Gear Review: 45 Drives’ Storinator Server
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
One thing people may not consider with video production is storage. High quality video files, when shot in 4K and uncompressed, RAW formats, become harddrive hogs. The average 1 minute clip can take up anywhere from 300MB - 450MB in 4k, and around 7GB - 17 GB in RAW. That’s equivalent to about 4,250 of your average Powerpoint presentations. And yes, there are even larger RAW video formats that far exceed these mentioned.
“Video is big” is the point I’m getting at. After a few years in business, we found this to be the crux of our issues as a production company. Multiple projects across multiple drives, with backups of every project on even more drives. It became a problem of organization, and would result in one person pausing work on a project because someone else needed the drive. This workflow clearly wasn’t working, which led us to look at servers.
We needed a server that is fast and stable, with huge amounts of space. Oh, and very affordable. So basically the holy grail. After some looking around, a friend recommended the company 45 Drives, and that’s where we found the Storinator. It’s a silly name, but also I love it.
We had a few calls with their team, expressing what we need as a video production company. We have several editors at once who will need to be working on these large projects, so our server would need to support that workflow.
That includes a dedicated processor and RAM, as well as two redundant high efficiency power supplies. While on the topic of redundancies, the server we ordered came with 160TB of storage (10 drives at 16TB each) which can be expanded up to 720GB. Some of that storage is raided, meaning that if a drive fails the data on that drive is automatically backed up.
This was back in September, so as of writing this we’ve been on the Storinator for roughly 8 months. The server has a 10 GB Network Interface that connects to a 10 GB switch, which connects to 14 hubs around our office. We used CAT6A, which was recommended and can handle these speeds over a good distance. There’s also a 1 GB port that we have connected to our internet’s switch, allowing for remote access of files by way of NextCloud. We don’t use this service much, but it can be useful while on shoots and during events or for sending files (similar to Dropbox, only the server is the host).
The operating system is FreeNAS, and enables us to set up multiple users with various permissions, from ‘management’ to ‘editors’. Each employee is given their own username and password, which they can use to sign onto the server.
The server appears as a giant harddrive on both Windows and Mac, so there’s no installs or new interfaces to learn. For PCs, you have to do a one-time mapping of the network drive, which 45 Drives walked us through. Connecting is simpler for Macs, which basically are plug-and-play. Once connected, editors get instant access to our client’s various projects. We can also work on certain projects simultaneously across multiple computers.
The typical USB harddrive clocks in around 100MB transfer speeds, bottlenecking larger projects and transfers, resulting in slow load times and crashes. The server, on the other hand clocks in around 1,200 MB per computer, making it 10 times faster than other drives. You’re getting the speed of a SSD with the size of a large HDD. Granted, to run the server at full speeds, you need to invest in 10GB Network Adapters for your workstations. Seeing as how we build our own PCs, this wasn’t much of an issue, though it did require getting a couple of new motherboards with extra PCI slots. You can use the built in Network Adapters in your computers / laptops, but you won’t see those higher speeds. Our Mac laptops with network dongles get around 500MBs, which is still incredibly fast.
The mix of faster load times, more stable projects and faster transfer times means that we can spend less time on waiting and more time crafting quality videos for our clients. For video production, it’s almost essential to move towards a server if you’re looking to grow as a business. The Storinator allows for the potential to scale, making it a great option when it comes to media servers.