Friday (23-August-2013) — New Jersey

Technology – Never Enough Storage Space.

Although the capacity of hard drives has increased, and the cost/(MB, GB, TB) has gone down, technology lets us collect more and more data. Each image I take with the 36 MP Nikon D800 and save in RAW format takes up ~40 MB of storage space. I’m the type of person that saves every image (other than the ones that are totally white or black, totally out of focus). I like to go back and review the images to learn from my mistakes, and also get ideas of things that I want to do better when returning to a site I have photographed before. As the image processing software has improved, I find that I can reprocess images to get something good/interesting out of a previously rejected/not-interesting image. (Just ask the photographer that had images of Monica with Bill).

Well, this year with all of my travel I hit the wall again with my data storage. I started off a few years ago with one (Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds) then a 2nd (Lenovo ThinkPad W510) computer at home that I use to process images, each with a collection of disks with images. I also keep a 3rd set of the original images offsite. I first used a collection of Western Digital MyBook 2-disk arrays – but ran out of USB, Firewire, and eSata ports on my computers. I then upgraded to a Drobo 800i (8 x 2 TB disk array) that was connected to my primary computer via gigabyte Ethernet. I finally had all of my images in one place. Life was good until I needed to expand the storage space. To upgrade to a (8 x 3 TB disk array), I had to replace the disks in the Drobo one at a time and then wait 2-3 days for until I could replace the next drive. The same thing happened when the Drobo indicated that a disk had failed – and unfortunately the log files on the Drobo are encrypted so you can’t tell what caused the problem. One of the “failed” disks that I replaced, I ran a full analysis using the Seagate SeaTools – and found no errors/problems with the disk (I ultimately repurposed the hard drive and have been using it for a year with no problems). I had also been reading other reports on the net about Drobo’s that became bricks, and issues with lack of support after the warranty ended. I decided to investigate other large capacity storage systems, and ultimately decided to try out a Synology DS1812+ system initially with the 8 x 2 TB drives that I just removed from the Drobo 800i.

The Synology disk arrays runs on Linux using a program they call DSM. Much more flexible than the Drobo, and a lot more real-time diagnostic information about the health of the system. The other neat thing about the Synology DS1812+ is that it has two eSata ports that you can add Synology DX513 (five disk arrays). As soon as the Seagate 4TB drives became available at a reasonable cost I added a Synology DX513 with 5 x 4TB Seagate hard drives. You plug it in, and all of a sudden you have another 14.3 TB (one disk fault tolerance) of storage space. This was working well through the beginning of this year – my primary image processing computer (Lenovo W700-ds) using the older Drobo 800i and the secondary image processing computer (Lenovo W510) using the Synology DS1812+ and DX513. I would keep the two disk arrays synchronized using sneaker-net and FolderMatch. (Future project – home server and networking).

After the Semester at Sea Spring 2013 Enrichment Voyage, and my recent trip to Iceland I was getting close to running out of space on my primary system. Then I got a warning light on the Drobo that another drive failed. I ordered a new Seagate 4TB drive and when it arrived (Amazon overnight is great) it took 6 days before I had all green lights on the Drobo again. The other problem that I had was that the Drobo array was not recognized after rebooting the computer. I thought I had a Drobo brick. If I was really patient, the computer would finally see the Drobo array after 30-60 minutes. I can see where others with this problem were not patient enough, gave up on Drobo – and published there rants on the internet. I was beyond the warranty and didn’t want to sit on the phone and pay for support. Enough was enough and I decided it was time to give up on the Drobo, and ordered the newer Synology DS1813+ which I populated with 8 x 4TB Seagate NAS drives and a DX513 with 4 x 4TB Seagate NAS drives. Each array is set up with one disk fault tolerance, and gives me a total of 25.3 + 14.3 = 39.6 TB of capacity for my primary image processing computer. This should get me through another year (or two or three) unless the Nikon D4x comes out at 54 MP 🙂 The Drobo 800i will probably become part of my offsite data storage.