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Monday, May 8, 2017

Buying Technology: A Genealogical Primer

Buying Technology: A Genealogist's Primer - James Tanner

The biggest news in new technology that directly impacts genealogists has to do with hard disk storage. Over the past year or so, I have watched the price of large capacity hard disk drives plummet. My recently posted video on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel gives an overview of all of the areas of electronic technology used by genealogists, but digital storage leads the lineup for availability and price.

Currently there are three major methods of backing up your valuable research files: hard disk drives, flash drives (sometimes called thumb drives) and online storage programs. The least expensive method is to purchase one or more hard disk drives and use them to regularly backup your work. Both the Apple OS and Microsoft Windows have automatic backup programs that will keep everything on your computer's main internal hard drive backed up regularly. My most recent post on this subject is "Cloud Storage and Backing Up Your Data." I also wrote a post about the best buy for backing up data only a few months ago and it is already out-of-date.

When you consider hard disk storage or any type of storage for that matter, you need to look at the price of the device in terms of the price per unit of storage. When hard drives first became available for "personal computers" many years ago, they had a storage capacity of 5 megabytes and cost thousands of dollars. As the capacity of the hard drives increased the cost per unit of storage decreased. Today, the optimal capacity vs. cost is an 8 terabyte hard drive (8 TB). Recent price reductions have dropped the price of an 8 TB hard drive to around $180 on The next step up, a 10 TB hard drive is selling for around $400. Larger capacity hard drive configurations, known as RAIDs, use multiple hard drives jump to 12 TBs for around the same $400 figure. A 16 TB RAID configuration sells for $500. Prices on all configurations and sizes of hard drives have dropped precipitously in just the last couple of months.

Unless you are storing a huge number of movies or involved in hard-core gaming, you probably could not fill up an 8 TB hard drive in what is left of your lifetime. As I have mentioned several times in the past, my total lifetime accumulation of over a million files is just over 4 TBs.

What about flash drives? One of the main factors driving down the price of hard drives is their eventual replacement by flash memory devices. New technology from Intel Corporation has the potential to replace hard drive technology altogether. See "Intel's Optane and the end of hard drives."

For all other types of electronic technology, watch the video.

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