External Storage Solution - NAS, Networked RAID drive, or just and external encl

I am looking to increase my available storage space by adding about 6 TB storage capacity in a RAID configuration. I am wondering if I should just stick with an external box, hardware RAID 5 setup, or take the plunge and go the server route. I work with Mac and PC systems, so the data would have to be accessible to both (Currently all of my drives, 5+ TB, are formatted NTFS and I use NTFS-3G on my mac and it works great for interoperability). I have no experience working with servers, and although fairly competent with computers I worry that setting up a server would be quite a large task.

1). 4 bay HDD enclosure running hardware RAID 5 + 4x 2 TB drives

2). Option #1 + either PogoPlug, network hub, ethernet router, etc.

3). Server such as the HP ProLiant Ultra Micro Tower (other suggestions welcome).

Option #1 would obviously be the easiest route, but I would really appreciate the ability to access files over a network, as well as share files with people located remotely. I have been reading (always dangerous) and have some questions about drives, RAID, and running a server.

First things first - the drives.
-Do I need enterprise grade drives, and does it depend on if I use hardware or software level RAID, as TLER (Time Limited Error Recovery) sounds like a very good thing for hardware RAID, but is it necessary necessary for for software RAID?
I am open to any suggestion of what drives would be recommended based on the application (External Box v. Server).

RAID 5 seems like a great option, as the speeds are decent, there is protection against drive failure, and you maximize storage capacity, but if a second drive fails during a rebuild, are you out of luck? unRAID uses a kind of RAID 4, and it seems like that might be a good option for a server, as a second drive failure doesn't bring down your whole array, you just loose the data on the second failed disk. I don't know anything more about the program and wonder how easy it would be to implement.

As for a server, I don't know what software would be best for someone without networking experience. I am looking for something fairly straightforward that would not need constant maintenance and fussing. The server would not run 24/7, instead I would turn it on when I need access to the files, and then shut it down when finished.

As I mentioned, I have several external drives (RAID 1), and I am also wondering if it would be possible to connect them to a server for remote access as well.

I truly appreciate any help that is offered, as I am very hopeful of the possibilities, but feel as if I am in a bit over my head.

6 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about external storage solution networked raid drive external encl
  1. Best answer
    We like a nice NAS server ourselves, typically fairly straightforward.

    We love ReadyNAS (reviews at our site); QNAP is VERY nice too, but more expensive yet.

    Lower priced options can be just fine too.

    To me, a Microsoft Windows server is just too much maintenance anymore unless you need it for other purposes (QNAP will even run SQL Server)

    RAID 5 is great, but RAID 6 overcomes the issue you mention. RAID 6 is RAID 5 with a hot spare done one better in that the "hot spare" is synchronized already so there is no risk of data loss if a 2nd drive fails during rebuild.

    QNAP is nice in that they have 4 drive units that support RAID 6, with ReadyNAS (for some unknown reason) you need a 6 drive unit (with minimum of 4 drives) to setup as RAID 6

    PogoPlug is cute, but not for the serious IMHO.
  2. As for Enterprise drives, I like to use them when I can as they are known for higher reliability and often a longer warranty.

    ReadyNAS Pro units, if populated with RAID 5 will have enterprise drives and that helps to account for the higher price.
  3. I would look at the eBOX-N unified storage with Hardware raid

    close to two year without a major problem, even I mess-up round several times...
    Each time i reset to manufacture default
    Login - Load the last know good configured
    Two minutes later, I'm back in business
  4. Thank you very much for the responses. Right now I am leaning toward the ReadyNAS Ultra 4 populated with 4x Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB drives for ~$800, the main reason being cost. The ReadyNAS seems to have a straightforward setup and I like the ability to attach additional USB drives and gain network access to them as well. One thing I am wondering is if the external drives will be spinning 24/7, or only powered up when accessed.

    Just to re-iterate, my goal is 6 TB Storage capacity in RAID 5 with local network and remote access. If there are any issues with the above, or anyone sees a reason I should go with a WHS box instead, please advise.

    Thank you!
  5. I will throw in 1 other option. I have 2 Cavalry CADA-S4 hardware arrays. I just picked up (4) 2Tb Seagate externals at Costco for $69 each. Took them apart and put them in a Cavalry. About a year and a 1/2 ago I ordered the 2nd enclosure(no drives) directly from Cavalry and it was like $75. Plus they threw in a bunch of spare parts(LED boards etc). (I think I happen to catch the rigth guy on the phone. He was very cool.)You will need a PCI-X 2 or 4 port esata card $29 bucks I think.
    Value A+
    Hardware A+
    Software B
    Support B+ (direct phone number and a tech actually answers. Tech knowledge C-)
  6. Best answer selected by Network_Noob.
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