Yet another NAS question...
September 7, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

What's my best bet for a home NAS...?

I know there are a lot of questions about NAS on Ask, but I'm frankly bewildered by them.

We've currently got two desktop Vista machines, two (XP) laptops and an XP netbook. My desktop has a pair of 500G hard drives as a mirrored raid array. The problem is that one of the disks (or maybe the controller) is going nuts and doesn't seem to want to fix itself, so I'm going to bail and get a proper solution.

My requirements are...
* Two or preferably three disks mirrored.
* Very simple (or automated) reduplication if I swap a disk out
* Must be able to password protect directories or partitions easily, to allow local and guest users access to specific places.

The 'would be nice' list is simply
* Able to run BitTorrent (with schedules)
* Able to duplicate selected folders to a remote backup.
* Able to automatically grab selected folders on network machines when it sees them come online.

I know that this should be easy, but whenever I start looking at sites selling the things my eyes glaze over in the way my grandfather's do when he looks at PC adverts.

Is there anything out there that will do what I want? Or should I build something? In which case where should a guy who's built his own PCs for years start with something that seems so alien?
posted by sodium lights the horizon to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I just completed a bunch of research with similar requirements and went with the Dlink 323 - it seems to cover all of your needs (will require a firmware update to use BitTorrent and may not be super-user friendly with password protected directories - but I think that depends on your tech skills).

If you're going to build your own, check out FreeNas - there's a wealth of information about building your own, and using FreeNas. There are hardware requirements, so you'll need to read carefully before jumping in.
posted by alrightokay at 8:42 AM on September 7, 2010

I'm pretty happy with the ReadyNAS Duo (only two disks). It can run BitTorrent, although I've never tried it and can't comment on the awesomeness/lack thereof. If you ever try to use it with Vista on a wireless computer then the default Vista settings will give you horrible performance (there is a simple fix for this, however), but that probably doesn't apply to you. AFAIK the password protection can be done with standard ACLs.

The ReadyNAS NV+ gives you more disks (and a larger form factor, of course) and is designed for small businesses (which could mean higher quality or could mean marketing hype). I have never used this gadget, however, so I can't comment on its quality. Actually, I've never used any other NAS system at all. The ReadyNAS could totally suck compared with all the other alternatives and I wouldn't know.

posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:55 AM on September 7, 2010


I've also got a ReadyNAS Duo.

I've been totally happy with the actual product, but I've found the Netgear support to be exceptionally bad when you have problems. Whether this affects your decision probably depends on how much you expect to need the support dept.
posted by curious_yellow at 9:26 AM on September 7, 2010

I know there are a lot of questions about NAS on Ask, but I'm frankly bewildered by them.

Don't worry, the hardware tends to change anyway.

I *just* ordered a DNS-323 (same as the first replier), but I haven't yet received it. It has a manufacturer's rebate at the moment. It appears that they had a lot of early firmware bugs (like, "when adding a second disk the first disk got formatted instead of the second(!)")--but most of those have been worked out, it seems. I'm not entirely sure, though. A lot of the comments on this thing are pretty old; the model's been around a while to provide a counterexample to my earlier comment.

You didn't mention how much you're willing to spend. The ultimate in polished ease of use might be the Drobo. It's pretty darn simple, but it's also fairly pricey. There are a lot of people willing to spend a premium to not worry about funny details and just slap disks in there, though. Can't say I blame them.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:51 AM on September 7, 2010

Or should I build something? In which case where should a guy who's built his own PCs for years start with something that seems so alien?

It's not that complicated. A NAS is just a PC in a fancy case (ok, often with an ARM or MIPS CPU instead of a normal x86).

On the hardware side you could recycle an old PC. If it's got at least 1Ghz CPU and at least 1GB of RAM that should be plenty. Or buy new stuff - Boards with Atom CPUs are very cheap, have integrated graphics/lan/sound, but often only 2 SATA ports. Boards with 6 SATA ports are cheap too. Then find a case which has enough place for the disks you need (you could buy a barebone case with 2 5.25" bays and something like this).
Or as I did a miditower case with enough place for 6 3.5" HDs.

Software side: there are plenty of NAS Distributions, which have webinterfaces to configure everything, just like those commercial NAS boxes. And you're not stuck with what the NAS Vendor gave you - if you don't like the software, just switch it out.

FYI, I have an 2.8Ghz Athlon running in my NAS, board is several years old, a PSU I had lying around, and as I said a new shiny case. Inside are 4 HDs with totally 4.5TB space. I run a vanilla Debian GNU/Linux system on it, mostly because that's what I'm comfortable with.
On top of that runs a webserver, SMB server, Torrent client, NFS Server, and several other things.
posted by roerek at 11:02 AM on September 7, 2010

+1 for the ReadyNas solution.

Contrary to curious_yellow's post, I've had two dealings with the Netgear support and found them to be exemplary.
posted by Simon_ at 11:31 AM on September 7, 2010

I asked this question a month ago. I'm still really happy with the Synology. Just yesterday discovered that it is a DLNA server, by XBMC automatically finding it and indexing the videos we'd put on it earlier.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:00 PM on September 7, 2010

I've got a DNS-323 (two drives), I've had it about a year now. It runs great, there are still new firmware updates (i'm a couple of firmwares behind) and there is a developer community which supplies 3rd party stuff...
There is bittorrent support, you don't have to set up password protected directories, by default the drive is simply open, and anybody on the network can access anything. The only complaint I have is no automatic turn-on (say at 4:30pm every day or something) but the drives spin down after a (user-set) amount of time (or never), and I think standby power is 11W, so you can just leave it on all the time.

Supports up to 2 x 2TB HDD as of latest firmware, Raid 1 or Raid 0, or JBOD (just a simple 2 TB disk).

I can't compare it to other NAS solutions, having only this one, but i'm not unhappy with it. Also supports uPNP for streaming to XBOX 360 / (PS3?).
posted by defcom1 at 10:51 PM on September 7, 2010

A guy I work with has a NAS from QNAP. I think it's some incarnation of this. I can't speak from personal experience, but he talks it up pretty well. It ain't cheap, but when I've got the money, that's what I'm going to buy. It does EVERYTHING, and apparently right out of the box.
posted by specialnobodie at 2:34 PM on September 8, 2010

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