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How to Store Large Amounts of Data

Our ever-expanding libraries of pictures, videos, and other files can make storage difficult. Tech Talker has the perfect solution to organize and manage your large files.

By
Eric Escobar,
April 12, 2012
Episode #025

The past few Tech Talker episodes have generated a lot of buzz and questions about the best way to store and manage large amounts of data. In the past, this really hasn’t been a problem because picture and video quality were not nearly as good as they are today.

On the one hand, being able to zoom in on a fly across the room and see every freckle and out-of-place hair in high definition is great (though probably unnecessary). On the other hand, all of these super-detailed pictures and videos take up a lot of digital space!

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In my last episode, I talked about converting home movies to a digital format that can be played on your computer. But once I started receiving fan feedback on the episode, I realized that I underestimated just how many hours of video most of you guys have! If you crunch some numbers (or get Math Dude to help you), it turns out that the amount of data these old home movies would create could fill up most commercial hard drives on the market—and this doesn’t even include backing up the videos! So for all my listeners who asked about how to manage large video, music, picture, and file collections, this episode is for you!

If you’ve been a listener of my podcast, then I’m sure you’ve heard me say again and again that backing up your files is the most important task that gets overlooked by personal computer users. In today’s episode, I will outline the best and most popular methods for storing large amounts of data.

How Large are Your Files Anyway?

First, let’s look at the size of some common files to get an idea of the types of magnitudes we’ll be dealing with. If you have a new video camera that can record in high definition or 1080p, you can expect that 1 hour of video will take up about 12 gigabytes of hard drive space. About 2000 high resolution pictures would take up roughly the same amount of space. This may not seem like too much space when you compare them to the size of hard drives on the market that can generally store around 2,000 gigabytes. But it doesn’t take long for a lifetime of memories to start filling up all that space—not to mention the fact that you don’t just want you file collection all in one place right? (That’s a trick question. Of course you don’t!)

Option #1 – External Hard Drive

The easiest way to keep all of your digital files safe is to simply buy an external hard drive for about $100, put a copy of all your files on it, and store the drive in a safe location, such as a safety deposit box or somewhere else that’s not in your house. This is the simplest method but requires some continual work to keep everything updated. If you are the type of user who frequently adds videos or photos to your collection, I would not suggest this approach because odds are you’ll back up once or twice, and then forget about it until it’s too late. However, any method of backup is better than none at all!

Option #2 – Online Backup (aka “The Cloud”)

I talked about this in a previous episode, An Introduction to The Cloud, and I still highly recommend it. It’s great because it’s so easy. Simply set up an online account with any of a number of cloud services and it will back up your files automatically, so you won’t have to worry about remembering to do a manual backup and your data will be safe. This is what I’ve set up for my family members and it works really well. Check out my episode on how to store your data in the cloud for more on this convenient method. Some popular and options for online storage include Crashplan, Mozy, and Carbonite.

Option #3 – The Drobo Server

But what if you have over 2,000 gigabytes of data? How can you organize your mountains of media? Since you will be hard pressed to find any type of external drive larger than 3,000 gigabytes on the market, you’ve probably hit a wall.

But don’t worry – there is a solution!

If this happens to you, your data must be stored across multiple drives. This is better, in a way, because having your data stored across multiple drives will give it more resistance to getting lost in a crash.

If you find yourself backing up your files into several drives, I recommend buying a Drobo. A Drobo is basically a small server on which you can store multiple hard drives. Once you’ve copied your data onto the Drobo, it combines all of these hard drives into one single drive that your computer can easily access. What’s even better is that a Drobo will use one of the hard drives as a backup. 

Say you want to combine 4 hard drives. The Drobo will use 3 of your drives for storage and one for backup. Using some math magic that only Math Dude could decipher, the Drobo can back up any one of the 3 storage hard drives with the single drive. Essentially, it’s like having your own personal server on site, protecting your valuable files.

Option #4 – RAID

No, I’m not talking about the pest control spray. RAID stands for redundant array of independent disks and uses the same concept as the Drobo. RAID is a way of storing your data across multiple disks so that if something happens to one hard drive, none of your data will be lost. You can actually build your own server that uses RAID to back up your data files. Creating your own server isn’t as hard as it sounds, but is also not for the faint of heart! If you don’t feel like spending $400 on a Drobo and would like to take this route instead, I suggest checking out FreeNAS and unRAID. These are great resources for building a server of your own. And if you want even more information or advice on this, post a question on the Tech Talker Facebook page!

Now that I’ve covered how to store all of your media, let’s look at the best ways to show it off!

If you’re an Apple user, there is Airplay which works with almost all Apple devices and allows music and video to be sent to any other Apple device connected in your house. If you’re a Windows user, then I would suggest getting XBMC. It looks and works great and can play all of your home movies, DVDs, pictures, and music from anywhere in your house.

Here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips for storing and sharing your large digital files:

  1. Make sure your data is backed up and in multiple locations.

  2. Figure out how much data you will need to store, for now and in the future.

  3. If your data won’t fit on a single hard drive, check out products like the Drobo which will keep your files backed up and all in one place easily, or create a RAID server in your house.

  4. Use Apple’s Airplay or XBMC to share your media all around your home!

I’m sure this episode has given you a lot to think about and will surely generate many more questions than I answered! If you have a unique media situation or want to know more about anything in this episode, go check out the Tech Talker Facebook wall and post you question!

Have a question about anything tech-related? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Tech Talker Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Cloud Storage image from Shutterstock

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