Tuesday, June 19, 2007


For security and convenience, take a copy of your photo library with you

Security Think “insurance policy.” Your digital files are your most important asset as a working photographer. No matter how secure your studio or how frequent your backups, if you lose your images, you lose income.

Portable Drives And Why You Need One

Take advice from someone who lost over a gigabyte of image files on a bad hard drive, and back up your data constantly. Ever since that unhappy day, I've been obsessive about saving multiple copies of my image files. Copies are burned to DVD and mirrored on multiple computers and, more recently, on a portable, pocket-sized FireWire hard drive. Believe me when I tell you that you need one, too.

The portable hard drive has one advantage all the other forms of data backup don't offer: the ability to archive all your image files and take them with you. That last part is particularly important. I keep the drive in my briefcase so that no matter where I go, I have a copy of my entire image library. I have to admit that it makes me feel a little invincible. The world might explode around me, but I'll still have my image files on hand.

As an insurance policy, portable hard drives are very cost-effective. For just a few hundred dollars, you can carry thousands of high-res image files in your pocket. These drives are powered by your computer's FireWire or USB port, so there's no extra cords to encumber you. Stop by your client's office and connect the drive to a workstation there for instant access to project files.

What To Look For

The idea is to carry a copy of your image catalog with you, so size and weight become critical factors. Even today's largest-capacity drives, which currently top out at around 100 GB, are highly portable; if you don't need that much storage, you can go for an even slicker, sleeker drive.

If you plan to use the drive solely as an archive and not a working drive, you can compress all your files using software like Allume Systems' StuffIt (www.stuffit.com). I keep my library of older image files in a compressed format and leave new images uncompressed for fast access. That way, I maximize my storage space, but can still use the device as a working drive.

FireWire or USB 2.0? These are the two connection types typical of portable hard drives. There's a debate about which is faster—although USB 2.0 claims a slightly faster top speed than FireWire, FireWire tends to beat USB 2.0 when transferring lots of data because of the architecture of the connection. You really can't go wrong, though, as both port types are very fast and adequate to the task. FireWire is more common on Macintosh computers than Windows machines, while USB 2.0 is found on most newer computers of both flavors.


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