Is anyone in the market for an affordable Network Attached Storage device?
The home server market is ready to pick up steam as more and more homes in many parts of the world begin to have several computers all connected to a simple network. Many of these home may already be working with network shares across the various computers to easily distribute music, videos and pictures, or to share a single printer and internet connection. One small problem with having network shares for people who are power-conscious is that a given computer (or computers) must always remain on for that data to be accessible to others. With the explosion of notebook sales over the last five years, this is becoming more of an issue as people can often take their data out of the house, leaving gaps at home.
To solve this, some people put an old computer to use as a simple file server and leave it running somewhere out of sight. However, some people don't have an old desktop PC lying around, or they don't want to have a huge box running somewhere and using a respectable amount of electricity. To that end, many people are now purchasing NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices.
I've been using a Synology NAS for a while and it's been relatively decent for what I've asked of it, but I find that there have been some issues cropping up lately and I need to replace it with something that offers a little more breathing room. The model in question is the DS-106j. It's a great little box just a little larger than a standard USB drive enclosure, has 3 USB ports for external USB hard drives and certain printers.
What I don't like about the device is that it runs a very stripped down version of Linux and uses a proprietary version of ReiserFS on the hard drives. Although there is support for FAT32, I cannot suggest to anyone using drives larger than 80 gig to use it.
One of the pros behind the proprietary ReiserFS format is security. If someone were to come and take some of the USB drives connected to this box and try to read it elsewhere, chances are they'd be hard pressed to get any data from it. Other Unix boxes with Reiser support will not be able to read the data and most data recovery places that I've checked out online have even said that recovering data from proprietary file systems will cost quite a bit more than standard ones.
But of course, this is also a pretty big con. If a hard drive dies and I need something that was on there, I can expect to pay some big bucks for the chance to get it back.
As it sits, I have this device pretty much filled to capacity. I can't add any more external drives, and it's just too labor intensive to buy a larger drive, put it in a USB enclosure, and then trickle the data from one of the drives I'd be replacing.
So this leaves me with a few options. I can either:
- buy another Synology NAS device and a hard drive, and add more USB drives as required
- buy a different NAS product
- build my own NAS
Each of these options has been seriously weighed, with the second option being weighed more often than not.
Buying another Synology device and a hard drive, then chaining a bunch of USB drives to the end of it seems to be a waste of power and money. While the disk (or disks) in the NAS itself will spin down to conserve power and reduce heat, the USB devices will just keep on going. Normally this isn't a problem, but I don't want my drives to be running if they're not going to be accessed for several hours or days. I like that the Synology product has a great team of developers and a thriving community that is constantly working to make this a better product, but I feel it's just too costly to implement in a fashion that I require.
I need a TeraByte to start (in addition to the TB that's already in place), so that means getting something like the CS-406. As of this writing, that device sells for $560 at NCIX ... and it doesn't even come with hard drives. All said, I would need to spend about $1300 to have this particular NAS and enough drives to make up a TeraByte. That's a No-Go.
The second option, buying a different NAS product, has been on my mind for a while as well. D-Link has their DNS-323, and I could put together a simple TB worth or storage for under $700. Netgear has their sexy little SC-101T, which would also run about $700 for a TeraByte of storage. On top of this I've considered the offerings from other vendors such as the Buffalo TeraStation Pro II, Infrant ReadyNAS NV+, and even one of the iOmega StorCenter Pro units.
What I don't like about these is the sheer cost of startup, and the limited future growth potential. Aside from the StorCenter Pro, none of the other solutions even come with hard drives. The NAS enclosure itself is $800+.
I like my data readily available ... but for that price, I'm almost tempted to go back to massive DVD binder libraries and a comprehensive indexing method similar to the Dewey Decimal System.
So to that end, I've decided to go with the third option; building my own. With all the hardware options and operating systems out there, I shouldn't have too much trouble putting together a decent NAS solution for my needs. Basically it has to have a few basic things. The NAS must:
- be contained in a small and unobtrusive case
- be almost silent
- be easily affordable by almost anybody
- be easily expandable either by easily adding more internal drives, or USB devices
- use very small amounts of power unless under heavy load
As I go forward with this little project of mine, I'll post updates and images of the system as it progresses. Depending on the final cost of the solution, I might just consider building these for sale on eBay. If an empty enclosure can fetch $700+, then I'm sure I can sell a custom unit with storage media for the same.