Tell me about current NAS manufacturers and technology?
August 10, 2008 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about Network Attached Storage ( NAS )? In particular what current manufactuers should I avoid for a typical 1 terabyte (or greater) RAID array? I'm also interested in general information and pitfalls for NAS devices and implementations.

Deployment is for a mixed platform small office - about 8 seats. Platforms are XP, Vista and OS X.

I'm assuming SAMBA protocol for shares. Usage is low to medium - the office needs a data/file server for storing and reliably sharing typical office documents.

They emphatically do not need an actual server. There's no forseeable upgrade path to an in-office Exchange server or domain controller or the like - this is handled by a remote office through VPN. I could build them a PC-based solution using something like FreeNAS but that would be overkill, and I don't want to introduce a possibly flaky desktop/server into their office.

What NAS models or manufacturers are considered the most reliable? Best support? Best value?

Much thanks in advance!
posted by loquacious to Technology (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This is more anecdote than anser, but I've been running my ReadyNAS NV for a couple years now and would recommend it. It's solid; the downside is that you can't just pop out all 4 drives and stick them in your PC (but I'm not sure if anything can do that). I started out with 4 x 400 gb and upgraded to 4 x 750 gb later without any problems. I don't use any of the server functionality on it aside from the rare FTP transfer. Not sure what they've done with their product line lately (they got bought by... someone?) but my roommate just bought something from them and hasn't had any problems.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:05 AM on August 10, 2008

We use AC&NC JetStors at work, and they've been reliable and easy to use in both small office cases and in big fibre-channel server-room type cases.
posted by SpecialK at 5:08 AM on August 10, 2008

I haven't used it, but Drobo looks really cool and has been getting decent buzz. You'll need the DroboShare attachment to enable NAS.
posted by mkultra at 5:59 AM on August 10, 2008

posted by mkultra at 6:00 AM on August 10, 2008

You main considerations (I would think) would be any hardware redundancy features (hot swap, redundant power) and upgrade potential.

I just worked with a "Western Digital MyBook World Edition" (horrible product name, 1tb, RAID 1 mirror) where the Ethernet port spontaneously quit working. Bad enclosure control board. Fortunately the box used a Linux RAID file system, so I was able to remove one of the drives, install it temporarily in a Windows system, mount it using a third party utility that reads the Linux format, and then copy all of the files to a second external drive so that the people could get back up and running.

Basically, make sure you know what file system the box is using, if the drives are user accessible, and what it would take to restore the data in the event of either drive or controller failure.

The best backup system in the world isn't worth squat if it takes you a day and a half to figure out how to restore it, or get the data back online.
posted by wfrgms at 8:07 AM on August 10, 2008

we had a similar deployment of the readynas NV+ at work, based on my positive experiences at home. mounted by NFS (centOS) and SMB (windows XP) clients.

this is for a chip development environment. hence long jobs, big files, lots of log files. about 6 people beating on the thing at once.

the NV+ did pretty poorly. we'd have bad performance when more than one person was running a synthesis or simulation job and the other was copying a lot of files - everyone else's mount would be very slow to the point that interactive performance of the compute server machine suffered.

this never happened with up to 100 mixed NFS/CIFS users on a netapp.

we had two of them, one an NV set up to do backups of the first machine via rsync. when the power supply died in the NV, (this is a common problem within a certain serial number range) the main NV was very unhappy that the backup was gone. we just couldnt figure out what we needed to change or reconfigure on the main NV+ to make it forget completely about the backup machine. for the week that we waited for a new power supply, all of the above problems were magnified.

to netgear's credit they sent us a replacement supply for free out of warranty. they really took responsibility for the power supply problem. although it does seem related to a particular model of the power supply, its probably more due to poor cooling. my NV+ at home also killed a power supply. in that case, because power supplies were in short supply, they actually sent me a brand new chassis free, again just out of warranty. so netgear/infrant have been very good at customer service, that's for sure.

i think for very light use an NV+ is fine. but i'm not sure i'd deploy it again in even a small office setting. i'm very happy with it at home, for rsync backup of my mac and storage of files i dont really need on-line (i tend to just leave it off to save power).

the only caveat in my review is that all of this is on version 3 of their software, and version 4 is now out. perhaps this has addressed the issues but we're not going to find out - we've upgraded to new netapp machines.

the story of version 4 is a whole post in itself - they had a really long beta and when they finally did release it there were some very serious bugs and they had to take it down for 3 weeks or so before they could fix it. their software group does seem a little amateurish, but they have good techincal support in their forums and seem to take problems seriously.
posted by joeblough at 9:14 AM on August 10, 2008

I've been looking at Buffalo for my home storage needs, which would seem to be a good choice for you. A regular 2T Terastation is around $800, which rises about 50% if you need AD integration (Terastation Pro II, by the site).

I don't work for them, and I imagine there are some worthy competitors for devices like this, but this is all to say that if you have a budget that allows it just buy something like this and be done with it.
posted by rhizome at 10:34 AM on August 10, 2008

I've been doing a lot of research on NAS units and the DNS-323 keeps popping up as one for good value, its a two-disk NAS in RAID 1, and you can find it on newegg and amazon for less than $150. It's a little dated, though, D-Link has released the DNS-343 recently which is the 4-disk version. Another thing to consider is how loud the unit will be, that seems to be common problem with most NAS units, although if you're sticking it in a server room it may not matter.
posted by bertrandom at 6:28 PM on August 10, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry I don't have any best answers for anyone, yet. So far this has raised mostly more questions for me. I was looking at the DNS-343 and the ReadyNAS NV+, but I'm not liking the reliability reports (first hand, here, and elsewhere) and others.

If anyone is still following, I'm looking for native RAID 5 - not a proprietary disk mirroring scheme (like the Drobo), with native SAMBA sharing. AD support not needed.

On the off hand, maybe I will go with building them a simple filesharing box. I'm pretty confident in my custom builds and configs and none of the desktops or lightweight servers that I've built has given me any issues over years of service. (Outside of standard OS upgrade and security/patching issues.)

The upside is that I could preconfigure it for remote support on request.
posted by loquacious at 3:26 PM on August 12, 2008

I've been using a Buffalo Terastation for semi-intensive photo work for a little over a year and a half now. Nightly backups (via rsync), streaming data (movies, music, but still puts the IO hit on decently). It's in use close to 24x7.

It is native RAID 5, samba/nfs/ftp configuration. It has just worked flawlessly. usually has a sale on these things. They're reliable and solid. I'd easily recommend them for small to mid size businesses, or any video/photo professional. Good IO, good networking, don't have to worry about it device.
posted by fnord at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2008

I'm also looking for a NAS for my home office. I was initially going to buy the Western Digital My Book mentioned above but the reviews scared me off.

I was almost settled on the Lacie ethernet but was surprised to find out that it does not allow backups through remote access, which is the main purpose why I am getting such a device (I'm not home very much).

Can anyone recommend a (1TB) alternative?
posted by sinbarambam at 6:04 AM on August 19, 2008

one nice thing i forgot to mention about the NV+ is that it's linux underneath, so if you create a symlink when the export is mounted as NFS, it will generate the appropriate windows foo.lnk file when the export is mounted as CIFS. NASs that use SMB underneath don't usually get this right - a symlink created by unix is interpreted as a garbage file by windows.

it sounds like maybe you should just build them a linux box. you probably know this already, but ubuntu seems to be a pretty good choice for longevity. fedora really pisses me off - 6 months down the line and there's no more repos/updates for the version you're on. the LTS versions of ubuntu are much more friendly in this regard.
posted by joeblough at 11:37 PM on August 21, 2008

I would recommend considering the ReadyNAS further.

For low/medium use, I think the ReadyNAS is the best of the bunch. I spent months researching NAS units and they all have some reports of hardware failures...I think the ReadyNAS ones are just mentioned more frequently because they are very popular.

The ReadyNAS has quite a large community around it, as well as a decent support organization (although I don't know about that now that they are owned by Linksys).

If you want something really reliable, you are going to have to pay thousands of $$$. As with most computer gear, you get what you pay for. I think joeblough above should have been using something more heavy duty.

I think building a linux-based NAS will be more painful in the long run. I wouldn't abandon the RAID since disks are so ridiculously cheap these days.

Note that the ReadyNAS uses a proprietary sort of RAID, which works like RAID 5 but allows you to expand the overall capacity of the unit by replacing some of the drives instead of all of them at once.
posted by kenliu at 10:00 PM on September 15, 2008

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