“What sets you apart from your competition?”
That’s something we hear often when we’re talking with people who are just learning about SNS.
We take this question introspectively to be as much about who we are as a company as it is about the differentiation and comparison of our shared storage products to others. So in this post we’re going to talk about our company’s unique background and highlight some reasons users give for choosing SNS and our products over other options.
Why do we do what we do?
I think the best place to start would be to talk briefly about why we do what we do, because this underlies every decision we make about how we guide our company and how we develop our products.
So… why do we do what we do?
The answer to that question is really simple: We love creating software and hardware products for this industry, because it’s our industry — it’s what we know, and we can relate to our customers because we come from the business. SNS was born out of a recording studio more than ten years ago, and we’re very proud to say that we’ve grown since then to be a trusted brand in over sixty countries (and counting!). We’re always working to improve our products and the services we provide.
We do this because it’s in our DNA. But we don’t “just do it,” we have enthusiasm for it. Like every one of our customers, we’re very creative people. Where we differ is that we now get to spend our time expressing our creativity by building software and hardware products for the industry we love.
Grew out of a studio
We spun off from a professional multi-room studio in St. Louis, MO. We had very high-end requirements for our storage system, and we made the (painfully expensive) discovery that nothing could really do what we wanted back then. There just weren’t any storage companies that could address (or really even understand) our workflow needs. We knew we had the background and capability to do media storage better than what was available at the time… so we got to work.
Fast forward: We brought our first product to our tiny NAB booth and showed it to many skeptics. One of our visitors that first year was an engineer from Technicolor, who commented that they built a torture test for storage and nothing passed it. If we could pass that torture test they’d buy our system. Within a month after NAB we hosted several of Technicolor’s engineering staff. They sat in our studio, rolled up to a workstation, loaded up their torture test, and things couldn’t have gone more perfectly. Serial numbers one and two of our first product went to Technicolor.
Most people in SNS have backgrounds somewhere in professional video, photography, or audio. Others have technical backgrounds in programming, systems design, and system administration. We “get it” when it comes to workflow. And we know what you mean when you talk about the quirky little things that can come along with using professional media apps.
Real lab, running real NLEs, doing real world workloads
Our testing and QA labs are centered around Adobe, Apple, Avid, AutoDesk, Sony, Resolve, NewTek, and Ross Video production environments. We have a team of people in our lab, and it’s a big, expensive playground for people like us. We’re surrounded by the latest workstations, networking gear, and racks full of servers and various storage hardware. We run a lot of the same software and NLEs you’re using (Premiere, Media Composer, FCPX, Resolve, etc.), and we use our well-stocked integration lab to do real-world stress testing and compatibility testing for everything we create.
Workflow defined, not a generic storage box
Everything we build — from our custom EVO OS to the ShareBrowser client software that we include with every EVO system — is designed to provide the best blend of shared performance and function, even in mixed NLE and cross-platform environments.
In other words, we invest all our development resources into specialized, media-centric use cases. Period. That level of focus is 100% impossible for any company that positions its products for anything other than media workflow. If your workflow storage system wasn’t built and stress-tested specifically to handle online editing, from a number of concurrent users, you are all but guaranteed to have trouble sooner or later.
This kind of workload is just too outside the boundaries to work well on a generic storage system. Right now you’re probably thinking “of course you’d say that!” but we’ve worked with thousands of users who started down the path of buying “off the shelf” only to be met with all manner of idiosyncratic problems that inevitably led them to call us.
This is all we do, and it’s in our blood. We don’t build email servers or database servers or storage systems for Microsoft Office files. We didn’t start life as an IT server company and then decide one day on a whim that media solutions could be a nice new profitable segment. We don’t build $200 USB drives. Or surveillance storage. We make shared storage products for professional media teams, exclusively.
Easy on the IT
Many of our initial calls come from people who have a big problem with their current storage solution — it’s getting in the way of their productivity. If you’re looking to us, then you most likely fall into one of the following three camps, and the “pain” for your media operation probably looks something like this:
- You’re a new/growing team, and your storage “solution” consists of physically moving drives from one person to another or transferring projects to/from the cloud. You probably don’t have a dedicated IT staff.
- You’re an established team, with a general-purpose (i.e. not purpose-built for media) networked storage system, and it’s causing headaches on the daily. You probably have a small-medium IT staff.
- You’re an established team that has outgrown an aging system; it’s not up to today’s performance requirements, it’s tapped out, and probably just becoming a chaotic mess. Or maybe, as happens frequently, the person or company who built your system is not even around anymore. You probably have a medium-large IT team.
Here’s how we can help you in either case:
- You have an IT staff. If you have an IT staff then they may be involved in the early stages of the workflow storage selection process. In these cases we can help impartially bridge the gap that can exist between your needs for the creative team and the requirements set forth by your IT team. If your creative team is at odds with the IT team, you’re not alone. The needs of IT and the needs of creative are often at odds, and this can be a big source of conflict within an organization. We’ve been around this block many times and we have some keen insight — we speak both languages and can help both teams’ transitions to a new system go more smoothly.
- You don’t have an IT staff. Media storage systems fall into a tricky spot on the technical spectrum. On one hand, these systems need to be balanced for extraordinarily high throughput from multiple, concurrent, network-based users, and the systems need to be highly reliable. On the other hand, they also need to be easy to set up and may be deployed in places that, frequently, don’t have a dedicated IT staff to administer the system. Achieving all of these objectives in one system does not happen by accident.
We design our systems to be easy on the IT. What this means in practice is that we try to “design out” as much complexity as possible. We build our products with the expectation that minimal assistance from an IT person/staff will be available to the creative team. (Initial installation will usually be the most tech-heavy part of the deployment, and our installation services (available on-site or remotely guided) can make this a much quicker and easier process.)
Affordable, and no “per seat” software licenses
We have several EVO models available, including 16, 8, and 4 bay systems. You can configure your EVO to best suit your needs, number of users, and budget. We have no “per seat” software licensing costs, so as your team size increases you won’t have to buy additional licenses of software for the shared storage system. We don’t think in terms of “terabytes per dollar,” and we’re not out to nickel-and-dime everyone with a bunch of add-ons — rather, we’re aiming to give your team the highest value per solution.
Included media management software (ShareBrowser)
Every new EVO system includes ShareBrowser, an easy-to-use media management application for macOS and Windows. ShareBrowser enables your team to organize media and search across all EVO storage in addition to local, offline, and other network disks.
We designed ShareBrowser to fill a massive gap that became apparent to us. We realized most customers had no way to organize all their media. Things like tagging files, cataloguing and searching, and team-based collaboration software were almost universal wants, but most customers didn’t have anything that could do this. On the other end of that spectrum were companies who bought large, expensive MAM software, and, frequently, ended up not using it for any number of reasons. Now, we’re not knocking conventional MAM and DAM apps — they definitely have their place and bring huge value when properly configured and installed into the proper environments. What we ARE saying is that we built ShareBrowser — and include it with every new EVO — to fill the chasm that exists between having nothing and buying something way more expensive/complex than your team needs.
File automations — API and Task Builder (Slingshot)
We think it makes perfect sense for automation to be a central part of a storage server. After all, it’s where much of your project and media data will be stored, so why not make your video editing server do some workflow tasks for you?! We offer Slingshot — a set of automation features that can live directly inside your new EVO system.
With Slingshot, you’re able to create and run automated file workflows that span EVO, all sorts of other systems, and even cloud storage like Amazon S3. You can interact with Slingshot from its Task Builder web GUI or through its powerful API. Slingshot boosts productivity by enabling you to automate repetitive file management tasks, leaving you and your team with more valuable time in post.
Highly praised support team
It’s easy to overlook the importance of support. But here’s an important fact: When you buy a shared storage system for your media workflow you’re not just choosing a product… you’re also choosing a support team, and you’re going to be with them for a while. It’s not good enough for that support team to just know the storage: They’ll also need some understanding of how you’re using the system.
We’ve installed thousands of systems into places that are using the same applications and equipment you’re likely to have. And with those installations comes more experience, which gets rolled back into our products and services. It drives our cycle of continuous improvement. We know what not to do, what can go wrong, what works for other customers, and what other customers avoid. That install base helps feed our collective knowledge of issues and best practices in the industry, and in turn all of our customers stand to benefit. This valuable insight that only comes from having a large install base helps our support team be more plugged into what’s going on with new NLE versions, OS versions, workstation technologies, networking equipment, protocols, and workflow trends.
Here at SNS, we love what we do. We’re a team of highly dedicated people totally focused on making your work more enjoyable by constantly pushing to improve everything we do for our customers. Our company has grown steadily, we have a worldwide channel of knowledgeable dealers, and our products are in use 24×7 all over the world by professional organizations like yours.
We hope someday you’ll join our long list of happy customers. We’ll be here.