BLOG

What is Shared Storage and What are the Benefits?

February 13, 2020

If you work on a video editing or post-production team, you’ve had to deal with file sharing. As you know it can be a huge time and productivity suck, especially as file sizes and quantities grow at a staggering pace (8K anyone?), but we’re here to tell you that shared storage can improve that. Now, you might be a little worried about your coworkers being all up in your files. But we promise, shared storage is better for everyone.

 

What is shared storage?

 

Simply put, shared storage is a storage system used by multiple users/computers. It stores all of the files in a centralized pool of storage and allows multiple users to access them at once. 

 

There are a few types of shared storage systems:

  • NAS (Network Attached Storage), like the Jellyfish, which is a server with storage space built into it
  • SAN (Storage Area Network), which is a network for moving data to large disk arrays. It requires a separate Network controller, and metadata controller servers, in addition to the disk array.
  • RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), which is essentially just a collection of hard drives. Most SAN and NAS devices use some type of RAID at the storage level of the systems for actually storing the data across several disks.

You may also hear the term RAID used to describe a desktop device that contains multiple hard drives and connects to a single computer over USB or Thunderbolt like the ones made by G-Tech, LaCie, or OWC. While there are ways to share these devices on a network, they are actually a type of direct attached storage designed for a single user/computer to access.

Your specific post-production needs will determine which of these shared storage solutions is the best fit for your team, but if you have multiple users who need to access the same footage and files, shared storage is definitely the best option. 

If you have a very large team (several hundred VFX artists or editors) dealing with huge datasets, a SAN might be the way to go, but they tend to be more expensive and complicated to maintain. If you have a very small team with small file sizes, a desktop RAID on a network might work for you, but you’ll likely have to push and pull files rather than stream then into your NLE. A well designed NAS designed to handle video  gives you a lot more flexibility both in terms of team size and usage options.

 

Benefits of shared storage 

 

There are a lot of ways to share files - thumb drives, over a network, cloud storage, sneakernet (walking physical drives around the office, but who wants to walk places?) - but a shared storage system will save a lot of time and headaches compared to these other options. 

 

How will it save you time and headaches (and money)? Glad you asked!

  • You’ll eliminate the need for multiple hard drives with multiple copies of the same files. This means you’re saving time finding, copying, and relinking files, and saving money on drives and productivity. While you’ll be purchasing less storage space, you’ll actually have a net increase of storage capacity by reducing redundancies.
  • File management becomes so much easier because you’ll only have one centralized copy. No more digging through indexes on multiple drives hunting for the footage you need, or taking the time to index all those drives in the first place. Everything is stored in a centralized system, keeping it simple to organize and easy to find what you need.
  • Shared storage enables high performance for large files with multiple users on the system - you can access and stream many HD or 4K files at once. No more bottlenecks and slowdowns like you might get over a local network connection, which typically uses 1Gb ethernet. These networks can push about 90-100MB/second of data, but when you’re dealing with huge video files, it can take a long time to move those files around, and the network isn’t fast enough to carry the video stream if there’s other traffic on the network. With a shared storage system like the Jellyfish, using a 10Gb direct connection means you won’t get any slowdown or interruptions from other users streaming these large video files at the same time. 
  • Collaborative workflows will work much more smoothly. You won’t be limited by file sizes, long wait times for file copying, passing drives back and forth, or any of the other physical and technical limitations of other storage solutions. 

 

How does the editing software you use work with shared storage?

 

Editing programs, along with digital audio workstations and VFX platforms, all have systems in place to make shared workflows much easier with a shared storage system. Instead of passing drives, multiple users can work on the same project file in sequence or in parallel, depending on the software you’re using. Here’s a brief overview of how the major NLEs work with shared storage:

 

Final Cut Pro X 

  • While FCPX does not have native collaboration designed into the software yet, a commonly shared storage workflow is using a “transfer library,” where multiple editors work in their own copy of a library, then copy completed projects or events into the transfer library to get compiled into the Master library.
  • There’s also a new third party tool called Postlab that enables a more traditional shared storage workflow and remote collaboration. It’s pretty awesome.

Adobe Premiere

  • Shared Projects allows for both local and remote shared workflow but is somewhat limited in scope and works best for smaller projects.
  • The upcoming-release of Production Panel requires shared storage and functions like a more elegant version of Avid’s bin locking solution, allowing multiple editors to view timelines in parallel. This is particularly well suited to high-end productions like feature films and narrative television series. 

Davinci Resolve

  • Has a timeline and bin locking solution similar to Avid, which will allow multiple users to view timelines simultaneously. It also has features for conflict resolution and merging timelines for changes from multiple users, though it does have a few unique networking setup requirements for shared workflows that make it a bit more technically complicated.

Avid

  • Purpose-built for high-end feature and narrative workflows, with “bin locking” systems designed around the traditional lead editor with several assistant editor workflows. This helps keep the footage and projects more organized for a team of editors.

 

Why Share?

 

Moving your post-production team to a shared storage system will improve productivity and collaboration, allowing your team to work faster together. Sharing is caring - caring about saving time, money, and your sanity so you don’t have to listen to Greg regale you with another D&D story while he’s waiting for files to copy from your drive to his. Sharing makes life better, so start sharing today.

 

Want to see just how much time and money a Jellyfish shared storage system can save your team? Check out our ROI calculator.