Storage Buyer's Guide
Storage Buyer's Guide

In this guide, you’ll find a list of the best storage drives on the market today, hand-picked by the Videomaker editors. Then, we’ll look at two important factors that need to be considered when purchasing storage of any type.

The Best Storage for Every Workflow

RAID Storage

When you have lots of data to store and protect, and you need to access that data often, a RAID is going to be your best option. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. They usually look like a tower or rack-mounted system. They can offer massive storage capacity, data protection through redundancy and blazing fast read and write speeds — though not necessarily all at once.

Capacity

RAIDs provide these benefits through the use of multiple storage drives configured to work together. That means a RAID needs at least two paired drives to work. However, enclosures can include up to eight or more drives. This means RAID systems can come in higher capacities than are possible with single-drive solutions. As you can imagine, larger capacities come with a larger price tag.

Redundancy

Another benefit of using multiple drives in coordination is that you can configure your system to duplicate data across drives. This provides redundancy. It protects your data so that, if one drive fails, you won’t lose everything. If you want maximum redundancy, configure your RAID in RAID 1. This configuration mirrors your data, storing exactly the same information on two matching drives.

There is one caveat to this, however. With most hardware like this, only the drives have backups — not the system. If the power supply, RAID controller or other hardware on the unit fails, the whole system may be non-functional. In a case like this, the data may still be on the drives, but recovery might be difficult since many RAID controllers write data to drives differently. So while RAIDs are generally safer than non-RAID drives, you should still keep another backup of your data elsewhere.

Speed

In addition to the type of drive, the number of drives can also affect speed. Depending on the setup, RAIDs can process information faster than single drives thanks to their ability to access multiple drives simultaneously. RAID 0 stripes your data across multiple drives. This provides no redundancy and so we don’t really recommend it, but if you need the speed, it is an option. A better choice would be RAID 10. This configuration provides the redundancy of RAID 1 mirroring without sacrificing as much in terms of speed. RAID 10 requires a minimum of four drives, so consider this when shopping for a RAID enclosure.

Other RAID configurations include RAID 5 and 6. These both offer striping and parity for faster speeds along with data protection.

Best Raid

G-Tech G-SPEED Shuttle T3

G-Tech G-SPEED Shuttle T3
G-Tech G-SPEED Shuttle T3

Strengths:

  • Up to 1000 MB/s write speeds in RAID 0

Weaknesses:

  • Drives are not hot-swappable

The G-Technology G-SPEED Shuttle with Thunderbolt 3 is fast, stout, and highly configurable, but it all comes at a price. The Shuttle can be configured from 16 Terabytes (TB) all the way up to 48TB. 

From the factory, the Shuttle comes pre-configured in RAID 5 formatted in HFS+. Factory formatted saw a read speed of 553 MB/s and a write speed of 765 MB/s. RAID 5 in HFS+ gets the best performance with redundancy from the Shuttle. If you have a PC, formatting in exFAT does not significantly hinder the performance with a read speed of 551 MB/s and write speed of 761 MB/s

G-Technology says it has up to 1000 Megabytes per second transfer speeds and we saw that and some with an average of 1028MB/s in RAID 0. The Shuttle has a hardware RAID controller and is capable of being configured with 4TB, 6TB, 8TB and 12TB drives, or with two 10 or 12TB drives and two EV bays.

The cost of the Shuttle is high, but it offers a great product for the price. The transfer speeds were good enough to work off of regardless of the type of footage you are working with. If you need large storage with redundancy, want it portable, and need dependency, you should strongly consider the Shuttle.

$1,699

Network-attached Storage

If you are working on multiple computers and you need maximum storage, you might want to consider Network Attached Storage (NAS). These units are different from a simple storage array in that they are designed to be accessed directly through a network. Normally the drives are for storage only and feature a bank of open ports for HDD or SSD. Units can be chained together for massive amounts of storage. NAS is a great solution for back-up or recovery.

It is also possible to configure a NAS to have internet connectivity and it will act as your own personal cloud. You don’t even have to leave your computer powered up to get remote access. If you’re working in a small company with multiple computers, users and projects to archive, then networked attached storage (NAS) may work best for you.

Best NAS

QNAP TVS-1282ST3

QNAP TVS-1282ST3
QNAP TVS-1282ST3

Strengths:

  • Lots of features
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 systems can connect simultaneously

Weaknesses:

  • Much slower using Thunderbolt 2

The QNAP TVS-1282T3 is feature-rich and relatively affordable. Sold empty, the TVS-1282T3 features 12 bays you can fill with four SSDs and eight HHDs. It also has two M.2 SATA III slots and comes with an up to 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-7700 quad-core processor. Finally, this NAS comes with 64 GB of 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM, two 10GbE and four 1GbE ports. It supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, + Hot Spare and JBOD, and it offers up to 1600 MB/s file transfer speeds. The drive trays are removable without a tool and support SATA M.2 SSDs with 2242, 2260, 2280, and 22110 form factors. More exciting are the four Thunderbolt 3 ports with up to 40 gigabits per second bandwidth that can connect four Mac OS and Windows machines. The NAS is unique because it’s capable of using both SSDs and HDDs.

The QNAP TVS-1282T3 offers a ton of configurations, features and has some impressive data transfer rates. More than just a RAID, this NAS could be the cornerstone of your production workflow. We liked how many different ways you could connect to it, and it impressed us with some fun features that, to the right user, will be immensely useful.

$4000


Internal Storage

An internal drive is going to give you the speed advertised, but you have to know if your computer can handle a new or additional drive. This includes knowing the type of connection available and the physical drive dimensions that your system will accept. If you don’t have the expertise, you might need to take your computer down to a local repair shop and get some advice. If you’re comfortable with a DIY approach, check out our guide to assembling a PC for information on installing drives. For internal storage, we recommend a large hard disk drive with substantial built-in cache and a higher RPM rating to increase performance.

Best Internal Drive

WD Black 4TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive

WD Black 4TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive
WD Black 4TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive

Strengths:

  • 5-year warranty
  • Dual-core processor

Weaknesses:

  • Price

This internal SATA hard drive comes in multiple capacities up to 6TB to accommodate a large number of video files. It offers a dual-core processor and DRAM cache up to 256MB for faster access to data. The WD Black Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive comes with a generous 5-year warranty.

$173


Portable Storage

RAID, NAS and Internal storage solution generally stay put in a single location. However, as workflows become less centralized, you may want to be able to work on your project from home and at the office. You may even want a smaller, rugged solution for travel.

When it comes to portability, an SSD is going to be your best option. With no moving parts, there is no chance of the mechanical failures that would crash a spinning disk hard drive. SSDs are still susceptible to other types of failures, but this difference does make them a better option for portable drives that will be moved around a lot.

Speaking of portability, there are several solutions that are wireless and so you can transfer data directly over Wi-Fi or even remotely with an internet connection back to your home station. You can even find battery powered storage units, so it’s possible to transfer video directly to your hard drive while you’re still in the field or in the car on the trip back. You are no longer limited to the size of your memory cards.

Best Portable Storage

Samsung T5

Portable: Samsung T5
Portable: Samsung T5

Strengths:

  •     Small
  •     Lightweight

Weaknesses:

  • Higher cost per GB than most of the marketplace

Available from 250 GB to 2 TB, the Samsung T5 is a USB 3.1 Type-C and comes with both a USB Type-C to C cable and a USB Type-C to A cable. The T5 has an aluminum enclosure and Samsung says it can handle drops of up to two meters. 

When connected to a 2017 MacBook Pro 15-inch via the USB-C to C cable, we saw an average of 515 MB/S read and 487 MB/S write speeds when formatted in HFS+ and in exFAT format. When connected to a system with only type A connections using the Type-C to A cable, we saw an average of 370 MB/S write and 364 MB/S read speeds.

The T5 is small, lightweight, fast and durable, and it’s in the middle of the marketplace in terms of dollar per GB. It’s a good choice for those who have limited physical space to transport data. If you need a minimum data rate of 370 MB/S read/write and up to 487 MB/S write, 515 MB/S read for Type-C you should consider the Samsung T5 SSD.

$229

Budget Storage

Sometimes, you just need something that works. This is where budget drives come in. They may not have the quality assurance that comes with more expensive drives, but they can still provide adequate capacities and speeds for video editing. If you’re on a budget, compare options based on cost per gigabyte and be prepared to make sacrifices in either read and write speeds or storage capacity. It’s also likely that cheaper drives will have a short lifespan, so make plans to replace your storage drives more frequently.

Best Budget Drive

Seagate 5TB Backup Plus USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

Seagate 5TB Backup Plus USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

Strengths:

  • Small form factor
  • Plug and play

Weaknesses:

  • More fragile than solid-state drives

This affordable external hard drive from Seagate comes in 1, 2, 4 and 5TB capacities, but for the price, we recommend opting for the full 5TB version of this drive. With USB 3.0 connectivity, you can expect file transfer speeds adequate for basic storage needs. It has a 28MB cache and a spindle speed of 5,400RPM. It has a max speed of 120 MB/s. It is also compatible with both Windows and Mac. So both communities can use this drive. The drive comes formatted as exFAT, and Seagate promises simple plug-and-play functionality with no additional software installation required. However, if you do download Seagate’s Toolkit Backup Software, you can backup on-demand or schedule automatic backups.

The Seagate Backup Plus is compact enough to easily store and transport, but note that the spinning disk in this drive is more fragile than an SSD storage solution, so rugged use is not recommended.

$159

Cloud Storage

With all this discussion about data storage, you might be asking if a cloud solution might be a more cost-effective way to go.

The cloud might be just what you need but remember that all servers and plans are not created equally. Make sure you read the fine print. Does the plan have any additional charges related to going over your data limit? How do they ensure file security? Will they offer redundancy and tech support if a file becomes corrupted? If, for some reason, your account becomes delinquent, what happens to your files?

Keep in mind that your transfer speeds are going to be limited by your internet connection speed. That means, while running down to the coffee house to finish up the project over a latte sounds romantic, it may take a very long time to access your footage over the crowded Wi-Fi. Cloud storage may be better suited for archival purposes rather than use as a working drive while editing.

Ultimately cloud storage is a matter of trust. You are trusting that the server company is reliable and secure. You may find yourself wanting a “backup for the backup” — just in case.

Best Cloud Storage

Backblaze

Backblaze
Backblaze

Strengths:

  • Unlimited storage
  • Simple interface
  • Data restore via hard drive option

Weaknesses:

  • Each account is limited to one computer

Backblaze offers unlimited cloud storage and backup for PCs and Macs starting at $5 per month for individuals. Business options are also available. The service automatically backs up and syncs all the files on your system and promises unlimited upload bandwidth. That means your transfer speeds are only limited by your internet connection. 

The Backblaze desktop software is simple to use with an uncomplicated control panel that displays the status of your backup. You can set up automatic or scheduled backups with options to restore multiple versions, choosing from 30 days, 1 Year, or Forever Version History.

You can restore an unlimited number of lost files from the cloud for free. Plus, Backblaze will also send you physical drives containing your data for a fee. Stored data is protected with encryption, two-factor authentication, a personal key and the use of native software rather than a Java-based control panel. Data centers are also said to be highly secure and protected from power loss.

Two Crucial Questions: Capacity and Speed

No matter what kind of storage you’re shopping for, you’ll inevitably need to answer two crucial questions:

How big does your drive need to be?

The size of the storage is the first question you’ll need to answer while shopping for storage solutions. Data storage is a question of bytes. A megabyte (MB) is about one million bytes. A gigabyte (GB) is about a billion bytes or 1000 MB. And a terabyte (TB) is about a trillion bytes or 1000 GB. Storage today is going to be a matter of hundreds of gigabytes or dozens of terabytes.

Video produces a lot of data. It’s good practice to sit down and calculate how much space your project will take up. The amount of storage your video will require depends on the bit rate at which that video is recorded. This is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and Gigabits per second (Gbps) or even Megabytes per second (MB/s). The higher the bit rate, the more storage space your video data will require.

How fast does your drive need to be?

The bit rate of your video will also help you determine how fast you need your drive to be. If you want to directly edit video stored on the drive, you’ll want a solution with transfer speeds that exceed the bit rate of your footage. It will also need to meet the minimum requirements of your OS and editing software. Otherwise, you won’t get smooth playback as you edit.

SSD vs. HDD

When shopping for storage, you’ll need to decide between a solid state drive (SSD) and a hard disk drive (HDD). Solid state is also referred to as flash memory. It’s a small chip that contains memory with no moving parts. A hard disk, or spindle drive, has a physical, spinning disc that stores your data. As a rule, SSD drives are faster than hard disks but almost always cost more per gigabyte.

If you go with an HDD, speed will be determined by the drive’s revolutions per minute (RPM). As you would imagine, the higher the RPM, the faster the drive can access and process the data.

Connection Type

Internal drives connect to your system via either SATA or PCIe connectors. SATA drives are more common and cost-effective while PCIe drives deliver maximum performance.

If you decide to go with an external drive, the connection type will affect the speed of the data transfer. USB is the most common type of plug for most computers, but not all USB are created equal. USB 2.0 can transfer data at 280 Mbps, while USB 3.0 can transfer data at a whopping 5Gbps. Faster still is a Thunderbolt connection, which has speeds up to 40 Gbps with Thunderbolt 3. You can see that connection is going to make a difference.

Additionally, you can also have a no-connection solution. There are a number of storage options that are completely wireless. Some connect via your local Wi-Fi, and some can generate their own hotspot. That means that you can connect your storage to your device when you are in an area without Wi-Fi. The challenge, as with cables, is that your transfer speed is dependent on your connection speed.

Which storage option is right for you?

Ultimately, choosing the right drive or drives comes down to understanding how the drive will fit into your workflow. You’ll want to look at everywhere your files will go. Make sure you have the storage you need to get your data from image creation through post-production, distribution and archiving. Take stock of your storage requirements to make sure your hardware doesn’t get in the way of your work.

Disagree with our picks? Think we missed something great? Tell us about it in the forums.