I’ve been writing about digital photography for a long time, and I’m not sure how many times I’ve written something to the effect of: “one of the great things about digital photography is that you can shoot and shoot without having to pay for film and processing.” And while this is true, it completely ignores the fact that you still have to pay for disk storage. As your image archive grows, choosing a storage strategy can become fairly complicated. I recently found what I think is an ideal solution, in the form of a do-it-yourself Network Attached Server called an unRaid. My unRaid has many of the best features of other systems such as RAIDs or Drobos, but for far less money.

I keep a couple of big internal drives in the tower computer that I use as my main editing machine (a homemade Hackintosh running Mac OS X 10.6.2). But as those drives fill, up, I have to move images elsewhere. Up till now, I’ve expanded my storage capacity by buying external USB-2 or Firewire drives. (Because the Mac OS is now so flaky with external Firewire drives, I switched to USB-2 drives a couple of years ago). External drives, though, have a few problems: they’re expensive, they each require power, they each require an I/O port, and you have to have some place to stack them up that’s within reach of the aforementioned power and I/O.

Here’s part of the stack of drives (and the associated tangle of cables) that comprised my previous storage system.

If this sounds and looks familiar, then you’re going to want to check out the unRaid. Offering better expandability than a normal RAID, more features than a Drobo, and a lower price than either, the unRaid may prove to be an ideal storage solution for any photographer who’s short on space.