Watch our Video Storage FAQ webinar, starting with a pre-show and product spotlight on G-RAID.
Q: What storage do I need?
A: Hey… we might as well start with the basics! This is definitely the most common question we get asked. Unfortunately there is no easy answer as the right answer may change depending on your priorities. How do you rate these in order of importance?
Archival & Backup
I know it’s easy to say that they are all equally important but the trick is to be as realistic as possible when ranking them so PRICE remains high on the list. Like everything else, when it comes to storage you really do get what you pay for but if you can prioritize these factors now you can help narrow down the search and get the most affordable storage solution that meets your needs. Keep reading and I hope this question will be easier to answer on your own. Of course, if you’re not the reading type you can give the Videoguys (and girls) a call at 800-323-2325 and we can help talk it out.
Q: How much do I really need to spend?
A: Every drive in a storage solution costs money. Therefore, a single drive is always going to be the least expensive. But, if you want speed you may want 2-drives in a RAID-0; if you want that speed plus security from drive failure you may want 4 drives in a RAID-5; or, if you want workgroup storage you may want 12 drives or more to significantly increase the storage space, speed and reliability. As you can see, simple math will show you how quickly this adds up so it’s important to narrow down the budget. We can help if you can answer a few questions:
Are you working in a group of 3 or more people who need to access the same projects, files, and media? If so, an investment in a shared storage solution may make a lot of sense. It will save time and money down the road but usually requires an initial investment at around $10,000. Take a look at the Avid NEXIS | Pro, G-Technology G-RACK and GBLabs FastNAS solutions.
Are you working with state of the art file formats and high-end cameras from RED and ARRI? Are you working in the highest resolutions like 4Kp60? If so… you need speed! We strongly recommend a RAID solution and a 2-drive RAID-0 may not be enough. Take a look at the G-Technology G-SPEED Shuttle XL. If you are not taxing your system and working with some great cameras or live production sources we recommend the G-Technology G-RAID or Glyph Atom SSD RAIDs for RAID-O solutions or the G-Technology G-SPEED to expand to 4 drives in a RAID-5 for redundancy.
Are you just looking to back-up and archive your media? Assign a separate drive to each client or project? A standalone USB or Thunderbolt drive may be all you need. Click here to check out the G-Technology G-DRIVE and Glyph drives.
Q: Does it matter if I am using a Mac or PC?
A: Whether you use a Mac or PC, desktop or laptop, Adobe or Avid, the storage requirements are the same and the right solution will help lead to your success. In fact, if you get an external storage solution we recommend formatting in EX-FAT so it can be recognized on both Mac and Windows. Click here for info on formatting with ex-FAT.
Q: What is a hard drive or HDD?
A: A hard drive is a spinning disk. Back when we all had turntables and records, this was very easy to explain. If you placed a penny on the outer edge of the record, it would travel a much greater distance in a single rotation than a penny placed near the label on the inside of the LP. More distance over the same period of time equals greater speed. Using this analogy today just gets me a strange look by most people. But the reality is still the same: A hard disk drive writes from the center out so a single drive will get slower as it fills with data. Even with todays’ technology we have seen that once a drive reaches 75% of capacity, the sustained data rate starts to drop off considerably. An easy solution to this is to get a drive that is larger than what you think you need. Drives are so big, affordable and fast today that you can buy a 2TB drive for under $100, that’s big enough to store over 15 hours of ProRes 422 or 75 hours of DV/HDV video. Even though we don’t want you to fill the drive beyond 75% capacity – that still leaves you with enough room for several hours of video!
An important benchmark to look at when comparing HDDs is the spin speed of the drives. We don’t recommend anything slower than 5400rpm for media storage and for video we really urge you to get 7200rpm or faster, enterprise-class drives.
Q: What is a solid state drive or SSD?
A solid state drive is newer technology based on the same technology you see on SD cards or built into your favorite smartphone. As solid state storage has gotten bigger the capability of using them as computer drives has become more realistic. An SSD boot drive will help your machine boot up faster and access programs quicker. SSD drives will also provide fast data transfer rates that will remain the same whether they are 1% full or 99% full. The trade off is still that SSDs are still not quite as large as HDDs and are more expensive.
Since there are no spinning elements SSD drives are also more durable in rough conditions and are therefore perfect for transportable media. If you need a drive in the field or you are using a new Blackmagic camera or Atomos Monitor/Recorder you will notice that they use SSDs for storage. We recommend the new SONY Professional Media G-Series solutions as the most reliable SSDs available today. These were designed for professional video content creators and have been tested and approved by Atomos, Blackmagic, Convergent Design, Video Devices and more.
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. That means that 2 or more drives are grouped and formatted together in order to provide greater storage and performance. There are several different types of RAIDs with benefits ranging from speed to security. Setting up a RAID is very simple and easy to do. In fact, you no longer need to configure your workstation with an expensive RAID controller. External connections like USB and Thunderbolt are now faster than most RAIDs require making it easier and more affordable than ever.
Q: What are the different RAID configurations and how are they used for video storage?
RAID 0 is two or more drives striped together for maximum throughput. The computer sees theses drives as one single, large drive. With RAID-0 you get the drive capacity of the sum of the smaller drives. So two 1TB drives in RAID-O will be recognized as a single 2TB volume with faster transfer speeds. Advantage: Maximum throughput. Disadvantage: If one of the drives in a RAID-0 should fail, you would lose all your data. The same as if your data was stored on a single drive. Products: G-Technology G-RAID, LaCie 2big Dock, Glyph AtomRAID
RAID 1 is often called mirroring because both drives have the same exact data on them. This is done for protection. If one drive fails, you still have all your data on the other. This means the total volume of storage in the RAID-1 is only as big as the single drive. Two 1TB drives in RAID-1 is still 1TB of total storage plus a 1TB backup. Advantage: Data protection. Disadvantage: We don’t recommend RAID-1 for video. You end up with less capacity and when you add on the overhead of the RAID, your throughput speed is actually less than a single drive alone. Products: G-Technology G-RAID, LaCie 2big Dock, Glyph AtomRAID
RAID 0+1 is one way to get all the throughput benefits of RAID-0 and the data protection of RAID-1. You would need 4 drives for this, with two pairs of drives striped together as RAID-0. The +1 means that the RAID from drives A&B are mirrored on drives C&D. Advantage: Combination of maximum throughput and data protection. Disadvantage: Cost of four drives for configuration with overall storage capacity equal to just two of the drives. Products: G-Technology G-SPEED, LaCie 2big Dock, Glyph StudioRAID 4,
RAID 5 – Videoguys Recommendation*
A RAID 5 set-up allows you to use parity bits that spread the risk of drive failure among the other drives in the RAID. This also requires 4 or more drives but gives you 75% of the usable storage as opposed to the 50% in RAID 0+1. Four 1TB drives in RAID 5 gives you 3TB of usable storage with even faster throughput than RAID-0. The remaining 1TB is used to index the drives so if any of the 4 drives fails it can be replaced and the full data can be restored from the 3 remaining drives. Advantage: Combination of maximum throughput and data protection without sacrificing half of the overall storage capacity. Disadvantage: Cost of four drives and please keep in mind that 4 or more disks create lots of heat so this is another great reason to consider an external RAID solution as opposed to one configured inside the workstation. Products: LaCie 5big, 6big, 12big G-Technology G-SPEED, Shuttle XL
Q: Should I add drives inside my machine or get external drives?
A: In the long run an external hard drive solution is the better value for most editors. While you will pay a little more for an external storage solution you will find it worth every penny.
No hassle opening up your computer to install them.
No excessive fan noise from the extra cooling required by multiple hard drives in your case
No worries about the heat they generate deteriorating other components in your machine.
You can “sneaker net” your data between multiple computers – which means physically walking it from one machine to the next.
They work with laptops and workstations.
You can easily migrate your media to a new workstation when it’s time to upgrade.
We also strongly recommend external storage in any environment with a multi-purpose PC. You need to protect your precious video memories and all the time you spent working on your video. If you have to use the family computer for video editing wouldn’t you feel better knowing that you could simply turn off the external drive or safely remove it while the kids used the computer?
Q: What external connections should I use?
A: In recent years this is probably the answer that has changed most rapidly. In terms speed this is how we would rank the external connections:
Thunderbolt 3 - The biggest advantage of Thunderbolt has been its capability to daisy chain devices without sacrificing throughput. With every version the bandwidth gets greater and this is definitely the best external connection available today.
Check out G-Technology Thunderbolt 3 G-DRIVE, G-RAID and G-SPEED Shuttle XL
USBc – USBc is actually the first standard to pair Thunderbolt and USB 3 on the same connection port. USBc is much more popular on laptops because of its multipurpose use and is more than fast enough for even the most demanding video needs. USBc is most common on laptops because of its compact size.
Thunderbolt 2 – Thunderbolt 2 is still a high speed connection that is more than capable of handling most video production needs. Yes, TB3 is faster but if your machine has Thunderbolt 2 there is probably no reason to upgrade.
USB 3 – Like Thunderbolt, USB 3 is fast enough to hand most video production needs. Which is great since it is also the most prevalent connection on both Mac and PCs.
Thunderbolt 1 – Thunderbolt 1 was the first connection that brought internal connection speeds to an external port with daisy chaining capability. My guess is that if your machine still has Thunderbolt 1 that you will see the need to upgrade other elements before you worry about the external connection speed. All Thunderbolt 2 devices are backwards compatible to connect to Thunderbolt 1 ports.
eSATA or FireWire – While these connections are not popular anymore they are fast enough for video and we still have some storage solutions available to match these older workstations
USB 2 or older * Not recommended for video storage but still good enough if you want to back up photos or raw media from your past projects
Q: Does the type of video affect my storage needs?
We recommend at least a RAID 0 with faster sustained speeds if:
You are working with videos longer than an hour
You have over 3 layers of video and graphics
You have some very creative and complex ideas with even more layers and filters and effects
You are editing HD footage (AVCHD, HDV, XDCAM, DVCPro) or working with ProRes or DNxHD CODECs
If you have more advanced requirements than a RAID 5 solution with 4 drives will give you even better performance and there are also 6 and 8 drive RAIDs to support uncompressed 2K and 4K workflows. Here’s a guideline of what we recommend:
4 drive RAID when you are working with uncompressed HD or very long or complex HD timelines, or multiple layers of ProRes or DNxHD video
6 drive RAID when you are working with uncompressed 2K or compressed 4K
8 drive RAID when you need the most speed capable for current uncompressed 4Kp60
Q: Why am I seeing single drives benchmarked?
A: Seek times and peak transfer rates mean nothing for video production. All we care about is sustained throughput. We don’t care about the highest specs of the drive. We only care about the minimum. If the sustained data rate of the drive dips below the required transfer rate for our video, the result is jerky playback, messed up audio and dropped frames. Given today’s technology, there is no excuse for this. When in doubt, get better storage than you think you will need.
RPMs are a good indicator of a drives over-all performance. For video work we recommend drives rated 7200 RPM or faster. We have found that many 5400 RPM drives do not have the sustained throughput required for NLE work.
Q: What is the best way to configure the drives on my workstation?
A: Use a dedicated drive for your video projects and media.
With today’s powerful processors, lightning fast memory, super 3D graphics cards and large drives; you can capture, edit and playback video with your system drive. But, just because you can… doesn’t mean you should. We beg you! PLEASE GET A DEDICATED DRIVE FOR YOUR VIDEOS.
The best way to configure your workstation would be to get an SSD system drive. This will give you the fastest boot times and allow you to open your programs quickly and easily. SSDs are getting larger and cheaper making this an easier decision than ever. In fact, if you want to add a second internal drive to your machine we would recommend another SSD to store some photos and to export your projects. Your exports will go smoother and faster if you output the files to a dedicated physical drive, rather than the RAID. Check out this configuration recommended by the Videoguys:
C: Boot drive. 240GB or bigger SSD.
D: 2nd SSD Export Drive
E: RAID-0 or RAID-5 for Video. We recommend at least 4TB of useable space.
Q: Why can’t I just set up my computer with one big RAID-0 for all my storage?
A: We do NOT recommend setting up your computer with a single RAID 0 array as your boot drive and video storage. This will actually give you poor performance for video editing. The constant reading and writing of small bits of data to the boot drive works against the need to read and write large continuous video files. For video editing you always want to have a separate drive or RAID array dedicated to your video files.
Q: How much storage do I need for 4K?
That depends on the format and frame rates you are using but 4K is a hog and can eat up your hard drives very quickly. You may need as much as 1TB for every half-hour of video! Below is a simple chart with some popular formats to help make this easier to understand: