Ruggedized hard drives are all the rage for photographers working in the field. I am all for them — they are more durable than plastic encased small form factor drives. The problem is with the thicker 4 terabyte offerings.

In the case

The ruggedized drives from manufacturers like Lacie and G-Tech in the 1 to 2 terabyte size are rugged as advertised, affordable and very portable. Each of these features a single hard drive that appears as a 1 or 2 terabyte volume on the computer.

The 4 terabyte version

Ruggedized drives over 2 terabytes have two hard drives in them. (The largest single 2.5″ internal drive is 2 terabytes.) They are set up for RAID 0. RAID 0 is designed for speed, not for protection. The risk of failure in these drives doubles. If either of them fails, all of the data stored on the drive is lost.

RAID 1 — the safe 2 terabyte solution

Some of these 4 terabyte enclosures offer a RAID 1 option. RAID 1 mirrors the data on one drive to the other, creating automatic protection against the failure of either drive. Set up for RAID 1, the drive is now a single 2 terabyte volume.

JBOD — Just a Bunch Of Drives

Another option on the so-called 4 terabyte drives (it’s marketing, after all, is said and done) is JBOD or Just a Bunch Of Drives where the 4 terabyte drive displays as two 2 terabyte volumes. This is the same amount of storage as if two individual 2 terabyte drives were plugged into the computer. It’s as safe as individual drive and not as protected as the RAID 1 version.

On the bottom line…

Two 2 terabyte drives in a single enclosure that offers either RAID 1 or JBOD is a very good and prudent option. RAID 0 is uber-dangerous. Thing is, the selling point from the manufacturers is capacity, not redundancy. Again, if the 4 terabyte enclosure does not offer RAID 1 or JBOD options take a pass and buy a pair of 2 terabyte rugged drives in their own enclosures instead.

Update: October 28, 2018, 6:46 p.m. EDT

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far on this post. From our readers, I’ve learned, as I often do, that they know more than I do and are willing to share. Thank you. There are 2.5″ internal hard drives up to 5 terabytes in size now available. As a professional photographer, I rely on B&H for not only my gear, but for my storage media as well. This evening I checked their offerings of 2.5″ drives. All of the hard drives I found are 2 terabytes or less. B&H does offer a 5 terabyte SSD drive and it is pricey.