Hey guys, I've been reading up on NAS technology for the past few days on here and anandtech, trying to figure out which route I should go. The way I understand it, Windows Home Server doesn't do RAID -- but it does let you pick and choose which directories you want cloned to another disk. I've also read about lots of complexities in matching types of hard drives with RAIDs, problems rebuilding RAID arrays when one drive fails, etc. For someone who is computer-savvy but RAID illiterate, it seems like an awful lot of info to digest, and yet it seems that almost everyone (except the WHS proponents) wants to run a RAID in their NAS box.
Can someone explain what is so great about RAID for home use? Why doesn't WHS use it? If there's a chance that rebuilding a RAID would fail, it seems to my uneducated mind that it would be better to just copy the important stuff to another drive, like WHS does, and avoid all the complications of RAID, overzealous Green drive head parking, resetting the RAID when adding more drives, etc.
In any case, RAID is still applicable for home use because some people want to read data quickly off their drives, essentially to cut down loading and processing times that are disk-intensive. Examples include editing videos, games, the boot-up sequence, etc.
RAID isnt so great for home use really; home use often means windows so you're stuck with proprietary drivers that were rushed and sometimes are even dangerous and unfinished. A lot of home RAID arrays break, letting it be vulnerable. Without the correct restore procedure, you may cripple the data and render it useless/unrecoverable by some mistake after this array split happens. For example, some people simply re-create the array. Only when the disk order changes; this corrupts all data when the array is used.
In other words, RAID may be no complex and obscure, that it actually can make your data less safe even if you used redundancy. So when you go this route, be sure to invest in a backup; no RAID can substitute for that.
Also, you may want to read about ZFS also. FreeNAS 0.7 would seem to be much cooler for a home user than WHS. As long as the machine is a dedicated NAS; as you can't use FreeNAS as a desktop OS of course.
The biggest single problem with RAID for home users is that it lulls them into the belief that they don't need to do backups. RAID protects ONLY against drive failure, it does NOT protect against ANY of the other risks to your data. Most home users would be much better served by spending the time and effort on developing a sound backup strategy which gets them at least two OFFLINE copies of their important data, preferably with one of them stored OFFSITE.
Ok, thanks for all your input. I'm still not sure which way to go with my purchase. I just want a device with a couple terabytes of storage that can serve iTunes to the network and also media to my Playstation. Something that can do bittorrent and maybe even Usenet downloading on its own. I think FreeNAS can do all of that, and maybe the D-Link DNS-323.
It would be used as an Apple Time Machine back up repository as well as for doing PC backups. So all critical data will reside on both the computers as well as the NAS. @sminlal, does that scenario sound like a decent backup strategy?
I think the real question then is should the NAS itself be RAIDed or not. It seems like RAID 1 merely protects against drive failure, but not accidental deletes or data corruption. So if all data is stored both on the computer and the NAS, then maybe no RAID is needed -- Time Machine will protect against accidental deletes and there will always be two copies of data (computer + NAS). However, if data is stored solely on the NAS then it sounds like you really need to back up the NAS to yet another drive to truly protect it. In either case, I don't think I see the purpose of RAID; if you're backing up the RAIDed system anyway then of what use is RAID 1 on the NAS?
This is complicated. For some reason when my wife said "we need to back up the PC" I just figured I'd buy a NAS and be done with it. :-)
Depending on how much you value your data, you shouldn't rely on always-attached backup solutions. As I mentioned above, the best backup strategy is one in which you have OFFLINE copies of your data with an OFFSITE copy for the best protection.
The problem with online backup is that it too is subject to many same risks as your original data: theft of your equipment, electrical hits, distasters, etc.