How do people do simple network attached storage these days?
May 14, 2016 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a NAS (I think) and I'm completely overwhelmed by what's on the market these days. I have a bunch of frankly quixotic requirements. Does anyone here have advice?

Currently I'm using a circa 2007 (?) Core 2 Duo as a homemade quasi-NAS and it seems like it's a good idea to look at replacing it before it reaches its tenth birthday. I poked my nose into the consumer/prosumer and linux-based homebrew NAS offerings this year and everything many features.

What I'd like to have:

1. >4TB capacity with redundancy to start, with the ability to add more when I need it. Maybe 4+ drive bays? I have decades worth of work stuff, photographs, music, etc. and I'm always acquiring more crap, but I'm not hoovering up new movies and TV shows every night with SickRage or whatever the kids call it these days.
2. A network interface (that is, I'm not looking for an enclosure that needs to be attached to a computer)
3. Redundancy
4. Initially diskless/disks purchased à la carte
5. The ability to do some other computer-like things, like autonomously monitor disk health and conduct automated backups, etc.
6. Lower power consumption than a computer

What I probably don't need:

1. A "personal cloud" or a connection to another cloud storage service like OneDrive or Dropbox. For that matter, I don't need it to handle VPN or provide access to my files over the public internet at all. If push comes to shove I can always VPN to an actual computer at home (or, heck, Chrome Remote Access in) and send something to myself. I literally never think "gosh, I'd like to watch that one movie I have at home on my phone right now."
2. "Apps", or the ability to do a lot of plugin-ing, usenetting, torrenting, postprocessing, transcoding, etc. Though now that I've typed that out, I realized I have been using Plex recently and it's kind of nice, so if you'd like to make a case I'm listening.
3. Something that's going to be super proprietary and therefore disposable. I've heard that Synology devices are essentially non-repairable once they're out of their warranty period--as in, Synology doesn't sell parts, at all, to anyone. One of the reasons that I've been able to slouch along in my current situation for almost ten years is if something breaks I can just go buy a replacement part at MicroCenter and fix it myself. I'm a little hesitant to lose that.
4. USB or HDMI ports.
5. Granular control of users and access permissions.

Which product or hardware/linux distribution combo is currently closest to what I want?

I realize that there are forums/subreddits where this question might be directly topical, but my impression of these folks is that they tend to be maximizers, and I am very much a satisficer in this situation. I want something I can set up once and largely forget about for a few years (or longer), not something that is going to be a hobby or ongoing project. That said, if you think there is another place where I should ask, let me know!
posted by pullayup to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you do a DIY, I'm super hot on FreeNas. It's all open source, but a great district to get you running with backups and snapshots. Super great stuff.
posted by advicepig at 2:55 PM on May 14, 2016

And I prefer Synology and QNAP, both come in various sizes and capacities. Yes, they are overkill for your needs, but they just work and have a friendly GUI. WD Red drives seem to have a rather good reputation these days.
posted by nostrada at 3:14 PM on May 14, 2016

The Wirecutter has an overview of home NAS options that might be helpful for getting the lay of the land here.

I have no experience with it, but the 4-drive version of their recommended model might be worth checking out -- the QNAP TS-451. It's more computer-y than similar options I've looked at, if you need it to be -- e.g. you can upgrade the RAM, and you can install vanilla Debian on it, which even seems to be semi-officially supported.

If you're coming from a homemade computer-as-NAS you might not be expecting how dang slow the low-end ARM-based NAS options can be. Last time I did this I ended up with an old Western Digital MyBook, and having done that I would definitely spring for something faster next time.
posted by john hadron collider at 3:21 PM on May 14, 2016

I had a Synology 1-bay NAS running on an ARM chip. It ran flawlessly for 5 years although you could tell the cpu was slow. I replaced it 6 months ago with another Synology, this time a 4-bay with an Intel chip. Very happy with it.

I bought a 2TB Hitachi drive for the first NAS, no issues. The second NAS has 2x 4TB HGST Deskstar NAS drives. So far, so good. (HGST is the new name for Hitachi's drive brandname and both have had good reputation.)

You may be right that Synology doesn't sell parts but, with my small data point, I haven't had to worry about it. I might restart my old NAS, throw in a bigger drive and use it as a redundant backup.
posted by praiseb at 5:07 PM on May 14, 2016

I've had a Synology for about three years now and have been pretty happy with it. My IT guy recommended I buy an identical, spare hard drive when I purchased the NAS, but it's been sitting in a box in my file cabinet.
posted by Cecilia Rose at 6:14 PM on May 14, 2016

About 18 months ago, I built a FreeNas box. It has 4x2TB drives, 16 GB ram, and a Pentium dual cure. Aside from the core file storage, I have Emby and a few home network utilities running on it, and it's pretty much out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

It was more work to set up than a Synology box would've been, but the whole build (not including a repurposed case) cost less than a Synology NAS would've cost without drives.
posted by Ickster at 7:03 PM on May 14, 2016

I've had a four-bay ReadyNAS for over 10 years, and it's still going strong. RAID, health monitoring & backups are built in & very easy. It has some of the features that you don't need, although I don't use many of them myself (I do use it for streaming at home). I've replaced a few disks, and the power supply burnt out a year or so ago, but easy enough to find parts & fix. It's not currently showing any signs that it needs replacing, but I'd go back to the same range for another if I ever need to.
posted by rd45 at 2:05 AM on May 16, 2016

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