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Thread: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

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    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    As per the title, I'd very much welcome experiences and views about Network Attached Storage.

    My situation is that I am looking at storing data, almost entirely media stuff (music, photos & video), and making plans for some degree of future-proofing (ie storage capacity).
    I currently have over 2 TB which is simply on an external hard drive (actually 1 x 2TB and 1 x 500GB), however if it goes, it goes (). I therefore want back-up to be a part of this, and am thinking about RAID (probably RAID 5 if i understand it correctly).
    My current drive connects, via USB, to my Western Digital Live media player, although it seems to be equally happy to connect to a network or USB.

    I would stress however that, unlike perhaps some data-centre where things have to be guaranteed up & running, if my system were to be down for some hours at a time it is not a problem. I therefore simply want my data to be secure.

    I see myself therefore as having 3 options:

    1) Buy more external or internal hard drives of ever-increasing capacity, and just make regular back-ups. Probably the cheapest option, but only as reliable as I can remember (and can be bothered to back-up). Therefore not a great option.

    2) Buy a 'proper' NAS box, something perhaps like this Synology 4-bay for £280, and then just populate it with hard disks.
    My understanding is that i'd have to use hard drives of equal capacity, which i suppose would be 2TB each, and would need a minimum of 3 to have effective RAID 5 (or do i need 4 drives for the machine to function??).
    Downside seems to be that it's an expensive option, an initial outlay would be £280 plus 3 x £100.

    3) A 'proper' PC, running an OS.
    I have a couple of old machine that I could resurrect, or could even buy a few new parts if needed. I suppose that I would be fairly happy to then run some Linux variant simply to serve files over the network.
    Downside would be that it would possibly consume much more power than a dedicated NAS, with un-necessary components. Also expensive, depnding on what spare parts i use.

    Anyone in a similar boat? Any experiences??
    Thanks all

    Edit: I have also read this thread, which was useful. More opinions and experiences welcome though
    Last edited by MSIC; 12-04-2010 at 03:50 PM.
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    Senior[ish] Member Singh400's Avatar
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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    I would go for #3, and throw WHS as an OS on there. You can't beat it, great for future use aswell, as you never know when you'll want more than a central data dump.

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    Jay
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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    I would vote for WHS I have had NAS setups but none of them have been as good as my WHS.

    WHS





    1 x 1TB and 2 x 1.5TB WD Green Drives in Hotswap Trays





    Another 1TB USB Disk (for backups) and a 500GB USB Disk (for more backups )



    2 x 1GB Corsair XMS Pro DDR2
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    420W Tagan 2Force PSU (none modular)
    Asus M3N78-VM mATX Motherboard
    Lian-Li PC-V350B







    Rackmount 3Com Gbit Switch



    Looks really dusty under the flash!

    As my server is not in easy site of my workspace I like to have some way to monitor it so I use an Alphacool USB display on my desk, this gives me up to the second info on bandwidth in and out, disk usage, CPU load, HDD temps, CPU / motherboard temps







    And I also have user login logs sent to my blackberry to keep an eye on who is logging in when and from where.

    Remote login from within the network





    Remote login from outside the network



    I use WOL with WMC plugins to send the magic packet and wake the server, I can also wake it via my routers web interface if I want to login from outside the network. 15 mins of no activity eg no active logins or data stream and it sleeps again. It also wakes each of my PCs up in the night and backs them up. The backups are really good, you can mount them on any PC in windows and pull data from them as if you had the actual harddrive plugged into your PC (Saved me a bit of a red face when I formatted my PC and after I had started remembered that I hadn't backed up my docs or pics!)

    If anyone is interested the cooler is a Scythe Ninja Mini and it can only be fitted once the board is inside the case (A total nightmare)

    So Pros For Windows Home Server...

    Easy to setup
    Centralised backups for all network PCs
    Good ability to share all types of meda
    Will intergrate into Windows MCE / MCE Extenders
    Loads of good free plugins
    Easy to expand (just throw a disk in of any size and it adds it to the pool)
    Is really 2003 Server with a fancy jacket on
    Very good web interface if you access it via IE8
    Plugins installed on all desktops give you network health warnings if you request them to (my main PC lets me know if there are any issues all other PCs have this turned off)

    Cons

    Cost
    I still think RAID is safer than the WHS disk system
    A few small bugs in the interface that are not the end of the world but can be a little annoying (the remote desktop check annoys me as I have all IPs blocked so it fails the check!)
    A/V isn't cheap as most A/V see it as 2003 server and so only EE Versions will install
    Its Windows so it does have security issues if you don't look after it (what OS dosn't?)
    Firefox isn't really supported for most of the remote features
    it does need a fair amount of diskspace for the install (don't go less than 500GB for your system drive)
    Last edited by Jay; 12-04-2010 at 11:57 PM.
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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    My vote goes for OpenSolaris using ZFS. It really is a piece of cake to set up and seems to be completely bulletproof.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Quote Originally Posted by MSIC View Post
    1) Buy more external or internal hard drives of ever-increasing capacity, and just make regular back-ups. Probably the cheapest option, but only as reliable as I can remember (and can be bothered to back-up). Therefore not a great option.
    Why is it reliant on your memory? Automate the backup. Win7 has a built in tool for it for example.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    From the sound of it, I also would suggest looking long and hard at 3), with WHS.

    First, it reuses old equipment that otherwise is probably gathering dust, or getting dumped. Secondly, the file system it uses gives resilience from internal duplication (providing you enable it),without requiring RAID. In fact, it's not compatible with RAID, as I understand it. It's also expandable ... need more space, add another drive.

    The downsides .... a NAS is typically a lot smaller than a PC, and may well have lower power consumption. also, of course, you may have the PC, but still need to get WHS itself, which costs.

    But all told, it's a pretty elegant solution.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay View Post
    Geeky computery type network stuff.
    I can have please?
    Last edited by Disturbedguy; 13-04-2010 at 12:04 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by TAKTAK View Post
    It didn't fall off, it merely became insufficient at it's purpose and got a bit droopy...

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    The Smallnetbuilder website is a great place to go for NAS reviews/advive etc http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/nas
    Things to keep in mind - a dedicated NAS box should use far less power then a PC. RAID is something you should think about before just assuming you should use it like a lot of people seem to, RAID provides redundancy/availability and it is NOT a substitute for a backup i.e. if it's critical that your storage array stays online if a drive fails then it's worth considering but it doesn't guard against anything else for example if the NAS itself fails, if the filesystem gets corrupted, if something gets deleted and so on - drive failure is pretty much the ONLY thing it protects against. Also remember that you lose the equivalent of a full drive's capacity per array with RAID5, it can badly affect write speed and if the controller board fails then it would actually be far easier to get the data back of a non-RAID array. IMO it's just not worth it for a home NAS. As you said uptime isn't important in the OP then I wouldn't recommend you bother with RAID, just make sure you backup the NAS to another drive, preferably an offline one, your current USB drives for example and note that most NAS appliances support backing up to USB drives from their own USB ports.
    Anyway have a look through the articles+reviews on SNB to help you choose, there's plenty of information there.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    I went for a full blown PC, albeit optimised for low power usage.

    It stores files, it hosts my email domain & stores my emails, it records freeview programs using MythTV. It provides DHCP and DNS services to the local network, network time server, secondary firewall, source control, VPN tunnels... I don't back up the workstations to it, I just don't have any files worth saving on the workstations

    If an email arrives for me, one of the keyboard LEDs blinks to let me know

    Most of that could be done by customising the Linux install on a NAS box, but you need a bit of grunt to feed gigabit ethernet at full speed.

    Currently on Centos as the OS, but would probably go back to Fedora on the next rebuild as the MythTV install
    was a bit of a faff and in Fedora it was pretty much just "yum install mythtv" at the command line.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Quote Originally Posted by DanceswithUnix View Post
    If an email arrives for me, one of the keyboard LEDs blinks to let me know
    Geek

    Back on topic: if you have old hardware lying around that you can resurrect, I'd go down the WHS route too. It's only £75 OEM from ebuyer, much cheaper than buying a NAS box, and I've seen quite a few posts on here eulogising its benefits. It'll probably be my next investment once I've got my study / office sorted out at home...

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Apologies for the thread hijack but does anyone have links to good guides for setting up WHS and getting the most from it?

    I currently have a WHS box but have been thinking of getting rid of it & getting a NAS box (probably a Netgear ReadyNas 2110). The reason being that I only really currently use it for storage and occasionally remote access so it seems to be a bit of overkill for my needs. However if I knew what more could be done I might actually use more to it's potential.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Quote Originally Posted by b0redom View Post
    My vote goes for OpenSolaris using ZFS. It really is a piece of cake to set up and seems to be completely bulletproof.
    That's an interesting suggestion. Do you have many disks? I'm just curious because ZFS supposedly just deals with any bunch of disks, provides redundancy where necessary and puts stuff that needs it on the higher performance disks automatically. Plus it expands the filesystem when you add new disks.
    If it as good as it sounds or it it like everything else in IT and not as good as the hype?
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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Quote Originally Posted by jimborae View Post
    I currently have a WHS box but have been thinking of getting rid of it & getting a NAS box (probably a Netgear ReadyNas 2110). The reason being that I only really currently use it for storage and occasionally remote access so it seems to be a bit of overkill for my needs. However if I knew what more could be done I might actually use more to it's potential.
    As MonkeyBoy will I am sure testify the problem with a home NAS is if the hardware fails you can have alot of problems trying to get the data off your drives. Generic computers mean when there is a problem you have an easier time trying to recover things.
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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Look at FreeNAS which supports ZFS as well

    Also worth mentioning that you need to pay for WHS [no it isn't free, its Microsoft lol]

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    +1 for FreeNAS if you're using a PC.

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    Re: NAS: Should I get one, and if so, which?

    Wow! Thanks all for the excellent replies and help, especially Jay for quite a serious amount of effort to show off the lovely kit!

    Sounds like WHS is probably where it's at...
    My only 1 question then is this:

    If (under WHS) i have a bunch of drives, let's imagine a 2TB, 2 x 1TB and 2 x 500GB, and one of them fails (lets say a 500 GB), what happens to my data? Do you specify some amount of redundancy in advance?
    For me, the 'JBOD' approach as I understand seems to be a risky one. Is this how WHS does things??
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