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Choosing Hardware for Image Storage: System Configurations

By Peter Krogh
Excerpted from The DAM Book, Second Edition: Digital Asset Management for Photographers (O'Reilly)

Dateline: August 19, 2009

We’ll start with some generic system configurations, and then look at some specific implementations.

Basic System: Computer + Dedicated Image Drive + External Backup Drive + Optical Disk Backup

The system shown below is the cheapest way to get started—simply add a drive to your existing system for the image archive and back up your image files onto an additional drive and to optical media. If you’re using a laptop or all-in-one computer, the dedicated image drive will probably have to be external. With a tower system, it could be an internal drive.

This is the basic starter system.

Further considerations:

  • Laptops can finally be used as primary image-editing computers, since processors have gotten faster. Currently, most laptops can only hold a single hard drive, and drive capacities are often insufficient to hold a photographer’s entire archive. Additional drives must be plugged in externally.
  • You don’t necessarily need a dedicated drive for your images if there is enough space on an existing drive, but I advise that this is the best arrangement.
  • Many all-in-one systems contain a 3.5-inch drive and can therefore hold significantly more data internally than laptops can.
  • Tower systems generally have space for several drives, and can accommodate large collections entirely on internal drives. If you’ve got a tower system and can use an internal bay for the dedicated image drive(s), you’ll save money and increase performance over most external solutions.
  • You will want to determine which connection best suits your computer when configuring an external drive. In general, eSATA is best, if the computer supports it. If not, use USB for PC and FireWire for Mac.
  • Most laptops (and many other inexpensive flat panel monitors) only display 6-bit color. If you want the best color fidelity, you should check out the specifications of the monitor. Most laptops can support an external monitor that is larger than the laptop’s screen.

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nazar20's picture


very nice Excellent tips.

steveballmer's picture
651 pencils

Good article!

I'm shocked!
I am not Steve Ballmer pretending not to be me!

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