When H&H architected hhschools, we knew that the growing photography business needed the software to be networkable so that multiple employees could access and work on jobs quickly and efficiently. Because hhschools can work across a network, we thought it would be helpful to provide some information on the kinds of equipment that will make this work well.
Because each studio environment is different, each studio has network activity over vastly different hardware and has unique software it is running. Therefore, H&H can only provide this information as general guidelines. H&H cannot provide hardware and network support, but we can share the experience we’ve gained by talking with other studios. It is the responsibility of the studio to obtain its own qualified network support, research the hardware options, make its own buying decisions and test the systems to simulate a busy time before the fall and spring seasons arrive.
We wrote hhschools to store high res images, low res proxy images and project data on a central hard drive and have the installs of hhschools point to this network location. This central data store can be a server type computer or a Network Attached Storage device (NAS).
It is important to use a good business quality network switch between your computers and the NAS devices rather than using personal/home use routers. Network switches that are built into typical home networks, use routers that one might purchase at Best Buy (i.e. DSL routers, Cable Modem Routers, WiFi Routers, etc.) and do not perform well when having to route a large amount of traffic between multiple devices simultaneously. Home use routers are typically built to support speeds at the level of your internet bandwidth, whereas your computers will be communicating with your NAS at much greater speeds from multiple computers simultaneously. Instead, purchase a dedicated business or enterprise class network switch. Then be sure that the computers and the NAS device are all plugged into this switch. A connection can be made between this switch and your router so that internet access can still be available across your network. The core issue here is that your network switching device needs to be of sufficient specification that it can handle concurrent and sustained high speeds of communication between your computers and the NAS device and not be overloaded. When a network switch is overloaded, seemingly random connection issues will start to occur.
Recommended Network Switch
A switch similar to the Netgear ProSAFE or ProSAFE Plus series (note that you would be looking at the Gigabit speed versions)
Studio with 2-3 workstations - Buffalo TerraStationES
Studio with 4-8 workstations – Qnap Turbo NAS (something from their "SMB" line of devices with at least 5 drive bays – For example, the TS-531X or TS-563)
The key to the NAS device is its ability to handle multiple workstations accessing projects stored on the NAS at the same time.
If you have more than 2 workstations, we highly recommend not using PC or Mac workstations as a file server. To meet the I/O demands of our hhschools application in a multi-workstation environment, a 'server' class device is needed (whether this be a stand-alone NAS device or a higher-end PC running the Windows Server operating system). Unlike the server demands of a typical small office where shared documents and files are being loaded or saved on an occasional basis, our hhschools application is constantly communicating with the network server to retrieve thumbnail images and keep project data on the disk updated. It can also put a high load on the server as large numbers of lowres and hires images are being transferred during various operations, such as when importing images.