Choosing the NAS for Photo Viewing, Sharing and/or Editing Photography of the Year
Many users first time hearing about NAS drives will often be when the limitations of their 3rd party cloud storage space (from the likes of Google, Apple or DropBox) start to become clear, with few groups feeling this pinch more than keen amateur or professional photographers. In the beginning, backing up your photo collections onto a space-free or low-price subscription cloud space seems so convenient! Backing up those photos from your phone so easy, the space you can free up from your phone periodically is so useful – but within a year or two it suddenly becomes apparent that you have been digging quite a hole for yourself! Limitations such as small capacities, slow backup speeds, regular payments towards something you will need to pay for indefinitely without true ownership and the every present nagging query about if your photos are completely under your control. Many users who want to quit the cloud are going to need somewhere for those photos to live eventually and the more time passes, the bigger the collection becomes. Now a NAS drive is so much more than a simple ‘hard drive on the internet’ and in reality is a multi-faceted storage system that can serve as an easy photo backup device, smart AI-powered photo recognition and organization tool, an editing target, a professional sharing space for business or all of those together (with plenty of other services leftover). Thanks to the continued evolution of NAS’ keeping up with the advances in camera technology, the result is that a NAS can provide an equal/better level of photo data management than all the cloud platforms on the market, with the added benefit that YOU have FULL CONTROL of your photography. Today I want to discuss the three best NAS drives on the market for Photographers, ranging from the best value, to professional business photo storage and ending at the ultimate photo NAS right now.
What Have All the Best Photography NAS Drives Have in Common?
It is worth remembering that although there are ALOT of different Photography NAS drives available to buy, they are by no means created equal! With numerous super-budget brands popping up online, it can be tempting to consider these alongside the premium NAS brands. However, all too often they offer solutions righty seem ‘too good to be true’ and then are gone from the web before your warranty even gets cold! So, whether you are looking at the three best Photography solutions that I am recommending below OR are looking at another Photography NAS you saw on offer/recommended elsewhere – the best NAS system ALWAYS includes the following software and services:
- Combined Hardware & Software Solution – That means that you are buying the hardware, but it ALSO includes a web browser GUI, mobile apps and desktop client apps (including backup, media, streaming, surveillance and file management software)
- All NAS systems in this guide are compatible with (and can be accessed by) Windows, Mac, Android and Linux operating systems
- All NAS Solutions arrive with between 2-3 years Warranty (with the option to extend to 5 years)
- All NAS drives can be accessed locally over the network, as well as secure remote access is possible with brand-supported services (at no additional cost)
- The most modern and regularly updated NAS systems will support the very latest 20TB NAS hard drives (such as the Seagate Ironwolf 22TB and WD Red 22TB)
- All the recommended solutions support multiple drive configurations (RAID) for drive failure protection and performance enhancements
- All solutions receive regular updates to their security, features and services
- All recommended NAS drives can connect and synchronize with cloud services (Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, etc), as well as Business/Enterprise services such as AWS, Azure, Backblaze and more
- All NAS solutions (regardless of brand) feature the ability to host a shared drive on your PC/Mobile/Laptop systems that are synchronized with the NAS via the network/internet, but is shown in your native operating system file manager (i.e Mac Finder or Windows Explorer)
- All the NAS solutions listed can be accessed DIRECTLY via an ethernet/network cable being connected from your PC/Mac system, to the NAS RJ45 port for 100MB/s and higher connectivity
- All the best NAS solutions (regardless of brand) feature backup and sync tools that can be installed on your local client computer and allow regular backups of your files and system data
So, make sure that if you are looking at a NAS solution that is NOT recommended below, that it includes all of the above as these are some of the clearest areas that brands all too often cut orders to produce cheaper by ultimately inferior NAS servers for home and business. So, let’s discuss the very best Photography NAS to buy now in 2022/2023.
Best Semi-Pro Photography NAS Drive – Synology DS923+ NAS
0-88TB, 4-Bays, 2x PCIe Gen 3 M.2 NVMe 2280, Dual Core AMD Emb.Ryzen R1600 CPU, 4-32GB DDR4 ECC Memory, 2x 1Gbe Port, 10GbE Optional Upgrade Slot, 3-5yr Warranty
Current Price/Availability on Amazon – $550+
Hardware Review – LINK
YouTube Video Review – Watch
Synology DSM NAS Software Review – HERE
Apps/Tools for Photographers and Photo sharing Services: Synology Photos (AI Photo Recognition), Synology Drive, Active Backup Suite, Hyper Backup and 10GbE Support for Editing
What I said in my review Nov’22:
Synology has clearly made something of a gamble in the release of the Synology DS923+ NAS. There is no avoiding that making the switch from the Intel Celeron that has historically been the build choice of this product family and opting for the AMD Emb.Ryzen has ruffled some feathers! On the face of it, the R1600 here has a heck of alot of going for it over the previous generation! Higher clock speed, greater PCIe Gen 3 Support throughout, that 4-32GB of DDR4 memory in such a compact system and just generally giving you a lot more horsepower to play with, as well as better bandwidth potential inside and out! But at what cost? The 1GbE standard connectivity in the base model leaves alot to be desired, the proprietary 10Gb upgrade (though incredibly handy) limits the upgradability a tad and the lack of an integrated graphics processor is likely going to result in many long-term Synology advocates to skip this generation. Synology Diskstation Manager (DSM 7.1 at the time of writing) still continues to impress and although the brand still continues to heavily push their 1st party priorities, they have left a little more wriggle room in DSM 7.1 than DSM 7 before it in terms of media compatibility.
In terms of design, I cannot fault Synology on this as the DS923+ chassis still arrives as one of the best-looking and still exceptionally well-structured devices at this physical scale and storage level. As always, a Synology NAS is more about the software than the hardware (and the DS923+ delivers in spades on the software side!) and with DSM 7.2 around the corner improving things. Just always keep in mind that the Synology DS923+ NAS is a system that arrives with the slight emphasis on having to do many things ‘their way’. If you are less technically versed, then you will definitely appreciate this level of user-friendly design and assistance, but more technically minded admins’ main strain a pinch! In short, the DS923+ IS a good NAS drive, but its focus has certainly ebbed more towards the business user this generation than the home.
Best Home Photography NAS Drive – QNAP TS-453E NAS
0-88TB, 4-Bays, 2x PCIe Gen 3×2 M.2 NVMe 2280, Intel Celeron J6412 CPU, 8GB Memory (fixed), 2x 2.5Gbe Port, 1 HDMI 1.4b 4K 30FPS, 3-5yr Warranty
Current Price/Availability on Amazon – $589
Hardware Review – LINK
YouTube Video Review – Watch
QNAP QTS NAS Software Review – HERE
Apps/Tools for Photographers and Photo sharing Services: QNAP Photo Station, QNAP QuMagie AI Photo Recognition, Multimedia Console Manager, QSync Share, HybridMount, Hybrid Backup Sync 3 and support of 2.5GbE and 5GbE Adapters
What I said in my review Aug ’22:
The QNAP TS-453E NAS is a device that really grew on me! With these home/business server companies releasing refreshes of their ranges every 2-2.5yrs or so, it is easy to see them fall into repetitive patterns when it comes to how the hardware is picked at each tier/price-point. The TS-453E NAS on the other hand manages to carve a new tier into the brand’s portfolio right now in 2022, managing to give you some really solid internal/external hardware that most would have assumed would be half of what it is at this level of QNAP’s 4-bay portfolio (i.e Quad-Core, 8GB, NVMe M.2s, 2.5GbE, 10G USB, 3yr warranty, etc) and it will certainly make some buyers wonder about whether the current Prosumer/flagship TS-464 is as necessary to their home or office as they once thought.
The fixed memory, even at 8GB default, is rather annoying and a lack of PCIe slot means that 10GbE will remain out of reach – but look at this NAS sandwiched between the TS-451D2 & TS-464 and it makes alot of sense. This is for those not really looking at expandability years from now and although that plastic case still looks a little dated/cheap, this is not a device designed to be noticed day-to-day. For those looking to make their first tentative entry into the world of NAS a decent one or looking to upgrade cautiously from an ARM system, the QNAP TS-453E is an excellent shout!
Most Powerful 4K/8K Photo Editing NAS Drive – QNAP TVS-h874 NAS
0-176TB, 8-Bays, 2x PCIe 4 M.2 NVMe 2280, PCIe Gen 4×16 Upgrade Slot, Intel Core 12th Gen i5/i7/i9 CPU, 16-64GB DDR4 Memory, 2.5Gbe Port, 10Gb x2 Prots (Intel i9 Version), KVM, ZFS or EXT4 Setup, 3-5yr Warranty
Current Price/Availability on Amazon – $2000-2500-3000
Hardware Review – LINK
YouTube Video Review – Watch
QNAP QuTS NAS Software Review – HERE
Apps/Tools for Photographers and Photo sharing Services: Intel Core 12th Gen CPU with High-End Integrated Gfx, Dual 7,000MB/s SSD Slots for Editing 4K/8K, Support of 10GbE/25GbE/100GbE PCIe Upgrades, ZFS or ETX 4 File System Choice, QNAP Photo Station, QNAP QuMagie AI Photo Recognition, Multimedia Console Manager, QSync Share, HybridMount, Hybrid Backup Sync 3 and support of 2.5GbE and 5GbE Adapters
What I said in my review Dec ’22:
The QNAP TVS-h874 NAS is easily one of the most hardware-capable desktop NAS systems that I have ever seen (as you would expect for £2500+) and has clearly been designed with phenomenal future proofing in mind! If you are concerned about the longevity of this NAS, this hardware architecture will still be top tier 5 years from now, with the added support of PCIe 4 meaning that high capacity and performing micro upgrades throughout its life also ensuring it remains relevant long after. It’s price tag clearly moves this purchase out of the home and squarely into the business market (though likely those that take their media seriously will add it to the cart) and the TVS-h874 will function as a solid solution for Video editing (even at 8K), high frequency and performing VMs, large scale AI powered Surveillance setup, hybrid cloud/on-prem alternative to Office 365/Google Workspace services and as the center point for all your data storage operations. Crucially though, it is that the hardware on offer here will be able to do ALL of these at the same time, therefore maximising the investment for most businesses that want to move aware from their cloud dependant ops. In terms of software,t things are a little less absolute, with QTS and QuTS still getting a little busy at times, with a steeper learning curve than its big rival DSM from Synology. That said, die-hard fans of ZFS (Zettabyte File System) will adore the inclusion of benefits in RAID handling, management and recovery that are exclusive to that platform, whilst enjoying the wide range of applications and service benefits in QuTS that are often restricted to Linux platforms.
The slightly conveluded approach to release hardware that does complicate the selection process (different CPUs in the Intel 12th Gen family changing the rest of the system architecture) is something that I hoped this brand would graduate from (for the sake of simplicity), but for many, this level of choice in hardware and budget will be welcome. As is QNAP’s position on the support of 3rd party hardware (drives, PCIe upgrades, etc) and software, something that we have seen a worrying trend in the last few years against elsewhere in the industry but some other brands, to err towards 1st party/proprietary compatibility more and more. There are still lingering doubts by some on the security of NAS, with ransomware attacks on the rise and ALL brands and ALL platforms being targetted (NAS, Cloud ,etc), finding a middle ground between ease of use and depth of security being a tricky tie rope walk indeed. The TVS-h874 arrives with a wide range of Day 1 tools, further rigid defaults in QTS/QuTS in 2022/2023, considerable security settings to configure and multiple system scan tools for recommendations & preventative measures available. The QNAP TVS-h874 is probably the most powerful desktop/tower NAS drive I have ever reviewed and if you are looking for a system that can legitimately do anything server-side, but you are also willing to put in the time to configure it correctly – you will genuinely be hard pushed to find a better system in 2022, 2023 and likely 2024 at this price point and scale.
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