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May 16, 2007

Photo Storage and Workflow Issues

I'm in serious need of some type of storage solution for photos that I'm preprocessing before sending them to the lab or album maker and I can't make up my mind about what I should get.

Currently, I copy the RAW photos I'm actively working on directly to the internal drive of the iMac. Once done, I copy the Raws, Masters, and Print copies to one of two Western Digital My Book Pro Edition 1TB firewire drives I picked up at Costco. A copy of the photos sit on those drives until they're delivered to the clients and the project is completely done. At that point the client's photos are copied to two or more DVDs, verified, deleted off the My Book drives and the DVDs are filed away.

The problem I'm having is with both of the My Book drives. Even though they're 1TB each, they're always nearly full. So I'm often deleting things early and putting them on to DVDs because I don't have the room. As soon as I do that it always turns out I need to access them again and dig them out of the filing cabinet. What a pain!

The worst part is I never get to keep a copy of the photos I take for my own enjoyment and personal projects on my computer or one of the attached drives because there is never any room for all of them.

I could buy another My Book but while they're not too expensive I'm not very happy with them as they're not expandable. Also, if a drive should die the entire unit is hosed until you have it serviced under warranty or you dissect it yourself.

Data Robotics' Drobo looks very interesting and its price recently dropped to $500 but that doesn't include the drives themselves. You supply your own drives and if one should have a problem, they're hot swappable. With 4 500GB or 750GB drives it should fit my needs but I'm a little nervous putting my faith in a new, untested product such as this.

The specs of the Buffalo TeraStations look good but I've heard mixed things about their firmware and their reliability when a drive does fail. This is a mature product from a very reliable company but there is still criticism of them. Knowing this you can see why I'm a little apprehensive about the Drobo.

I'm interested in hearing what others are using and if there are any other products I should be considering. I need something thats fast, reliable, hot-swappable, and connects with Firewire (my preferred method), USB 2.0, and/or LAN. Please discuss in the comments.

It's worth mentioning that no matter where a photo is in my workflow process it is automatically backed up online so there is always copies of everything offsite.


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