A Guide to the Best Photography NAS Drives to Buy Right Now
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 thosae 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 current three best NAS drives on the market for Photographers, ranging from the best value, to professional business photo storage and ending at the ultimately photo NAS right now.
Note – If you are looking to migrate your Google Photos photo collection over to a Synology or QNAP NAS, I recommend you check out the two guides below (they also include video walkthroughs) that will show you how to move your data over as easily as possible. Remember to keep the .json files that google will also include with your photo data, as this is the important metadata (camera type, photo location, etc) which the NAS can then use for cataloguing and presenting/filing your large photo collection in the best possible way.
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 include 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 Ironwofl 20TB and WD Red 20TB)
- 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.
Best Value Photography NAS Drive – The Synology DS920+ NAS
0-80TB, 4-Bays, Intel J4125 4x 2.0-2.7Ghz CPU, 4/8GB 2666Mhz Memory, 2x 1Gbe Port, 2x NVMe SSD Cache Bays, 3-5yr Warranty
Current Price/Availability on Amazon – $550+
Hardware Review – HERE
YouTube Video Review – Watch
The DS920+ NAS is something that Synology should be proud of. It is a great entry into their already impressive range of Diskstation NAS devices. If you are looking for a brand new NAS to consolidate your home media, to support your relative as the ‘IT whizz’ of the family, or move your business away from Google Drives and DropBox’ onto something safer, more scalable and dependable – then the DS920+ has alot to offer you. It gives you a great base to start using the DSM platform, as well as a good means to upgrade your storage internally at a later date (expansions in memory, expansions in storage, expansion in NVMe). If you are an existing DS918+ or DS916+ owner, this might not seem like the jump you were waiting for.Click to view slideshow.
There are always areas of improvement, the USB ports, the 1Gbe, that 1 memory slot – but these are things that Synology no doubt feel should be pushed into a higher price/hardware bracket – Allowing the DS920+ Price to be as close to its predecessors it can be. Whether you agree or disagree, I think that we can agree that this NAS is still giving you alot of bang for your buck in 2020. Thank you once again to ‘Takeo from Tokyo‘ for all his assistance on this hardware review
Great RAID Options
Excellent choice of Apps
BTRFS and SHR
4K Video transcoding
Full Plex Transcoding
Only 1Gbe Ethernet ports
No PCIe slots
Only a single accessible Memory Bay
Best Mixed Use (Sharing, & Editing) Photography NAS Drive – The QNAP TS-h973ax NAS
0-100TB HDD, 16TB SATA SSD, 8/16TB U.2 NVMe SSD, 5/9-Bays of 3.5″, 2.5″ & U.2 SSD, AMD Ryzen V1500B 4x 2.2Ghz CPU, 8-32GB DDR4 Memory, 1x 10GbE, 2x 2.5Gbe Port, Supports ZFS or EXT4, 3/5yr Warranty,
Current Price/Availability on Amazon – $1150+
Hardware Review – LINK
YouTube Video Review – Watch
I have seen a lot of network-attached storage over the years and the TS-h973AX brings a lot of colour to what was fast becoming a somewhat grey landscape. In short, QNAP has gone and done it again by proving they are the hardware innovators of this industry and have managed to provide a genuinely unique solution here. When they first revealed their new Hero ZFS operating system last year, you could not help but get the impression that only top-end enterprise businesses with £10K starting budgets were ever going to benefit. The TS-h973AX desktop NAS is solid evidence that QNAP will share the wealth and that this is the start of a whole new series of affordable ZFS solutions from the brand. That isn’t to say that this system is perfect and pernickety points about a lack of HDMI or LCD may put off some users, and the compact 9 bay chassis that will attract some will no doubt deter others.Click to view slideshow.
Ultimately though QNAP has succeeded in creating what they sought out here and what we find is one of the best examples of hardware and software meeting in the middle, while still arriving with a price tag in 3 figures. In the current absence of a straightforward QuTS license purchase option for existing QNAP NAS systems right now, this is a solution that serves as a good alternative to a number of 4 and 6 Bay solutions in their portfolio. Though, make sure you upgrade that memory on day one!
Triple tier storage
ZFS / QuTS Hero System
Virtualization Support is unparalleled
10Gb/s USB 3.2 Gen 2
10 min Windows and/or Ubuntu VM install (included)
U.2 NVMe PCIe Gen 3×4 Support
2.5GbE LAN Ports
8 Surveillance Camera Licences
Some might prefer the ease of NVMe over NVMe U.2
The Ultimate Photography NAS Drive – The QNAP TVS-872X / TVS-872XT NAS
0-160TB, 8-Bays, 2x M.2 NVMe SSD Bays, 2/4/6 Core Intel Pentium/i3/i5 CPU, 8-64GB DDR4 Memory, 1x 10Gbe Port, 2x 1GbE, 2x PCIe Slot, 1x HDMI 2.0 4K 60FPS, USB 3.2 Gen 2, ZFS Option 2yr Warranty
Current Price/Availability on Amazon – $1799
Hardware Review – LINK
YouTube Video Review – Watch
If this was the first time I was seeing the hardware featured on the QNAP TVS-872X, with its Intel Core CPU, 64GB of potential memory, 10Gbe on-board, NVMe equipped slots and USB 10G throughout – I would have been reasonably impressed. Likewise, the scalability in PCIe, storage expansions and network connectivity down the line is also a very valid and positive aspect of this system. But for me, it will always live slighting in the shadow of its Thunderbolt 3 equipped older big brother in the TV-872XT. The software on either ZFS or EXT4 file system is still doing what it does well, finding the line between 1st party apps, 3rd party support, customization and (mostly) getting it right – if occasionally trying to be too big for its boots.Click to view slideshow.
The QNAP TVS-872X is undeniably still a great example of the wide-ranging features available to prosumers who want a storage system heavily geared towards high-performance transmission via high-performance media with higher tier hardware at their disposal. It would be misleading to think of this NAS as any kind of significant upgrades over the XT, and the price tag that the TVS-872X currently arrives at (£1700+ / $2400) is perhaps a tad closer to that of the thunderbolt version than can be justified, but with an increasing over-reliance by brands on Xeon based systems, the TVS-872X is one of the most graphically well-equipped systems in the market today. If you are looking for a NAS for video editing, Plex media server, AI-assisted surveillance or virtualisation in a more compact form, the TVS-872X and its hardware has a heck of a lot to offer you.
High Virtualisation Use
10Gbe Enabled and still has 2x 1Gbe
SSD Optimized with NVMe Support
Very Expandable (File System & config dependant)
Optimized for Post Production and Broadcasting
Can be upgraded to 10/25/40Gbe
10G alternative to the TVS-872XT for those that didn’t want TB3
Surveillance including multiple camera licences – 8 Licences FREE
Download server (FTP, HTTP, BT,NZB)
CMS and CRM systems included
Media Center support across numerous apps
8G Default Module is a little restrictive for ZFS
PCIe Card Installation is a lot more complicated than you expect
And there you have it. Those are the three best Photography NAS drives available right now at the end of 2021 and going into 2022. thought it is always worth remembering that these systems typically have a refresh (i.e manufacturers release a new version/follow-up) every 2-3 years on average. Therefore although these systems are all still great Photography NAS drives, they might have been upgraded in a newer released version, or recently released alternative Photography’s may have arrived on the scene that provides better pricing, value or features. If you are in doubt about whether to buy a Photography solution from my recommendations, want to check if a newer system has been released recently OR are simply looking for some free expert advice, then use the free advice section below over. Just enter in a few details of your setup, storage requirements and (in the case of buying a new solution) your budget – then me and Eddie the Web guy can help you with your question. This is a completely free service, is NOT provided with profit in mind and is manned by two humans (no bots, no automated replies, etc). Assistance might take an extra day or two (the service gets a lot of visitors) but we do try to answer every message. If you want to support this service, you can find out how to donate HERE. Otherwise, you can still jsut message us for free advice anyway!
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