If you are searching for a solution to allocate your files, and create a cohesive workflow to have your files accessible anywhere or just trying to find the Best way to keep your files safe, maybe a good NAS, Network-attached storage, can be the solution.
Photographers are hoarders, there is no denying it, but the hoarding we do is gear related to digital assets, images, videos, and any other kind of computer file. This can be a huge problem to track all your files down sometimes, and the problem gets even worse when we start to talk about backups and redundancies.
But fear no more, I am going to show more than one way that you can have all your digital life organized and ready to go, with simple steps and a bit of investment.
File management in a nutshell
First of all, you need a good system to manage your files and keep track of the version, even if you are not in the creative industry. And I will get ahead a little bit here, but naming your files “Myphoto-Final1-Final-Reallyfinal.jpg” is not a good form of versioning.
For photographers, in particular, there are a lot of ways to do file management, some photographers rely solely on their memories to know where everything is while other photographers use a complicated and convoluted spreadsheet just to know which photo is in which hard drive.
I am trying to be more practical on it since I do not have trucks of money to find/invest in the perfect solution at the moment, my workflow consists of external hard drives. I have two hard-drive for each year of work.
Every beginning of the year I go and buy 2 hard drivers, one will be my working drive and the other one my back-up. Inside these drives, I will only put my clients’ work, and the versions of it, so I know that during that year all of what I produced is only inside that drive. This solves the problem of finding the drive I need. But, over time the amount of external hard drives will start to pile up, and as you already did the math 5 years of work = 10 external drives. Depending on the size in GBs of each drive, it can be a huge investment just into mass storage, and also this solution isn’t bulletproof.
This method is called DAS, directly attached storage, and is the most common system of mass storage files today. It requires a little bit of manual work, it’s not foolproof and totally dependent on location, you have to have your drive with you to be able to access your files.
After the drives come to the folders arrangement, which can vary a lot from photographer to photographer. Mine is simple:
I keep all the client work organized this way for each client inside each month. For me, it’s super simple to find anything that I need since it’s coherent for my way of thinking and also very easy to visualize.
Every day after finishing a client’s work, the second drive comes into play and I just copy everything I did from drive 1 to drive 2, easy and give time to sip my coffee without worrying too much. Ideally, all your folder should not have the same name, which does not happen in my case, let say that you used the search tools on your computer and search for the RAW FILES folder, in my case the reach return will be a lot of folders with the same name, and this is annoying.
A way to mitigate this is by creating a more descriptive folder convention, like this one:
This structure does not deviate a lot from the previous one, but adding the client name on the third brand of folders will help a lot with the search on your computer.
But Rix, why do you not use the best way? You wise one might ask.
Well since all my file organization, like time of day, keywords, and any other relevant data about the photographs is taken care of with Lightroom, I do not need to use more descriptive names on my folder, but I will have to rely on Lightroom or any other photo management software for this job.
Other kinds of files like, invoices, permits contracts, etc go on my G-drive, with the same meaning structure, so I can access it anywhere I need.
As you can see the file structure can be very simple, the main idea here is to create something easy for you to understand and quickly find anything that you need.
One of the biggest problems with a video editor or photo retoucher is versioning your files. And trust me, not knowing how to create a great version system is the easiest way to lose files, so if you want to keep track of your files and keep your files safe, you have to know how to deal with versions properly.
But what is versioning? Easy and simple is the version of the file you are working on. The idea is almost the same as the file structure, but instead of a folder level, it will be used on a file level using unique descriptive names for each version of the file you create.
With this approach, you will have unique names for each version you are working on and you can get back to any version you like. Let’s imagine the situation:
You just finished version 4 of the client’s headshot. You send for approval. The client returned saying: You know what, like the version 2 more, we call roll with version 2. But you quickly realize that you overwrote the versions instead of creating a new one. Now you have to recreate version 2 of your work from the ground up, not funny nor efficient.
Take extra care to not override files that you might need in the future, they will have a chance to change their minds and maybe want to revisit an earlier version, and if you keep all the versions available your work will be much easier.
Even though you want to create unique names like the one above, we all sometimes want, please resist the urge and create a proper meaning scheme. Making a proper file naming system will be much more helpful than you think.
If you want you can add dates to your file naming system, just to keep track of what was done. I prefer to keep file meaning as short as possible because of certain restrictions on file naming depending on what OS I am using.
DAS versus NAS
You probably already used some kind of DAS before, and the idea is super simple, for the time the unit is plugged into your computer you have access to the files on it. You can use the extra space on your DAS, or external HDD/storage to do basically anything you want.
Some units are pretty simple, while others are more complex, but the idea is the same, have a large chunk of space to dump all the files you need to keep. My favourite DAS solutions are the LaCie, WD My Passport drives or Drobo.
But I have to be honest, having a collection of these drives is not fun, they are super useful don’t get me wrong, but once you have to dig through more than 3 of these boys the job starts to slow down the whole process. And when we factor in the inability to access our files only on my local machine a new solution starts to make more sense.
NAS explained: Network-attached storage
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “Network Attached Storage,” it’s an acronym that stands for “Network Attached Storage.” In a local network, they serve as centralized network shares.
A NAS allows other computers on the network to read and write data as if the drive were physically attached to their computer, allowing you to have more hard drives and redundancies for your drives.
A whole network of computers and devices may share a storage space thanks to Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. It may be used to store and share documents, collaborate on group projects, stream media such as music and films, and even back up local computers.
When you run out of space, you may easily add or replace discs with network-attached storage. In certain cases, several drives are used in a RAID for redundancy or speed, whereas in other cases, a single drive bay is used for considerably smaller tasks.
Normally it is super simple to work with a NAS if you are using just one unit as your local files hub for your local network, and we have lots of options on the market that can deliver great experience and reliability to keep your files safe.
We will talk about a NAS unit from Asustor that came for testing and how having a NAS will improve your file management and give you one more layer of peace of mind.
NAS systems normally work with multiple hard drives, configured in RAID, and this is a great thing if you need to prioritize any aspect of your mass storage solution.
RAID is an acronym that stands for “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks,” however it is now more frequently referred to as “Redundant Array of Independent Drives.” Some argue that this change in terminology is necessary since RAID predates SSDs (Solid State Drives), which do not have rotating discs like HDDs (Hard Disk Drives).
Simply defined, a RAID combines two or more independent discs to operate as if they were one. The advantages are that your data will be kept safe, that you will be able to access your data more quickly, or that you will be able to do both. Depending on the “level” of RAID you select, a RAID distributes data across discs in various ways.
If you have a system with 4 drives, you can use 2 of these to be the “main” drive and the other 2 to be copies of the main drive. Giving you the redundancy needed in case of a drive failure down the road. Since RAID is a long subject, and it has lots of other impacts on how you will decide to use your NAS I highly advise you to read this article and decide which RAID system can be the best for your use.
Purchase a NAS or build your own
NAS systems can be built or bought, but I will say right from the get-go, unless you are super tech-savvy, buying a NAS is the best option. You will receive a complete package that is basically plug-and-play. If you decide to build your own, be prepared to deal with some PC assembling, programming, and network troubleshooting.
Asustor Nimbustor 4 – Best way to keep your files safe?
Asustor sent me a NAS unit to test and put if thought fire here at the studio, working with photo retouching, video editing, and cooperating with other editors that I work with. Right out of the gate, I can say that this is a huge step in the right direction for us. Keeping our files consolidated in one unit, with everyone having access to the files, on the same network or over the web, is a workflow that we will implement after testing the Nimbustor 4 from Asustor.
I was capable of backing up my files while being on the road, via my smartphone or my laptop, while the Nimbustor was well protected inside the studio. For the first jobs, I would say that I was a bit skeptical about the whole process, but after a day or two using it, all the fear of losing any file went away.
Backup and accessing files on the Nimbustor using it on the same network as my main machine is a breeze. After mapping the Nimbustor to appear on my computer file explorer as a new drive unit on the network, it was super simple and I could use it without any problem.
For some photo work, I was able to retouch some photos grabbing the files directly from the NAS. The speed of writing or reading the files was good as it didn’t slow down my workflow.
For video editing, the story is the same if you have 1080p or short footage to deal with. But if you have a heavy file to render the best approach is to copy the files over to your machine working drive, SSD preferable, and after finishing the edited copy it back to the Nimbustor 4 for storage purposes. This also does not hurt my workflow.
The Nimbustor 4 is a super solid unit, the external case is hard plastic, but it involves a metal chassis that holds the internal electronics and the hard drive bays. The external controls are tactile and feel good while pressing. So all kudos to Asustor in this regard.
Nothing jumps to my eyes as a blatant way to decrease the cost of production without a thought. For sure you will find other brands with all-metal bodies and other shenanigans that will increase the final cost of productions, but more often these are just cosmetic choices and do not add real function to the unit.
One aspect that strikes me is the design. It’s hard to make a plastic and metal box look beautiful or have an avant-garde design, and the Nimbustor is no exception in this regard.
It looks like almost any other solution on the market. As a visual artist, I want to see products that draw my eyes in, showpieces I would say, something that I keep on my desk not just because they are useful but also because they are pretty.
Don’t get me wrong this monotony on the design is commonplace for every NAS brand right, so at least we are a leveled file with this,
I/O and buttons, the Nimbustor 4 has a great I/O layout counting with 3 USB-A, 1 on the front panel, and 2 on the back. These ports are fast and good for any data dump direct to the unit. You can also access any other external drive that is plugged in on Nimbustor 4.
We still have for I/O 1-HDMI and 2 Ethernet 2.5Gigabit (JR-45s) connections, along with the barrel plug for power in. All of this is super simple and the layout is well planned here.
Easy of use
Sometimes the biggest problem for photographers is to deal with endless configuration steps and all the technical lectures needed to set up a new computer, hard drive, or any other tech solution. Not that we are not tech savvies, the thing is some of us don’t have the time to waste troubleshooting things that just went wrong with a newly purchased product and believe these things happen more often than I would like to admit.
Glady with the Asustor Nimbustor, these problems aren’t here. The unit was basically plug and play, for sure I had to configure one thing or another and update the system, but nothing much different from putting a new phone to work. And this makes me super happy because this is a tool that has to perform for the get-go to justify the investment.
On the software side, the ease of use was the same, very intuitive, and clean the user interface is good, but it could be better, with snappier actions and the option to have a less gamer theme for the admin panel login. Nothing against gamers, but not everyone buying this unit will enjoy the bolder visuals. A small detail that could easily be added via software and would make a great deal for some people. But in all fairness to the product we can change the web interface and wallpapers and make it look like less gamer, but it is not that intuitive as other options.
The physical front panel is as easy as it can get, a couple of buttons and LEDs is all you got, and it doesn’t need more to be completely honest.
Besides this, you will find two buttons on the front panel, one power button, and one copy button. The copy button is something that I personally love. Just plug in your USB device, press copy and all the data on the USB device will be copied over your NAS. This makes my life much easier. After a shoot all I need to do is this, plug and press copy, go male my coffee while the files are copying, and I am good for starting the editing later, easy like that.
On the software side, things can get more technical if you want, but nothing is impossible if you invest a little time to configure things the way you want.
After installing the Asustor Control Center, you can map your Nimbustor 4 NAS as an external unit, and it will appear on your file explorer, with just a few clicks, is super easy. Sure you can add all sorts of other configurations depending on your needs, but for me having the unit mapped as a drive is all I need to have access to my files as I need them to copy from or to the NAS.
Clicking on Open on the Control Center you will be sent to the Nimbustor web interface, where you will find all other sorts of configurations, apps, and settings that make your life easier when performing backups, reviewing files, or even sharing things with other people.
Using the app central, you can download and add functionalities to your NAS. There are a lot of apps that you can use to improve your workflow in all sorts of ways. This goes from those that want to have a personal cloud base movie collection to those wanting to have a locally deployed WordPress site or an array of virtual OS installations.
If you ever used Windows or macOS you will not get lost in the file manager on the Nimbustor 4, it is super simple and easy to use, all the basic operations are integrated, and the drag and drop function works every time. Need something, drag it to your desktop, need to put something over your NAS, just drag it over.
If you are more technical you can use all the settings configurations to fireproof the Nimbustor and make it work as you intend it to be. Here I just went straight to what I need, a solution to share files with my work colleagues and also a way to upload files to my personal drives when I am not at the office.
Using one configuration called EZ Connect you can create an online hub that can be accessed even when you are not at the office, just a simple URL, login, and password and you have all your files at your fingertips.
I’ve used this function a couple of times while out of the office to backup files from some shoots, via my laptop and the Ez Connect, and it worked well. I was able to upload photos and videos to my office without any troubles even being more than 1000km away from home. I wish this could be a little faster for downloading and uploading files this way, at the moment I still don’t know if it is an internet connection problem or if this is the real speed of the process, but I know I could use faster file transfers.
System and specs
There are plenty of solutions packed on the Nimbustor 4. Asustor got you covered if you are looking to 4K media trans-coding, with the Plex server, BTRFS support with Virtual box, it has support to up to 36 720p surveillance cameras, EZ Connect, to have all files on your fingertips via remote access, RTRR and R sync, cloud backup and SSD caching. All of this with the new interface ADM 3.4.
On the connections side, I have to call attention to the dual 2.5gigabit internet ports. It is not the top shelf solution but it is not the bottom shelf either. You will find a lot of NAS solutions out there that are still using 1-gigabit ethernet ports, and this will make your life a bit harder because depending on the size of files you intend to use the NAS for, 1 gigabit can not be sufficient. If you are prepared to pay a premium for it there are units on the market that have 10-gigabit ethernet ports but prepare your pockets.
With two 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports the Nimbustor 4 sits right in the middle giving great reliability and speed without compromising the price, this is a good thing for those looking for a NAS solution to work with large files sizes.
|CPU||CPU model||Intel Celeron|
|CPU Architecture||x64 64-bit|
|AES-NI hardware encryption engine integrated||Yes|
|Memory||Memory||4GB SO-DIMM DDR4|
|Memory Module Pre-installed||4GB (1 x 4GB)|
|Total Memory Slots||2|
|Memory Expandable up to||8GB (2 x 4GB) Support mixed capacity|
|Flash Memory||4GB eMMC|
|Compatible Drive Type||3.5″ SATA HDD / 2.5″ SATA HDD / 2.5″ SATA SSD|
|Maximum Drive Bays||4 (16 with Expansion unit)|
|External ports||Expansion||USB 3.2 Gen 1 x 3|
|Network||2.5 Gigabit Ethernet x 2 (2.5G/1G/100M)|
|HDMI Out||HDMI 2.0a x1|
|Others||System fan||120mm x 1|
|Power Supply||90W x1|
|Input Power voltage||100V to 240V AC|
|Certifications||FCC, CE, VCCI, BSMI, C-TICK|
|Operation||Power consumption||27 W (Operation);12.6 W (Disk Hibernation);1.4 W (Sleep Mode)|
|Noise Level||19.7dB (HDD idle)|
|Operation temperature||0°C~40°C (32°F~104°F)|
|Humidity||5% to 95% RH|
|Size and Weight||Size||170(H) x 174(W) x 230(D) mm|
|Weight||2.2 kg / 4.85 lbs|
Well, you might be thinking: – Hey Rix, how much all of this will set me back?
I have to say, if you are buying some sort of files storage solution for your business this is a no-brainer, because it is an investment.
One thing that I have learned over the year is if you are doing a smart investment in your business the improvement will talk by itself, after time has no price, and a tool that saves you time is a good investment.
The Nimbustor 4 costs around $579.99 (Canadian Dollars at the moment of writing this article) in its diskless format. Which means that you will have to purchase the hard drives separately.
This price is more than fair in my opinion, because we have other companies charging around $700.00 in similar units, in terms of specs and disk capacities. Link for the Asustor Amazon store here (Not sponsored or affiliated)
For sure you will have to invest in disk capacity, and buying dedicated NAS drives can get expensive real quick. But it is worth the money if you want to have some peace of mind regarding where your important stuff is stored.
My top suggestion for hard drives is Seagate’s Ironwolf or the Western Digital Red Pro NAS Hard Drive. They are specially designed drives for NAS units and aren’t that expensive.
Who needs one of these?
If you work with any kind of creative work you know that the struggle for space is real, we never have sufficient space for gigas and for gigas of videos, photos, illustration and the list goes on.
I would recommend a solution like a NAS unit to all of those working in creative areas that need simple as reliable access to their files no matter where they are.
Photographers, videographers, and editors will surely see an improvement in their workflow when they bite the bullet and invest in a solution like this.
If you are a photography student that wants to have your business after finishing school, I would say that it is a good idea to start investing in some sort of file storage solution right now.
This will make for a good backup unit and it can be upgraded over time, with hard drives with better capacity or even faster drives. Please don’t solely rely on one external hard drive, because one of my mentors said to me one time: – Is not about if it will fail, it is about when it will fail.
No one deserves to lose a whole year, or even more, with files.
My dream case scenario
For those looking for a foolproof solution, like I am, this is my dream scenario for file storage and backups.
2 NAS units, one at my home and the other in my office that are identical clones of each other, and perform these backups automatically without my interaction. If I dump new files on the house unit, after a couple of minutes the office unit has the same files. These NAS units working with maybe 8 drives in RAID 5 or 6, just to have that peace of mind if a drive fails on me.
This is a scenario that is possible with some brands and Asustor is one of them. This would definitely solve some problems, at least for some time. 🙂
What is the best way to keep your files safe?
I would say that the best way to keep your files safe is to have responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you are using a DAS (Direct Attached Storage) solution or a NAS solution. You will need to have at least two identical units every time to be able to call it a proper backup solution.
Just having a NAS unit with drives in RAID does not make it fireproof. RAID just gives the peace of mind to still be able to access your files if one drive fails. But what if the whole unit fails? In this event you will need to have a second identical unit, sure it doesn’t need to be the same brand or model, but it needs to have the same files at least, to be able to continue work without any problems.
Make your backups regularly and don’t cut corners or costs. That is the best way to keep your files safe. And if you need your files online to collaborate with your team and give you workflow I think a great overhaulin, consider a NAS unit, it will make some processes much more simpler.
Put in the comments your thoughts about the article and about NAS systems. Would you like the idea?
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Hey Rix, super nice article man. Looks like this Nimbustor is a good option for me. I will keep doing some research until I get all the money figure out! Cheers mate!