QNAP TVS-873 Review From A Photographer

 

Why I Bought A NAS

 
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The privacy and safety of the photos of the women I photograph has all was been one of my top priorities. Over the last year, I've started taking the security and long-term storage of my images and video more and more seriously. In 2017 I had a very close call. I almost lost 6 months of worth of images, edited and raw files even with my many backups. I was able to recover all of the lost images but it took a lot of time and in that time I missed two client delivery dates. I gave refunds and free products to these clients but it no doubt the reputation of my business was still damaged.

I've been looking into buying a NAS for a while now and that disaster was what kicked me over the edge. My first thought was to build my own using FreeNAS or unRaid. I'm a nerd and I've been building my own PCs now for almost 20 years, so building my own custom NAS wouldn't have given me much trouble. The thing that worried me the most about building my own was the reliability of such a system. If you have ever built a pc you will know there is always a few little problems that will pop up now and then. This system needs to be reliable and have as close a possible a 100% uptime. An off the shelf solution seemed to be the best option for this. 

 
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I needed a NAS that could handle a lot at once. It needs to keep my photos safe while I work from it, run a PLEX server, run my security cameras 24/7 and run VM's. Before I purchased the QNAP I was also considering the Synology DS1817+ but the QNAP won because of it's more powerful hardware. The Synology only had an Intel Atom C2538 2.4 GHz Quad Core and the QNAP has an AMD R-Series quad-core 2.1 GHz processor which can burst up to 3.4 GHz and the QNAP can support up to 64GB of ram and the Synology only 16GB. I was looking to play around and experiment with virtualization and these extra bumps in performance would really matter when I'm running VM's. I currently only have 8GB of ram installed but I plan to upgrade to 32GB sooner or later. I'm asking this NAS to do a lot of work at once and the pre-installed 8GB is not enough. I would have bought one with more ram pre-installed but unfortunately, I couldn't find any local shops in Brisbane that sold the higher ram models.      

I have configured my TVS-873 with 6x8TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives in RAID6, one 4TB Seagate SkyHawk Surveillance drive,  2x 256GB WesternDigital Blue M.2 SSDs and one 500GB Crucial MX500 SSD. The hard drives are the main file storage, the surveillance drive is obviously for my security cameras, the M.2 drives are for SSD cache acceleration and Crucial SSD is for my virtual machines.

Installing the drives was super easy and quick. Just slide out the drive trays and click in the rails, no tools are needed. It only took me a few minutes to install all the drives. The GUI web interface is really straightforward to use. I had the whole system up and running in an afternoon. The longest part was the RAID6 building process and moving all my files over. Which took about 2-3 days to copy all my files over 1GbE LAN. I have 10GbeE cables in the walls,  I just need to bite the bullet buy a 10GbE switch and NICs. 

 
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Photoshop and Lightroom Performance.

Before I going to the performance I'll quickly tell you what my workflow looks like. Everyone works a little differently and how you work a could mean a NAS can really slow down your workflow. When I first import photos into Lightroom I import them off my SD UHS-II Card using a USB Type-C UHS-II card reader to a local SSD on my computer. After I have done a few quick edits in Lightroom I move the photos over to the NAS. After the photos have been copied I have Lightroom make smart previews of the photos and I continue working on the photo from the NAS. I also have a dedicated SSD in my computer for my Lightroom catalogue, Photoshop/Lightroom caching and smart previews. With the combination of these things, the only time I can tell I'm working off network storage is when I moving the photos on to the NAS and the final export to JPEG and it's only really adding a few minutes extra. Apart from that haven't really noticed my workflow taking it any longer than before when I was working only from a local HDD. Which is most likely because of the M.2 SSD cache on the NAS and on the computer I'm editing on. If you are thinking about buying a NAS be sure to invest in SSDs for caching.

 
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Rolling My Own Cloud.

One of my favourite features this NAS has to be CloudLink. If you don't know what CloudLink is it's pretty much like running your own Dropbox sever that you have full control over. It gives you the ability to access your files anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. You can also use it to share files with other people straight from the NAS. 

Being a boudoir photographer the privacy of my clients is one of my top concerns. It is important for me to have complete control over where my photos go before I deliver them to my clients. I have always been a little uneasy about using cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. I want to know where the photos are going and when I delete them from the service are they really being deleted or are they still sitting on a server somewhere. With this NAS I know when I delete the photos from the online shared folder I can be confident only my client and myself have seen and had access to the photos.

 
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Conclusion

As of writing this, I have had the QNAP TVS-873 for about 4 months and it has pretty much run non-stop for the whole time with not a single problem. Any photographers out there who are looking to buy a NAS keep their files save I can't recommend this NAS enough. It's definitely one of the most important purchases I have made for my business.