External Hard Drives: The Freelancer’s Friend

The external hard drive pictured here is the Lacie One Terrabyte Big Disk Extreme. It’s what’s known as a RAID drive, which means nothing to those who use their computers only for word processing and games; for those who edit images, audio and video it means a great deal. RAID drives are optimized for high-performance multimedia work, and freelancers who don’t limit themselves to the printed page should seriously consider switching to a RAID drive instead of simply using any old external drive.

Still scratching your head as to why you should spend $224.99 on one of these? Again, if you aren’t a multimedia freelancer you probably don’t need a RAID, but if you are tempted to move into audio, digital photography and video to enhance your paychecks, here are some compelling reasons:

1. Auto-backup. This particular RAID drive is configured to be redundant in case of data loss. For some freelancers, this is a good argument for investing the bucks even if you don’t do anything but write. If you write large volumes–such as a novel or textbook–the redundancy could save you in case the worst happens.

2. Data access and drive speed. Anyone working with media should be using 7200RPM hard drives. You can find plenty of them in non-RAID versions, but this particular drive is 7200RPM with USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 capability. That means fast read/write access and no lag time. Photoshop won’t drag waiting to access the data, same with Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

3. Expandablility. You can add more drives to create a network of RAIDs for large projects. Are you shooting wedding photos on the weekends? Now you can expand your hard drive space and store many projects at once including the rolling video montages you make of all those stills. When an external drive fills up more than halfway, the drive begins to slow because of the volume of data. The closer you get to being full, the slower your performance may be. Expandability means avoiding the whole issue.

Even if you decide not to go with a RAID drive, there’s a strong argument for investing the money in a large external hard drive. One terrabyte should hold any freelancer for at least a year, but do yourself a favor and do frequent backups of ALL data on DVD-R every single month. You won’t want to sit down and try to back up a half a terrabyte of data in one sitting, trust me. Again, don’t settle for anything less tha 7200RPM external drives for maximum satisfaction, even if all you are doing is text.

Finally, I strongly recommend Lacie and please DO NOT PURCHASE WESTERN DIGITAL EXTERNAL DRIVES unless you just plain enjoy unexpected data loss. They die in about a year predictably and repeatedly in this writer’s experience. They will work just fine with no indication something is going wrong until the day you try to plug in and it suddenly does not work anymore. I have purchased five Western Digital external drives and they all perform in exactly the same way. The most heinous culprits are the MyBook drives. Please not this is my personal opinion and is based solely on my own experiences with Western Digital products, but I would rather smear my head with shrimp paste and stick it in the alligator pond at the Brookfield Zoo than purchase another Western Digital external hard drive.