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Low cost external hard drive solutions

Last response: in Storage
January 3, 2006 5:20:52 PM

Like most people I feel that I can never have enough drive space. As extra cash and good deals present themselves I purchase new drives.

My primary machine now has 7 drives in it (plus a dvd burner) which is really way too much for my poor lil box.

I've been shopping around for different external drive solutions and I wanted to see if anyone here has any suggestions. I'll let you know what I'm working with, what extra hardware I have laying around and we'll see what replys I get.

Goal: to put 4 320gb or larger drives into a external box and set them up in either a raid configuration (raid 5 only) or keep them as seperate drives. I don't care how I access it. Network, USB or Firewire. I can do 10/100/1000 wired to the box it's going into. If I'm not going to do raid 5 I would like to stick with USB as my first option, then network and finally firewire just to give me physical access to the drives from other machines.

I'm willing to purchase a stand alone case, power supply, hot-swap bays, controller cards, etc..

Or.. I have a p3 900 2U box that I'm not currently using (1gb ram) that I could setup as a file server. I don't have it rack mounted and the thing is very loud. If I was to put a raid controller in this box it would have to be a shorter card due to limitations of my PCI slots/case.

I would like to have something that is portable and I only want the power cord and 1 cable coming off the box to connect it to either the pc or the network. (usb/firewire/lan)

The box/drives would be for storage only. I'll do all my main data access from local drives.

I've noticed USB to IDE converters for pretty cheap online and I could get USB access ports for the back of the case for cheap too. How bad is the performance hit of running 4 or more external drives via USB? how about 8 drives?

I've seen things like these.. do they work well? slow? do you see a lot of system lag by using something like this (cpu overhead)? (this box is 3.2 ghz / 2gb ram)

Anyone have ideas on building something like this? Is it cheaper to buy a pre-existing solution?

Some shopping around and I think I could get that part for 20 bucks each + shipping.

Any ideas? I'd like to see what you guys think before I invest any time or money into this.

January 13, 2006 3:18:32 AM

I have tried this with a old scsi case I got off ebay and bought firewire to ide adapters. Had terrible results as the adapters(2 of them) were designed to take 2 drives each but would only recognize 1. The speed was disappointing to too. With that many drives thru a single connection you are wasting the speed potential of the drives . The top speed of firewire or usb2 I think is around 30 to 40 GBs and depending on file size could become a significant bottle neck. If using multiple connections the cabling would become a nightmare. I would suggest saving your money and getting eSATA, much faster and more bang for the buck in the long run
January 13, 2006 10:29:59 AM

For new drives, I'd agree with the above post about buying eSATA.

However, regarding you current disks, have you considered just buying one of those network storage (NAS) boxes? I've seen one (without drives, as you would want) with 4 bays for about £70 - you could probably get cheaper if you shopped around.

I'm not sure how reliable they are, but it would almost certainly be a lot smaller, quieter and more energy efficient than running a second PC just to use the drives.

However, unless you're experiencing major ventilation/ heat or power issues with your current set-up, the easiest thing is to do nothing :wink: