How to Choose the Perfect Equipment for Your 360° & 3D Studio: Computer Networking
This is part two in a three part series examining how to choose equipment to fit your photography studio.
If you walk into most commercial photography studios, you will see powerful workstations alongside pro-grade cameras and lighting systems. Look a little deeper and you will also find a mess of external hard drives, USB flash drives, and if there is one, a cobbled together computer network. The computer infrastructure of many studios grows organically as the business does, and while photographers are great at creating beautiful imagery, designing a computer network is not usually a top priority.
That said, a well thought out network with a single point for storing and managing the image files and data can help prioritize the creative process. Looking for drives, plugging in this and unplugging that, and clearing space can get in the way of the creating great imagery. We aren’t talking about a highly complicated computer network, but a streamlined system that will simply the overall studio workflow. If nothing else, consolidating your files facilitates an automated backup process, giving you piece of mind.
The main component of any network is the server, which will manage the file sharing. Because file management is the main operation and not number crunching, a mid-level server such as a Dell R320 will do the job. An identical mirrored server is recommended as a failover in case of a hardware failure.
Storage is the next component to consider. This decision is really driven by the size of your business and the volume of products that you shoot through the studio every year. OWC makes a solid rack-mounted four drive RAID that ranges from 2 to 16GB. Again, a duplicate for backup is recommended. While duplicating all the data onsite is essential, having an offsite solution is an important safeguard. Crashplan Pro is a great service that allows you to copy all your data to their system through the Internet.
Getting images from the capture workstations to the server is the next step. A Gigiabit network switch and CAT5e cables will give you the speed necessary to keep the images moving with no bottlenecks. With the correct setup, a dozen photographers can be shooting directly to the server with no loss of speed. If you have long runs between studios in the same building, then a fiber cable can be used to connect multiple switches. This will expand the size of your network with no loss of speed.
Establishing a central point of contact where producers, technicians and photographers can access database information and images, allows a studio to better manage their workflow, secure their files and concentrate on what is important ensure each project is successful.