Last week (on my birthday no less) one of my primary image storage hard drives conked out on me. It was working fine and then all of a sudden it started making this excruciatingly high pitched whining noise which slowly got deeper and deeper until it sounded like someone had put sand inside the drive. Of course, I was in the middle of working on some images and it had been a few hours since I had done a manual back-up of the edits.
I removed the drive from the Mac Pro, attached a drive tray to it and slid it in to my external backup enclosure hoping that I could get it to mount long enough to pull the edited images off of it. Luckily, this worked and despite the awful noise I was able to pull the edited images off and on to two back-up drives.
This was my first real failure of a hard drive since I have been a professional photographer and has caused me to revisit my current image back-up and archiving workflow. Currently, my back-up routine is pretty much the same as these guys just on a smaller scale. All images are manually mirrored to two identical drives in an external enclosure. I keep track of what is on the drives using a simpletext file and I can easily search for a shoot by date, client or subject. I really like this system because it is simple, inexpensive and low-tech.
Last year, I consulted with Mac Guru Lloyd Chambers and we figured out some simple and relatively cheap changes that would add some performance and beef up my redundancy. So last week I ordered a box of new hard drives and moved some things around:
* My main system/boot drive is now in an external firewire drive. This frees up all four internal drive bays on the Mac Pro to be used for data storage. The computer boots and applications start surprisingly fast even with the slower firewire connection. * Two 1 terabyte enterprise class drives are joined together in to a fast RAID 0 "master" volume. Striping the disks in to one volume creates a 2 terabyte volume and really speeds up the transfer speeds. This volume is about three times as fast as my single drives. The disadvantage to a RAID 0 stripe is that if one of the two drives fails, the whole volume fails. Soooo..... * I made another RAID 0 "master backup" volume from two more 1 terabyte drives that mirrors the "master" volume. * There is a small 64gb partition on the "master" volume dedicated to Photoshop scratch use.
So now I have really fast access to all my shoots for the year which can be kept live on my Mac Pro, instead of off line on other drives. I still use the external enclosure to run multiple rotating back-ups both for on-site and off-site storage.
If you've got a Mac and want to know how to optimize it for fast photo processing performance, there is only one place to look:
Lloyd Chambers' Mac Performance Guide