The holidays are here, and America’s smartphones, camera SD cards, and hard drives will soon be overflowing with photos and videos of the country’s Thanksgiving dishes, school concerts, and endless combinations of cousins, grandchildren, and family dogs.

Photos and videos—especially videos—take up a lot more space than they used to. New smartphones can shoot 4K video, which captures roughly four times the detail of regular HD videos. Depending on the settings you use, just 10 minutes of video shot on an iPhone 8 can consume 4 gigabytes of storage. 

And that’s one reason a hard drive like the new 12-terabyte Seagate BarraCuda Pro, $500, could point the way toward the future of digital storage.

Even if you back up most photos and other files to the cloud, it can make sense to keep a copy on a local external drive as well. One benefit is that it will be much faster to retrieve your data, especially large files.

To be clear, the 12TB Seagate BarraCuda Pro, one of the biggest drives you can buy, is more for graphic designers and photographers than the average home user.

But it also makes sense for people like my coworker, whose live-music library has grown to nearly 20TB of concerts by dozens of artists—including hundreds of Grateful Dead shows, most in much-larger-than-MP3 lossless format.

Just how big is 12TB? Well, are you one of the millions of people who own a phone with 32GB of storage? Lay it on your desk, and then imagine 375 of those phones, all stacked on top of each other.

Or just see the illustration below.


Visit 
Consumer Reports' 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more. And be sure to check our Daily Gift Guide.