Monthly Archives: November 2008

Photo Backup: RAID Tower

Drobo Power
Creative Commons License photo credit: Thomas Hawk

In the previous section of this “photo backup” series, we went over the external hard drive. This article deals with something that’s a bit fuzzy to define — the RAID tower. It’s similar to an external drive, but it can also be used as a working drive and/or a backup drive.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — HAVE YOU EVER NEEDED TO USE YOUR PHOTO BACKUP?
NEXT — DVD

So again, I’ll try to lay out the topics in a similar fashion to the previous articles. And hopefully the technology doesn’t change on us before you read this.

THE BASICS

A RAID tower is a collection of two or more internal hard drives housed in a box that contains special RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive/Independent Disks) hardware/software, and connects to your computer as if it were a single external hard drive. These towers can be utilized as a working drive or a backup drive, depending on your needs. In either case, the tower is designed to protect your data from hard drive failures (typically one disk can fail and you’ll still be able to recover your data).

RAID towers come in various shapes and sizes, but the most common form is a cube-like enclosure that holds 4 hard drives. The towers that hold 4 drives are capable of a RAID 5 configuration. Other towers may only hold 2 drives, and these are capable of a RAID 1 configuration. In either case, your data is protected against the failure of a single drive. The difference is that RAID 5 allows you to use more of your disk space (RAID 1 is just a mirror, so one whole drive is used for backup).

RAID towers have similar data connections to external hard drives (so I won’t go over them again), but some towers will have multiple connections to boost the data transfer rates. Some will also have the ability to be networked via Ethernet.

One deviant of the typical RAID tower is the Drobo. Typical RAID setups require that all drives be the same capacity (or it considers all drives to be the same capacity as the smallest drive). The Drobo is a bit different in that it can utilize drives of various capacity, and you can upgrade your hardware as your photo collection grows.

BACKING UP

The nice thing about these towers is that they are intended to take care of the real-time backup for you. If you’re using it as a working drive, the RAID configuration will automatically backup your work as you go. If one of your hard drives in the tower decides to fail, you can simply replace the drive and the tower will rebuild your missing data.

If you decide to use the tower in a similar fashion to an external hard drive backup, you’ll still need to find some software that duplicates your work from your working drive to the backup drive. But again, if one of the drives in the tower gives up, you can replace it easily without having to re-backup your entire working drive.

In either case, the stuff contained in the box has a layer of redundancy. But it’s certainly not a solve-all solution. No single backup method can protect against every possible failure.

Pipe Cleaner Muscle Man
Creative Commons License photo credit: Bob.Fornal

STRENGTHS

RAID towers are easy and expandable. The embedded hardware and software takes care of backing up your data, so you don’t need to be as diligent about manually backing up photos. The other main perk of these towers is that you can upgrade the storage capacity as your collection grows. Standard RAID 5 towers will require that all drives be of the same capacity, but a unit like the Drobo overcomes this limitation.

RAID towers are also somewhat portable and they can be accessible via a network. If you had to take one with you somewhere for some reason, you could do it. And hooking it up to your local network is a great way to ensure access to your photos from several computers around your home or office.

WEAKNESSES

IMG_4659
Creative Commons License photo credit: tantek

RAID towers are still basically an external drive, with a limited connection speed. Most users will never notice this limitation, but it is a limitation nonetheless. The other downside to a tower is that you’re only protecting against hard drive failures if you use it as a working drive. Fire, theft, and other major disasters can wipe out all your drives at once. And like external drives, you’ve got a box of hardware sitting on some desk or shelf just waiting to be knocked over.

CONCLUSIONS

If you can justify the cost of a RAID tower, they’re certainly worth it. These devices add an extra layer of protection against common failure modes. I would, however, strongly suggest that if you decide to use a tower as your main working drive, to also use a secondary method of backup. Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea.

I would suggest a RAID tower for folks with a considerable sized photo collection, maybe 500GB or more. Anything less than that, and you might as well just use a single drive for working and another single drive for backup. But as your collection grows into the terabytes, you’ll need more than a single drive to work with.

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Art From My Favorite Photographers

Day ??? - Frames
Creative Commons License photo credit: margolove

I mentioned a while back that Jim Goldstein was running a project that required participants to acquire artwork from other photographers. The deadline is today (November 2, 2008), and I’ve managed to pick up a few pieces for this project.

Not only did I acquire a few new pieces of art, I also found a long-term project for myself. In the course of this project, I determined that I’d like to start a collection of prints from photographers I associate with. For this collection, I’ll be gathering only black & white prints (preferably signed by the artist), all framed and matted in a similar fashion.

So here are the items I’ve acquired for Jim’s project…

CHASE JARVIS BOOK

Chase is one of the more “popular” photographers that I follow, and I’ve had some limited interaction with him in the past. He’s extremely good at what he does in his profession, but I admire him more as an artist than a commercial photographer. It was just plain luck that he released his first photo book during the course of this project, so naturally, I bought a copy. It’s a great book, filled with amazing photos.

You can find Chase Jarvis on his website, his blog, YouTube, and Flickr.

BRYAN VILLARIN PRINT

Bryan is a photographer who is very close to me. We’ve been hanging out and shooting together occasionally over the last year or so. His enthusiasm for photography is nothing less than inspiring. When he approached me about doing a print swap, I was all for it (in fact, I had planned on asking him to do a print swap). I had a hard time choosing just one photo from Bryan, but I knew that I wanted it to be a photo from the subways because this topic really reminds me of him. I ended up choosing the photo above, and it looks great on paper.

For the print swap, Bryan requested one of my paraglider shots — Wide Open. I had it printed up at my local printer, signed it, and delivered it to him on our recent Venice Beach photowalk.

You can find Bryan Villarin on his website, his blog, and Flickr.

CODY REDMON PRINT

I approached the photographers from the Fine Art Photoblog about doing a print swap for the project and Cody jumped right in. Cody has been a great friend to lean on during the startup of the photoblog, but we’ve kept in touch for things other than that over the course of the last year. He’s a great landscape photographer, and his photos do the Great Northwest much justice. Again, I had a very hard time choosing a photo from Cody, but I finally decided on the one shown above. It has a very simple elegance that I just adore. The swap hasn’t happened yet, because we both still need to have the prints made.

And for this print swap, Cody requested that I choose one of mine for him. This is a daunting task, but I believe that I’ve chosen something he’ll like — It’s Lonely Out Here. This one is an equally simple photo, but with a subject matter that represents my current location. It’s a film photo, so I’ll be printing this one for him with my recently acquired enlarger (thanks to my Dad).

You can find Cody on his blog and on the Fine Art Photoblog.

PhotoDump 11-02-2008

More great stuff this week from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! For those of you who haven’t joined the group yet, I’d encourage you to do so. I go through all of the photos submitted to the pool each week and pick out some favorites to share on the blog.

Soft Autumn Light by edzartsTEA by javiyThe Sony Center am Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany by tysonwilliams.comdinosaur by cjw333speaking of eyes... by vandyll.netfinn (day 14) by lifeography™The Other Side... by edzartsLighthouse Sunset by rexauerAutumn street by visuellegedankenPurple Man - Llívia BcnPh by sebastian.yepes.inAfter novocaine kicks in by bryanvillarinbaby tooters by vandyll.netDoor for the dead!! by robinn.Mesmerized by Brian AuerIsla de Tabarca by CdL Creativelisa by tomaschek by the_wolf_brigadeScenes from a Memory by Chris FarrugiaSmile by davebcohen by Photographic CultureSigns of fall (289/366) by bryanvillarinFar by ergatesWild Horse Wind Farm by Blush ResponseLet there be change by Chris FarrugiaColors of Lithuania by Salvatore FalconeDark by Zozman366/365 - The Many Faces of 365days by anthonyskeltonTaj Mahal (7) by tyt2000The Watchman by Brian Auer by the_wolf_brigadeCalmness by visuellegedankensunday scrub by mizjessicaleighWhen I Grow Up by Kate Ferrara. by *ojoyous1*Rockies 014 by icemanukplaying with fire by xysmas (Aaron)Cambodian Children I by rh89finn (day 9) - ode to carrie by lifeography™Misty Morning by ZozmanAmish wash day by AIA GUY..RwoodTexture and Material by Phill Price | PhotographySous les nuages / Under the clouds by electro76Fork Lift by PatriciaPixthe apples fell by poopoorama by davebcohen..I am 21 by javiyRichard at Work by Brian AuerReligion by {Tasha}meanwhile in mustang ridge, texas by xgrayold glory by kajatlThe Dreamer by FlashyThingystrobistmeet-9954.jpg by spudcheyneBe Everywhere by orange tuesdayCross the Tracks by bestgramps

Link Roundup 11-01-2008

Halloween is officially over, and I hope everyone had a safe evening. Here’s what’s been happening around the web over the last week.