Network Drives (NAS) and Aperture
I’ve seen this question pop up in the forums before, and recently I had a conversation with a user who had some issues storing their master files on a Time Capsule (which technically would be a NAS drive, or “Network Attached Storage”). The attraction to using a NAS (for anything; not just Aperture) is obvious; simultaneous access to your files from any computer on the network, vs. single-computer access off a hard drive.
I’ve always, without hesitation, recommended against storing anything Aperture related on any kind of NAS. There are many reasons I don’t like this idea.
- Speed. The fastest wired ethernet connection (gigabit; 1000 mbps) or the fastest wireless connection (802.11n; 300 mbps) are both slower than Firewire 800 (800 mpbs). OK technically gigabit has higher bandwidth than FW800, however the way data is moved over the network, FW800 is invariably faster.
- Reliability. Wired and wireless networks (especially wireless) are unreliable and susceptible to prioritization of all the other network traffic. In the world of high-bandwidth video, in a large post house for example, data is moved over a dedicated fibre network, which provides the convenience of ethernet with massive speed. However this requires a dedicated controller computer, fibre cards in every computer, and a lot of money.
- Who’s got my file? On a network, someone else could see — and change or move — your file while you’re working on it. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Also if I dig back into the cobwebs of my mind, I recall that in the early days of Aperture, using a NAS was specifically NOT supported. That’s still the case—for the Aperture library itself. More on that in a moment.
It turns out though that technically, using an NAS for storing your referenced master files is supposed to work. The drive has to be a Mac OS X Extended formatted volume, but even if it’s on a network, Aperture can use it. The only real risk is that any interruption (as outlined above) while writing to the master file (i.e. you decide to use the Write IPTC Data to Master feature) can result in data corruption or data loss. You don’t need me to tell you that that’s a Bad Thing™. However, a distinctly rare possibility.
Yet, I was just helping a reader who did lose files in Aperture while moving them from one drive to a NAS drive (his Time Capsule). Bizarrely, what he experienced was that if the originating Finder window was open while he moved the photos, the photos never made it to their destination. If the Finder window was closed, it worked fine. His findings weren’t scientific and I haven’t tried to repeat them, but that’s pretty scary. The same user also encountered a situation where the Finder reported the Time Capsule as being online (and showed mounted on the desktop), yet Aperture insisted that the volume was not mounted.
Frankly, these problems point back to the reasons that I don’t think network storage is a good idea for your Aperture masters. Backup—yes. Originals—not so much. Call me paranoid, but… I am.
What about the Aperture Library itself? That is specifically not supported. Actually, Apple’s wording on the topic is:
Also, it is strongly recommended that the Aperture library be stored on a locally mounted hard drive. Storing the Aperture library on a network share can also lead to poor performance, data corruption, or data loss.
The KnowledgeBase article from whence this comes is http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3252—Aperture: Use locally mounted Mac OS X Extended volumes for your Aperture library. Notice that it’s talking about the Library here, not the referenced masters.
Where does this leave us? Again, technically, NAS should work for the referenced masters. But you won’t see me switching any time soon. I’m gonna stick with my trusty Drobo for now.
What’s your experience with NAS and Aperture? Sound off in the comments… good or bad experiences, let’s here ‘em all.