Hard Drives and Digital Photography Workflow

Posted Oct. 10th, 2014 by Daniel J. Cox

Hard Drives and Digital Photography Workflow go hand in hand. Over a year ago I became aware of a company called BackBlaze which is a cloud based backup service I’ve been using ever since. The most amazing thing about this company is how inexpensive it is. I’m getting to the Drive story but a little history is needed for perspective.

A sample of a Drobo being backed up.

A sample of a Drobo being backed up.

BackBlaze will back up an entire computer AND any attached hard drives for as little as $5 a month. In my case, the attached hard drives include a monster 8 Bay Drobo that has over 24TB of data on it. The one major downside to backing up this much data is the Internet speed you may or may not have. My backups took well over a year but it backs it up in the background, so you never even know it’s even taking place. The service itself is impressive, especially for the price. Having an offsite backup of my precious photos is even more impressive.

Ok, so that’s the service that leads me to the information BackBlaze recently shared with their users regarding which hard drives are most likely to fail. I’ve always been a big fan of Seagate drives for no other reason than I’ve had mostly positive experiences with them. I’ve used a few Western Digital drives and I must admit I’ve had fewer issues with WD, but then I haven’t used as many of their drives. So overall, I’ve always thought Seagate was the way to go. Until I saw this report from BackBlaze.

BackBlaze recently updated their Hard Drive Reliability Report for 2014. The following is exact text taken from the BlackBlaze Blog report:

Hard Drive Reliability Update – Sept 2014
Brian Beach September 23, 2014

At Backblaze we now have 34,881 drives and store over 100 petabytes of data. We continually track how our disk drives are doing, which ones are reliable, and which ones need to be replaced.

I did a blog post back in January, called “What Hard Drive Should I Buy?” It covered the reliability of each of the drive models that we use. This month I’m updating those numbers and sharing some surprising new findings.

They are using nearly 35,000 hard drives! That is a huge number and a spectacular way to find out which ones are good and which are not so great. The graph below spells it out pretty well. Seagates are bad, Western Digital’s are much better and Hitachi are without a doubt THE BEST.

Hard Drive Failure Rates by ModelPretty simple, straightforward information. From now on I’m buying Hitachi drives for my Drobos. I’m just hopeful that Western Digital, the fairly new owners of Hitachi, don’t take the Hitachi drives the way of their own Western Digital drives. Admittedly, the numbers between Hitachi and Western Digital are not nearly as negative as Hitachi and Seagate, but when it comes to protecting my life’s photographic work, I simply want the best I can get.







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There are 7 comments on this post…
  1. ShaneOn May. 8th, 2018

    Yikes… I hope Seagate has improved their drives since you wrote this. I just replaced a dying hard drive with a Seagate one about 6 months ago. So far so good, at least 🙂

  2. Portrait of Ray Hirsch

    Ray HOn Oct. 25th, 2014

    Very interesting chart. I have had excellent results with Seagate and horrible experience with WD. I guess I have just been lucky with Seagate, but jinxed when it comes to WD. The other take away though is, look at how different the 4TB Seagate drives are from the rest. Maybe Seagate is getting it’s competitive act together with the newer/denser drives? I have probably owned a dozen Seagate drives and not a single failure. Knock on wood.


  3. Eric BowlesOn Oct. 13th, 2014

    Nice post, Dan.

    I wonder about the failure rate in terms of drives in use vs. as a percentage of failures experienced. If Seagate has the largest market share, and there is a trend toward 3-4 TB drives from 2 TB drives, you would see the data as presented. That may not mean that 3-4 TB Seagate drives are higher risk than WD or Hitachi.

    I also wonder about the impact of drive use. Drives continuously attached and running have a higher failure rate than those that are only powered up on a schedule for backup. User errors are still probably the greatest cause of lost data – far exceeding the impact of drive failure.

    Still – you can see a point where cloud based storage should provide more safety than personal on site storage. I can’t help expecting some future iteration of LR to pair with cloud storage or even Adobe’s own cloud solution. The speed issues with cloud storage are reduced when you can work with smart previews rather than the full image file.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 14th, 2014

      Eric, good thoughts but it would seem that such a huge number of three different drives under serious stress conditions would be a pretty good indicator. I know I’m going to be buying the Hitachi drives from now on. Thanks for stooping by to sure your thoughts.

  4. Dave GlatzOn Oct. 10th, 2014

    Excellent post, Dan. Appreciate BOTH the info on external drives and the BackBlaze steer. I hadn’t heard of them but will check them out. Thanks!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Oct. 11th, 2014

      Happy to help Dave. I must say I was certainly surprised by the Seagate reliability. CAn’t think of a better test bed than a company using 10’s of thousands of hard drives. Be well and talk soon.

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