I’m wondering what you opinions are regarding USB HD vs. Server.
I need to share files on my wireless network and I need it to be relatively fast, and security is also very important. The files will be of a sensitive nature. Having said that I’m also looking for a fast and easy solution.
The network will have about 6 clients connected to it and will consist of both PC’s and MAC’s
I imagine the answer to your question hinges on two factors...
1) Just how fast do you need this shared storage to be?
2) Just how secure?
An external USB/Firewire will the be fastest solution, and it's security is limited only by which computers you attach it to. However, this stretches the meaning of "shared" storage as, typically, only one person can access the drive at a time.
Another popular option would be an external, stand-alone NAS unit. Tim Higgins and the staff have reviewed many here, so you have lots of choices in that category. NAS is slower than USB, but definitely "shared." Security varies but is configurable. Some of the factors here are: speed (100/1000), protocols (ftp,smb,nfs,etc.), and levels of security. Some NAS units have tighter share level security options versus others. So pay attention to those options.
If I go for the server option would there be an issue with software? Cause I would like to have the ability to manage the Server if I go with that option.
If you use a separate server as opposed to a NAS unit you will gain ultimate flexibility. With a full windows server you have all the same management/configuration options you would with your own PC (filesystem and share level permissions). Also, stand-along servers usually are just as fast and sometimes faster than off the shelf, consumer quality NAS devices.
So management would not be an issue. Stand-alone servers just tend to cost more. You can also run/add additional server-software on the server to support additional protocols later on (e.g. Tivo's HomeMediaOption, FTP server, I-Tunes, NFS, etc.)
If any of your mac's running the older OS your choices will be limited to SnapAppliance which is now owned by Adaptec. If the new newer mac's are using names longer than 31 chr APF 3.0 that's another problem.
There is a FreeNAS project on going right now. There is problem with software raid, HW seams to work if supported by FreeBSD 6.0. This is in the early works, but looks promising.
I currently have the older mac, and use a snap 2200 NAS. Works great, setup in RAID1, 2 x 300gig HD.