A cloud NAS for your VFX assets
How to set up a cloud NAS for all your studios assets that acts like a local server using Backblaze B2
A simple, secure and fast file distribution is the basis of every remote VFX project. Being onsite, it’s pretty easy to set up a NAS on a local network. You get a single source of truth for your files.
In a remote environment, things are a bit more tricky. Shared file storage providers like Dropbox are doing fine, but their design by syncing a single folder can be limiting, when your projects are reaching sizes in terabytes. People start downloading the full project on their drives and are running out of disk space.
Due to these limitations, people zip their project files and upload them via the web interface. This constant zipping, unzipping and file copying creates a very inefficient and error-prone process.
A cloud hard drive for your studio
A better solution is a mounted drive. That’s exactly how you are doing it onsite with the difference that you are not loading your files on a NAS but on a “cloud NAS”. We will use Anchorpoint to plug this drive into our system.
A single cloud hard drive syncs files immediately. It really feels like working onsite. Artists don’t need to download whole projects on their local computers. They work directly on the drive.
It’s flexible. There is also no cap or storage limit in the cloud.
In the past, you may work with VPN and encountered the issue that it slows you down. That’s not the issue with a cloud drive. A remote cloud drive, which is mounted using Anchorpoint, operates with a file cache. Let’s say you copy files from your Desktop to the cloud drive. Under the hood, files are copied into a cache and then uploaded. Or when you open a file, e.g. in Blender, all linked textures are downloaded and stored in the cache. So when you open the same file the next time, the textures don’t need to be downloaded again. That gives you almost the same speed as working on your local disk.
Cloud storage providers
You may be heard of Amazon AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. While they have the necessary services for cloud storage, they are rather playgrounds for developers due to their huge complexity. In our case, we will use Backblaze, because it’s the cheapest and simplest of all. It’s accessible for nontechnical users.
In Europe, it’s a common thing not to store the data outside the European Union due to agreements with the client. Cloud storage providers allow you to choose a data-center where your files are stored. This option is often called “regions”.
Setting up your cloud hard drive
It only requires 5 steps to set up your cloud drive and should be done in 10 minutes.
- Create a Backblaze account
- Set up a Backblaze bucket (that’s how they call cloud drives)
- Download and install Anchorpoint
- Enter the Backblaze login data to Anchorpoint
- Mount your drive to any letter
Create a Backblaze account
Head over to Backblaze and pick their B2 Cloud Storage solution. Go through the signup process and skip the Quick Start. Don’t forget to verify your email. That's a requirement to unlock your account.
Set up a Backblaze bucket
With just a few steps, we can set up a “bucket” (think of a cloud hard drive) where our files will be stored.
Create a Bucket
Setup App Keys
App Keys are your credentials which Anchorpoint will need to access your bucket. On the left under Account, click on App Keys.
Download and install Anchorpoint
Download the application.
Enter the Backblaze login data to Anchorpoint
After you created an Anchorpoint account and launched the application, you should be in free browsing mode and your desktop should be shown.
Choose B2 (Backblaze) as your server and enter the Key Id, Application Key and Bucket Name (not the key name) which you created in your Backblaze configuration.
5. Mount your drive to any letter
Leave the workspace settings and move your mouse to the place where the drives are located.
Work with it
Feel free to copy & paste a huge amount of files on your drive. You will see that the copy process is almost as fast as if you would copy files internally. That’s because all your files are copied to a cache location first and then uploaded in the background.
A bit about technology
The mounting system uses an application called Rclone. Rclone is a command line application that allows you to manage files on over 40 cloud storage providers. During our tests, we found out that it works best on S3 compatible storage solutions like Amazon AWS and Backblaze B2. Rclone is open source and actively maintained with over 500 contributing developers. Of course, you can use Rclone without Anchorpoint, if you don’t need a user interface.
Mounting a cloud drive that connects to your on-premise system
You can use Anchorpoint together with Rclone to set up an onsite/ remote studio environment, where all your data is stored on a local server in your studio. You can mount a drive with caching that connects to local studio server, which is faster than VPN. Remote artists can work on that drive and don’t need to copy files to the local computer.
To make this possible, you have to install an S3 compatible server software like min.io on your NAS or linux machine. We will post another article on that topic in the future.