If you didn’t know, I spent most of my life pursuing an Information Technology (IT) career. It was good. Sure I learned a great many things about technology. But in the big picture of things, it was much more than learning technology.

There were times when I’ve thought “Man, what if I was in photography in my 20’s? Teens? Instead of doing IT? Where would I be now? I think others have thought that about me “Man, he’s been in photography for 10 years. Why hasn’t he had more success?”

It’s a long and complicated answer. But the shortest one is: It happened when it was supposed to happen. And that brings me peace. No regrets. You can learn from anything and everything if you choose. And I did. Lots.

A friend and colleague of mine recently said to me about “Tech and the Photographer” pieces “It’s great that you are able to meld your two talents together”. Most people think photography is about going out and taking pictures all day. That part of running a photography business is such a tiny piece of it. Really, you’re spending most of your time in front of your computer. You can’t run a photography, or really, any business, these days without one.

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And like any tool, the more you know how to use it, the more effective and productive you can be with it. I mentioned that in one of my Tech and the Photographer articles. When I was doing IT, I could do any of my work with the cheapest computer I had on hand. Give me a 24”+ screen and the cheapest Mac mini and I was good. Because I am an expert. That’s $1000 vs $3000+ a beginner would have to spend to potentially equal my productivity level.

Now when I get a chance to be a techie, I have so much fun with it. Especially if I save money!

Image: Ricardo Gomez Photography

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I bought my QNAP TS-873 NAS a few weeks ago and it has been such a great device! On a very simple level, the amount of data-storage space I can get with this is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s something I’ll be able to keep for the next 5 – 7 years. I would love to say ‘7’ year. But the more successful my business is, the less likely it will make it that long. It would be a capacity issue because of the amount of work. And that would be a great reason to upgrade!

However, modern NAS systems are so much more than storage devices as they were when I first started tinkering with them 10 years ago. The simpler, extra functions you can set them up as are: wireless internet access points, virtual computers and network switches. The last function has been turning out to be much more than I thought when I read through the documentation before purchasing my NAS.

When you access your NAS from a web browser and access your virtual computer, it's basically impossible to tell, other than being on a browser, that you're not accessing a 'real' computer. Image: NASCompares

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My NAS comes with several network ports. Four 1Gbe ports plus the 10Gbe port I added via an upgrade card. So a total of 5. Which is actually quite a lot. How can you take advantage of all those network ports?

Most beginners would say “Well, you can join them via the settings on the NAS and they effectively would act like 1, 4Gbe connection. It would push more data onto the network. But there is another option: virtual networking.

Currently I connect my laptop directly to the NAS. Simple. What I also did is connect a USB WiFi adapter to my NAS so it has Internet connectivity. So I’ve done two things with just the NAS. There’s more. Much more.

With all those ports and the virtual software I can download from the vendor, I can use the NAS as a network switch. So this is what I’m going to do:

• Create a virtual switch. With the virtual software, I can have all the network ports on the NAS talk to each other. So anything I connect to the NAS, will be accessible by everything else.

• Connect my printer. I love my printer. It’s so fast and has lots of connection options. WiFi is the easiest. But the performance can be spotty. With lots of traffic, you can be waiting a while for the printing to start. USB is much faster but requires another cable. If I connect my printer to my NAS, I connect it to my NAS wich would only require a short network cable. No extra-long cables from my computer and maximum performance.

• Internet via my network connection. I can setup my NAS connection to give me Internet access via the USB adapter attached to the NAS. Why would I do this? Not just use the WiFi connection on my laptop?

     o VPN. Currently I VPN software on my laptop. Occasionally, it’s glitchy and it’s more software that needs to be updated. I can have the NAS run the VPN software itself.

     o Security. It’s one less Internet connection that can try tapping into my systems.

     o More Security. I’ll be installing a virtual firewall. This helps in preventing intruders.

• Direct Internet on the NAS. Eventually, I’ll be getting a direct Internet connection instead of using the apartments Internet connection. My living situation tends to have poor upload speeds. But I will eventually get a place with a faster connection and instead of taking days and weeks for big backups to finish, it would take minutes or an hour or two. At most.

• Access Point. When the Internet is directly to my NAS, I can use the USB adapter used for Internet access as a private WiFi network. With all the pluses I’ve described here.

And I still have ports left over. I can create sub-networks, separate networks, connect more devices and more. Did I mention cost savings?

Cost Savings

I could do everything via a separate, external router. I had one in mind that did everything I wanted. For $329.

The QNAP Qhora 301-W Router and Wireless Access Point. Image: QNAP

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But with the free virtual software and the cost of a USB WiFi antenna, I’ll be saving about $269!

I haven’t implemented everything yet. Remember that low upload speed? But as soon as a backup is done, it should take all of a couple of hours to implement and test.

While this will be a major function upgrade for the NAS, it’s only a part of it. I’ll be installing a software-based computer in the NAS. A fully functional Windows computer. It will come in handy when I’m remote or I need more processing power. I won’t need to purchase a physical computer. There are some other things, but I haven’t thought through enough on them yet.

When you take into account all the cost savings of my NAS, it will have cost me $100. That’s $100 for an 8-bay NAS. That’s $100 over the cost of 5 – 7 years. That’s $20 - $14/year of ownership. That’s not even the cost of 1 external drive. Not even 1/3rd the cost on an external drive. And with two eternal hard drive upgrades, I still won't have even half of what the NAS is capable of. Did I mention how I hate data transfer when upgrading hard drives? You know how many hours and days that can take speaking nothing of the possible problems that can happen during the process?

So, do you think I regret having spent all that time in I.T.?

Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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