Network Drives: Good or Bad?
May 11, 2005 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Network drive question: can anyone give a strong thumbs-up or -down on the use of a home-office level network drive?

I have a few Powerbooks on a 4-port hub and I'm thinking about adding a network drive to host MP3 files and etc. Have you had direct experience, good or bad, with this technology? Please feel free to drop names in stories of praise and horror.
posted by squirrel to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Big thumbs up. Bonus points for setting it up as an ftp server so that you can access it from afar and/or share with friends & family.

And, actually, an external/networked hard drive is about the only feasible way to back up an entire laptop.
posted by LordSludge at 11:00 PM on May 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, LordSludge; which particular product do you have experience with?
posted by squirrel at 11:02 PM on May 11, 2005

I have had the Linksys NSLU2 for awhile, and like it quite a bit.
The NSLU2 allow the connection of two standard USB drives and networks them.
The only problem is that the NSLU2 formats a drive into Linux Ext2 format, so if the unit dies you'll have to look for a linux box to restore.

There is also a group of hackers who have added web and e-mail servers if you are interested, but I have not tried this.
posted by phatboy at 12:05 AM on May 12, 2005

Yup, do it. Some of the biggest benefits for me are the fact that i) you only need to have the computer you're using switched on; ii) your tunes are accessible from anywhere (even over the internet if you want) - AirTunes! and iii) all your important files can be backed up and hidden away so they're unlikely to be found if you're burgled.

I second the NSLU2 - it's the cheapest way to put a NAS on your network. Get an external drive with good cooling capabilities if you're going to be tucking it away somewhere.
posted by blag at 4:36 AM on May 12, 2005

Okay: The biggest risk: You're putting all your data into one basket. The most common thing to fail: The hard drives.

With few exceptions (all very recent) -- 2.5" hard drives are *not* designed for constant use. So, using those as network share drives is a bad idea. This is changing, with servers now using them to get 4-5 drives in a 1U package -- but they use more expensive drives (like the WD Raptors.)

So: The trick. First, use 3.5" drives. Two: Mirror them.

I mirror every drive I have, except the notebooks. They're on simple hardware mirror controllers. When one dies, I go out, buy two of the whatever-the-$100 drive is, dupe the one good drive onto them, install them (getting more space in the deal) and give the one good drive away (and steal the very strong magnets out of the dead drive.)

If I'd striped those two drives, I'd have much faster storage, twice as much storage -- and no data.

If you're religous about backing up, then you can ignore that. Otherwise: Real Hard Drives, Mirror them, and even then, you ought to back them up. For file server use, I'd pay the considerable premium for premium drives, like the WD Raptor SATA, or even SCSI -- these drives are built to spin fast, 24x7, for at least 5 years. The cost per GB is much greater, though.

Finally: If you've got an old computer lying around, you could install a couple of drives into it, and use it as a file server. Not worth buying, but if you have the box already, it can be worth doing.
posted by eriko at 4:51 AM on May 12, 2005

Response by poster: Cool. Thanks for the advice, everyone.
posted by squirrel at 5:43 PM on May 12, 2005

If I'd striped those two drives, I'd have much faster storage, twice as much storage -- and no data.

Actually, from what i've read, for most uses, striping offers only minimal performance gains. And, as you note, any gains are offset by a 2x greater chance of failure, and all the time one spends recovering from a failure.
posted by Good Brain at 9:56 PM on May 14, 2005

Can I use SCSI or SATA drives with the NSLU2?
posted by DeeJayK at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2005

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