Need advice on storage and backup for photography etc.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by badlydrawnboy, Mar 10, 2016.

  1. badlydrawnboy macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    I have a late 2013 iMac 5k. I do a lot of photography, processing with Photoshop and Lightroom.

    However, I also do a lot of audio recording (mostly podcasting), so I require a near silent work environment.

    When I first bought the iMac, I also got a LaCie Little Big Disk. It's a super fast 1 TB set of set of PCIe SSDs preconfigured in RAID 0, and it's completely silent. Admittedly, it is total overkill for photography work, but I've been really happy with it... until it filled up.

    I've been using a separate 4 TB HDD in an external enclosure from OWC for backing up both my iMac's internal drive, as well as the LaCie drive with my photos.

    Now I need more capacity, and I'd also like to combine storage and backup in the same enclosure. Naturally I'm considering a Thunderbay 4 from OWC. But I'm stuck on which one to get.

    A Thunderbay 4 with 3.5 HDDs in JBOD probably makes the most sense. I could have 3x 4 TB HDD, one for photo storage, one for backup of photo drive, one for Time Machine. And then a 1 TB HDD to back up my iMac drive (512 GB SSD). Problem is, I fear this will be too noisy. Even if I get a quieter fan, I'm worried about the noise that the spinning drives make.

    Second option is a Thunderbay 4 with 2.5 1 TB SSDs in RAID5. This would give me 3 TB of storage space with some protection from failure. With a Noctura fan, it would be near silent. But it is not a true backup, and I would still need a separate backup drive, which is not the most elegant solution.

    FWIW, I do have offsite backup with Backblaze. But although that does offer data protection, if the whole Thunderbay unit somehow got fried, it might be nice to have a backup closer to hand than Backblaze. I believe they will ship a drive with the stored data, but not sure about that.

    Any ideas would be appreciated!
  2. FreemanW macrumors 6502

    Sep 10, 2012
    The Real Northern California
    There's the option of a 3TB TimeCapsule, they are quiet and NAS. You could have a RAID5 Windows machine on the network but located in another space that is not part of your audio production space, or, yeah, another NAS device hanging on the network, in a closet or other cool location.
  3. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Thanks. Would the NAS device connect wirelessly? I don't have ethernet running through the house (it's an older house).
  4. Dubadai, Mar 10, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016

    Dubadai macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    Buy yourself a proper NAS, such as Synology. Do all the editing on the SSD, locally or on your RAID SSD, and then when you're done with everything, transfer it onto the NAS. Best thing is that you don't have to have it next to the computer.

    You'll have access to it anywhere in the house as well as mechanical redundancy as well as the possibility to expand to more drives later if you buy larger ones from the start.

    Backup is a whole other thing. I have the Sinology DS415+, but also have 3 disks that are plugged in and backs up the NAS once a month or so.
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I'd recommend a DAS over a NAS, as the data transfer by way of USB or better yet TB is so much superior to ethernet. The downside is you need it connected to the computer, where as NAS units can have multiuple computers connect to the unit. The other downside is possible noise as you mentioned you want a quiet environment. You can stick the NAS, router and other networking equipment away from your desk to minimize the noise.
  6. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

    Feb 28, 2012
    It really depends on how much you want to access and how quickly. If your 'working set' of photos and audio is less than 1Tb, then keep your current setup and add some NAS solution for the stuff you don't need to get to as quickly. And, of course, 'quickly' is a relative term, it won't take a lifetime to retrieve a photo over your network. And it could be wifi or some solution of networking over the mains which can also work very well. It takes a little management, but you could have online->near line->near line backup->offline backup
  7. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Thanks everyone. Ideally I'd like to avoid having too many separate drives to manage, and if possible I'd like to have my photos and library all on one drive for the sake of simplicity.

    I am thinking about this:
    • Thunderbay 4 Mini with 4x 1TB SSDs as my "working drive", with photos on it. I will install the Noctura fan to make it even quieter, or as some have suggested, maybe even run it without a fan. I've seen threads about this where people have measured the temp of their SSDs without a fan and they've been well within the recommended limit. I will get a 3 meter TB cable and put this on the bookshelf 7 feet away from my desk.
    • A Newer Tech Voyager with a couple of 4TB HDDs that I can rotate for backup. I would only use this when I need to make a backup (i.e. 2x/week), so it wouldn't make any noise except during those times. I can rotate the drives for extra redundancy.
    The only thing I lose in this setup is the convenience of having my backup drive always running/connected, which means I could backup more regularly with an automated routine. But that's a sacrifice I think I'd be willing to make in order to have a completely silent work environment.

    I guess the other option would be to do as maflynn and others suggest:
    • Keep active photos on my LaCie Little Big Disk
    • Put older photos on NAS
    But then I would have three drives I need to back up: the LaCie, the NAS, and the iMac, so it's a bit of extra work for me and not as elegant.
  8. Dubadai, Mar 12, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2016

    Dubadai macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    Regarding the solution that I proposed. You can backup the iMac to the NAS with Time Machine. Synology has built in Time Machine so it can run to the NAS over the network, so thats your backup right there.

    For backup of the LaCie you can do that wirelessly as well to the NAS overnight, since the only thing that has to be plugged in to the computer is the LaCie. The NAS can be placed wherever.

    I run Carbon Copy Cloner both for backup FROM the NAS to disks and TO the NAS whenever I need. Works great and you can set up schedules to run whenever you plug in the disks.

    The reason that I am pushing for NAS is because I had the exact same issue as you before. I had multiple drives and was getting tired of buying more and more external drives as my collection grew.

    Right now I have 6TB usable space with two 6TB in RAID1. Thats with two drives. I can add two more 6TB disks for a total of 12TB usable space (24TB without raid) without even buying anything else than drives and installing those. NAS is superior when it comes to expandability. Especially with the built in software that makes everything a breeze.

    In your case you will edit on the SSD, and then transfer to the NAS (if you choose this option), but I even import EVERYTHING directly to the NAS.

    I keep the catalogs on the iMac and the RAW and Exports on the NAS. So I edit the RAW files directly "from" the NAS. Speed is definitely not an issue and I am editing batches of usually 800 RAW files from a Canon 6D.

    The only thing that takes a bit of time is the importing and making the 1:1 previews. Everything else runs smooth.

    Feel free to ask me anything if you are wondering about my workflow.
  9. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003

    Thanks so much for your offer to help.

    Just to be sure I understand your workflow:
    1. You keep the catalogs on your internal iMac drive
    2. You import RAW files from the CF card directly to the NAS
    3. You then open the RAW files in your editing program and edit directly from the NAS
    This makes me think your NAS must be connected via Ethernet. My home is not wired for Ethernet, so it's not possible for me to put a NAS in another room unless it's connected wirelessly. I don't even know if that's possible? But if it is, I can't imagine it would be fast enough for editing large RAW files.

    Here's the solution I came up with. Let me know what you think:
    • I will store recent/active photos and LR catalog (maybe last 3-6 months) on the LaCie Little Big Disk (1TB), which is very fast and completely silent.
    • I bought two OWC MiniStack drives. I will daisy chain them together with FW800 and connect them to a Thunderbolt 2 Dock which is connected to my iMac.
    • One of the MiniStacks is 4TB. It will have my "photo archive"—photos that are older than 3-6 months that are not stored on the active LaCie drive.
    • The second MiniStack is 6TB. It will be a backup drive, split into three partitions: 1TB to back up internal iMac disk, 1TB to backup active photo drive, and 4TB to back up the photo archive.
    The MiniStacks are not completely silent, but they will be turned off most of the time. I only need to turn them on when 1) I am doing a backup (a couple times a week, or after I import photos), and 2) when I need to access my photo archive (which is probably rarely).

    The disadvantage of this setup is that it requires more management. I have to periodically move photos from the "active" drive to the "archive" drive. It also requires me to do backups manually. Since the MiniStacks are not on all the time, I can't set up an automated routine.

    On the flip side, this allows me to have a completely silent work environment, with a very fast drive for my active photo editing, without rewiring my house with Ethernet for an NAS.

    Let me know what you think.
  10. Dubadai macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    No worries at all! Since I pretty much had the same issues myself months ago I might as well help others who are at the same stage now! :)

    Thats my workflow, yes. But since Lightroom doesn't apply any edits right on the RAW itself, but rather as a "layer" on top, there aren't any mentionable slowdowns in Lightroom. It's even blazing quick to open and edit the photos in Photoshop, and then save that copy to the disk, and then go back to Lightroom and edit that 100mb PSD file (Open and edit image in Photoshop when right clicking in Lightroom).

    Yeah, mine is connected with a cable, but it's really silent so by putting it a few meters away will make it almost dead silent. I am sitting 3ft from mine.

    I believe that connection via ethernet is the way to go.

    Yeah thats what I try to avoid, all the management. I want to import to one place where I have mechanical redundancy. Then once a month make a backup thats automated with Carbon Copy Cloner. Once a week I backup the catalogs from the iMac to the NAS as well through CCC.

    It all comes down to what you feel like having, once centralised expandable station, or many smaller ones that will require you to eventually buy larger and larger drives and then migrating to those.

    I do lots photography work and I haven't ever felt that the workflow was too slow while working. Since every minute is important while doing work for clients, I would go nuts if it was too slow :)

    I'd say get the NAS, place it in the same room as the router etc and connect the iMac and NAS with Ethernet cable and enjoy all the photos, as well as being able to access the NAS wherever you are (inside and outside of home).

    The best thing apart from storage is being able to send clients a link with a password to their folder with exported photos. Whenever I am done working with their photos I send them a link with a password, and thats it, they download the photos directly from my NAS. There is also a possibility to set a expiry date to the link.

    Those small things make a huge difference in the long run!
  11. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Thanks again!

    Is the NAS connected to the router (in my case, an Airport Extreme), or directly to the computer? I have an iMac and it only has one Ethernet port. I am using it to connect to the Airport Extreme because I want the stability and speed of a wired internet connection. I do a lot of webinars that require that.

    The NAS contains the storage files, but then you have a separate backup drive that is connected to the NAS?
  12. Dubadai macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    Yeah, exactly. I have the Airport Extreme as well. Works perfekt!

    I run cable to the router as well, always fastest that way!

    Yeah kind of. I plug nothing into the NAS itself, but I plug drives into the iMac, and then Carbon Copy Cloner senses that, and starts to backup from the selected folders to the USB3 drives. Best thing is that CCC senses what files have been changed etc, so it only transfers the new/edited files when backing up (of course not the initial backup).
  13. LiveM macrumors 65816


    Oct 30, 2015
    You can connect the NAS to and Airport Express running in client mode so it connects wirelessly to your Extreme and doesn't impede the performance of your Wi-Fi network.

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