My Storage Nightmare : What Solution Do I need ? Help plz !!!

I have a problem currently with how I manage my files.
I apologize for the lengthy post, please do not be discouraged, I just want to give as much details as possible, I need help :/

Here is the situation :
My company currently consist of only 2 people, me and my partner. We work from home most of the time but once in a while we will go work at each other's house or at our offices. We both have a laptop and a desktop each, so that is 4 computer systems, where we try to have all the same files... When we work home we use our desktop, when we work elsewhere we use our laptops. Problem is that the syncing of our work documents is done manually, so we end up with multiple version of files and sometimes there are mistakes, some files arent the most current, and if im on the road sometimes i dont have the latest file on my laptop because i had last updated it on my desktop, so every time i want a file i need to transfer it from desktop to laptop and vice versa.

If it was just me it wouldnt be that bad, but since we are 2 people with 4 systems, it gets pretty annoying to manage... If my partner need some files he will have to ask me to send them, instead of just going to get it directly himself, and I have to do the same. We use ftp / emails / msn to transfer files between us, so that also is a pain, because then we need to go look at where the file is, was it in my emails, or did he send it to me over by msn or what...

What Do I need ? :
I have no ideal what is needed to fix our issues, but here is a list of things I think would help solve the problem :
- Me and my partner use a server to store all our files. All the latest files are thus in 1 location.
- The files are backed up on a regular schedule on the server (server has 2 drives?).
- User friendliness... We access our files directly from the server, and the way to access those files would seem to us just like if it was another drive attached on our computer, from inside windows explorer. I think this is called mapped drive...
- If we are within reach of the LAN connection where the server is, then file transfer is faster because we use LAN connection.
- If we are outside reach of LAN, we can still access the files in the exact same way, which means no crappy web-based file browser view or ftp crap, I really would like to avoid that... The only difference between accessing files in LAN and over the internet would be the transfer speed, it would be reduced to the speed of the internet connection that is available. So the setup needs to be aware if we are in lan or if we are in remote location over the internet.
- Transfer speeds in LAN mode and Internet mode need to be as fast as possible, I will have a very fast internet connection at my house soon so the server will probably be located here.
- This would be a bonus but basically, since this solution might be located in my house, if I could use this setup to stream video/music to our computers, or even to my xbox that would be great.
- Maybe have some folder in our 4 computers to automatically sync with some folders on the server, so that we can still work locally on our computers if there is no internet connection ? But I guess syncing would need to be close to "real-time", not only once every night at 4am... This might be too much bandwidth usage thought, not sure if it is a good ideal, but it seems like it at first glance.

I have at least 1 old computer case that could be used (including mobo/cpu etc ).
I have 2x250gig Western digital hard drives ( WD2500KS and WD2500JS )
I dont necessarily want to use these old parts, i would rather buy new stuff, but I am not a millionaire and I am not sure if this is possible withing a limited budget. Total cost for the complete solution should be around 500$ or less... not sure if this is realistic ? I could go higher but only if it is really needed.

The Solutions:
I guess I would like some kind of server, ( NAS ? ) which allow me to do all this, I am not sure if all this is possible and I have no ideal how to set this up... I know there are windows based nas, and some freenas OS, but maybe that is not good, maybe i just need a server at home... I dont know... Maybe I am asking for too much, but then knowing my situation, my needs and my "wants", what would be the best recommendation ?

The only problem with having all our files stored elsewhere instead of locally is when we need to work with large files... I do a lot of photoshop, most filesize are ok, but some times there are project which require large files, like for print design work... When in LAN that wouldnt be a problem, but loading very large files across the internet could be problematic... although it would be better than nothing and it doesnt happen too often...

The point of all this is to make our lives easier.

Please help me figure this out !
Thanks !
4 answers Last reply
More about storage nightmare solution
  1. There is FreeNAS. You could set up a server in DMZ with old hardware. Socket 478 is fine. You could keep the files updated in that space.
    You could rent online storage also.
  2. I understand that I may be going at a tangent here. But purely for sharing and syncing document versions Google Docs would do a good a job. This is what we have been using at our 2 person "small" business.
  3. No, as i mentionned, it has to be working in LAN, google docs is web based, and you cant access files with windows explorer its through browsers...

    I've thought about freeNAS, but , i dont know... seems very complicated, and not sure it does everything I need.
  4. FreeNAS is as simple as it will ever be, so that's the first thing you should checkout really. :)

    Just download the ISO and begin playing with it. It uses a web-configuration so you can do all the work from your windows pc i you like.
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