Do you make partition in NAS disk that has large capacity?
May 6, 2021 11:15 PM   Subscribe

I haven't shopped for hard drives for a long while and just realized that there is even a dual-drive unit that goes up to 20TB now. I get that one is for storage and one for mirroring. But do you make partitions in them nowadays? I am looking for a NAS solution for my home/family files so I need bigger storage but I am also scared based on past experiences. I also hope there is a power switch on NAS so it won't add too much unnecessary cost on the electricity bill since we don't always transfer files all the time but I really like what NAS does. Should I be worried about making partitions?
posted by lanhan to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unless you want to get into managing things yourself, most consumer NAS will look after partitioning automatically. Usually you will have one big volume (partition) and they automatically create a few shares by default e.g. photo and video.

You should usually budget to buy one extra hard drive to allow for data redundancy if a drive fails (so if you buy 2x10TB drives you will only have 10TB of space, or 3x10TB drives you will only have 20TB of space etc).

With most NASs you can set the drives to spin down after a timeout to save power. I have a synology NAS and you can also schedule the system to switch off and startup again at a particular time every day (not sure about other models).
posted by samj at 1:14 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, be worried. It's your data you're trying to protect. Low-power mode exists and you should look at the specs for these devices -- but bear in mind that cold starts kill hard disks just as effectively as running them hot.

Most NAS exist both for redundancy and live online network access. Duplicating an existing device is the only way it really can be a backup when the main device fails. Often a big NAS ends up as a central online storage, and use redundancy inside the device to cope with failure and to add speed.

A mantra in the hobbyist community is "Redundant arrays are not [in themselves] backup." So make duplicates of critical data on that online storage. The highest standard would keep a cold offline copy you update every month and also an offsite duplicate, checking that both really carry data you can use when you need recovery. I also keep a spare disk of the NAS's redundant set so I can swap it in when one goes -- but this needs you to pick a redundancy level that consumes a whole disk for safety.

Regarding array management and partitions, most devices with a web management interface will use have their own management tools. The preferred tool when managing directly in the Windows ecosystem is Windows Storage Spaces -- though I've not used it since rolling own Linux devices, using LVM2. You will also want to configure Windows Backup for your devices or enable enough SMB so that macOS Time Machine will accept it as a target.
posted by k3ninho at 1:33 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dividing a large disk up into several smaller partitions would seem to offer some protection against losing a whole disk's worth of files if the disk were to fail in some critical spot within the filesystem such as the root directory, but it doesn't actually help much; after all, the disk could just as easily fail right inside the partition table and make all partitions inaccessible in one hit.

So trying to decide whether or not to partition a drive for reliability reasons is an example of solving the wrong problem. The problem is not that individual filesystems are inherently unreliable (though if your experience is with USB flash sticks on Windows you could be forgiven for coming to that conclusion); the problem is that digital information doesn't really exist at all until you can put your hands on at least two identical copies of it, each copy residing on separate media, at least one of which stays offline most of the time to guard against user errors (accidental deletions and overwrites) or whole-LAN-eating ransomware.

If you're budgeting for a NAS that can keep 20TB online for you, you should also be budgeting for at least 20TB worth of backup space. This could take the form of anything from relatively low cost USB drives (you can plug these into the NAS itself and use the NAS's own storage manager to make your backups) to a whole second NAS to a paid cloud storage account. But you need to have it; there's no way around that if you care about your data.

The more backup space you have available, the more point-in-time backup snapshots you can keep available for restoring. The point of having at least as much backup space as online space is that this way you always have enough room for at least one such snapshot.

It's a really good feeling to have a solid, regularly tested backup system in place and know for sure that even if somebody lets the magic smoke out of your NAS you can get it all back intact.
posted by flabdablet at 12:37 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use a four-bay Synology, set up a two-bay NAS for family, and regret not setting them up with a four-bay NAS, for future scaling. Being able to gradually stagger upgrades piecemeal is cheaper and easier with four bays.

Looking at Synology's RAID Calculator page, checking prices on Newegg, and allowing for redundancy if one drive fails, 4 8-terabyte drives would be cheaper than 3 10-terabyte drives.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:07 AM on May 9

Best answer: Cloud backup might be useful to you, but it can get really expensive($5/TB/month). Backblaze has an 'unlimited' personal backup option, but it can only backup a drive (including a usb drive) on a single computer (won't backup a NAS). However, you can sync the data from the NAS to a USB drive attached to the PC. Then you have 3 locations (NAS, portable USB, cloud backup) for your data.

FWIW, I use a 5 bay synology, with 8TB drives. I have an 8TB USB for my staging backup. My entire network pulls about 1KWh a day. I did also invest in a battery backup because I wanted some buffer for the NAS (and network) in case the power got cut.
posted by kookywon at 8:58 AM on May 10

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