As you walk on a path of a travel filmmaker, you will accumulate more and more footages over time and one day you will need to find a way to archive all those content in a way that you can access it even when you are on the road. I have struggled with this myself after 6 years of traveling, I started off with a 2TB external hard drive, and then another one, and then another one. It is a vicious cycle, that can spiral out of control fast, and in no time, you will be carrying 6 hard drives in your backpack with no proper way of backing them up.
2018 was the year I decided to tackle this problem myself and after hours and hours of research, I have come up with a solution that works perfectly for me and I hope it will work for you too. Let's first explore the purpose of why you will need this solution and how you can implement it.
The Purpose of a Storage Solution
As a travel filmmaker, you are always out and about capturing moments, creating content and sharing it to the world and if you are out and about, you will need your gear to be mobile but that comes with a drawback of exposing your precious content to all the terrible things in this world. I have had my bag stolen while traveling once, and I lost 2 years of content that I could have earned some money from. That was an expensive lesson that I don't plan to experience again, hence why I need a storage solution.
The purpose of my storage solution is to have one archive located in a safe place that is connected to the Internet so that I can access my data anytime, all the while, having a local external hard drive on hand so that I can work while on the road. After weeks of research, I have found a few potential solutions but none of them works well with my workflow.
People have been recommending me to use a cloud storage every time I rant about my storage problem online but in reality, cloud storage is only good for photos but not raw videos. My 4K video files are just too big for the cloud storage to be a reliable storage solution and with all the crappy internet I have had the pleasure of experiencing while traveling, cloud storage doesn't seem appealing to me.
I realized that if I were going to have an archive, I would need to be able to access it locally so that I can reliably transfer files to and from the archive.
External Hard Drives
As mentioned above, this solution can get out of hand fast as time goes. Carrying one external hard drive is ok, but more than one, it becomes a reliability to have it all in your backpack all the time.
Direct-Attached Storage (DAS)
Or DAS, a fancy word for having a local computer storage as an archive and is connected to a computer at home. DAS is a cheap and effective solution that would allow me to store and archive tons of footages safely at home with an abundance of storage space at an affordable price.
Unfortunately, I won't be able to access my DAS while I am on the road, and that is a no-go for me. I need something that, in case someone wants to license one of my videos, I can provide them promptly and from anywhere in the world.
Network-Attached Storage (NAS)
This is exactly what I was looking for. It is basically a DAS that is connected to the internet which will allow me to access them from anywhere in the world, somewhat like my own cloud storage. But unlike cloud storage, I have the options to access it locally and remotely depending on my needs.
After the discovery of NAS, which is the foundation of my storage solution, I have finally figure out the perfect storage solution.
The Perfect Data Storage Solution
NAS + External Hard Drives
With a combination of NAS as our archive and an external hard drive as our work storage, we now have the best of both worlds. We can work reliably with our files on the go with no latency on our external hard drives and when we are back home, we can connect our external hard drive to our NAS and dump all the files in our archive, and with an empty external hard drive, we can go out, travel and repeat the process.
My Storage Setups
Here is my storage setup I have now:
- Synology DS418 NAS (with 4 bays for hard drives)
- 4 x 4TB Ironwolf hard drives from Seagate
- 2TB Portable Samsung T3 SSD Hard drive
- 128GB SanDisk U3 card in my camera
For NAS, there are several options for you to choose from. You can either build your own from scratch or you can buy an all-in-one NAS solution from either Synology or QNAP. I chose the latter because I do not have enough knowledge to build my own NAS and Synology has a fast setup process, easy-to-use user interface and comes packed with features that help elevate all the complexity that comes with managing my own cloud storage.
The NAS itself doesn't come equipped with a hard drive so you will have to buy your own. Since I want this solution to be as future-proof as possible without selling my kidneys, I went with the Synology DS418, which comes equipped with 4 hard drive bays. I then buy 4 4TB NAS hard drives (Ironwolf) from Seagate and stick them into my NAS. With 4 4TB hard drives, I would get 16 TB of storage I can use for many years to come.
To make this solution even safer, I decided to set up a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) system that let the computer see all 3 hard drives as one and have one hard drive for redundancy. What this means is that, among the 4 hard drives I have, 3 will be used as an archive (12TB) and one will be used as a redundant drive, which will safeguard my data when one of the 3 drives break down. That way, I am reassured that all my data are really secured.
The 2TB Samsung T3 SSD portable hard drive is what I will carry in my backpack and where I will store all my active projects that I can work from while on the road. 2TB can easily last me a year while traveling and storing all my active projects, which is more than enough for a long trip. SSD is essential as it will allow me to work with 4K footages easily and without hiccups, unlike the regular external hard drive.
For the SD Card, I got a 128GB SanDisk U3 card for my Sony a6500 camera which I will then use it to store all the photos and videos I took from the trip.
This is an easy, efficient, effective and not too costly solution, which is just perfect for my workflow.
How I Store My Data
Here is how I work with my storage solution:
- First I will leave my NAS connected directly to my always-on internet router at home. I will carry the SSD hard drive in my backpack and the SD card inserted in my camera.
- I will then go traveling for at least 3 months somewhere shooting videos, taking photos and storing them in my SD Card.
- Every night, I will connect my SSD hard drive to my laptop, and transfer all the data from my SD Card to the SSD hard drive.
- If I want to edit some photos or create a video, I will connect the SSD hard drive to my laptop and work from there.
- If someone wants to license one of my photo or video, I will then connect to my NAS via the Internet, download the file to my laptop and send them to my client.
- When I arrive back home at the end of my trip, I will organize my SSD hard drive into active and inactive projects. I will then connect my SSD hard drive directly to my NAS and transfer all the inactive projects to the archive, freeing up space on my SSD hard drive for my next trip.
As you can see here, my storage solution does not just store my data safely while giving me access to my data from all over the world, it also doesn't slow down or hinder my current workflow which is exactly why I set out to find the perfect solution in the first place.
The Total Cost of the Perfect Solution
Now that we have come up with a solution, let's talk about the cost of implementing this solution.
- Synology DS418 NAS: 369.99 USD
- 4TB Ironwolf hard drives from Seagate: 119.34 USD x 4 = 477.36 USD
- 2TB Portable Samsung T3 SSD Hard drive: 767.00 USD
- 128GB SanDisk U3 card in my camera: 59.37 USD
Total Cost: 1,673.72 USD
As you can see, this is not the cheapest data storage solution, but if you look at this as a future-proof investment for a storage solution that allows you to work from anywhere, I think it is worth considering. This solution, though not perfect, gives us, travel filmmakers, enough flexibility and versatility to do our job efficiently while keeping our data safe and secure which is ultimately what we seek for in a storage solution.
What do you think of the solution? Do you have any recommendation to the setup? If so, please do let me know in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Resources is a series of posts by Bucketlistly where we will explore the ways of life of nomads including how we work, travel, and what we carry in our backpack.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.