As a video creator, I film a lot of stuff. I’m always filming in high-quality 4K settings, so each project can easily be hundreds of gigabytes in size. Sure, I could delete it all after finishing the project, but sometimes a client might want another follow-on project down the line, or I might want to use that footage as B-roll in another video. Yeah, look: even though I consider myself a minimalist most of the time, I can be a hoarder when it comes to my video footage.
All of this begs the question: where to store all of this data?
In my opinon, there are two types of video creators:
Type 1: who store all of their archived footage on an endless number of small external hard drives
Type 2: who store it on a dedicated machine with large hard drives inside.
There’s actually a third type: those who just delete all their footage. But let’s not count them.
Usually, every video creator starts off as Type 1 and eventually makes their way to Type 2 as their collection grows over time.
A lot of people never make the transition from one to the other, and that’s okay. Youtuber Matt D’avella has been a filmmaker for over 10 years, he has a massive channel with over 3 million subscribers, and he still uses the hard drive method.
Up until this year, I was firmly in the external hard drive camp. It’s just a lot easier and cheaper to start out by buying those little hard drives when you need them, one at a time. Every freelancer starts out like this, buying more and more of these little external drives as they fill up until a better solution is needed. After which they graduate onto a full-blown, Type 2 setup.
Growing Pains (with Type 1)
But what’s wrong with continuing to add more external hard drives to the mix? As you start adding more and more of these hard drives, you get a number of growing pains:
- Hard the keep track of files: as the number of hard drives grows, all of your files and projects get split among many different drives
- Gets messy: each one of these drives needs to be plugged in separately, so if you need to plug in a few at the same time it can get very messy.
- No redundancy: if one of these drives fails, you’ll lose all of the data you had on it. Not a good time.
Given these reasons, I decided that it would be less painful to make the switch earlier rather than later.
Enter the NAS (Type 2)
Recently I bought the Synology DS418+. This machine addresses all of the problems above. It’s a dedicated machine that houses 4 hard drives, all connected together to show up as a single storage space on your computer.
Here’s why I chose this one:
- Always on: doesn’t need my laptop to be on or connected for it to work
- Cloud backup: Because it’s always on, it can constantly backup my files to the cloud. So if there’s a fire or flood in my house and I lose all of my devices (touch wood), there will still be another copy available somewhere.
- Collaboration options: Multiple Ethernet ports on the back allow multiple people to access files at the same time
- Redundancy: in the form of Synology Hybrid Raid. It means that one of my four drives is used for redundancy, giving me 3 drive’s worth of space (12TB) rather than 4 (16TB). But if any one drive fails, I can simply replace that drive and not lose any data. Other brands offer regular RAID options, but the one offered by Synology is the most flexible.
- Reputable brand name: Synology and QNAP seem to be the biggest players in this space, and I figured it would be important to buy something with a good reputation behind it for something that I’m entrusting all of my data to. There are a lot of smaller ones to choose from if you have a look on Amazon, but I want to have reasonably good faith that it’ll work for a long time and be reasonably easy to troubleshoot any problems.
- Easy setup and config: The hard drives were super easy to install and didn’t need any tools. The setup wizard was also very straightforward and pretty painless.
- USB port on the front: This one’s really handy. I record a lot of my footage straight to an SSD from my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K. For footage that I shot on my mirrorless camera, I usually back it up to an SSD at the end of every shooting day too. So when I come home, I can plug it directly into the front of the unit and quickly copy all the footage over and have it safely backed up.
- Price: For all of these features, it also had about the lowest price compared to similar offerings compared to other brands.
These reasons may be why some video creators don’t switch over, even after working long years in the industry:
- Size and weight: Yeah, it’s a lot bigger and bulkier than those tiny external drives. There’s an extra computer housing them too. So if you move houses (or countries) a lot, this gets cumbersome pretty quickly.
- Noise: The hard drives inside are bigger and aren’t as enclosed, there is a noticeable whirring sound when you have the unit next to you. Luckily it’s not a problem for me, but this may be annoying and downright intolerable for some people
- Power usage: it needs to be plugged in to the wall all the time, so if your power bill or carbon emissions are a big concern for you, watch out for this.
- Less expandable: Once you reach the capacity limit for your drives (12TB for me), you can’t just buy one additional drive. Since all 4 drives look like a single drive, you have to buy another 4 drives and replace the whole set.
- Cost: There’s more upfront cost needed to buy the NAS itself, on top of the cost of buying hard drives.
Future upgrade options
From here, if I want to upgrade my storage in the future, all I have to do is swap out these hard drives for another set. Then find somewhere to store the 4 old drives. Each hard drive in my setup is 4TB right now, for a total on 12TB storage. But the great thing is, I can go up to quadruple that, with 16TB drives giving me a total of 48TB of storage.
Take a moment and think about your current storage setup. What does it look like? If you have a mess of smaller drives like I did and if you have the funds, it might be worth considering an upgrade.