Network Attached Storage for Photographers | Thecus N2310

November 08, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

This will be my last post for a bit as some unexpected travel has come up. Also thought to do some house cleaning prior to leaving by selling off/trading old or otherwise underutilized equipment that no longer makes it into my gear bag very much. A fellow photographer who dropped by to pick up some items noticed my little black box on the entertainment stand. It's name is "Thor", a Thecus N2310 Network Attached Storage system.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca

As a content creator I generate an enormous amount of images and video throughout the year. I can go through a 1TB storage drive pretty fast and when you combine the need to safeguard and share that data, it can become a nightmare. Thor is a stand-alone solution that both protects my data via a RAID 1 array (8TB capacity) and also serves it up to any of my local computers and mobile devices. Additionally it functions as my personal "Cloud Service" which I can access anywhere via the WEB and also give others access in the same way or through FTP.

Most of my commercial work is a group effort these days.

I shoot stills/video then apply my post-processing efforts to it. Another person may then take that initial work and expand on it...retouchers, video editors, designers etc. Thor handles all of that and the best part is that it doesn't need to be attached to any particular computer. As long as it's on my home network the data is available.

To that end, Thor is connected to my TP-LINK Archer 750ac C2 wireless router. It's a dual band model which allows me to prioritize my wireless device connections. The LAN/WAN ports are Gigabit connections as is my cable modem for the fastest possible throughput. My Apple TV4 is also connected to one of the LAN ports.

Leigh Miller | www.leighmiller.ca The magic really takes place on the wireless section though. the 2.4GHZ band is reserved for less critical devices in my home...the Apple TV3 in the bedroom, The SmartTV in my office nook and Smart Phone. It's also the internet access guests get the password to when they visit. The 5GHZ band is for my workstation and tablet. I live in a condo and between the thick cement walls, steel and high 2.4GHZ traffic, anything wireless in the place is really slow and unstable. 5GHZ band doesn't have that problem in most cases because it's less congested.

I'm averaging around 200 megabits transfer speed at the furthest point in my space. More than enough to make file access from Thor fast enough for photography work and good enough for light video editing. Anything in the 2K/4K video editing range has to be done on the faster RAID 0 box but eventually gets transferred back to Thor if it's client work that needs to be shared.

As I mentioned earlier Thor is a RAID 1 array which is to say, one drive is an exact copy of the other. If one of the drive fails for any reason I can take that unit out and replace it with another of the exact or greater capacity. Thor will then restore all of the data on the new drive and carry on as if nothing happened. A backup of Thor is kept off-site in another location.

Now, you may not need anything close to this.

One of the "myths" in our business is that you have to save every single image you make. Do that and you will be buying additional storage at record pace. I cull each shoot aggressively and only those images that are useful now or in the near future are kept. That means a full 16GB SD CARD where only 100MB will make the cut. Client data always goes on one of the RAID arrays, while personal non-critical work lives on non-redundant storage drives.

Thor AKA Thecus N2310, is very inexpensive. I bought the unit for around $130 and populated it with two NAS drives for a total RAID 1 capacity of 8TB. You can also make it a RAID 1 or JBOD "just a bunch of disks". It's appeal though is to give you a personal scalable storage device which you can access anywhere and share with anyone. You can make it complex and use all the features or just keep it simple like I do. 

It's a well designed product which is rock solid. The web interface to set it up is super easy...but a bit slow. There is a mobile app available for iOS or Android but it's crappy and unstable. The box itself is vey small...smaller than a toaster and the bays are hot-swappable. There are single 3.0 and 2.0 USB ports on the rear which can be used to copy the contents of an external storage device. There is also the Ethernet connection which integrates it with your network. An important feature of a NAS is that it's meant to run continuously. Desktop storage drives are not, and can be sensitive to vibrations so I recommend NAS focused drives which are meant for more rigorous use.

Not gonna sugar coat it...this is next level stuff.

Most photo/video people that I know do not have a NAS in their homes...but they should. At this low cost it's an effect way to manage, safeguard and access your data. Depending on the choice of a NAS specific set of drives or regular desktop storage models, the costs will vary. Then of course you have to consider the communications expense. I subscribe to unlimited internet service though I'm sure they throttle the speed at times. If you have a data cap you may want to watch it though when it comes to accessing the NAS outside of your home/office. Those fees add up. Also the quality of your connection outside matters. I've been to many places where internet service is non-existent or slow...glacially slow. Transferring a single 20MB RAW file can takes ages, if at all. Forget about video of a 1 minute or longer.

For me though, the Thecus N2310 gets top marks 2 years and running.


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