How do you figure out what kind of digital storage you need and how much to get?  It’s one thing to add up all the files you have and round up so you know you have room for all your stuff with some growing space, but that’s not even half of the math.  Ask yourself:

How many Terabytes of digital media am I actively working on at any time?  If you keep projects past, maybe you don’t have to keep them on the desktop.  An archival system is less expensive than your actively-used shared storage, and if you won’t need the team to access the files, then the files don’t need to be available for the team.  Back-up the old projects to tape and free up some storage for the active files, which would mean you actually need fewer Terabytes in shared storage than you might think.

How fast do I need this to be?  It’s not just about storage, it’s about how much processing power you have.  If you don’t need a solid state drive, then the number of spinning disks will determine how fast you can access and edit your files.  A 64TB system on an 8 bay unit has half the computing power of a 64TB system on a 16 bay unit, and if you’re working in 4K or better, you can’t even begin to function near your potential without 16 spinning disks, so it’s not all about how many Terabytes of available storage you have.

How fast can it be?  Here’s the unfixable truth of it all—no matter how incredible your system, it’s limited to your Internet speeds if you’re signing on remotely or using a web-based program.  Maybe in the office a designer can plug directly in to an ethernet port and take advantage of all the bandwidth available in the office, but taking that same laptop home for the night will mean being stuck with a maximum efficiency defined by your cable or phone company, neither of which are receiving awards for their stellar support.  Also, if you only have 1GB coming in, it won’t matter if you have a 10GB switch.  If connectivity was water and bandwidth was the pipe, it wouldn’t matter if you used nothing but 6 inch diameter industrial pipes in your office if in the end you connect it to a garden hose.  You need to make sure you have a big enough “backbone” to support your system, but it makes no sense to overbuild something you can’t use.  At the same time, saving a little money on the switch that connects everything can cause the opposite problem—the bandwidth is there at the wall and there in the storage, but you’ve connected them with more limited hardware, and only a trickle is getting through.  It’s important to know all the numbers before committing to any purchases.

If you need shared digital storage to be successful at your projects, you should talk to an engineer.  They can give you the right advice for your system and the existing limitations you’re juggling, while working to maximize your company’s personal workflow without breaking the bank.

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