How to choose the right disk storage for your video team

by Brian Reisdorf, on Nov 21, 2019 9:00:00 AM

So you’re a production team lead who's been tasked with researching a new shared storage system for your team.

There's one important question that you're going to need an answer before you can start looking at all the cool manufacturers and makes and models and stuff that's out there. It's going to dramatically affect your capabilities and your cost for a shared storage system.

What Drive technology are you going to use?

So there are three major Drive Technologies that are out on the market right now. There's NVMe drives. These are also called flash drives, but they're basically a stick of memory that is effectively a hard drive and they are fantastic. They are very fast, but they're also pretty expensive. They're great for workstations. I literally recommend nothing else for a workstation or a laptop. You cannot beat them for that but for shared storage they’re a little too pricey for us right now and capacity wise they just don't stack up.

So the next type that you've got available to you is the SSD. We're all pretty familiar with this at this point solid state drives electronic hard drives. It has no moving parts. These have really reached a sweet spot with shared storage, the cost per terabyte and the capacity of these drives is pretty great right now. The easy answer for most users is you want an SSD based shared storage system. There are some caveats to that and I'll tell you here in a second.

But the last type of drive that we're going to look at is the spinning drive, the go to old spinning hard drive. These have been around forever and they still have a very valid place in production workflows. So really because they're cheap and they're very very high capacity which is fantastic. So like I said before the easy part is if you're looking for fast performance shared storage, you're going to share for your whole team. You cannot go wrong with an SSD based system.

Now, there are flash-based NVMe based systems that are out there. However, they will be very expensive and their capacity will be significantly lower than a fully SSD system. Now you can find hybrid systems out there as well and this is where you have to be a little careful. Hybrid systems will be based on SSDs with flash cache in front of them and that cache will allow acceleration, you know, that will be very impressive for a fairly short period of time and then it will even out if you are streaming media constantly as you edit in real time.

It is difficult to rely on a system that has a cache. Because you never really know especially when you have multiple users hitting the system at the same time. You never really know when you're going to run to the end of that cache and all of a sudden the system is going to slow down to kind of regular SSD speeds. Now regular SSD speeds are still very fast, but what you really want out of a storage system for production is consistency and predictability and to know what you have available to you.

So keep in mind SSD systems fully true SSD systems that have no flash cache or anything are really kind of the best sweet spot right now for both price and consistent fast performance. Now, I mentioned that hard drives, regular old spinning hard drives have a big part in our in our workflow today and that is a very real truth.

You look at the major companies like, you know, Facebook and Google and all those guys, they run the bulk of their storage on spinning hard drives and that is because for streaming media hard drives actually performed quite well, they are not as fast as SSDs. But once you factor in the fact that you know, you're getting upwards of twice the capacity at the same cost. They become very attractive as a production team lead.

Something you have to consider that kind of transcends just individual workstation performance is you know, how long do you hold onto projects? Do you go back to projects six months to a year later. Do you go back to projects three months later? How many projects do you have? Like how much space do you really truly need?

Because in those questions there are some things that will come out as you start kind of figuring out what your Tempo is and that is you know, if you have a lot of hard drive storage, you could versus a little bit of fast SSD storage. The hard drive storage allows you to go back to those old projects very easily you just basically open them back up. You don't have to move them off the storage and then make whatever changes you need to make and and proceed from there.

Now if you work on a project and it's basically done then SSD is probably great. You can also double it up and have an SSD online type storage and have hard drive nearline storage this is a very common workflow, but that's another way to do it.

So when you're looking when you start shopping just have in mind, you know, are you looking at Flash NVMe,  SSD or spinning hard drive and you know, keep in mind some of the things we just talked about that kind of keep you down the right road there and you'll see the price difference immediately won't be a mystery, but you can very easily work on spinning hard drives still to this day.

In fact, a lot of our clients still work on spinning hard drives most of our clients still work on spinning hard drives. But now solid state drives are a real good option and if you can work that then it is probably the best option overall.  For those of you that can and have the need and afford NVMe based storage then that is awesome. I can't wait to see what you're doing with it because it's probably fantastic. All right. Thank you, and we'll see you in another one.

Topics:post productionshared storageworkflow tipsHDDSSDvideo performanceStorage drivesdisk storage

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