Selecting The Best Storage

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the December, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]


Ryan Jacobi asks:

Larry, what raid system or otherwise, do you personally recommend or use in his own video editing?

Larry replies: There’s no perfect answer to your question, but here’s my current thinking.

If you edit on a MacPro, or G5, and only use that one system, I recommend a fast, direct-attached RAID 5 system using either eSATA or mini-SAS connectors. FireWire is too slow. These RAIDs can get speeds of over 700 MB/sec, which is fast enough for virtually all video formats in multicam mode. G-Tech, CalDigit, iStoragePro, Promise… all make gear in this category. It isn’t cheap, but it will take you a long time to out-grow it. (And a RAID5 provides data redundancy that cheaper RAID 0’s do not.)

If you edit on laptops or multiple systems, your choices become more difficult, because direct-attached RAIDS can’t connect to these devices. In this case, you could either take the cheap route and schlep a FireWire hard drive from one unit to the next. This works, but can be awkward. Or, if budget allows, you can connect a high-speed RAID to a server and move data around your network at speeds – for a Gigabit Ethernet – at around 80-95 MB/sec.

For me, though, a new option is iSCSI. This allows you to connect a RAID to your switch as a stand-alone device, NOT a server, which can be accessed from different computers on your network. This ACTS like a direct-attached RAID, but by simply dismounting and re-mounting the drive from one computer to another, you get all the options of portability without actually moving the unit. Transfer speeds range from 85 – 105 MB/sec; the limiting factor is the speed of your Ethernet switches and network.

The DroboPro and DroboElite are in this second category.

So, while the original Drobo is too slow for video editing, the DroboPro and DroboElite provide a very nice middle-ground between a single hard drive and full-blown, server-based RAID. Both are RAID5 and both are very expandable, which means unlike a “normal” RAID adding storage is fast and easy.

Sorry to be so long winded, but hope that answer helps.

UPDATE – Jan. 4, 2011

Craig Swanson adds:

In regards to your latest newsletter on SELECTING THE BEST STORAGE you stated that direct attached raids won’t work with laptops.


I’ve been using a CalDigit HDOne (raid 5) the last couple of years that attaches to my 17inch Macbook Pro with the express card slot. It has worked great for me!

Larry replies: Craig, you are correct. However, the MacBook Pro 17″ is the ONLY laptop that Apple offers with any kind of interface card (the ExpressCard/34). I disagree with Apple’s decision to remove it from other MacBook Pro laptops, which don’t have this option.


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