Musings on Photography


Posted in file storage, hardware by Paul Butzi on January 7, 2007


Like a lot of photographers, I’ve got a lot of data in a lot of files.  Up until recently, I stored those files in duplicate, one copy on my main desktop machine, and one copy on a dedicated fileserver with a really big RAID array.

That fileserver is a custom built high end Intel machine, running Freebsd as the operating system.  At the time I built it, it was pretty much the only way to get a RAID server unless I wanted to shell out the big bucks and run the server version of XP, which I didn’t want to do.

But recently, as that machine ages, I started wondering how I was going to replace it.  One option was to build another machine like it, but for various reasons I wasn’t too keen to do that – I wanted something more appliance-like – something that reduced the amount of time I needed to be a wizard.

My solution was to buy a Infrant Readynas NV+ – a dedicated network attached storage (aka NAS) machine with RAID built in.  I bought it, stuffed it full of disks, connected it to my network, powered it up, and voila! I had one terabyte of RAID storage on my network that wasn’t there before.  It has lots of cool features, including support for both Windows SMB style filesharing (so my windows machines talk to it) and the Apple file sharing protocol, so that as I transition over to Macs, I don’t suffer too much.

Best of all, it’s quieter than the Freebsd machine, which is a noisy beast.  It draws less power and generates less heat, too.  I connected it to an APC UPS, and it recognized it instantly and configured to shut down gracefully when the UPS gives up.  It will even send email when bad stuff happens.

The best thing about the ReadyNAS NV+ is the expandability of the RAID system.  You can start out with a small number of disks and add more disks, and the unit just adapts, makes more storage available, and keeps on going.  You can replace all of the disks in the unit with larger disks, one at a time, and the unit adapts as you install each new disk, and when the last larger disk is installed, you get more storage.  It doesn’t insist that every disk in the system be identical!

In the photo, the Freebsd fileserver is the big black thing on the far left, and just to it’s right is the UPS that helps it survive the frequent power outages I have.  On the far right, the little silver thing is the Infrant ReadyNAS NV+, and just to its left is the smaller power supply that supports it.

5 Responses

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  1. Billie said, on January 8, 2007 at 6:59 am

    Glad you posted this. I’ve been trying to figure out what my next step is with the storage problem.

  2. Gordon said, on January 8, 2007 at 8:55 am

    I have a Infrant ReadyNAS X6 and I’ve been pretty happy with it as back-up storage. Wish it was a bit faster and it looks like the version you’ve got is!

  3. theoldmoose said, on January 11, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I went from a PC running Linux and mirrored drives as my fileserver to a couple of Lacie 250GB USB drives connected to a tiny Linksys NSLU2 (Linux-based) NAS server.

    This provides a poor-man’s setup, in that the total outlay was less than $400 ($129 each for the drives, and $85 for the server).

    What do you get for that?

    1) I have 250GB online (the other drive is a backup to the first one, done each week on a schedule by the NAS).

    2) Various desktop systems in the household are scheduled weekly to have their ‘Documents and Settings’ folder backed up to the first drive (*after* the weekly backup from 1st to 2nd drive occurs).

    I also have a speedy 120GB USB drive directly connected to my editing laptop, which goes with me on trips, to provide backup storage of current working images, as the 100MHz processor-based NAS is too slow to do any effective online work with over the LAN.

    I actually prefer a system like this to a Level 5 RAID, like the one you describe, especially because I’m given the opportunity to accidentally delete or munge a file on my local drive (or the USB-connected backup) *without* also simultaneously trashing all the other copies that would be on an online RAID array.

    In other words, the RAID array provides redundancy against certain kinds of drive failures, but provides *no backup* for operator foibles.

    The sytem I have has at least two week’s worth of backup — the files on the workstation, the copy on the 1st NAS drive that is one week older, and the copy on the 2nd NAS drive that is two weeks older.

    If I desire, I can purchase an additional drive to swap off-site weekly with the 2nd NAS drive, thus making me more site disaster-proof.

    When the 250GB drives fill, I can ‘ping-pong’ the data onto larger drives, and/or store the old ones for archives.

    Don’t forget that a controller failure or software glitch can scribble data over *all* online media — the only really safe way to guard against that is to take data offline (and preferably offsite) on a regular basis. Extra hard drives are a convenient and inexpensive way to accomplish this, these days.

  4. Allen George said, on July 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

    How has your experience with the ReadyNAS NV+ been to date?

  5. Storage « Musings on Photography said, on January 4, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    […] mentioned my mass storage solution previously, in this post. In that post, I indicated that the Freebsd fileserver was aging, and that I’d bought an […]

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