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Do You Need a NAS? Or Are You Just a Data Hoarder?

A video editor working with his project in a Non Linear Editor with a Jellyfish Mobile NAS for file storage.

You’ve done it. Your edit is complete and it’s time to hit render. One gentle click and then it happens… that dreaded message 

“Insufficient disk space. Render failed.” 

Panic floods your body. How could this happen? You just bought another 10TB drive a week ago. There is no way it could be filled already. Your client is expecting their video by the end of day and there isn’t a shred of spare disk space in sight. Swiftly you run to the closet and sift through a mountain of drives. Some are so ancient they belong in a museum. Firewire? Can you get those cables anymore? Relics of technology lost to the sands of time.

Half the drives aren’t even labelled! You’re searching for anything at this point. Even an ancient thumb drive would do. A metal glint catches your eye. An old mechanical drive wrapped and choked by its own power cord with a slightly rusted USB 2.0 port. It will have to do.

It clicks to life as you plug it in, Finder is telling you 0.01 of 2TB is available. Your NLE chirps back at you “insufficient disk space, render failed”. You must now decide… delete the entire photo album of your sixth grade ski trip or tell the client they need to wait until tomorrow to get their video. A few swift clicks and those files are in the bin, your finger hovers over “empty trash”, sweat beads down your face, sirens blare in the distance. 

…BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. …

A dream. A nightmare. The deadline is only at the end of the week. You breathe a sweet sigh of relief until you realize… you’re gonna need a bigger boat. 

The Three Types of Storage

So—now that you’ve been 12 Reddit threads deep—you’ve wound up here, dear reader, looking for the solution everyone has recommended. You need yourself a NAS. First off, welcome! We’re going to get things cleared up for you. The first thing I need you to do is walk to a mirror, look yourself deep in the eye and ask yourself one question… “Do I actually need a NAS? …or am I a data hoarder?” It’s a legitimate question, one that can lead to some deep soul searching (I’m still looking in the mirror at this point).

We can really break up our storage needs into three categories: active, near line, and archival storage (sometimes called cold storage). Let’s talk about active storage and dive into how a NAS device fulfills that role. 

What is a NAS? 

NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. A NAS is generally easy to setup and appears to the users as a network mounted volume. It’s meant to expand your storage capacity and enable file sharing across an organization.  It’s a computer connected to a network that provides file access to other devices on the network. In most cases, it has multiple drives arranged in a RAID configuration; the more drives you have, the larger amount of data you can store and access.

Who needs a NAS? 

You should consider a NAS if you need to access files from more than one computer. It serves as a shared storage point for multiple users to access and collaborate on files. A NAS enables you to attach multiple workstations to work on and complete projects.

Three LumaForge Jellyfish workflow servers representing the full lineup of devices.
From left to right: Jellyfish Mobile, Jellyfish Rack, Jellyfish Tower

Need to add an assistant editor? Great, grab an ethernet cable and connect it to their workstation. Need to hire a colourist? Perfect, plug them in as well. With a Jellyfish Mobile, Tower or R24, all you need to do is open the included Manager software to create a new user and make sure the user downloads the Jellyfish Connect app. Now your team is scaled to meet the needs of your project and you haven’t had to physically pass a single drive or transfer any files. Everyone is working, stress is down, and efficiency is up.

Do you feel that? That’s as close to nirvana as you’re going to get working in this industry. 

This is where and how a high-performance NAS like the Jellyfish fulfills the need for active storage. Multiple users reading and writing large files all at once to deliver a project while eliminating the latency of transferring files. 

Why don’t I need a NAS? 

Some users turn to a NAS looking for large expandable active storage but fail to take advantage of or have the need for the devices networking capabilities. If you’re looking at NAS solutions for capacity alone, you might be better served with a direct attached RAID enclosure like a Thunderbay with Thunderbolt connectivity.

If you’re looking for long-term storage for backup, check out the variety of cloud storage services available for reasonable prices, or you could dive into the world of tape-based storage with LTO

What do I do with my project now? 

At the end of a project, it’s important to keep your files available for later access. Whether your client comes back and needs to reuse some footage, or they’ve lost the final video you sent them months ago.

But this doesn’t mean that you need to have it take up precious space on your active storage NAS. We need a backup solution, and this is where near line and archival storage enter the game.

These solutions are usually slower and larger capacity than active storage. You can’t necessarily edit in real-time from these solutions, but they are great for transferring and storing media at a lower cost. These solutions can be something like a less performant NAS if again you need multiple users to bring footage or elements back online. But for most long-term storage applications, things like LTO tape and back-up cloud storage are going to be your go-to user friendly solutions. 

So, do you need a NAS or are you a data or hoarder? The first step is admitting you have a problem, the second is finding the solution that best suits your needs. Today and into the future. A NAS device is a flexible and powerful storage solution that meets the needs of performance, collaboration and ease of use for users in a networked environment. 

Conner Stirling
the authorConner Stirling
Conner Stirling has worked as VFX Editor, On Set VFX Supervisor, and VFX Production Manager on shows like Vikings, Mrs. America, SEE, and The Expanse.
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2 Comments

  • I admit it, I am a data hoarder. I have 5 Mac computers and all of them are loaded with external drives already. So why did I buy a NAS? Because my daily practice is to use 2, (or 3 or 4) Macs spread out over the house to do different tasks specific to that space. And I got deathly tired of experimenting with many different ways of getting the exact set of files I needed moved to the specific computer where I needed them. I have a fairly organized filing system but I regularly need to be able to access some specific bits of that file system for a different task on a different computer. And when I was done working with those files on one computer, some had been changed and they all had to be synched back to where they came from.

    For example, one computer is dedicated to zoom classes I present, and record, from the ‘home gym’. And I have to move those bulk videos to the main editing workstation to reduce the hours of multiple takes to a polished 5 minute lesson to post on the web.

    With a NAS I can access my entire filing system from any computer. And I don’t end up with un-needed duplicates on every computer and I don’t have to try to synch these duplicates every time I need to interrupt an ongoing task to do some other task that may need some of the same files.

    I still use OWC Docks to archive files to offline storage. I doubt I will use that library of 600GB of photos from each of our overseas vacations, until I want to make a ‘Where in the World’ travelogue. And I no longer need to keep both a local backup and a Time Machine backup for the boy’s files now that they have moved away, so I can archive those files to a removable hard disk and give it to them to take with them and free up more space on the NAS. (They don’t want the old computer but will need to occasionally access parts of their old data without having to fill up the SSD in their new laptops.) In fact I can delete their user IDs from that Mac and use it with the sound system as my music streaming machine and as a dedicated workstation for recording all my old vinyl in lossless high definition.

    • Tim,

      Thanks so much for sharing your workflow. With the advance of work-from-home in recent years along with the increase in home-based creatives, a central storage solution is an awesome idea for maintaining a local access point for all your devices. Thanks for reading and thanks for weighing in!

      Wayne