- Have more than one physical drive. A good combination consists of an SSD for a boot drive and a large-capacity hard drive or RAID 1 array as secondary storage. Even if youre using standard rotating storage, having two physical drives will improve performance. By keeping applications on the primary drive and photo storage on the secondary drive, you help to increase data throughput. More-sophisticated users can put scratch files on the secondary drive as well, also improving performance.
- Develop a good backup strategy. Even if youre running a RAID 1 array, you aren't completely safe from disaster, since a catastrophic PC failure can kill the array. Making regularly scheduled backups of your photos is critical.
Be somewhat wary of using external drives as primary storage. Ive had drives go into sleep mode at awkward times, or lose sync over eSATA. Even with high-performance standards such as eSATA and Thunderbolt, external drive connections arent always reliable. External drives can be handy for backups, however. I happen to use a NAS (network-attached storage) system for backups, but locally attached external storage is fine. Just make sure you have enough capacity.
For laptops, try to avoid 5400-rpm or slower hard drives. Its great to have a lot of capacity, but most photo applications create a large scratch file on the storage device, and waiting for a slow drive to grind through your editing chores is no fun.
What About the Cloud?
People have spilled lot of virtual ink discussing whether to back up data to cloud storage. I dont use cloud storage for general backups--its expensive and time-consuming. If youre a subscriber to online photo sharing sites, though, you often can use such services as a kind of cloud backup just for your photos. For example, Flickr Pro costs only $20 per year, and allows unlimited uploads of full-resolution images.
The GPU is increasingly important in todays computational environment. Photo and video editors are rapidly incorporating GPU acceleration into their products. The graphics card doesnt just serve to accelerate the display and scroll the canvas; it also acts as a parallel compute engine for a number of filters, particularly blur filters.