By Isaac Spedding
As I power-walked my way through the NAB show floor, carefully avoiding eye contact with hopeful booth minders, my mind was trying to come up with fancy questions to ask the team at LaCie that would cement my knowledge of storage solutions and justify my press badge. After drawing a blank, I decided to just ask what I had always wanted to know about storage companies in general: How reliable are your drives and how do you prove it? Why is there a blue bubble on your enclosures? Why are drives still so damn heavy?
Fortunately, I met with two members of the LaCie team, who kindly answered my tough questions with valuable information and great stories. I should note that just prior to this NAB trip I had submitted an RMA for 10 ADATA USB.3.0 drives, as all the connectors on them had become loose and fallen out or into the single-piece enclosure. So, as you can imagine, at that moment in time, I was not exactly the biggest fan of hard drive companies in general.
“We are never going to tell you (a drive) will never fail,” said Clement Barberis, marketing manager for LaCie. “We tell people to keep multiple copies. It doesn’t matter how, just copies. It’s not about losing your drive it’s about losing your data.”
LaCie offers a three-to five-year warranty on all its products and has several services available, including fast replacement and data recovery. Connectors and drives are the two main points of failure for any portable drive product.
Owned by Seagate, LaCie has a very close connection with that team and can select drives based on what the product needs. Design, development and target-user all have an impact on drive and connection selection. Importantly, LaCie decides on the connection options not by what is the newest but by what works best with the internal drive speed.
Their brand new 12-bay enclosure, the LaCie 12big Thunderbolt 3 (our main image), captures the speed of Thunderbolt 3, and with a 96TB capacity (around 100 hours of uncompressed 4K), the system can transfer around 2600 MB/s (yes, not bits). It is targeted at small production houses shooting high-resolution material.
Why So Heavy?
After Barberis showed me the new LaCie 12big, I asked why the form factor and weight had not been redesigned after all these years. I mean, 96TB is great and all but it’s not light — at 17.6kg (38.9 pounds) it’s not easy to take on the plane. Currently, the largest single drive available is 8TB and features six platters inside the traditional form factor. Each additional platter increases the weight of each drive (and its capacity), but the weight increase means that a smaller form factor for a drive array is possible. That’s why drive arrays have been staying the same size and gaining weight and storage capacity. So your sleek drive will be getting heavier.
LaCie produces several ranges of hard drives with different designs. It’s most visually noticeable in LaCie’s Rugged drive series, which features bright orange bumpers. Other products feature a “Porsche-like” design and feature the blue LaCie bubble. If you are like me, you might be curious how this look came about.
According to Kristin MacRostie, PR manager for LaCie, “The company founder, Philippe Spruch, wasn’t happy with the design of the products LaCie was putting out 25 years ago — in his words, they were ‘geeky and industrial.’ So, Spruch took a hard drive and a sticky note and he wrote, ‘Our hard drives look like shit, please help,’ and messengered it over to (designer) Philippe Starck’s office in Paris. Starck called Spruch right away.”
The sleek design started with Philippe Starck and then Neil Poulton, who was an apprentice to Starck, and who was brought on to design the drives we see today. The drive designs target the intended consumers, with the “Porsche design” aligning itself to Apple users.
Hearing the story behind LaCie’s design choice, the recommendation to keep multiple drives and not rely on just one, and the explanation of why each product is designed, convinced me that LaCie is producing drive solutions that are built for reliability and usability. Although not the cheapest option on the market today, the LaCie solutions justify this with solid design and logic behind the decision of components, connectors and cost. Besides, at the end of the day, your data is the most important thing and you shouldn’t be keeping it on the cheapest possible drive you found at Best Buy.