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My Workflow: Lightroom + Raid 1 NAS + Cloud Backups

I recently purchased a NAS system in order to expand storage capacity while being able to access my images from anywhere.

After the initial transfers and backups, I now have a workflow where I can edit images using a Lightroom catalog on my Mac. Both the Mac and NAS files are backed up to the cloud too. That’s a lot of backups and if feels good to be so organised.

A few people have asked for my setup and how it works, so here’s a quick write up…

What I Bought

After many recommendations about Synology and QNAP systems, I opted for the following QNAP NAS with two Western Digital WD Red 3TB drives.

QNAP TS-251+-2G 2 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure with 2GB RAM

 

QNAP-NAS

At the time of writing this NAS is around £260 on Amazon.

 

2x WD Red 3TB NAS Desktop Hard Disk Drive

I purchased two WD Red 3TB HDDs. At the time of writing these are around £100 on Amazon.

 

Total Cost

The total cost for this setup came to £460 for 3TB of networked storage with a spare drive to allow for a raid-1 backup. Both of these arrived within a couple of days using Amazon Prime.

 

Setup

Step 1 – HDD Install

This is super easy – just pop out the trays and attach the HDDs with the screws provided.

 

Step 2 – QNAP Software & Setup

This one’s quite specific to the QNAP system, but simply put: once the drive is in, you simply need to plug it in to your router with an ethernet cable, turn it on, and follow the simple instructions in the box. This will guide you through updating the firmware of the system, initialising the HDDs in the setup you want (you don’t have to pick raid-1 if you’d rather use both directly).

 

Step 3 – Image copying

Copying files over to the NAS took a while. It first had to get over to the NAS, then mirror to the second drive. During this process I kept all my images on my Mac until I was happily sure they’d copied over ok. Once copied, I also made a second backup onto a portable 1TB drive. You can never be too safe with backups!

 

Step 4 – Cloud Backups

Having got everything copied over to the NAS, I needed to find a way to hook this up to my cloud backup. For years I have used cloud backups for my files and it’s saved me on more than one occasion.

In order to back up the NAS, I simply needed to add the mounted volume to the checked directories for cloud backups.

Make sure the volume mounts at a consistent path. Mine occasionally changes from Volumes->home to Volumes->home-1 etc. If the mount location moves, your backup won’t be able to find it and your sync will fail.

 

Step 5 – Lightroom

With everything backed up, I tried to open my Lightroom Catalog which I’d moved over to the NAS with my images. That’s just a big pile of nope. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. I spent hours googling for work arounds and it just seems like it can’t be done.

Time for a backup plan:

Since I was changing how everything was stored (I kept certain folders on my laptop), I decided to make a new Lightroom catalog on my Mac using images from both the NAS and my local machine. I then simply followed the usual Import steps to import (without copying or moving) the images from the NAS. I also made sure that Smart Previews were enabled so that I can quickly work on my images. I would say it’s as simple as that but I found that Lightroom crashed multiple times during the import. I only have ~25k files so if you have a large number of images, you’ll need to keep an eye on it and keep re-synchronize the folders until you have everything imported. It’s rather tedious, but it will work in the end.

 

Step 6 – Final Tests

At this point, everything should be working ok! I ran a few extra tests just to make sure everything was working ok:

  • Import new images from your camera in Lightroom directly to the correct place on the NAS
  • Ensure that the raid-1 mirroring works if you set up your NAS that way.
  • Ensure that your cloud backup system correctly detects the new files on the NAS and backs them up.
  • Try disabling or turning off your NAS to ensure that things don’t break. If you have smart previews you should be able to still browse your catalog. Upon re-enabling your NAS everything should still be working and ideally your cloud backups should resume without needing to re-upload anything.

 

If you have any questions about my setup or want to know any more detailed information, do feel free to get in touch.

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