Storage Buyer's Guide - Creating a Media Storage System

Storage Buyer's Guide - Creating a Media Storage System

An effective and efficient media storage system to store your data is crucial for today's video editors. As video editors, we are aware of the importance of storage for our media, in particular a media storage system for our video files.

Possibly the number one hard drive chosen by professional video editors is the RAID hard drive. RAID, which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, is a unique type of hard drive that provides "redundancy." This means that it duplicates critical parts of your hard drive thereby increasing its dependability and functionality. If your hard drive should fail for some reason, multiple drives in a RAID can add redundancy, making data loss or system failure less likely. RAID drives can also give your system that extra kick it will need when you are using it for video editing and video storage. For these reasons, RAID hard drives are popular among video editing professionals and a top choice of video editors when shopping for a hard drive for their media storage systems.

Internal or External?

If you have the space inside your computer tower, an internal hard drive is probably the easiest and best solution when adding an additional hard drive to your media storage system. Internal drives can be purchased at electronic specialty stores or online. There are many internal hard drives on the market, among them are the Seagate Barracuda XT with 2TB. This high-capacity hard drive is very useful for video editing because it is built on a full-speed 7200 rpm 4-disk platform. It has a sustained data transfer rate of 138MB/s, with a huge 64MB cache, SATA 6GB/s interface. The Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB internal hard drive has a rotational speed of 7200, transfer rates of 126MB/s and a SATA 6GB/s interface. The Samsung SpinPoint F3R Enterprise Class 1TB internal hard drive has a rotational speed of 7200 as well and 300MB/s. It uses two 500GB platter disks, for a total of 1TB.

However, if you don't have room in your system tower, you can always opt for an external hard drive, which is also usually a lot more convenient than internal hard drives because external hard drives can be connected to just about any PC or Mac. You can also do your video editing from anywhere - simply take the drive along with you. In addition, as your media storage system and your needs grow, you can buy more external hard drives that you can connect together so your media storage system will never be low on storage space. Some popular external hard drives are the Western Digital My Book AV 1TB external hard drive, which includes a USB 2.0 and eSATA host interface, an external data transfer rate of 480Mbps, and a data transfer rate of up to 3GB/s.

The Hitachi XL3000 desktop hard drive, 3TB, has a USB 2.0 interface with a transfer rate of 480Mbps, and the G-Technology G-DRIVE 2TB external hard drive comes loaded with the power of a 7200 rpm, IEEE 1394b (FireWire 800), and a high speed USB/eSATA interface type.

HDD or SSD

Until recently, traditional Hard Disk Drives, or HDDs were the only type of hard drive, besides the RAID hard drive, that video editing professionals had to choose from. These electromechanical drives are partly constructed of spinning disks and movable read/write heads. HDDs run on high-speed serial interfaces, such as the standard SATA or SCSI, which operates at a faster speed.

Solid-State Drives, or SSDs, are hard drives much like HDDs in that their main function is to store data. The main advantage of SSDs over HDDs is that they use solid-state memory to store data, and yet they provide access to data in much the same way as traditional HDDs. They are different from HDDs in that they use microchips to retain data, and unlike traditional HDDs, they contain no movable parts, making them capable of withstanding shock much better than traditional hard disk drives. They are also much quieter and have a lower access time and latency. However, they are also much more expensive than standard HDDs.

Solid state drive's read/write speeds are also significantly faster than the standard hard drive speeds. Among the many solid state hard drives in the market today is the Intel SSD 320 Series, which comes in a variety of sizes. It offers a 3-Gb/s SATA, and up to 39,500 input/output operations per second (IOPS) random reads and 23,000 IOPS random writes. The Corsair Force Series 3 60GB has a SATA 3 6GB/s interface and quick read/write times when installed in PCs using the latest SATA 3 6GB/s interface. And the Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB solid state drive has 7200 rpm, SATA 3GB/s, and 32MB Cache.

Speed

When choosing a hard drive for video editing, the speed of the drive, or the speed in which the plates turn, is very important. Avoid purchasing a hard drive with an rpm speed of less than 5400 rpm (rotational speed). A 7200 rpm desktop hard drive has a data transfer rate of up to 1,030 Mbps and 10,000 rpm drives transfer rates are generally higher. The highest rotational speed in the market right now is 15,000 rpm for SATA hard drives, and this will prove a far superior hard drive for video editing. The major drawback of some of these high rotational speed drives is that they tend to run hotter than the lower rotational speed ones. However, the newer SSD's are fast becoming more popular and replacing the SATA drives and their read/write speeds are an improvement over the standard hard drive speeds.

Throughput

What is your throughput? Throughput is the rate at which data is transmitted over a communication channel. If the sustained data rate of a hard drive dips below the required transfer rate of video, you will get jerky video playback, bad audio and subsequently dropped frames. Good throughput is the result of a good balance between your computer's hard drive and the controller that connects between the drives and your computer. Good throughput, the kind that allows video editing professionals to capture video that is smooth and flawless and without dropped frames, is achieved by ensuring that the amount of data moving between your computer and your hard drive can keep up with the video that is being processed through the connector. In order to accomplish this, the faster your hard drive is the better. A rotational speed of 10000 is better than 7200, and 7200 is better than 5400. The connection you use has a lot to do with speed as well. A FireWire connector will allow you to transfer data to your hard drive much faster than a USB 2.0 connector. And here is where RAID drives stand out. Simply put, a RAID drive is a collection of two or more drives put together to act as one. Your computer reads your RAID drive as one hard drive when in reality you have more than one drive linked together. Naturally, the more d rives in your RAID unit, the higher your sustained throughput is going to be. If you can afford it, go with a RAID drive. Your media storage system will love you for it.

Connections

The connectors used to hook up the external hard drive to the computer influence read/write speeds. There are various types of connectors you can use with your hard drive to transfer data. Among the more widely used ones are USB connectors, FireWire connectors, SCSI connectors, EIDE and RAID connectors. When in the market for an external hard drive, remember to choose a drive with a wide range of interfaces, such as eSATA, USB and FireWire.

How Much Can You Spend?

Hard drive storage comes in all shapes, sizes, and capacities. Some drives have more advantages and features than others do, and an HDD, SSD or RAID are factors to consider along with cost. How much you spend will depend on the features that come with your hard drive.

When it comes to size, bigger is better; especially when working with video files for video editing. As a video editing professional, you can never have too much hard drive storage. Your media storage system, if it is used to edit video, should also have the storage capacity of at least 2TB, it should be fast, with at least a 7200 rotational speed. A solid-state Drive or a RAID drive are even better choices. Considering all of this, you will probably spend around $200-300 for a top-of-the-line 2TB hard drive.

Click here to download a PDF of Videomaker's Storage Buyer's Guide

Teresa Echazabal is a freelance video editor, writer, and producer.

Issue: 

Teresa
Echazabal
Thu, 03/01/2012 - 12:00am