I work at a university, and our network people have been too busy to deal with my labs questions about network storage. I've pasted below what we are looking for, along with a couple links to products that I think might do the trick. Admittedly, I'm not all that familiar with networking issues, so I wanted to make sure that I have the right thing before I spend lab money to get it. Any input would be great.
> Storage requirements: ~500 GB for user files, not counting RAID space
> Features required: networked storage, preferably with separate user space and per user quotas, RAID for built-in backup
> - designed to store all user files in a single location to be accessed from any lab computer (must be accessible to both MAC and PC - CRITICAL)
> - should be capable of multiple simultaneous read/write requests
> - hot-swappable drives would be advantageous to minimize potential down-time
> - off-subnet access would not be a priority
> Reliability: because all user files will be stored on the drive, it is expected to be up and running pretty much all the time
> Backup requirements: currently, file backup is left to the discretion of the individual user. A simple RAID array would already be a massive improvement for data security. It would be essential to prevent data loss, since all lab files would be located on the drive. (Maybe a hot-swappable RAID 5 would be sufficient for this?)
I wouldn't use a consumer NAS box for such a purpose, and I'd also start with budgeting for a real backup solution instead of assuming that RAID will provide that function. "RAID is not a backup." The only thing that is a backup is a separate storage system that can be taken offline for most of the time, etc.
At 500 GB, it's very easy to make a real backup system using tape, but even an external drive would be much better than leaving "backup" to the RAID system. The RAID system won't protect you from malware, user error, software error, controller failure, multiple drive failure, etc. -- only something that can duplicate all the information offline can protect you from most of these.
Consumer NAS boxes are typically designed for the low-end price point, and perform accordingly. I think you'd be much better off going with a real server, even lower-end ones, such as those from HP, IBM, Dell, etc., based on 2003 Storage Server or something like that. These will tend to be more expandable, maintainable, reliable, and significantly faster.
Edit: If I couldn't afford to do it "properly" with a "real server", I'd probably build my own using a mix of desktop and potentially server components before buying a consumer NAS box.
First off, I would agree with the other poster..... RAID isn't a backup solution. It is really an uptime solution IMHO. That said, for the small size you are looking at, I think the ready built products would work fine. I would put an external drive on whatever you use and back up to it periodically (weekly) and then store the external off-site. I like disk backups for their speed and if not running 24/7 they should last quite a while. Some of the ready builts and certainly anything you build can have eSATA ports. The great thing about eSATA is their speed. If you do RAID 5 put in an extra drive and set it for hot-spare.
For ready builts give a look at Thecus and if you build your own, check out NASLite 2.0 for the OS.