Like Our Image Libraries, Image Storage Options Growing

We all keep pointing and clicking, transferring our memories to our computers – maybe (actually hopefully) do some image organization/editing and then repeat the process…again and again. But as camera tech improves, our need for data storage simply continues to grow. After all, where are we going to put all these stills and video clips we’re capturing to ensure we can enjoy them years down the road?

The image files our cameras are capturing are only going to get bigger and the video footage they capture will only be at faster and faster frames per second and at higher resolutions.

Cloud Coming On

Based on a few recent reports we’ve eyed, slowly but surely consumers are beginning to take to the cloud for their storage needs. While only 7 percent of consumer content was stored in the cloud in 2011, but this will grow to 36 percent by the end of this year according to recent report by Gartner.

“Historically, consumers have generally stored content on their PCs, but as we enter the post-PC era, consumers are using multiple connected devices, the majority of which are equipped with cameras. This is leading to a massive increase in new user-generated content that requires storage,” said Shalini Verma, principal research analyst at Gartner. “With the emergence of the personal cloud, this fast-growing consumer digital content will quickly get disaggregated from connected devices.”

Gartner adds that home, or what they call on-premise storage will remain the main repository of consumer digital content, although Gartner predicts that its share will progressively drop from 93 percent in 2011 to 64 percent in 2016 as the direct-to-cloud model becomes more mainstream. Cloud storage will grow at an aggressive pace during this period. They claim a majority of this growth will come from North America and Western Europe. In the Asia/Pacific region, Japan and South Korea will witness the highest growth in cloud storage, where CSPs have been offering online storage and sync services for some years.

“Local storage will become further integrated with home networking, presenting opportunities for local storage providers to partner with home networking and automation service providers,” said Ms. Verma. “Cloud storage will grow with the emergence of the personal cloud, which in turn will simplify the direct-to-cloud model, allowing users to directly store user-generated content in the cloud. As storage becomes a part of the personal cloud, it will become further commoditized. Therefore, online storage and sync companies need to have a strategic rethink about their future approach.”

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Nice To Have Options

So the cloud is clearly beaconing, but the notion of keeping our memories close to home isn’t disappearing anytime soon. Thus, let’s take a look a few storage technologies that are currently emerging or on horizon.

Helium-Filled Drives

Hard drives are typically filled with air but the latest trend centers around Helium-filled hard drives and this innovation is pushing the boundaries of hard drive capacity. By using helium instead of air, helium-filled drives use less power to spin the disks (which spin more easily thanks to less resistance compared to air), they run cooler, and they can pack in more disks – thus greater capacity.

Last summer, Backblaze introduced an 8TB helium-filled hard drive. The company actually created a 360THB Storage Pod using 45 HGST 8TB hard drives and you can check out more on this here.

Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR)

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SMR is a fairly new hard drive recording technology. Similar to helium-filled drives, SMR technology allows for higher capacity on hard drives than traditional storage methods. This one is all about achieving higher areal densities (a measure of the quantity of information bits that can be stored on a given length of track) by squeezing tracks closer together. These tracks overlap one another, like shingles on a roof – thus the use of the word “shingled”, allowing more data to be written to the same space. However, the overlapping-tracks architecture actually slows down the writing process since writing to one track overwrites adjacent tracks, and requires them to be rewritten as well. So, though providing larger capacities, read and write times might be a bit slower.

DNA Digital Data Storage?

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Could the molecule that stores biological information also be used to store your precious memories? Could be, as apparently several Harvard researchers a few years back were able to encode DNA with digital information, including a 53,400-word book in HTML, eleven JPEG images, and one JavaScript program. This technology uses artificial DNA made using commercially available oligonucleotide synthesis machines for storage and DNA sequencing machines for retrieval. And this type of storage system is more compact than current magnetic tape or hard drive storage systems due to the data density of the DNA.

DNA Digital Data Storage apparently will also save your data, well, let’s just say for a really long time, as lead Harvard researcher George Church explained, “You can drop DNA wherever you want, in the desert or your backyard, and it will be there 400,000 years later.”

Our Old Friend, 5D

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And lastly, for now anyway, there is 5D storage tech, which we told you about recently as researchers at the University of Southampton are claiming they have made a major step forward in the development of a storage tech that is capable of holding huge amounts of data with the ability to survive for billions of years.

The claim here is 5D tech allows for unprecedented properties including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000°C and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (13.8 billion years at 190°C) opening what the research believes, “is a new era of eternal data archiving.”

It may be quite a few years before any of the above goes mainstream but it’s a comfort to know a bunch of guys in white lab coats are out there working on ways to keep our memories safe, in some instances long after we become a memory ourselves.

Last updated 19. April 2016

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Author: Michael McEnaney

I am a veteran technology journalist with over 20 years experience covering consumer electronics and imaging tech as well as launching, editing/writing content, selling and marketing a variety of publications and websites. Most recently I helped NAPCO launch the Technologytell.com network of consumer tech websites and also helped launch the popular tech website TechTimes.com as well as launching his own website at www.your-digital-life.com that covers all consumers can do with their digital images and videos after they’ve captured them. My true passion has always been photography – both capturing life’s most precious moments as well as covering the pros that capture the world.

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