Cheap and Good NAS
January 9, 2011 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Seeking advice for a cheap good NAS array with 4 TB storage and easily-configurable remote access that allows file and folder transfers?

I'm looking for 4 TB of total drive capacity, not 4 TB mirrored/8 TB total.

I lean more towards good than cheap, but I'm hoping there's a sweet spot. Right now I'm looking at LaCie's 2big Network 2 and Iomega's StorCenter ix2-200.

The only thing stopping me is uncertainty about the remote access. It's important that I be able to transfer both files AND folders remotely, which I can't seem to do with Windows Home Server. (WHS remote access only allows uploads of files, not folders, with a file size limit of 2 GB, and the folder-zipping always breaks on large downloads. I'd also welcome suggestions for WHS add-ins that can make massive folder transfers easier with WHS.)
posted by anotherpanacea to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps a Pogoplug?

It's a cheap NAS device; you add your own USB hard drives (you can add more than one with a USB hub), and it has sharing software built in- the remote access software is the point of the device.

If you don't need 4TB now, you could start with a smaller drive and add more capacity later as costs come down.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:55 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just bought a QNAP TS-210. There are cheaper 2-bay devices but this is the least expensive one from QNAP. I only just installed it and haven't put it through its paces but early indications are that its firmware is excellent. There's a robust remote web file manager (is that what you're after?) and you can SSH onto it too.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 12:44 PM on January 9, 2011

I've got an ix2-200, though the 2x1TB variety not the 2x2TB. They initially had a firmware bug that caused the system to shut down due to a faulty temp report (i.e., the system thought it was hotter than it really was so shut itself down for safety), but that's been fixed for quite some time. If you do get one, make sure you're running the latest firmware. Haven't had any problems with it since that firmware upgrade, and even then the failure mode was towards safety rather than the other way around.
When you say you want to retrieve files using remote access, what do you mean? Remote access or the built-in software? From within your network or outside? I don't allow access from outside my local network to it, but from within it supports FTP, AFP, CIFS, NFS and bluetooth, so it's pretty much up to you how you want to get files off of it. There's also a root access hack for it, if you really want to roll something else.
posted by Runes at 12:59 PM on January 9, 2011

There are two routes, both of which I've taken.

The easiest is the WD ShareSpace, which comes in an 4tb flavor. This allows for remote (outside of your local network) access via their own vpn-line redirector. The device works, and if you can find it on sale, is about the cost of four WD "green" 1TB drives plus a little more. Slow as hell, though, and can be annoying to configure. I've also tried other pre-build NAS systems, and found them laking in some way.

The second route - and this is what I recommend - is to re-purpose an existing spare system or get a cheaper mobo+case system, and put Linux on it. I've never used FreeNas, but I had little trouble setting up Ubuntu Server. If you need you can configure whatever you want for remote (I use ssh+ftp+rsync myself, but others have set up vpn+samba).

The pogoplug is not a bad suggestion, but the downside is it's all USB2.0 drives.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 2:55 PM on January 9, 2011

Response by poster: Old'n'Busted: How slow are the pre-built NAS systems? What's making them so slow, compared to FreeNAS? The OS? The drives that come pre-installed? The Atom/Marvell processors?

Can I install FreeNAS on any NAS system I buy?
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:31 AM on January 10, 2011

Response by poster: By the way, if anyone can recommend a better solution for mounting an FTP drive in Windows 7 than NetDrive, I'd appreciate it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:19 PM on January 13, 2011

Most of the special-purpose NAS's use limited processors because they're only doing one thing (serving up files over the network). FreeNAS on a general-purpose CPU will generally be faster, but at at higher cost too. Some of the newer NAS's now use higher-performance chipsets, since they admit that people want to run other services on them.

has a chart of performance of the various NAS's.
posted by Runes at 6:48 AM on January 14, 2011

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