I’m curious if any of you have experience moving your Photo Library onto a network-attached storage device?
To offer some background, I have a 1.4TB photo library, and I’ve had it on an external RAID drive for several years. But that hardware is dying, and its software is lousy and often non-functional. So I bought a 4-bay Synology NAS, and I have successfully moved all my Time Machine backups to it, which is explicitly supported by both Apple and Synology.
I also wanted to move my Photo Library to it, but officially Apple doesn’t recommend it due to risk of data loss:
This guy goes into a lot of detail about where it is and is not safe to store a Photo Library, and he also says no to NAS:
But nowhere do I see an explanation about WHY it’s not safe. Only “Storing your library on a network share can lead to poor performance, data corruption, or data loss.”
Where I see valid concerns are:
- in a synced folder, such as Dropbox or iCloud Drive, where syncing it to another location could confuse and corrupt the library
- on a file system that is not HFS+, since I believe that the integrity of the library has been written in such a way that it depends on the journaling and other features of this specific file system it resides on
- in a shared folder, where there’s a risk that two users may try to access (and therefore modify) the same library at the same time, which it’s not designed to do.
But none of that rules out NAS strictly. I will never put it in a synced folder or share it with anyone, and I can make sure it’s HFS+.
Another concern is that network storage will be slow. Well, that’s my problem to deal with.
And yet another concern is that disconnection of the network drive could lead to corruption. But I don’t buy that argument. For a reason that I don’t understand, my external Lacie RAID drives have been randomly going offline on a regular basis for YEARS. Then Photos says “Photos needs to Quit because the library has become unavailable.” Then I restart the drive, restart Photos, and everything is always fine. No corruption, no rebuilding. MUCH better than the old iPhoto days.
Nonetheless, this guy found a way to do it that adds a layer of safety that seems hard to dispute. He creates a sparse image on the NAS, mounts it locally on the Mac, and puts the library in there:
There is a least one commenter in there who is adamant that it’s a bad idea. But he seems to be nothing but a zealot with an Apple recommendation and no real knowledge. And some of the advantages of this approach are that you can force the file system on the sparse image to be whatever you want, independent of the file system the image lives on; and secondly, the image can only be opened and mounted in once place at a time, ensuring that it won’t be opened by two users at once.
I tried his idea, and have had it up for a couple weeks. It’s lost connection a couple times, but recovery is fine, just like with an external drive. Everything seems to be fine.
But I’m not sure if I’m living dangerously or doing just fine, thank you. I’d love to know if you guys have field experience doing this and what you think?