Storage is the bane of every creative’s existence. It doesn’t matter whether your content lives in a storage unit or a hard drive, keeping it safe, secure and easily accessible isn’t always cheap or easy.

The good news is the internet is filled with solutions, sadly most that I’ve found are tailored for professionals producing hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes of data every month. If you happen to be in this position, do yourself a favor and pick up a network-attached storage (NAS) box or a direct-attached storage enclosure. They may be expensive — in some cases costing thousands of dollars — but they’ll also save you a lot of time and energy in the long run.

But what if your creative output isn’t measured in the tens of terabytes a year?

Here’s how I went about solving the problem and why I think it might be the ideal solution for many creative enthusiasts.

Two is one and one is none

As I’ve learned the hard way time and time again, the biggest challenge with storage isn’t finding a place to put it; anyone can go out and buy a hard drive. Instead, it’s keeping your data safe from corruption, or worse hardware failure.

When it comes to backing up your data there is an old saying: “two is one and one is none.” That is to say, to be safe you should always have your data stored in at least two places.

I ended up settling on a storage solution used by photographer Tyler Stalman until just recently.

The solution involves using two external hard drives kept in sync by an app called ChronoSync.

A Practical Storage Solution For Creative Enthusiasts

So, I picked up two 4TB hard drives; one portable drive and one desktop one. The first would serve as my working drive while the second would serve as a back-up in case one failed or became corrupted.

Now it’s easy to buy two drives, where it gets tricky is trying to keep them in sync. This is where an app like ChronoSync (MAC) or Toucan (Windows) comes in handy. These apps work by comparing the drive’s contents and adding or removing files that have been changed since the last time the drives were synced.

As a bonus, Toucan is actually a portable app that’s designed to run straight from the drive.

While setting up a ChronoSync task is pretty straightforward, if you’re having trouble, Stalman breaks down just how to do it in the video below.

Choosing the right drive

Any two hard drives will work with this method, but you might want to think twice about buying the cheapest external drives you can find on Amazon.

Consumer drives may be cheap, but they’re not designed to handle long periods of continuous use and are generally more likely to fail than more expensive “premium” or “professional” grade drives.

I highly recommend buying from a reputable brand like LaCie or G-Technology. These drives might cost you a little more than cheaper consumer drives, but they’re generally designed with professional workloads in mind. And if you plan on taking your storage with you, rugged drives are a must.

I’ve personally been using G-Tech drives for years now, and I’ve never experienced a drive failure.

While hard drives are ideal for bulk storage, you’ll likely run into trouble trying to edit video. Instead, I recommend picking up portable SSD like Samsung’s T5.

What SSDs lack in raw storage they make up in speed and reliability. However, due to their relatively high cost compared to traditional hard drives, SSDs still don’t make a lot of sense for video storage.

My recommendations

There are lots of great hard drives and storage solutions out there, but here are the ones I use and recommend.

Desktop drive

G-Technology 4TB G-Drive USB

I started buying and using drives from G-Technology for years. My personal favorite is their 4TB G-Drive USB, which I’ve been using for five years without incident and just recently picked up a second one.

While the drive’s design hasn’t changed much since hitting the market in 2014, the drive’s internals certainly has. The company’s claims read and write speeds of around 165-MB/s check out for my older drive, but my newer model is managing speeds closer to 240-MB/s. That’s a huge improvement, no doubt thanks to drive improvements and larger caches.

However, the reason I still swear by G-Technology is the company uses HGST hard drives in their products. HGST drives have proven to be some of the most reliable on the market experiencing extremely low failure rates of less than 1% according to Backblaze’s quarterly hard drive reliability report.

Portable drives

Big Storage On The Go: G-Technology ArmorATD Rugged Drive

So given all the good things I had to say about G-Technologies desktop drives, it should come as no surprise that I like their portable drives too.

I’ve been using the company’s 4TB ArmorATD rugged drive, which features three layers of shock protection and an IP54 rain and dust resistant enclosure.

That said, it’s not the fastest drive out there, averaging read and write speeds of around 110-MB/s in my tests, so definitely not the best choice if you’re looking for a high-capacity video scratch drive.

Casual Use: G-Tech G-Drive Mobile

If you don’t need a rugged drive or you’re looking for something less bulky, for about the same money you can get G-Technologies’ G-Drive Mobile.

Like the company’s rugged drives, the G-Drive Mobile is available in capacities up to 5TBs. Sadly these drives aren’t any faster, claiming around 135-MB/s transfer rates on the box.

Video: Samsung T5

For video, SSDs are the way to go and my drive of choice is the Samsung T5 portable SSD.

These slim aluminum drives are available in a variety of colors in capacities of 500GB-2TBs and feature a super reliable USB-C port.

Now I should mention that these aren’t the fastest SSDs out there. Samsung claims read and write speeds of 540-MB/s, however, my 500GB model tops out around 420-MB/s in real-world testing. That said, they are plenty fast to edit 4K video off of all day long.

Best of all, you can regularly get a 1TB model for about $169 on Amazon.

What about the cloud?

A Practical Storage Solution For Creative Enthusiasts
Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

If you’re producing less than 100GBs of data a year and have reliable access to the internet, a combination of cloud and local storage can make a lot of sense.

One of the best things about cloud storage is it can scale to meet your needs. You can start out with a 100GB plan for around $2 a month and upgrade as it begins to fill up. Right now you can get 2TB of cloud storage from Apple iCloud or Google Drive for around $10 a month.

Storing your data in the cloud also means it’s available anytime you need it from your smartphone or tablet.

When combined with local storage, like a hard drive or portable SSD, cloud storage becomes even more powerful. The local storage offers you high-speed access to your files, regardless of whether or not you have internet access and provides a degree of redundancy in the rare care of server error resulting in data loss.

Why I don’t trust RAID

RAID, otherwise known as a redundant array of individual disks is great if you need to get a lot of fast storage. A properly configured RAID array can provide both a ton of storage and performance gains over a single hard disk, all while providing redundant storage in case of a drive failure.

RAID might sound like the perfect solution. When properly configured, a RAID array can survive up to two drive failures without catastrophic data loss. Sounds great, right, but if the RAID controller fails, you’re completely out of luck.

NAS drives tend to be a little more reliable since they tend to rely on software RAID rather than a dedicated controller card. However, as I mentioned earlier this reliability comes at a cost.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

  • How do you back up and store your data?
  • Have you adopted a redundant storage solution?
  • If you did, what did you end up going with?

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