The evolution and rapid rise of external hard drives have sought a spike never before seen. As much as we consume content and confidentiality, we also want to protect our belongings—"digital closet" as I call it. Having pursued videomaking for many years, digital storage was of the upmost importance; Digitized archives of video projects also became important in the case a current one calls to make a reference to an old video. Nevertheless, it's no question that we want to store our stuff conveniently and access them when the time is right. On the other hand, digital storage came with flaws that frustrated many of us, costing our data, confidential information and personal files.
Before we get to that, I want to share a picture of the very first external hard drive I ever purchased: a Western Digital (WD) 80GB desktop hard drive:
Hard to believe that more than ten years ago, a hard drive with an 80GB capacity was "more than enough." Nowadays, despite the commodity of having a solid-state drive (SSD), and the rise and fall of Chromebooks and Netbooks, it's no question that 80GB is barely sufficient enough to get by. Depending on the usage, and the type of drive, it's a perfect space for those doing quick browsing, schooling and general purposes (older adults, for example). Other than that, yes, this was the drive I relied on to store, archive and edit raw video footage from. It had its moments, but up until today, it runs perfectly.
Looking at both my second and third hard drives, pictured above, the timing couldn't have happened sooner. My beloved Sony VAIO running Windows XP, a computer my parents gifted me as a teenager after they saw my serious interest in videomaking, suffered the blue screen of death (BSOD). I almost had a heart attack, thinking it was because I often hibernated my computer, as opposed to completely turning it off; Perhaps, it was the partaking of music dowloads which many users were 'hush-hush' through interconnected networks allowing us to share such files, many of which were infected; I thought it may have been the various sketchy software I downloaded that congested my system with adware; Or, it may be because I overloaded the system in attempt to try and edit HD video clips, which the computer could not handle. Whatever the case, a classmate from college came over to my house to help me extract the files out of the computer, and happily stored them in one of the above drives. Whenever I load them up, I look back and smirk at the music I used to listen to, suggested by former high school classmates, my insatiable interest in TV game shows, my saved AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) conversations I've had with folks I remember and don't remember, and old video projects I made during high school. Ahh yes, memories....
As I invested in HD, physical storage accumulated and I lost track of how many drives I've piled up. In fact, a neat gift from my sister, I used this drive which served me wonderfully for ~5 years:
When I found that drives like this were simply plug-and-play, without the aid of a power source, my face lit up. A gift from my sister, pictured above was a Buffalo 320GB hard drive, and it handled both my website files and my HD video projects. While it still works, the [spinning] drive has been heavily worn out, unable to load the files as quickly as it used to. Without going too deep in comparison of various brands, I'll be one of the few to say that Buffalo drives served me well, both in the Mac and Windows systems. The fact that it held up without failing? I rather have that. A close tie, though I don't have it anymore, would be my older Seagate 250GB desktop hard drive. Even though it didn't fail, the drive eventually slowed down, likely due to excessive usage (also was another drive I used to edit with). Nevertheless, Buffalo held up extremely well, and for a laptop drive that was strong enough to edit 720p60 video impressed me the most (the drive was barely a 5400rpm type, which often made me nervous when handling video files in 60p).
Has a drive failed me? Sadly, yes. One of them, as it was tossed out, was a WD My Passport 500GB(?) plug-and-play drive. However, it was the fault of mine, as I impatiently switched the drive from Mac to PC but never allowed the drive to mount. Worse, I plugged it into a USB multi-plug hub that allowed numerous USB peripherals to be attached, but was too weak to power up a hard drive (perhaps the reason it kept making clicking noises). I was careless, and thus the hard drive gave way; I ended up paying a somewhat hefty amount to recover the files to a fresh, solid drive. Lesson learned, definitely.
Since I've been playing and reviewing more video games here on the network, recording video game footage grew to become a thing. Being an old-school video gamer myself, recording video game footages of various rasters (video resolutions) became a juggling act, as I vaguely predicted how much space is required for a specific game I was playing. Also keeping in touch with modern games, the full HD resolution with a crystal clear 60 frames per second, required so much space that I had to "schedule" how much of the games I would play before I get the notification that the hard drive was getting full. From mobile/tablet games to console/PC games, that's when I decided to give WD a second chance:
So far, so good. Being affordable and having their own color-coded series of drives, I took advantage of both features in order to properly identify which colored drive stored which platform of recorded games. Because the resolution is higher and the frame rates are much smoother, bigger hard drives are required for recorded PC games, while the older systems took lesser space, thus stored on the lower-spaced drives. Oh, and yes, I used to record my video game footage on DVD. I believe I've worn out about 3-4 DVD recorders since then:
You're wondering, after reading up to this point, "Kris, invest in a NAS storage!" Oh you bet, and since we're not in a hurry to edit and shoot in 4K video, the video game footages have been piling up rapidly—faster than raw video for our projects. Also, since our Filmography page is still undergoing a huge remastering of old video projects, that will occupy even more space that as well. (Overall, it's been a very slow process due to budget constraints, but we are working very hard to get it up and running!)
"Why all these physical drives?" you ask. I feel it's more accessible, more secure and more personal. Unless it's files which aren't high in importance, I can never bring myself to use a cloud-, online-based storage. Yes, less chances of failure and always accessible, but I still can't bring myself to trust such an idea/choice (downloaded files individually isn't a viable solution for our workflow). That's just me, but other people and other businesses swear by it which is fine. For me, it's not for me.
In summary, assuming you take care of it, external hard drives have been a blessing. Coming from someone who misses shooting video on MiniDV tapes since tapes are easily archived and accessible, it's a beauty to plug in a drive and access files I need in an instant. Depending on your business solutions, or any professional storage consulting you may have gotten, it's important to take good care of your drives and to "understand its behavior," much so that it won't act up, like what happened to me. There's also enough surveys to which brand hard drives are best, as I sadly can't say which is better or worse. Now that companies have produced drives that require little to no formatting when plugged in to an "incompatible" system, I'd say stick with the system the drives were meant to work with—lesser hassle when you consider that. As for SSD drives, I've had an awful experience when editing on them as I feel they're more convenient for the operating system and general computer purposes. Personally, I prefer spinning drives. It loads slower but in the case of failure, it's much easier to recover. For our situation, we are working to get into the NAS style of storage as our upcoming projects continue to commence, along with archiving our video game footage (lots of video games played since then).
What are your experiences, good or bad, with external hard drives? Do you prefer physical or cloud-based storage? Let's talk in the comments below!