What cheap storage thing should I buy?
October 7, 2010 10:54 AM   Subscribe

What is the cheapest/best way to get around 1TB of RAID 1 home storage external to any particular computer?

I've been looking at eSATA devices like the LaCie 2big and also at NAS devices, but I'm kind of lost. Cheapness and data redundancy are important, performance less so — mostly I just need more space than I have on my desktop machine right now and I'd like to have something flexible, long-lasting, and safe enough to store important odds and ends that it would be painful to lose in a drive failure. If it matters, all of the computers that will talk to it will be running Linux.
posted by enn to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I love my Drobo. However, their linux support is in eternal beta, due to a bunch of issues with supporting linux with their software. But! I do know there is a pretty dedicated batch of linux users.

You'll want to look at the Drobo FS.
posted by strixus at 11:00 AM on October 7, 2010

I have friends who rave about the Drobo, but it seems very expensive, and — since it looks like the lowest-end product they sell holds 4 or 5 drives — overkill for me. I'm hoping for the cheapest and simplest possible option.
posted by enn at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2010

For simple plug-in-and-go 1tb of Raid1, I've found the Buffalo Linkstation Duo to be a winner. Microcenter was selling them over the summer for about $150 iirc. I don't know if the current revisions support NIS or still only SMB.
I strongly do not recommend the WD offerings. Horribly slow and crappy management interface.
Now, one question: are you talking 1tb of drives or 1tb of total storage? Because one ain't the other.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2010

Thanks, that looks nice and reasonably-priced. I'm looking for ~1TB storage capacity with RAID 1, so something with two 1TB drives.
posted by enn at 11:47 AM on October 7, 2010

Let me tack another question on here — it seems like people are recommending NAS devices over an external eSATA array. What's the advantage to a NAS? An eSATA thing appeals to me because I can (I assume) just treat it like any other drive, put whatever filesystem I want on it, and don't have to deal with inflexible proprietary firmware or mess with SMB or NFS — but I can still share it using one of those from the host machine if I want to. But maybe there are downsides I'm not seeing?
posted by enn at 11:52 AM on October 7, 2010

2nding Old'n'Busted. Buffalo networking equipment has had a good track record. Here are some of my findings from the egg.

Cheapest solution, YMMV as it has been noted to run very slowly and might not actually run at Gigabit ethernet speeds. Oh, and bad reviews: Western Digital WDH2NC20000N 2TB My Book World Edition II Dual-drive Network Storage $219.99 plus shipping.

Little more expensive, 4/5 eggs on newegg: LG N2R1DD2 1TB x 2 (3.5", 7,200rpm) Super Multi NAS with DVD-RW. $299.99 plus shipping

If you have a spare computer that has RAID built-in, that can work in a pinch, you'd need two 1TB hard drives that are decently RAID compatible. DON'T USE Western Digital drives that specifically say to not use in RAID configurations, like Caviar drives. If you need one, RAID controller cards to run two drives in RAID 1 run as cheap as $15. Samsung Eco-Green 1TB drives are $65 on newegg.

Building your own: keep most components as low cost as possible. You don't need any sort of performance out of this machine other than uptime and reliability. You will never tax the processor, never max out the RAM (1GB is more than sufficient), never need good video, etc. Look at an Atom board or a lowest end AMD setup. AMD processors bottom out at $25, MoBo's at $40. Micro-ATX case with power supply at $50. Pair of cheap DDR2 RAM totaling 1GB $25, DDR3 at $40 for low-end 2GB set. 2 1TB Hard Drives at $130. All together you'd be looking at $270 plus shipping, tax and elbow grease.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:54 AM on October 7, 2010

Enn: in that case you will need to look for a 2tb system, not a 1tb.

Advantage of a NAS device vs. an eSata: simplicity and ease of use. It's literally plug and play these days for the NAS vs actually needing a computer. IMHO, if you're hanging the drive off a single computer or using that to share the drives, you might as well get a usb drive.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:32 PM on October 7, 2010

Now, one question: are you talking 1tb of drives or 1tb of total storage? Because one ain't the other.

I think this needs to be amplified.

The terms kilo- mega- giga- tera- have two different meanings. Officially they refer to powers of 10. So kilo- is 103 and mega- is 106 and tera is 1012.

But in the computer industry they refer to powers of 2: kilo- is 210 i.e. 1024. giga- is 230 == 1,073,741,824. tera- is 240 i.e. 1,099,511,627,776.

The gotcha here is that hard drive manufacturers use powers-of-ten to report size, not powers-of-two, because it makes their drives seem larger. A 1 TB drive is one trillion bytes. Which is a lot, but calculated using powers of 2 it's actually 931 GB. And then you lose some of that to file system overhead.

If you need 1 TB of total storage, a 1 TB drive won't do it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2010

I have had good luck with Synology NASs, I have two of them. They have a nice web interface and pretty good feature set. I had a Buffalo system ("Terastation") before but I had frequent errors requiring raid rebuilds on that system.
posted by jockc at 12:57 PM on October 7, 2010

NAS wise I've heard great things about DLink's DNS323
posted by majikstreet at 1:10 PM on October 7, 2010

I really like the WD Worldbook 2TB w/ 2 1TB drives. But I use them over USB. Just get one of those. They also make a 4TB one w/ esata.

The USB / firewire one is pretty cheap, at $189.
posted by reddot at 3:58 PM on October 7, 2010

OK, slight derail. Maybe you already know all this, but JIC...

A RAID disk is **NOT** data backup. Any mistake you make (accidental deletion, overwriting an original file, data corruption by a program saving a file) will be faithfully mirrored across all disks.

If you are going to manage that much data, please please please consider spending $4.50 a month to back it all up to the cloud.

(Personal anecdote: After a poor service response from Backblaze cost me hours of work, I switched to Mozy, but both of these, and others, have similarly-priced structures. A 2-year contract, cancellable at any time - so it's not really a 2-year contract! - drops the price to $4.50/m.)

We now return to your regularly scheduled topic.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks, IAmBroom. Funny you should mention that — after I posted this question I started thinking and decided I'd probably be better off doing an online backup and not worrying about RAID for now. I have Duplicity backing up to Amazon S3 right now and I'll probably just grab a regular non-RAID 1TB external drive at MicroCenter this weekend for $80 or so.
posted by enn at 5:41 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to reiterate what IAmBroom said that raid isn't backup, but rather it allows you to keep working with your data in the event of a single hard drive failure. If you don't need that, having a continuous backup online as you already do with an external drive for additional storage still does not completely solve your backup problem. 1 TB can take a really long time to transfer both up and down so I would still recommend a second drive to backup the first.
posted by palionex at 6:24 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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