Computers are still hard

My goal: have a place for Leah and I to store all of our photos and videos (and maybe documents too). Both of us have gigabytes of media from the last decade or so, with more to come. I’d like for the hardware layer to work well with the software layer — it should be easy to access and upload on a daily basis. Ideally, it should be in the cloud so I don’t have to worry about hardware failure. Realistically, I only care about catastrophic backup.

Options I’ve looked into over the last two hours:

  1. Attach a USB hard drive to our ASUS N66U router to serve as NAS. Reportedly, this is possible. However, when I began my search, I came across this article from February 2014: “Dear Asus router user: You’ve been pwned, thanks to easily exploited flaw.” This doesn’t give me much confidence, particularly considering I’ve never upgraded our router’s firmware and have no desire to do so.
  2. Buy a Time Capsule, connect a secondary USB hard drive, and put a common iPhoto library on it. However, this comes with a bunch of caveats. Namely: it doesn’t really work. Plus you really need to commit to a wired connection.
  3. Chuck all of our media assets into one of those fancy file sharing services. Box appears to have the best deal: unlimited storage for $15/month. However, that’s on the Business plan with a 5 user minimum.
  4. Use Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync to sync files between our computers. We’d get an additional layer of redundancy. Leah has 500 GB free and I have… 30 GB free (SSD).
  5. Buy an iMac and use it as our shared family computer. We can use whatever we want, but we’d have to figure out where to put it in our small condo.
  6. Or buy a Mac Mini, put it in the figurative closet (actually the bottom of the changing table, where our printer is), and VNC into it when want to manage photos. Might be on to something there.

P.S. Crashplan supports backing up a NAS drive as long as you can mount it. It’s $60/year for unlimited data. And Dropbox is $100/year for 100 GB. How does that work?


Ryan Markel August 25, 2014 Reply

We have had the same problem, historically. I am currently using a Mac Mini that sits under a monitor riser and VNC into it, but for instance right now I am connected to it directly and looking at a monitor because it was having trouble reading an SD card we were using and the Yosemite beta has some pretty serious issues with remote connections when you need to do any actual work.

We’re using a managed Aperture library and will probably stay with that until Photos comes out next year and switch to using that application. (In hindsight I think Aperture/Lightroom is probably overkill for what we need.) The library is stored on a QNAP RAID-6 array and I run a batch job once a week to upload the changes to the library folder to S3 Glacier for remote redundancy. It currently costs me under $2 a month to store the images there.

Ryan Boswell August 27, 2014 Reply

For what it’s worth I’ve been through a few iterations of this, it’s just me using the library, but I’ve got 2 computers and depending on where I am in the house, I don’t want to deal with going to find the one with my library on it (read: lazy).

Started with dumping iPhoto into Dropbox, that was great until it just got annoying, and I ran out of space on my smaller MBP drive. So I moved it to a portable hard drive, which worked for a year or so until I just got tired of always having the thing hanging off my lap when I’m looking at photos.

A few months ago I bought a Drobo NS to dump all of my other shared media (videos, music, etc…) onto it for both ease of access and redundancy because of the RAID setup, plus it looks awesome, and a month ago I finally added enough capacity to it and moved my iPhoto library over. Loading things up can be a little slow (iPhoto wasn’t known for speed anyway), but I haven’t had any major issues with using it over a wireless connection.

Although I do like the S3 Glacier archive from Ryan M, definitely going to look into that.

Also, possibly worth mentioning Dropbox bumped their specs this morning on the $100/year point to 1TB, not quite unlimited, but better.

Ryan Hellyer September 16, 2014 Reply

I use BitTorrent Sync for stuff I want to keep stored across all of my devices and sync’d to the web.

I use Amazon S3 for long term mass storage. The S3CMD tool is really useful for implementing this. I put Amazon Cloudfront in front of it so that I can serve the files mega fast. It’s particularly useful for transferring large files to other people since it’ll serve it directly from the closest Cloudfront data center to them.

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