I need help deciding on a home data storage/NAS solution.
May 16, 2012 6:43 AM   Subscribe

I need help deciding on a home data storage/NAS solution.

I recently discovered that my external hard drive was making my computer take FOREVER to boot. Unfortunately that external has all my documents, videos, and music on it. While I could, it would be inconvenient to plug it in and unplug it every day.

I've been interested in Network Attached Storage for awhile now. Especially because I could then stream my content to my xbox360. And because I think it would make transfer from the desktop to the storage device much faster then through usb.

The problem is that I have no idea what to buy. Google is helpful and brings up several possible solutions:

Traditional NAS Device (with one or more bays for storage)
Pro: Expandable for future storage needs.
Con: Expensive, not only do I need to buy the device, i also have to buy hard drives to put in it (which are expensive because of the flooding in Thailand last year)

Home NAS Device (aka a External Hard Drive that attaches via Ethernet or USB)
Pro: More affordable then Traditional NAS Device.
Con: Sometimes not expandable. (Some have additional usb ports for more storage) There don't seem to be many glowing reviews of these on newegg. Can't tell if that's because people are trying to use it as a NAS or as a USB powered external.

Wireless Router with USB port for External Hard Drive
Pro: I already own the external hard drive and wouldn't have to move any files. About as expensive as a 2TB Home NAS Device.
Con: I have a wireless router that works fine. It's a good little router and I don't want to trade it in for something that doesn't work as well. Runs as USB speeds.

USB NAS Adapter
Pro: Least expensive of the options! Some have multiple ports for multiple external hard drives.
Con: Runs as USB speeds instead of ethernet speeds.

The adapter sounds like what I should go with, but I still feel like that's a temporary solution to the problem.

Budget: $80-$120

What I care most about: Speed of transfer from desktop to storage solution. At least 1 TB in space, 2TB would be more awesome. Possibly using as a backup device in addition to a media device.

What I care less bout: Expandability, especially if it's at least 1TB big.

Make the following assumptions:
  • I cannot add internal storage to my desktop
  • I do not own a second computer to use as a storage solution.
Questions for you:
  1. Do you have a NAS solution in your home?
  2. If so, how well does it work for you?
  3. Do you wish it was different then it is?
  4. Am I missing a possible solution I didn't mention above?
  5. What do you think I should go with?
Thank you!
posted by royalsong to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd recommend the adapter as an entry-level NAS, or get an external drive with built-in ethernet.

Con: Runs as USB speeds instead of ethernet speeds.

I don't think it's very likely that USB is the bottleneck here. Unless you're running gigabit ethernet, USB 2.0 is faster, and USB 3.0 is faster than gigabit ethernet. Also: transferring files over the network will incur a certain amount of overhead depending on the higher level protocols used further limiting it's throughput in comparison with USB.

It's also worth noting that sometimes those ethernet-ready external hard drives are really just USB hard drives + USB NAS adapters packaged together.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:11 AM on May 16, 2012

On a budget of $80-120, I don't think you actually have any options available.

Your cheapest best option is building a good NAS yourself, using FreeNAS and something like a HP Proliant MicroServer N40L and filling it with the cheapest, reliable drives you can find.

Personally I use a Synology 5-Bay NAS at home (their current model is here), which has been perfect, absolutely no complaints, great UI, hooks in with my iPad/iPod, USB speakers, simple to expand, but not particularly cheap.

Largely it depends on your technical ability and how much spare time you have to set it all up.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:15 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I should point out that Synology do 2bay NAS's for $2-300 which gets you all the nice interfaces and ease of use.

Also, the very cheapest option-- have you considered just upgrading (not adding) your current PC's harddrive, then just sharing that on the network?
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:21 AM on May 16, 2012

Response by poster: The reason I don't want to use internal storage of my desktop, is because I don't want to have to have my desktop on to listen to music/watch videos on my xbox360.
posted by royalsong at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: Your budget is way too low to consider a NAS. Get a USB drive with an ethernet connection and some kind of server built in. Don't forget to back up.
posted by devnull at 7:32 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have to throw FreeNAS into the mix especially considering your budget.
I would go on Craigslist and pick up an old Pentium 4 which you could probably get for 50 bucks.
Throw your drive on there and set it up.
I built my server for about 100$
The case an old 12 bay server case for free, Pentium 4 board free from the trash, and I had the drives already. I only spent the 100 on a raid card, new power supply, fan controller and new fans.

It is a champ! I can expand it even further, I am running a variety of services a box nas wouldnt support or provide (without spending a fortune!), and it is unbelievably reliable and stable.

See if any friends have left over computers or cases. You can make this work with your budget, its just doing a little seeking.
posted by handbanana at 7:35 AM on May 16, 2012

My only other suggestion is to look into Addonics. They have a NAS that is about 50$ and is pretty good. I have one, but it doesnt have all the bells and whistles I desired. Its low powered, headless, and you can plug in USB drives.
posted by handbanana at 7:43 AM on May 16, 2012

The "NAS adaptor" looks like a good option---you don't have to do anything with your drive and it's the lowest cost solution. Here's a recent round-up of the products. The pogoplug gets a lot of press in this market slice.
posted by bonehead at 8:52 AM on May 16, 2012

Your budget is your killer here. Synology is great but expensive. Drobo is almost as nice but way cheaper. Not too long ago I learned about unRaid and can't wait until hard drive prices fall a little more so I can put it in my HP N40L as listed above.

Up to 3 drives is free w/ unraid, and you can use basically any hardware even if the board doesn't support raid, and it's crazy fast and has some nifty add-on functionality (like Plex, for example)
posted by TomMelee at 9:11 AM on May 16, 2012

> I have to throw FreeNAS into the mix especially considering your budget.

Do be aware that the additional power use of the FreeNAS box will have a cost. If you have ten cent power and the NAS draws 20W and the FreeNAS box 100W, that's an additional $70/year.

I've been running a SheevaPlug as a sorta-NAS/sorta-server for the last three years. It's great, and only draws 5W more than the USB drive.
posted by scruss at 9:12 AM on May 16, 2012

> I would go on Craigslist and pick up an old Pentium 4 which you could probably get for 50 bucks.

Old hardware tends to eat electricity, so don't forget to work out electricity costs!
posted by devnull at 5:01 AM on May 17, 2012

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