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When I’ve been hired to do a job at a specific time and location, I typically go out of my way to make sure that I arrive at least 15 minutes early, if not more. I don’t do this to impress the client, I do it for my own well-being. I do it for peace of mind. Getting to a job early means that I won’t be stressed as I travel to the location, and it gives me a comfortable moment to breathe when I first arrive. Another thing I do in order to avoid unnecessary anxiety is to always make multiple backups of my files, and it’s a practice that all wedding photographers should adopt.
Even if you have more than enough memory cards for your cameras to cover the entire event and then some, backing up your files to a portable hard drive at the wedding location can save you from potential disaster. It’s also a good idea to duplicate them again when you return to the studio. Memory cards can be lost, they can fail, they can be damaged, they can be accidentally reformatted and all of their content can be erased and lost forever. An on-site backup requires extra effort, but so does arriving early. Peace of mind comes with a price, and it’s certainly worth an extra 15 minutes of your time.
A handy feature to look for in a portable hard drive is its ability to run on bus power, which means that the drive will get all of the power it needs through the connected data cable, and an additional AC power cable isn’t required. It’s one less thing that you’ll need to carry around and fuss with in the field. Another great feature to look for is a fast port, such as USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. The faster the interface is, the quicker your data backup procedure will be. This LaCie 1TB Rugged USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt series hard drive has both of these positive attributes in a tough, compact form factor. Another option is LaCie 256GB Rugged USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt SSD, which doesn’t have nearly as much storage capacity, but offers a durable and efficient solid state drive (SSD), and still has the ability to run on bus power.
Even though 256GB is more than enough space to back up most wedding shoots, many people have become accustomed to having much larger storage capacities in their drives. If you don’t want to bother with a hard drive unless it gives you a terabyte of space, the LaCie Little Big Disk does the trick with SSDs. This model has two internal 512GB SSDs, so it can be configured as a RAID array. When set up as RAID 1, all of the data stored on one SSD will be mirrored on the second. RAID 1 limits the total capacity to 512GB, but it makes your saved images far more safe, because there will be two separate copies. Another advantage is that the Little Big Disk features two Thunderbolt ports, making daisy-chaining possible. Presently, this drive is only compatible with Apple Macintosh computers.
If you don’t need Thunderbolt ports and prefer drives that work with both Windows and Mac computers, the G-Technology 1TB G-Drive mini is a good option. It features a fast USB 3.0 port, a respectably fast FireWire 800 port, and it can be bus powered. The drive spins at 7200 rpm for faster performance, which makes it useful for video-editing purposes, if you ever intentionally push the Video Record button on your DLSR. A protective carrying case, a USB 3.0 cable and two FireWire cables are included.
Equipment that offers a massive amount of flexibility is always welcome, and that’s what you get with the Drobo Mini 4-Bay Enclosure. As the name states, it features four slots that accept 2.5” laptop-style hard drives. Out of the box, it doesn’t come with any drives; however, you can purchase drives of any capacity to suit your current needs. There’s a spot for a fifth hard drive on the Drobo Mini called the Accelerator Bay, which is dedicated to an mSATA SSD drive (also not included). This bay is present to improve performance, and it noticeably speeds up applications like Apple’s Aperture. Drobo also provides you with data protection. You can configure the Mini for single- or double-drive redundancy. This means that you can use two of the 2.5” drives to mirror the other two (double-drive redundancy) or just one drive can be mirrored, and the other two drives can be used for regular storage (single-drive redundancy). The Drobo mini is equipped with dual Thunderbolt ports and a single USB 3.0 port. Both kinds of cables are included.
Having a lot of flexibility is nice, but sometimes a really basic portable drive is the best way to go. The Western Digital 1TB My Passport Ultra Portable Hard Drive is a fairly simple bus-powered hard drive that has a USB 3.0 interface. It connects to both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, and it’s compatible with both Windows and Mac computers.
When you return from the shoot, it’s a good idea to make yet another copy of the wedding files onto a desktop hard drive. This way you’ll have a minimum of three copies of the files: the originals on your camera’s media cards, the duplicates on your portable hard drive and the new copies on your desktop drive. At this stage, many professionals will go through the trouble of burning hard copies of the files onto DVDs, and/or create a copy offsite using a cloud storage service. It’s also a wise move to store one of your physical drives in a separate location. This helps to make the precious media files disaster proof.
A basic, yet solid external drive that’s good for studio use is the Western Digital 4TB My Book Studio. It features USB 2.0 and 3.0 connectivity, as well as an aluminum enclosure and WD SmartWare security software—which makes it password protected. If that sounds good but you would prefer the option to use Thunderbolt, the LaCie d2 4TB offers the same capacity, an aluminum enclosure, as well as a single USB 3.0 and a single Thunderbolt port. The LaCie d2 has a speedy 7200 rpm drive. Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables are included in the box.
Speed is a definite advantage for a studio drive, especially when you need to edit large media files quickly. The Western Digital My Book VelociRaptor offers a pair of ultra fast internal 10,000 rpm drives, and a pair of Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining. It comes preconfigured as RAID 0 for maximum performance, but you could also set it as RAID 1 for data protection. The internal drives are user serviceable, meaning that you can easily open the case and swap them out. This My Book is compatible with Macintosh computers running 10.6.8 or higher, and a Thunderbolt cable is included.
One of the great advantages of Thunderbolt is its ability to handle multiple data-consumptive devices that are daisy-chained together; however, equipment that features dual Thunderbolt ports is required to do so. This G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt supplies you with a healthy 8TB of storage, as well as dual Thunderbolt ports. Another excellent studio drive with dual Thunderbolt ports is the Drobo 5D. It’s basically a desktop version of the more road-friendly Drobo Mini that was mentioned earlier in this article. What makes the 5D different is that it features five slots for 3.5” SATA hard drives, and it also has the single Accelerator Bay for an SSD. All of the drives for the 5D must be purchased separately.
The announcement of the redesigned Mac Pro in October 2013 also introduced a new interface, Thunderbolt 2. With a reported maximum data transfer speed of up to 20 Gbps, which is twice the maximum speed of its predecessor, Thunderbolt 2 will provide much faster data transfers. Thunderbolt 2 also retains the ability to daisy-chain up to six devices on a single Thunderbolt 2 port. Thunderbolt 2 hard drives are starting to become available with more on the way in the near future.
If you have any questions about this equipment, you can visit our SuperStore in New York City, speak with a sales professional at 1-800-606-6969 or interact with us online in a Live Chat.