Network Attached Storage, 2010

So what’s new in the world of NAS? If I’m looking for a NAS, what am I looking for? What features are out there? What’s useful? What isn’t? What’s lousy? What’s awesome? What should I buy???

Why not repurpose an old computer as a fileserver? More features, more flexibility.

Desktop space. Not having to spend time setting up samba/appletalk.

I don’t know what appletalk is, but I literally set up Samba on my server in five minutes after reinstalling Ubuntu on it last week.

FreeNAS is also a nice, ready to go solution. You can even just boot from a CD or USB drive and use all your hard drive space as storage.

Any cool features beyond “serves files via windows file sharing” that come on a NAS which is not a computer should be avoided. If you want said cool features, build a NAS box, using freenas like above or just an old WinXP install.

File sharing for Macs.

Why’s that?

They are, on the whole, poorly implemented and sucky. Some implementations are decent, but it’s left as an exercise for the reader to find these implementations, and I assume you don’t want to buy and return a whole bunch of NASes finding out which; long sentence end.

I’ve had two Buffalo NAS drive in the past, both have failed in different ways, and I’ve lost a lot of saved material. I’ve settled for a combo of USB hard drives and Amazon.


I’m guessing Amazon Web Services, a la using JungleDisk.

Ahh… I was aware of AWS, but not of any storage services using it.

I’ve been using a system built on Windows Home Server for a couple of years now to handle my LAN file sharing needs. Works great. Gives you a nice unified view of every disk you put into the system (so you can have one SMB share that spans across X number of physical disks) and has basic support for things like adding and removing drives from the pool as needed.

You can get the same sort of thing from various BSD and Linux based OSS solutions, but WHS has some neat features like automatic backups of Windows systems on the LAN, etc, and a much nicer interface than any of the OSS solutions I’ve seen.

I’ve never used a dedicated NAS at home because as far as I have seen they have always been overpriced compared to just building a cheap low-power server system that you can jam like 8 inexpensive 3.5 inch HDDs into. Of course, for 8 disks you need a big case, which I use, but that works for me because the file server lives in a far away walk-in closet and talks to everything else via the wired network (using powerline ethernet and coax ethernet circuits).

This seems to be the place to ask.

I like Windows Home Server for the reasons CCZ mentions. I also like my HS to be small, relatively low-noise and hotswappable.
That’s why I own the first generation HP MediaSmart Server EX470. Unfortunately with only 512 MB Ram it’s somewhat underpowered to handle many add ins (including one of the HP ones, which will make response on the web interface take minutes if you don’t uninstall it…) so I’m looking for a replacement. The newer EX490 should do the trick, but since it’s on the expensive side, I’d like to know if there’s something better out there.
Perhaps Synology or QNAP?
I could also just give my existing Server a ram upgrade, but it’s a rather tightly packed cabinet…

Any ideas?

right, yeah with Jungledisk.


The RAM upgrade is a piece of cake. 30 minutes, in and out.

I have a media center PC that I use as a music server and “TV PC.” I just put a big drive in that, share a few folders, and use that for the NAS functionality too. Since I have an always-on PC anyway, it can do double-duty.

I’ve heard of S3, but not JungleDisk. I was under the impression you could just use S3 directly. Is that not true? Do you need an application on top of it?

I would say, stay away from any 1/2/3 maybe 4 drive enclosures. Almost all of these NAS systems are way underpowered, running ARM/PPC CPUs and come with minimal amounts of RAM.
Usually this results in very poor network performance and also all the fancy features and additional software are not much fun to “work” with.

Bigger NAS systems come with x86/Atom CPUs and give you a general decent performance but this comes along with a high price tag and you are getting close to a semi professional market.
Synology and QNAP are quite nice, but only with a “real” CPU.

The current Windows Home Server Systems have a decent CPU and RAM, but the performance impact is huge by the trimmed down W2K3 server OS, so besides file sharing all the other features are not really fun to use.
WHS2 new hardware requirements will possible nullify this shortcomming.

The same Windows Home Server hardware or any other Nettop (i.e. Atom CPU/2GB) on the other hand running a stock Linux distribution do quite well. There you may have the problem to set all the stuff up all by yourself.
Alternative GUI driven software appliances are out there. You can install them on an Atom PC, and they will give you loads of storage features (SAN like), you will most likely see in storage solutions starting at 2000$.

Openfiler or the community edition of Nexenta will allow you to simply install a real storage solution, wich can be managed by the GUI.
(Nexenta comes with a 12tb limit, which should be ok for personal use).

For additional non storage features, which are actually fun to use i would go the media center way, as someone suggested before. A powerfull PC + a dumb eSata Tower-Jbod + Controller (i.e. Sans-Digital PowerRaid).
Here you have the freedom of not beeing limited by CPU power or platform software restrictons.