As a photographer, there are parts of my setup that I could not tell you how they work, I just know (and most of the time ‘hope’ with all fingers & toes crossed!) that they do ‘just work’. Hard drives are very much in the ‘close my eyes and ‘hope’ they work category. However, when I setup my new ‘Network Attached Storage’ (NAS for short), I knew that I had to do a little more research as standard hard drives simply wouldn’t cut it.
So first things first, what is a NAS and what planet do they come from?? Very, very simply put, NAS is just a way of attempting to protect your data against loss from hard disk failure by copying data across multiple disks. The premise being that if one disk fails, the data is either ‘mirrored’ on another disk or by using some extremely complex computer wizardry, re-built by the other disks, restoring the data lost from the failed disk. The difference in how your data is protected depends on what ‘RAID’ setup you choose. RAID, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks as it’s catchily titled) can be a bit difficult to get your head around at first, so I’ll save the complex stuff for another blog post.
So why do you need different drives with NAS? The first and main difference is that in general, NAS requires higher capacity drives as you are essentially storing ‘all’ of your data and depending on your RAID setup, this will commonly require multiple drives. I chose the simplest option of RAID 1 - which means that data will be mirrored from one disk to another, meaning I would need two disks of equal capacity. However, before diving straight in and buying the largest drives you can find, it’s always worth doing a little prep work.
I started by looking at exactly ‘what’ I wanted to protect. I use two seperate computers, a Macbook Pro for the majority of my day-to-day work and a PC for bulkier editing and long-term storage. Fortunately, most NAS setups will allow you to store data from different platforms. Next I looked at the most important things that needed protecting. Well, quite simply it is my image library - which comprises of some 70,000 photos and you can throw around 50 video projects on top of that. Finally, there were some day-to-day documents relating to my business and a handful of ‘holiday snaps’ and things that I would like protecting. All of this data soon added up and I knew that I was looking at disks in the Terabytes!
The next thing to consider is the performance of the disks. With my NAS setup (which I will cover in an additional blog post) I knew that I wouldn’t be editing directly from the storage device. I would be saving new images to my MacBooks internal SSD - editing what I needed, exporting client photos to DropBox and then moving the completed projects to an ‘Archive’ - which in this case would be the NAS. This meant that I could reduce the files held on my ‘working’ computer and add an element of protection by storing the files (& Lightroom catalog) on the NAS. I also knew that I would need to access that data 24 hours a day - so the NAS would always be on - additional strain on the required hard drives.
Taking all this into account, I knew that I had to choose ‘NAS’ rated drives. These drives are design for much longer run times and have more protection against vibrations, reducing the risk of mechanical failure. As I did my research, I kept coming across Seagate, who certainly have a great reputation in this market and in particular, their ‘Ironwolf’ range of disks. Apart from having a really cool name, these disks also looked like they packed a decent punch, with excellent benchmarking results for both read & write performance and power management - which were all concerns I had about choosing the right disks.
The next big question was ‘what size disks?’ - when it comes to size, it’s a bit of a personal question and I always believe bigger is better. However, in this case, it was completely justified. I knew that I had around 6tb of essential data that I needed protecting. Considering that doing photo and video work, I will be adding around 2tb a year minimum, I needed to find disks large enough to give me a couple of years worth of storage before having to upgrade. My options were becoming slim and I kept coming across the same answer, ‘Ironwolf 12tb’ - it looked like we have a winner.
Fast forward a few months and the disks are in the NAS and I am very pleased to say, performing as desired. These are not cheap hard drives, in fact they are very expensive, but you are getting a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ I could have also plumped for more, smaller drives, but choosing RAID and disks is quite a personal choice and this felt like the best setup for me at the time.
In conclusion, I am really impressed by these disks. They are a huge capacity and in terms of performance, they haven’t missed a beat. They are speedy enough to get quick access to your data and run quietly and efficiently. As stated at the beginning, this really isn’t my area of expertise but what I can say is that I feel comfortable leaving the hardware to do the hard work and live safe in the knowledge that my data has an added layer of protection against mechanical failure.
Check back soon as I will be writing a new post about how I manage my data and my workflow from start to finish.
For more information about Seagate Drives, click HERE