The Best Storage and Drive Solutions

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: hard-drive storage is one of the most important components of any computer. We have some suggestions for hard drives that will fit most of your everyday needs. First, let’s start with what you’re going to do with a storage device, because it makes a difference regarding how much and what sort of drive you may need, or the kind of storage that would be most beneficial to you. For example, videographers need speed, space, and performance. Although they may get by with simply storing large files in a NAS setting, they want to edit their work as well, and this requires speed. So what are the speediest drives they can get?


Videographers

One of the speediest is the Drobo Mini Kit. This killer quad kit uses only solid-state drives, which are much faster than traditional hard disk drives. The mini 4-bay enclosure also includes Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connectivity for faster transfer rates, and utilizes Drobo’s Beyond RAID technology so that you can mirror or stripe data for added protection. The four included 960GB SATA III 6 Gbps drives are rated at transfer speeds of 500 MBps/read and 400 MBps/write. For videographers who are looking for large amounts of space in which to work and play, the Drobo Mini Kit is an ideal choice for working professionals.

If you want to scale it back just a bit, or if a 4-bay unit may be too much for your needs, then the LaCie 1TB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD may be more suited your needs. It uses dual 512GB solid-state drives encased in a compact enclosure, and includes dual Thunderbolt ports as well. It also is configured with RAID features so you can back up data seamlessly and with confidence. It features 635MBps read and 410MBps write speeds, and coupled with the Thunderbolt connectivity, makes for a very fast storage solution.

Also, with the price of SSDs dropping, you could easily pick up spare SSD drives much the way you purchased hard disk drives a few years back. The affordable Samsung 840 Pro Series now has capacities of 128 to 512GB and feature read speeds up to 540 MBps and write speeds up to 520 MBps. Sandisk also enters the affordable realm with their Extreme series, which features capacities from 120 to 480GB and read/write speeds of 550 MBps/340 MBps. Remember, you’re going to pay about one dollar per GB of storage for SSDs—for now.

Artists and Photographers

For someone using computers as art studios or photography assistants, portability is key. The last thing a working photographer wants is a bulky hard drive in the field, and when transporting digital art from one location to another, you can’t always rely on your network. These professionals need a sturdy, dependable, and large hard drive that can fit in a bag or case easily.

Although there are plenty of portable hard drives that fill that bill, there are some standouts. The new Sony Professional Portable storage solutions include 500GB and 1TB traditional spindle drives. Although they run at only 5400 rpm, they include extras that make them desirable, including a silicone rubber bumper for protection and dust caps for the USB 3.0 and FireWire 800 ports on the back of the drive. They also make a 256GB SSD portable drive that gives you faster transfer rates when you need to show work as quickly as possible.

Another portable that doesn’t sacrifice style for functionality is the G-Technology 500GB G-DRIVE Slim USB 3.0 Drive for MacBook Air. It’s Time Machine compatible for instant backups, bus powered for ease of use (and no bulky power supplies), and weighs slightly more than 5 ounces.

Heavy-Duty Storage

Some consumers may be looking for more strenuous storage solutions. Whether you’re storing data for a small business, or want home-network access to your library of millions of songs, photos or movies, you may want to move up to NAS storage. NAS stands for network attached storage, and usually requires multiple hard drives worth of space. One popular unit is the Synology series, which can satisfy most needs for size, requirements, and capacity. The Synology DS1513+ is a good example—it fits five disks up to 4TB each (not included), has an integrated processor and dedicated RAM to power up its server capabilities, and can be used to deliver your digital files throughout your network. It is a complete private and personal Cloud storage solution that ensures your data will be safe, while serving it up to those with whom you share it.

Adding Some Room to Your Tablet?

A growing segment of users have adopted tablets as their main means of mobile computing, but as many know, tablets provide a woefully small amount of room for storage. Maxing out around 64GB, most tablets (and many Ultrabooks) rely on SD and microSD storage cards to provide some extra space for digital files. 

One of the more unique solutions is hard drives with built-in Wi-Fi so that you can stream content wirelessly over a network. One such solution, the 1TB Wireless Plus Mobile HDD with Built-In Wi-Fi from Seagate. This 1TB hard drive lets you stream to three devices simultaneously, so you can use it for your tablet, smartphone, and PC if desired. Although you can do the same by connecting a peripheral drive to most routers, this is a great way to share space when all you need to do is offload pictures from your phone, or music that you want to share with others.

Sandisk also makes a series of wireless Flash drives that allow you to share and stream through your network. They include 16 to 64GB capacities and allow simultaneous connections for up to eight devices. Again, off-loading pictures, eBooks, music, and movies from your mobile devices to these devices can greatly enhance your storage capabilities. Kingston also makes a line of USB Flash drives (for tablets or phones with a USB port) that are unique in that they reach capacities unseen in Flash drives, including 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB versions.

The Hardest Hard Drives

There are also users who need portability, reliability, and durability. Technicians in the field may need to access data too large for a Flash drive or memory card, so they turn to hard drives that can take a beating but still provide enough storage—drives like the LaCie Rugged series, with their signature orange rubber bumpers, capacities of 128GB to 1TB, and USB 3.0 and FireWire connectivity. Many of them include 10GB of online Cloud storage and backup software. Their real selling point is their toughness. The drives conform to military standard 810-F, and can withstand drops from up to two meters. From the 1000G shock-resistant hard drive to the shock-absorbing sleeve, aluminum anti-scratch casing, and internal rubber bumpers, the drive is made for some rough stuff. LaCie also makes a series of Flash drives with the same amount of protection.

You could (and should) protect your portable hard drive in any way possible, so if you don’t want to look for a drive that comes with protection, you could always purchase a protective case separately, like the black WD Nomad Rugged Case, which protects your WD MyPassPort drives with a hard polycarbonate exterior, shock-resistant elastomer interior, and USB connection portals, so you never have to remove the drive from the case.


The Future of Storage

As Flash storage becomes more popular and the technology surrounding it becomes even cheaper, you can expect to see the prices of SSD-based storage drop, as well as the size of Flash-based storage. Rumors have it that microSD cards will be debuting a 1TB version this year, which means that you’ll have 1TB of storage on less real estate than a postage stamp takes up now. USB-based Flash drives are being made with larger capacities, and hybrid (hard drives with an SSD cache) are showing up in almost every laptop. The determination you have to make is how much hard drive is enough for you, how portable you want it, and how much you’re willing to spend this holiday season.

For more on how drives work, see our article on hard drive basics, Hard Drives 101)

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Great article, but would love to see info on one more usage category — music production, specifically for composers who want to use SSDs to stream large quantities of virtual instruments (150+ instances would not be uncommon).

What the article describes as the needs for videographers ("speed, space and performance") sounds similar to a composer's or music producer's needs. Do the suggestions you make under the Videographers heading apply equally well to music production? When choosing a brand/model of SSD for music production, are there any considerations to keep in mind that differ from video production?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.