Looking for a cheap NAS solution <$50 (enclosure only)
January 3, 2008 11:47 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a cheap NAS enclosure (~$50) - interested in ximeta netdisk, but I'd rather go with something that doesn't require a software install. For $100ish I could build a cheap VIA C3/C7 server, but a simple HD enclosure would be better. I'm planning to run it off a WRT54g, and have heard that ximeta's get slow wifi performance - could I watch videos over the connection (300mb/hr divx), or would I be restricted to backup and music? If so, what's the cheapest NAS enclosure that isn't a POS that can manage mp3's over wifi? Something that could do bittorrent would be great, but they seem much more costly. Most important, I want a NAS that will spin down when not in use so it doesn't kill my non-enterprise HD.
posted by lrodman to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
About the spin down issue: My HD on my NAS does auto spin down, but it spins right up again after only 5 minutes. This might be an issue I could fix with the OS somewhere, but I'm not sure.

My point: I don't think the auto-spin-down thing is that big of a deal if it'll just spin up a short time after it spins down. My understanding is that a continually spinning HD will last longer than one that spins up and down too often.
posted by philomathoholic at 12:41 AM on January 4, 2008

Wifi is so much slower than even 100-mbit ethernet that any piddly disk manufactured this century should be able to saturate it without any problems. I can comfortably watch similarly-encoded movies over an 802.11g wifi link so I doubt you'll have any speed issues.

You certainly won't get bittorrent on a NAS box without paying quite a bit more, but you could re-firmware your WRT54G and put bittorrent on there.

Also, bear in mind that this will be a single point of failure and a disk fault will likely cost you all the data on the drive. Make good backups.
posted by Skorgu at 10:15 AM on January 4, 2008

Response by poster: Still no answers on a recommended drive...
Also, what does this mean:
"bear in mind that this will be a single point of failure"
posted by lrodman at 11:13 PM on January 5, 2008

Also, what does this mean:
"bear in mind that this will be a single point of failure"


I think Skorgu is just trying to remind you that good backups are redundant backups. If this NAS is the extent of your backup solution, then it's likely that when the disk fails you'll lose all your backups. Losing all of your backups in an inevitable event, is not having a good backup strategy. Try getting a copy of your backups off-site, in addition to locally.
posted by philomathoholic at 2:43 AM on January 7, 2008

Many (most?) NAS boxes are for the small business set and have built-in RAID so that a single failed drive won't nuke all your data. Disk failures are unpredictable, inevitable and catastrophic so I take every opportunity to remind people that they happen, they will happen to you, and if you don't take proper precautions you'll be that guy who lost ten years of irreplacable work including (true story) his thesis.
posted by Skorgu at 5:21 AM on January 7, 2008

Many (most?) NAS boxes are for the small business set and have built-in RAID so that a single failed drive won't nuke all your data.

While this may be true of more expensive models, I don't think any sub-$100 NAS box is going to be doing RAID. The consumer-level devices are pretty much single-drive solutions, so far as I've seen. (With the exception of DIY using a SFF PC, but that'll be more than $50.) But irodman never mentioned RAID as a requirement so I don't think this is a real issue.

I was holding off on answering in the hopes that somebody would pull the metaphorical rabbit out of the ether and blow everyone away with a $50 do-everything box. But I see that hasn't happened (yet), so I'll give my thoughts on the things so far suggested, just as someone else who's been searching, with seemingly similar requirements.

-Ximeta NetDisk "NDASes": While an interesting product, I'm made very nervous by its use of a basically one-off protocol, rather than an industry standard NAS (iSCSI) or file-sharing (Samba) protocol. I have too much old hardware sitting around that's unusable because it requires vendor-supplied drivers, which the vendor no longer provides or supports...for something as critical as storage, I think it's a mistake to buy anything that doesn't have its drivers included in all mainstream OSes, particularly when there are alternatives available. And from what I can find, the NetDisk's drivers are binary-only for now.

-Netgear NSLU2 'Storage Link': It's not really an enclosure; it's basically just an interface that sits between your network and a few USB external drives. It's relatively cheap ($90) and easily hackable/expandable. Even straight out of the box, it offers no-nonsense Samba/SMB access. This is the most tempting device I've seen so far. There are a number of ways to ensure that external drives spin-down; the easiest is just to make sure you put them in an external enclosure that supports spindown by itself (avoid cheap/generic ones).

-Buffalo Linkstation: This is the next-most-tempting to me. It's different from the NSLU2 in that it actually contains a drive, rather than just interfacing with externals. Also very hackable (which even if you don't take advantage, says good things about the design, IMO) and can be reflashed to do all sorts of stuff. With the stock firmware it supposedly spins the drive down, although a search turns up some people reporting the occasional problem with this. Unfortunately I can't find them without (overpriced) drives pre-installed, so you'll pay close to $200 for a 250GB model.

-Synology 3-in-1 USB Station: Cheap ($70) USB NAS adapter; basically seems like a low-budget, inflexible version of the NSLU2. I think you'd have to be insane to not spend the extra $30 for the Linksys and its flexibility, but some people seem to like it. Spindown depends on your USB drive boxes. It also does printer sharing; I'm not sure what the third function (the "3" in 3-in-1) is.

In a previous AskMeFi, the Asus WL-500g got suggested; it's a bit beyond your $50 mark (at $80 on NewEgg), but it does act as a USB NAS and also do Bittorrent. And it acts as a regular 802.11n router as well. It doesn't seem to have the kind of user/developer community that the NSLU2 does, so unless you needed the router functionality I don't think it's that compelling.

I'd be thrilled if someone proves me wrong, but I just don't think that there are any good (standards-compliant, spindown-supporting) NAS boxes for under $50. I think you need to double that if you want to get something you'll be happy with.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:57 PM on January 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I can heartily recommend the NSLU2 (or slug as it's affectionately called), as that's what I'm using. I've got debian installed on it, and I treat it like just another headless linux box.

Kadin: Thanks for that link about spin down features for the slug. Though if someone does get an enclosure that does auto-spindown, they'll want to make the modifications in this section of the page you linked, and also this other page (which also features ways to figure out which processes are causing the drive to spin up).
posted by philomathoholic at 12:17 AM on January 8, 2008

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