Western Digital’s My Book Thunderbolt Duo, An Awesome Way to More Securely Store Your Photos

Western Digital's My Book Thunderbolt Duo, An Awesome Way to More Securely Store Your Photos

For the past month or so I’ve been testing out one of the 8TB Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duos and I have to say I dig it. Before trying this out, my entire storage setup was built around Drobos. I’ve got 2 Drobo 5Ds with 15TB each in them and a Drobo Mini.

I was interested to see what the performance would be like with Western Digital’s large storage solution and I have to say I’m a fan.

What I like about it:

1. It’s quiet. So quiet. My Drobos are not bad, but the Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo is even quieter. You don’t even know it’s on or there, except for the tiny little pinhole light that is on in the front, and of course you see it on your Mac. For some reason one of my Drobo 5Ds feels like it almost goes to sleep sometimes. When I try to access it in the finder I have to wait a few seconds and I hear it powering up a bit. This doesn’t happen with the My Book Thunderbolt Duo.

2. Thunderbolt is sooooo fast. Whoever invented Thunderbolt should get a Nobel prize for speed. I can’t believe how quickly I can copy hundreds of gigabytes of photos around.

3. The Duo is a bit cheaper than the Drobo for those who may be on more of a budget and need less storage. To get 4TB of replicated storage on a Drobo 5D I’d have to buy about 6TB worth of drives. This would cost me about $800. You can buy an 8TB My Book Thunderbolt Duo for about $650 or so. You can mirror the drives so that you get two copies of everything or about 4TB of replicated storage. Because the Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo doesn’t rely on a proprietary format for replication, if one drive fails, you would always have a perfect backup copy on the other. I haven’t had a problem with Drobo’s proprietary format before, but it’s something that some folks have criticized in the past.

4. Primary data is automatically backed up. I can’t use a backup strategy that requires my manual contribution. With both the Drobos and the My Book Thunderbolt Duo your primary versions of photos are more secure.

5. The Western Digital My Book Thunderbolt Duo is smaller than the Drobo 5D and much lighter.

Setting up the My Book Thunderbolt Duo was easy. It’s just plug and play. Similar to my Drobos.

I know a lot of people will probably comment on this post about how they are doing things even cheaper by building their own solution with their own replicated in home RAID servers, etc. That’s just great, but I’m not a very technical guy when it comes to computer hardware and I’d wayyyyy rather pay a little bit more and have a Thunderbolt solution that is just plug and play, without me having to do any work, or do any coding, or manually buying and installing drives into a server body and all that. Different strokes for different folks though and each person should do whatever works best for them.

There is also a 4TB and 6TB version of the My Book Thunderbolt Duo. You can learn more about them including all of the technical specs on Western Digital’s site here.

Mmmmm... 8TB of @westerndigital storage.  Looking forward to trying this puppy out!

A HUGE disclaimer on any device like the Drobo or My Book Thunderbolt Duo. These solutions may protect you against hard drive failure, but they will not protect you against fire, theft, etc. For that reason you may also want to incorporate both offsite and/or cloud storage to whatever your backup strategy may be. I see replicated hard drives really only as a first line of defense. In my own case I also purchased a large fireproof gun safe and when I’m out of the house or on a trip or something I usually lock my drives up in there. I also have off site backup storage for my images and I’m actually working on a plan this year to begin moving my offsite storage into a bank security deposit vault.

The book next to the My Book Thunderbolt Duo by the way to compare size is the excellent expanded edition version of Robert Frank’s The Americans which was reissued a few years back and is *highly* recommended. One of the best photography books ever published. It’s one I go back to and revisit over and over again.

Don’t Wait Until You Lose Your Photos for the First Time to Begin Working on Your Backup Strategy

“Because Iím a jerk who doesnít back up data, Iíve lost at more than a yearís worth of photos, emails, documents, and more. And, really, who knows what else.” — Mat Honan

Mat Honan was hacked yesterday and apparently lost more than a year’s worth of his photos. Like Mat, I too have lost photos in the past. If you shoot enough it’s almost inevitable, unless you are very, very meticulous about your backup strategy.

As strong as I think my backup strategy is today, I realize that it can still be stronger and plan on improving it later this year when the Drobo Mini is out. I’ll get more into this in a bit.

First off though, I’m sorry you were hacked Mat. That really sucks. I’ve had my Twitter account hacked before too. It’s not fun. After they hacked my Twitter account, they got into my blog and some of my other sites. It took time and money to clean it all up. It’s misery.

I’m not going to chide you about not having your photos backed up. People that chide you or mock you about that are assholes. It’s like kicking someone when they’re down. So while I’m using your experience to illustrate a point, it’s meant in a very sympathetic way.

I’ve known a lot of people over the years that have lost photos. It’s happened to so many people. The problem is that most people don’t start seriously working on a backup strategy until *after* they lose their first batch of photos. Everybody always means to work on a back up strategy, but it’s not fun. It’s tedious and boring. It’s so much more exciting to be out shooting or publishing your photos to the web than to be working on a backup strategy. Having lost photos though I can tell you that the sinking feeling you feel when that happens is just horrible and you must begin working on a strategy so what happened to Mat doesn’t happen to you.

I always tell photographers that one of the best things that can happen to you is *almost* losing your photos. Almost losing them because you don’t actually lose them, but it’s enough of wake up call for you to take backing up your photos more seriously.

In my case I have terabytes of data and so most cloud storage solutions simply are not economical. The cheaper plans would take years (because they throttle your data — I’ve tried them) and the more expensive plans from folks like Amazon and Google are simply too expensive for me. I don’t have hundreds of dollars per month to spend on storing my photos.

So it’s up to me to develop my own back up strategy and here is where I am today.

1. Photos that I’m working on are on my MacBook Pro. This drive is a 750GB internal flash drive. This is backed up to a time machine drive. If I lose my MacBook Pro or my hard drive fails I’ve got this time machine drive. This time machine drive is kept in a fire proof safe that is bolted to a cement floor when I’m not using it.

2. All of my “to be processed” photos (organized into folder by date) are kept on Drobos (I’ve got six). These are photos that I will eventually move over to my MacBook Pro to work on them. These Drobos are kept in the fireproof safe.

3. All of my “archived” photos that I’ve already processed along with the Lightroom Catalog for that day are kept on Drobos in my safe.

4. All of my processed JPG files, my finished photos, that are waiting to be uploaded (about 22,000 right now) are kept on my MacBook Pro hard drive, which is backed up with time machine and another copy is kept on a Drobo. My photos that I have already processed as JPGs and have been uploaded to Flickr are kept in folders by the month uploaded on a Drobo.

Another periodic backup of all of my processed photos is done and these are kept on USB hard drives locked in a drawyer at my office. Another hard drive of some of my most important processed photographs and family photographs is kept on a hard drive at my parents house in Southern California.

The weakness in my strategy? My RAW files aren’t backed up beyond storing them on Drobos in a locked safe today. Part of this is the sheer number or RAW files that I have. I haven’t added them up but I probably have at least 10 terrabytes of RAW photos.

I feel sort of ok having the drives replicated in the Drobos. I have had drives fail in my Drobos before and was able to simply eject the old drive and add a new one in and have all my stuff back. I’ve also had one Drobo fail. When a Drobo fails you can just put all four drives from your old Drobo into a new Drobo and get it back (this was my experience). Replicated data should be your first line of defense though and not your only line of defense.

Your second line of defense should be against theft, fire, natural disaster, etc. I’m sort of covered here. I feel pretty good about being protected against theft. The safe is huge, almost as tall as me. It took four guys to get it into the basement. I didn’t realize how large a safe I’d bought from Costco and it’s a lot bigger than I really need. It’s bolted to a cement floor in the basement. I’m currently remodeling my basement and am putting up walls that will prevent it from ever leaving the basement without moving the walls. I’m also putting it inside a wine cellar with a locked door on it. I feel pretty covered against theft.

As far as fire or other natural disaster? Who knows. I’m not comfortable with my strategy there. The safe is fire proof, but I’m sure it’s only good up to a point.

My other weakness is when I’m travelling on the road. Right now I dump all my photos on my hard drive which is backed up with time machine. The problem though is that I almost always fill up my MacBook Pro’s hard drive and have to dump some photos on an external USB drives. These files are then unprotected until I get them home and get them on a Drobo.

So what will I do differently this year? Later this year I’m going to buy a Drobo Mini when they come out. These small portable units are ideal to use as primary storage on the road. They use the smaller laptop drives which are more durable and robust than 3.5 inch drives. The new Drobo Mini is a Thunderbolt device so it will be fast. I’ll use this as my primary storage device on the road. This way I’ll have enough storage to always have my data replicated (the first line of defense) on the road.

The other thing I’ll use this new Drobo Mini for though is to fix a glaring weakness in my current strategy. At present my RAW files do not enjoy the ultimate line of defense of off site storage. So later this year I’m going to use the Drobo Mini to make back up copies of all of my RAW files (both “to be processed” and “archive” RAW originals) Because the Drobo Mini takes smaller laptop drives these will take up less space and be more durable and portable. I’ll then rubberband the four laptop drives from the Drobo Mini together and get a safe deposit box in a bank vault. This is where I’ll keep these RAW files. Periodically I’ll go visit my box to add new laptop drives to the box. I’ll also keep a copy of all of my processed photos here as well.

Once I make these changes later on this year I think my back up strategy will be even better. I’m sure it can get even better still, but the important thing is that I’m working on a strategy and that it’s evolving and moving forward.

What is your backup strategy? I wonder what percentage of people are like Mat and would lose precious photos if someone stole their computer or they were hacked or whatever. I bet it’s a pretty high number.

The new Drobo Minis likely will be out by the end of September, along with the new Thunderbolt Drobo 5D. If you want one you should pre-order and get on the waiting list because they’ll likely be hard to get early on. You can pre-order directly from Drobo here. You can pre-order from Adorama here.

Disclosure: Drobo is a sponsor of our weekly photography show Photo Talk Plus. I’ve used them for years though even before that and have been happy with them personally speaking. They are not for everybody though and if you are doing something else, that is fine too. The important thing is that you do have *some* sort of strategy — and if you don’t have some sort of strategy that you plan to start one as soon as possible, whatever that may be.

The Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini — Smaller, Faster and Thunderbolt Enabled, Just in Time for the New Mac Book Pros

New Drobos

Drobo announced today that they are releasing two new Drobo machines, the Drobo 5D (as in 5 drives, not to be confused with the Canon camera) and the Drobo Mini.

These are the smallest, sleekest, fastest Drobos yet — and while they won’t be available until later this Summer, I’m super excited and can’t wait to try one out.

Most significantly, these new Drobos are the first Drobos that are Thunderbolt enabled. The new MacBook Pros announced at Apple’s WWDC last week are amazing machines — in my opinion, the best laptop ever created. I’ve ordered one for myself with all of the top-end specs available (16GB RAM, 768 SSD storage, 2.7GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7). One thing the new MacBook Pro does not come with though is a FireWire 800 port. I currently use FireWire 800 to connect my Drobos (I’ve got 5 at present) to my almost 3-year-old MacBook Pro.

While there is an adaptor being released to convert FW800 to Thunderbolt (and Apple’s Thunderbolt Cinema Display also has a FW800 port in the back), in order to connect external storage directly to your new MacBook Pro you’re going to need (and want the speed) of Thunderbolt.

With the new Drobos you can have all of the speed of Thunderbolt (or USB 3, which is USB 2 backwards compatible) for your external replicated storage needs. What’s more, the new Drobo 5D has a slot where you can also add SSD flash memory. This flash memory will be used for Drobo functionality to speed it up even more. It’s likely cost prohibitive to store terrabytes of photos on flash memory for archive purposes, but allowing you to mix and match cheaper hard drives with faster SSD, the new Drobo 5D gives you greater speed and still more economical storage.

In addition to the 5D, Drobo released the Drobo Mini, a new device which uses smaller laptop drives to give you replicated, portable storage on the go. For photographers who work in the field alot and need a high capacity device which spreads their photos across multiple drives to protect against drive failure, this product seems ideal.

Both of the new Drobos have dual Thunderbolt ports in the back which allow you to daisy chain them to other Thunderbolt enabled devices.

The new Drobos will sell for $799 and $599 (and that price does not include any drives which you will need to purchase for yourself).

Like previous generation Drobos, what appeals to me most about their product is that it’s so easy to use. You simply plug it in and it works. Over the years I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about how their own custom built RAID configurations are better/cheaper than Drobos, but these configurations are usually highly technical to build and manage and I like something that I can simply plug in that will work without me having to configure or manage anything.

Of course, a Drobo should only be your first line of defense as part of a good backup strategy. A Drobo can still be damaged in a fire or stolen (which is why I keep my archived photos on Drobos in a fire proof safe in my home). As part of a complete backup strategy you should also consider keeping additional copies of your photos in the cloud or offsite in a safe location (like a bank safety deposit vault). What a Drobo can help you with though is hard drive failure, which is the way most of us lose data and files. I’ve had two hard drives fail on me (out of over 20) over the past five years or so since I’ve been using Drobos. In both cases I was able to simply eject the failed drive out of my Drobo, replace it with a new drive (the old drives were also warranted and replaced by Seagate) and my Drobo healed and all of my photo data was restored.

I’ve also had one Drobo unit itself (of six) fail on me. This was one of their earliest units that I’d purchased. In that case I was able to simply remove the four drives that I had, put them in a new Drobo unit and my data was completely intact and restored perfectly. For me, Drobos remain a great tool to prevent against hard drive failure and I sleep a lot better at night knowing that I’ve significantly reduced the risk of losing photos.

My strategy on the road has been to put my photos on my laptop’s hard drive and then run time machine on an external Seagate FW800 GoFlex USB powered drive. This ensures that I have 2 copies of my photos available to me in the field while I’m working and shooting. My problem is that sometimes I max out my 750GB hard drive and when I run out of room I’ve been putting the extra photos on another external hard drive (unbacked up). This is a risky strategy, even for a few days, for the unbacked up photos in the field. The Drobo Mini seems like a much better solution that can give me the capacity that I need remotely while still protecting me against hard drive failure in the field.

I’m excited about these two great new products that I can’t wait to try out. By way of disclosure, Drobo is a sponsor of my weekly video show Photo Talk Plus (check out last night’s episode with Special Guest Tamara Pruessner!). I’ve been a huge fan of Drobos well before they ever became a sponsor though and have blogged about them extensively in the past.

More on the new units from The Verge.

Do You Buy Photography Advertising?

Trey Ratcliff did a little experiment comparing the return on his advertising in traditional old world media like photography magazines vs. new world media like websites and blogs. His analysis shows a much better payoff for him using photo web sites and blogs to advertise vs. photography magazines.

Do you buy photo related advertising? If so what do you think of Trey’s analysis and where do you think is the best bang for your buck?

Oh and go check out Episode one of our new video show Photo Talk Plus. It’s out now. Sponsored by advertisers who DO get it over at SmugMug and Drobo. And don’t miss episode #2 next Wednesday night at 8pm PST when we’ll have space photographer NASA astronaut Ron Garan on the show.