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File server, NAS or other solution...?

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August 6, 2008 9:02:26 PM

Hi All,

I apologise if this is a regularly-asked question - my search turned up several candidate threads, but clicking on each of them returned a "This thread does not exist" message...!

I'm looking for an always-on storage solution for home, accessible over the wireless network at all times, wired into the router. Ideally, it must be exceptionally low-powered when not being accessed - I'm definitely willing to put up with a long lag on first access in return for a standby mode with next to no power consumption. RAID is desirable, but not a requirement. I'm guessing that I'd want around 1TB of storage, although I'm also guessing the size won't be the problem. Am I better putting together the lowest power PC I can and running it as a fileserver, or getting an off-the-shelf NAS? The main problem with putting together a PC is probably the power requirements to have one on 24/7.

Is such a thing commercially available or do I have to design it myself? If the latter, any pointers on how to do it?
August 6, 2008 10:27:32 PM

Is there any reason why you cant use an external hard drive and share it over the network to other machines? This will essentially give you the lowest power consumption and the lowest price with 1TB external drives going for very cheap.

Ive never liked the idea of a NAS as its a midway house (between external drive and fileserver) you cant really do much with them and they are expensive. I ended up getting a fileserver as i wanted expandability and i use it as a torrent and other services machine so it was a no brainer. If you need some expandability you could go with a fileserver but i dont think thats what your looking for.
August 6, 2008 10:48:40 PM

you could buy one of those atom ITX/mini-ITX mobos and give it a 1tb HDD and you got a dedicated file server.
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August 7, 2008 12:36:29 AM

Do a linux fileserver, use old hardware (I have mine on a PIII 900) it does a great job. I got a PCI SATA card and Have 4 SATA drives going. Serves files & web, downloads bittorrent and records tv shows all on the only always on computer in my house. Make sure that it is connected directly (wired) to your wifi ap or the connections will be slow as hell.

See this: http://linuxgazette.net/141/lazar.html

No Linux Knowledge Req'd.
August 7, 2008 1:16:43 AM

It depends on what it's the purpose of your system. If you are ONLY looking for a shared drive in the network, the lowest cost (to buy and to maintain) it's going to be an external drive attached to a router with USB file server feature or a NAS. You can buy (if you don't have) a Linksys or an Apple Base Station (I have listed only these two because I'm certain that they have the file server option, but I also know that are some others with this feature too), an external drive with the size that fits you best and map the drive on every computer in your network and you will be all set. This is easy to do, easy to manage and hassle-free (in most cases!).

However, if you want to have something more than a pure shared drive, (torrent, web hosting, remote access, backup manager, media streaming, etc), then you will probably be better with a small home server.

Usually people just use some old parts from other builds in a "frankenstein" and add a lot of drives to get to the capacity needed. I have done that in the past and it works nice.

Now I have changed again my set up and I have a notebook that I use for most things (web surfing, email, iTunes, etc) and a good desktop for file server, media streaming, backup manager, remote access and, of course, gaming.

Since it's a power hungry system (850W PSU, running a E8400, 2x8800GT, 8Gb, 4 HDs, 2 DVDs and etc), I do not want to have the PC running 24/7, so I just activate it on demand. I've turned on the WakeUpOnLan feature and I just turn it on when I really need. For the scheduled tasks, the computer turns on and off automatically according to the schedule and everything has been doing pretty good so far.

To make it short, I would recommend:
1 - Try the Router+external drive or NAS if you just need a shared network drive
2 - Try to make a simple computer with some spare parts (if you have some) and use power saving things like wakeonlan and stuff
3 - HP sells some home servers loaded with Vista Home Server that consumes low power. I believe they're priced at a 500ish and 700ish dollars, depending on the size of the HDs.
4 - Build your own, with a MB fully loaded (video, network, soundcard, etc), a Celeron or similar processor, some WD Green Power Hard Drives (or similar), and a good quality PFC PSU and load it up with Linux to save on software costs.


August 7, 2008 8:52:09 AM

Thanks for all the replies...

I hadn't realised that there was a possbility I can share an external drive via my wireless router (which is a fairly old Linksys WRT54G) - that would be, by a long way, the easiest option. I assume that was what you were talking about, Chookman?

vmardegan - thanks for a very full reply.

Cheers all! Adam...
Between you, SABOT00 and Cyborg28, you've pretty much described what I had in mind if somethig simpler isn't possible - thanks very much for the specific information.

August 7, 2008 9:13:06 AM

he was talking about sharing the drive on a computer thats already connected to your network and then getting access to it over your router. that would be the simplest option. not to mention its extremly easy to manage your storage and increase it this way at a very very low cost. this would be the cheapest method if you have a computer thats on most of the time you could connect them to.
August 8, 2008 12:06:46 AM

^yeh what veg said... It wont be the fastest, but considering you want to share over wireless it wont be quick anyways.
August 8, 2008 11:18:46 AM

Sorry all, answered that yesterday whilst busy at work and before coffee. You could probably tell by the strange order of the posting...!

I'm definitely not interested in a simple external drive because of the power requirements - specifically, my main, wired PC is a bit of a beast and draws probably around 200W idling. Clearly, I misunderstood (note to self - drink coffee before checking hardware forum posts) - a little research shows that my WRT54G will not support a USB storage solution as a NAS

So that appears to leave me with four options:
- Dedicated NAS;
- Replacement router with capacity to manage storage as NAS (WRT610N , for eg.);
- Buy a file server;
- Build a file server.

Of those, I'm not keen on option 3, simply because I enjoy building and so would happily build a small form-factor PC running Linux. A dedicated NAS doesn't seem to be popular, either. That leaves a replacement router or a home-build file server, I guess.

Have I got it right this time?

Cheers - Adam...
August 8, 2008 11:34:04 AM

And another question - well, a request for confirmation that I've got it right - relating to this...

If I get, for example, the WRT610N, a USB2 SATA enclosure and, for the sake of argument, a 1TB disk (or 2x500GB) I assume that the maximum data-transfer speed will likely be determined by the hard disk seek/read times, rather than by the USB 2 (480Mb/s, right?) - is that right? If so, this setup will be as fast as any other network storage solution could be over the 1Gb ethernet - the network would be the limiting factor over wireless. Have I got all that correct?

Thanks again for all the useful info - Adam...
March 31, 2009 10:42:16 AM

Hello !

I've on a similar mission at the moment... just wondering, how did you get on and what was the final option you've implemented ? Was it a DIY-File server on a form factor ? Or a dedicated NAS ?
I'm looking at building a backend file server / NAS and want to link it up to media streaming as well... just considering whether to build a file server PC as the backend and have multiple streamers across the house, or look for other options... still diving through...

Thanks.

S
!