Here is the hypothetical. You attended the trial practice sectionís program at the Bar Convention and you have decided that digital video depositions are something you want to work with now.† At another program you got information about electronic discovery and that excites you. When your next case comes along you find out that your opposition has made the same decision and both of you start to videotape your depositions, digitized and synchronize them and build them into a trial presentation software such as Visionary, Sanction or Trial Director. Both of you are conscientiously producing relevant documents and materials which include several hundred thousand pages of scanned material as well as photographs, faxes and and the like. Your work product consisting of cases, articles and research on the Internet is expanding very fast. Suddenly, before you know it you have built up about 20 GB of material relating to the case and you know more is coming down the litigation pipeline. Your desktop computer is demanding more hard drive space and you want to go on vacation and take the case with you to work on while your husband is playing golf. What's a lawyer to do? Here are some options.
This is not a bad choice.† Indeed every lawyer needs a CD ROM burner.† They are incredibly cheap and provide about 700 MB of storage on each disk.† One CD ROM can replace about 50 floppies or 7 zip disks for less than a dollar.† Not a bad deal but your 20 GB of material will require about 30 CD ROM disks. Each CD will hold about an hour of digital video so the number of CD disks used in your case will grow like Topsy. Surely that is an option for archival storage but it is not a good choice for active use of your data. There is really only one solution and that is to put everything on your hard drive. Here there are real options and new opportunities.
Hard drives of the EIDE type (typical of most personal computers) are very cheap and getting cheaper by the minute. They are easy to install on your desktop but most servers, except the very newest, require a type of drive called SCSI, which is considerably more expensive, particularly in the 30 GB and larger sizes.†† And, since you have all of your information on an installed hard drive you can't take it with you--either on vacation or to the courthouse. Of course, you can always log on to your office computer and if you have a broadband connection on both ends you will have effective access to your information. But that is a circumstance that I have seldom encountered on the road. Besides, there are substantial security issues that you have to be concerned about when you open your network to the Internet. We have talked about that issue before and the answers have always been problematic. What we need, Gilroy, is a commodious portable hard drive that will plug into our networks, plug into our desktops and plug into our laptops in the hotel room or in the courtroom. And, we need it to be small enough to carry in our briefcase, certainly no larger than a Corned Beef on Rye from the original Katz's. That used to be an impossible dream that is now easily attainable.
The dream was an impossible until this year. After several years of promises and many clouds of dense smoke, portable hard drives using the Fire Wire interface came to market. In the last year the primary producer of Fire Wire hard drives has continued to improve its product and reduce its prices. While the market is full of pretenders, there is only one manufacturer that delivers high quality, reliable products at a fair price and that is Western Digital (www.westerndigital.com). Western Digital has been around since the days of DOS. They have always been producers of high quality drives at reasonable prices. You probably have a WD drive in your computer and if you donít I expect you soon will.
The big problem with portable hard drives is the interface that controls the transfer of information from the drive to the computer and back. Inside your computer that transfer occurs at the motherboard level and is very fast. But PCs have a hard time with information transfer outside the motherboard. USB ports solve some of the problem but they are still slow and have high error rates. Fire Wire is very fast, almost as fast as the motherboard transfer, and it can be implemented by installing a $50 board in your desktop or a $100 card in your laptop. Once you have a Fire Wire drive installed you can switch it between all of your computers by just plugging it in. What is more, once you have it on one of your machines on the network it becomes a network drive just like any other. Follow me here. You can have your entire case on a Fire Wire drive that is on your network but take it with you to court or to the Hilton as the case may be. It really is just as simple as plugging in a phone cord to your computer.
What to Buy?
Over the last year I have tried all the options. There are competitor to the Western Digital drives but there is no drives and that I have seen that is anything like the new 60 GB FW drives that Western digital is selling. I have been using the 60 GB drive for several months now and I am anxiously awaiting the larger drives that now in the pipeline. This is real tostada! But do beware of imitators using a USB interface instead of Fire Wire. For a few bucks more you can get a drive that really works instead of a not so cheap compromise.