Thousands of images seemingly lost forever. Hundreds of hours of work down the tubes. But I was lucky. Were it not for good fortune and a skilled data recovery technician, everything would have been gone.

But the good fortune came at a price. Financially, data recovery is not cheap. For the amount I spent on recovery, I could have invested in a solid backup system. Compound that with the stress and anxiety I felt having seemingly lost my clients' cherished memories.

A Little Investment Buys Peace of Mind

Hard drive prices are most likely as cheap as they're going to get. A quick Google search tells me the current average price per gigabyte for a 4 TB drive is around $.025/gb. Add in a nice hard drive enclosure with a few bays and your total investment is around $500, depending on the brand of the drives and enclosure. The old excuse of "it's too expensive" just doesn't fly anymore.

What is RAID?

RAID stands for "redundant array of independent disks". It is a data storage virtualization technology that combines multiple physical disk drive components into one or more logical units for the purposes of data redundancy, performance improvement, or both.

Different RAID Types

There are many different RAID types, but for the purposes of this post to keep it germane to photographers, we're going to cover the two most common types.

RAID 0

Image courtesy of www.datapacket.com

Image courtesy of www.datapacket.com

RAID 0 consists of "striping", which is the technique of segmenting files so that consecutive segments are stored on different physical storage devices. For example, if you have two 4TB drives set in RAID 0, the data would be split equally between the two drives. The advantage to this kind of setup is that read/write speed is very fast. The downside, however, is that because data between the two disks is not mirrored, if one drives fails, the remaining drive is useless.

RAID 1

Image courtesy of www.datapacket.com

Image courtesy of www.datapacket.com

RAID 1 consists of data "mirroring", which means that data is written identically to two drives, thereby producing a "mirrored set" of drives. The advantage of this is that it provides a fail-safe solution should one of the drives in the array fail. Simply replace the failed drive with a new, same-sized drive, copy the backed-up files to the new drive, and you're off and running. The downside is that read/write speed is compromised due to the fact that the system needs to write data to two separate devices.

Which is the Best for Photographers?

In this author's humble opinion, a setup running RAID 1 is the best bet. Even though it's slightly slower than a RAID 0 setup, it provides a fail-safe solution should one of the drives go bad.