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Need advice on NAS or massive external storage options.

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October 21, 2006 8:04:53 AM

Hi guys,
I've been thinking to buld some sort of data tower or something that will just serve as a massive storage case to connect to my computer. A friend told me this is called NAS (network attached storage) and that it is much cheaper and easier to use than going with an expensive data server.

I'm thinking to do something like (2x) 4 x Seagate 750GB SATA or (2x) 6 x Maxtor 500GB SATA in two cases and then just have them connected to my actual computer and appear as two big big hard drives. To do that I guess I would have to use a RAID 0 setup, which I'd have to learn from the ground up because I know absolutely nothing about RAID or configuring it.

Was just wondering if you guys could recommend any NAS solutions or cases or anything else that might fit the bill for this? Ideally two 6x500 would be better, not only cheaper but in the end but I would have 2.5 TB of space which each instead of 2.25TB with the 4x750. I also am looking for something that is small or like an HTPC case, so it will fit on a shelf on my TV stand alongside the HTPC style computer I plan to build around the time I do all this.

Basically to sum it up I need some solution that would allow me setup roughly 4-5 TB and have it connected externally, but use it like it was internal.

I came across this somewhere and it looks really cool, almost perfect for what I am asking (but I'm still interested to see what other options there are)
Anyone know about these or have any experience with them?
October 21, 2006 2:11:04 PM

NAS is a convenient solution if the data needs to be shared among multiple users. Please watch out for the following drawbacks for the cheap NAS:

1) VERY slow data throughput especially if the file size is large. Try to move a 500MB video file and you will understand the pain.
2) Cheap NAS has a VERY small CPU and a limited feature OS. The system can handle maximum 3 to 4 users. Under stress condition, it might even corrupt your data.
3) Lack of direct I/O ports to do the backup. How do you backup the data inside your NAS? Since the system is limited, you cannot install any backup software. In addition, no direct I/O ports to connect your backup device. Using your network connection is the only way to get back the data. Depending on the size of your backup data, it might take hours or days to backup all your data.

Since your proposed system will have over 6TB of raw capacity, you will need to use fast data throughput interface such as SCSI or eSATA. Both interfaces can provide more than 300 MB/second which is at least 8 times faster than the best Firewire or USB can provide. For the data that needs to be shared over the network, I will just setup the Network Shared Folder for file sharing.

RAID 0 will write the data across many HDDs at the same time. It will give you the best performance but offer no data protection at all. You will loss the entire volume data if just one HDD fails. Be careful on using RAID 0.
October 21, 2006 3:03:55 PM

Along these same lines I was curious how do you set up multiple servers using MS 2003 to work under the same domain. Using either virutal drives or physical drive names? Can it be set up to have the original server say a raid 2 configuration and the virtual server a raid 5 or 6 config?
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October 21, 2006 8:25:43 PM

For multiple servers and domains environment, you can setup trusted domain among them to share the data and files. Administrator can setup the appropriate shared folder access right for all members. I do not understand your physical drive vs. virtual drives question. Please give me more detailed.
October 21, 2006 9:02:30 PM

You would have more usable space if you made 7disk array with a hot spare, instead of 2 raid 5's.

What you are tring to do is not a cheap if you do it right. I would recomend purchasing something similar to Snap Server 520. Expandable to 26T

The Guardian OS has been around for some time now and works very well. Recovery from failed drives are automatic. No user action required, just how swap the drive. If you have criticle data it has a snapshot utility that captures the data and mirrors it to a seperate directory for backup.
October 21, 2006 10:13:41 PM

Oh wow, so essentially with that Snap server it is like a completely seperate system for your data, and it maintains it within itself to prevent any data loss?
That is really what I need because I am building this mainly so I can just backup everything and not have to worry about burning things to DVD anymore.

So if I were to get say two of those Snap Server 520's and then use this Guardian OS to maintain them is that very complicated or is it something you just setup initially and then it takes care of itself from there on out? I am really not a very technical guy and I can see I may have to pay for that in buying something that is already configured and ready to go.

With this Guardian OS though, could I use it in conjunction with something like the Massive Storage Case I linked to in my initial post?

Tslok: Thank you for the informative information about NAS. I definitely cannot invest in anything that may result in data loss, I need whatever I get to be extremely solid for years. I do not want to back up the data on the drives once I get this going, but instead will likely buy duplicate hard drives and just swap them out over time keeping them set aside, is that a good idea?

As for the physical drive vs. virtual drive question, well I don't really know what is meant here but what I'm looking for is just to have the seperate storage connected through SATA to my computer, and then just have that storage appear as any other hard drive would on My Computer. For example if I had 4x500GB drive in a seperate case and connected that, then it would show up as a 2TB drive in My Computer.

I don't need this for shared or network storage, it is completely personal and not for anything business related. So something that is connected and can be accessed only by me is what I want. If you guys have any links to information I could read about all this it would be great, because I obviously have some learning to do here first :lol: 

I appreciate the help & knowledge so far though guys, very helpful :) 

EDIT: Oh and I wouldn't need to go for the whole shebang at once. I would prefer to start with something in the 2-3TB range in just one enclosure but have it running in a configuration or system that would allow me to add another one later at no trouble.
October 22, 2006 2:15:55 AM

Based on your requirement, your external storage will use mainly for backup of one or two computers. For this scenario, you should get the direct attached storage device instead of NAS (Network Attached Storage). NAS is really for file sharing in multiple users network environment. NAS is OK for file level backup but absolutely unsuitable for large system level backup because the performance is VERY slow. IF you want to start it with 2TB, you should choose 2 to 5 Bay RAID storage system and the interface can be either USB2.0, Firewire or eSATA. For your reference, eSATA can do 3000 Mbps, Firewire800 can do 800Mbps and USB2.0 can do around 450 Mbps. If you want performance, you should choose eSATA. For all three interfaces, Windows will recognize the system as one single volume HDD and you can access the data via drive letter (just like a hard disk). If you are doing RAID function, you will need to remove the entire set of HDDs that represent the single volume. YOu cannot just remove one disk. Therefore, you still need to find some way to backup your data. If you want to evaluate some direct attached storage, here is the link:

http://www.3gendata.com/store_main.asp
October 22, 2006 2:32:38 PM

I believe the physical drive limit is 2T meaning you can make an array of up to 2T before you max it out. Virtual drives I believe do not have such a limit. The size of the drive can be added or subtracted on the fly. To the computer it appears as if you have as much or as little space as you desire. MS as well as a few other vendors have already started making OS systems to accomplish this. The Virtual drives give more flexabiltiy in adding drives or space to a large network. For very large systems it will more then likely be the wave of the future because of flexabiltiy.
October 22, 2006 9:11:26 PM

Heh, to be honest I have no idea what 'Virtual Storage' even means.

I was kind of hoping to find something that would store all my data and then have like an additional drive for fault tolerance or something that would prevent data loss from occuring. This solution is not for backup on the side, it is for initial storage.

This looks like it's going to be a bit over my head, and something pre-configured like that Snap Server is almost $10,000. That's not really what I was looking to spend for just some personal storage :?

Thanks for the suggestions and information though guys, looks like I'll just have to find a PCI sata expansion card for now and pop two more 750's in until I can figure out this stuff.
October 22, 2006 9:27:57 PM

Good idea! Keep it simple. For your configuration, you really have no need for virtual storage. This will just add another level of complexity with no benefit at all. For simple HDD data protection, you might want to use RAID 1 protection. In simple term, it is just mirroring. THe data will write to 2 HDDs at the same time. If one HDD fails, your data will still survive. You can buy a RAID 1 PCI card to do the RAID 1 yourself or you can buy an external RAID 1 storage. It is up to you on how you want to do it. Read up on the RAID 1 function and feature by using the Google search. I am sure that you will like it. The bottom line is that keep it simple and you will be a lot happier down the road. Best of luck!
October 23, 2006 9:34:49 AM

Great! This has been the most helpful thing I've read yet :) 
I will do some studying up on it and when those Segate 750's finally drop (if they ever do) I will go for my own setup with a bunch of those badboys in RAID 1.

Thanks a lot tslok, very simple and easy to understand. Although it may not seem like much to some, it was all getting to be a little intimidating there :lol: 
!