Along with all the exciting tech advancements in cameras these past few years, there’s also been some pretty nice advancements in the storage department. While it’s pretty easy to keep up with all the camera hype as a photographer, the less exciting advancements with storage devices typically get a lot less love. It’s definitely the red headed step child of the photography industry. I can ask any random photographer about the new mirrorless bodies that have been released in the past year and most will be able to tell me. I can ask the same photographers if they would rather have a 1TB SSD external drive or a 1TB HDD for a lot less, most either won’t know the difference or will simply pick the cheaper one.
While I get it, it’s pretty amusing to see how many photographers still don’t have a solid backup solution or don’t know the difference between an SSD or an HDD. So, before we go any further, let’s just get part of that out of the way right out the gate:
Solid State Drive (think flash drive)
Hard Disk Drive (moving parts)
I’ve written a few articles now on good backup and storage practices to avoid data loss, here are two of them: My New 10G Studio Network & The 3-2-1 Rule. I’m not going down that road again with this article, instead focus on explaining why you really should pay attention to the SSD hype and why it’s important. I’ll also be giving an explanation as to what the differences are between SSDs and HDDs as well as the advantages/disadvantages of each in an easy to understand way.
Over the past 5 years or so, SSD’s really started making their presence known as an option over HDD’s as internal storage for the operating system in computers. Yes, they were around earlier than that, but it was roughly 5-6 years ago that they started making their presence known. Having an SSD in your computer offered more speed, less power consumption, and less noise due to there being no moving parts. But, it was a pricey upgrade. The good news is that the price has been dropping significantly over the past several years, even more so since early 2018. The forecast for 2019, from what I’ve read, is that they’ll drop close to another 50% more. The flip side of that coin is that so will the HDD’s which aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In 2012, a 512Gb SSD cost $400. Now, you can get Samsung 1TB SSD for $147.99.
Why is does this info hold any importance to those not looking to invest in a new computer or upgrading one? With the price drop of both SSDs and HDDs over the past few years, SSD’s have broken their glass ceiling and started making their way outside of computer housings and into external drives. Companies like SanDisk, Samsung, Lacie, and G-Tech are making portable external SSD drives. These drives are much smaller, faster, and more durable than typical external HHD drives that photographers have been using for years. Because of their smaller size, two of them can be stacked on top of each other in an enclosure the same size as a typical HDD external hard drive that we’ve all been used to using for years. Two SSD’s in an enclosure, with read/write speeds much faster, USB 3.1 Type C or even Thunderbolt 3 for Mac users, and the ability to run a RAID for even more protection. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty damn impressive to me and a sign of what’s to come in terms of protecting our data/images as the prices of SSD’s go down and the capacity goes up. No more having to feel like you might vomit after dropping an external hard drive that isn’t backed up anywhere else.
SSDs vs HDDs
I’ve had one too many conversations with photographers who simply look at the total amount of storage, bus power (type of connector such as USB or Thunderbolt) and the price when shopping for a new external drive. To be fair, up until a year or so ago, that was basically all that did matter. Most know that if they have a Mac, Thunderbolt is faster than USB. After that, it’s simply comparing prices for the amount of storage they’re looking for. Well, times are changing and depending on your needs, it might be time to start spending more on a 1TB SSD external drive than a 3TB HDD external hard drive. SSD’s are basically replacing HDD’s and if you don’t know the difference, now is the time to start getting caught up. Below is a comparison of the two, and why some may want to spend more on an SSD. For me, I still use both.
While 2TB portable SSD external drives are still on pricey side, 2019 will be the year you’ll see that change. 1TB sized drives have been the more popular choice. It makes more sense to go with a 1TB portable to carry with you while still utilizing the cheaper HDD drives in the studio to transfer your data to for safe keeping and backing up. I just picked up a few 10TB 7200rpm HDD’s for my NAS that cost $300. I picked up three individual 1TB SSD’s for $150 each. For me personally, if the drives are in the studio and aren’t in danger of falling or being dropped, total storage and going with a reliable brand is my main concern. For portable drives, I’ve dropped way too many external drives to risk having one of those internal moving parts get knocked around causing data loss. I typically don’t need anything more than 1TB when on the road traveling, although I’m looking forward to the prices dropping on the 2 and 3TB drives this year.
In August of 2017, Samsung released the first USB-C portable SSD available to the consumer. They had a couple previous models that were a different type of of SSD (I won’t get into the different types in this article), but 2017 was the year when portable SSD’s with both USB and USB-C interfaces hit the market. I purchased the SanDisk portable 1TB SSD Extreme when it came out last year and loved it. However, earlier this year, it grew legs and made a break for it. With prices dropping and seeing the trends in storage this coming year, I went a different route for my portable SSDs. I purchased a 4-Bay enclosure that is directly connected to my main workstation (2017 iMac Pro) so it can be added to the Backblaze Cloud Storage like the other external drives. The SSD’s are hot swappable which also makes it easy to pop one out, toss it into an enclosure like the one below to bring home or on the road with me. I also picked up the Mediasonic ProRaid USB-C 2 Bay enclosure that can run RAID1 for extra protection. Dual drives being a mirror of one another in case one was to fail.
SSD RAID Enclosures
LETS TALK SPEED
With one of the biggest advantages (if not the most important) of SSD’s over HDD’s being speed, let’s take a look at some of the speed tests I’ve ran. Hopefully, if you’ve read everything up to this point you have a much better understanding of why SSD’s have been receiving so much attention. You should also see the advantages that come along with a much smaller and robust drive that has no moving parts that can easily break if dropped, yet nearly twice the price. For most, speed is everything, it means less time spent sitting at a workstation in front of a monitor or a laptop and leaving more time for other things. Possibly, even time spent using an actual camera capturing your own moments with family or friends.
Personally, I’m willing to spend more money for extra speed. Time IS money after all, and the less I have to stare at a progress bar or spinning pinwheel the more I’m willing to dish out. I’ve upgraded the studio’s to a 10Gbe network and have now began replacing all my portable external drives with new SSD options. The plan is to also start implementing the faster SSD’s with our associate photographers making it much quicker for them to transfer their files over to our main server from their home RAID setup that we provide them.
I remember installing my first 2-bay HDD RAID setup just about 4 years ago and being happy and relieved to have that extra level of protection. Now, I have a portable external enclosure that holds dual SSD’s running RAID1 that’s overall smaller in physical size than most of my portable HDD drives. Most don’t even know these are out there.
So, if you don’t mind the longer wait times while uploading or downloading data there’s no need to go any further. Below, I’ve shared the speed tests I’ve ran to which show the the speed advantages of both the Samsung 1TB 860 EVO SATA III SSD and the SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD (the two 2.5” SSD drives that I personally have invested in) using USB3.1 (TypeC) over the popular HDD alternative drives with more storage at a much cheaper price per TB.
SSD SPEED TESTS
HDD SPEED TESTS
I’ve had had this blog post sitting in the queue basically marinating for the past couple months as I’ve been busy with other projects. I had contemplated on tossing it but in the two months that it’s sat waiting to be finished, I’ve had more photogs question the advantages of SSDs over HDDs and also invested more of my own money into SSD related products. So, after a 5-day long stint in the hospital last week I had a little time to spare. Time used to finally get this conclusion written up.
While SSD’s are faster, more durable, and quickly dropping in price, HDD’s aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The price per TB of storage with HDDs is also continuing to drop, making large amounts of storage affordable for those who need it. I recently purchased a 24TB G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt3 for the same price that I bought a 12TB G-RAID with Thunderbolt2 just 4 years ago. Now, due to the price of HDD storage I’m able to afford two Synology NAS devices with a total of close to 100TB’s of storage. Storage that I can upload and download to at pretty fast speeds even with HDDs running in each NAS due to the 10Gbe cards and wiring.
If this article has piqued your interest in utilizing SSDs where speed is more important than the amount of storage, I highly recommend spending a little more time learning even more. With the rate at which SSD prices continue to drop, you’re gonna start to see some SSD’s cheaper than others. The reason for this is that there are different types of SSDs which offer even faster speeds depending on their interface. Read up on the differences between an SSD with an M.2 NVME interface, SATA, or PCIe. The SSDs that I’ve purchased and are using an external storage are all SATAIII, which as you can see above offer quite the boost in speed over your typical HDD. An M.2 NVME SSD can offer speeds of up to and even more than 7 times the speed of the SATAIII drives that I own. They also cost a lot more and offer less total storage.
No matter what, it’s exciting to see the new technology that’s coming out as well as the once unaffordable technology dropping drastically in price. Yes, I used the word exciting and storage in the same sentence, you read that correctly. The less I have to watch a progress bar is exciting. We now have a lot more options available to us at much more affordable prices. For right now, having a general understanding of SSDs and HDDs is enough to help you make smarter purchasing decisions based on your storage needs. That’s the reason I wrote this up and hopefully, it helps.