NAS Or Buy New Computer

I know this question has been asked countless times, however after reading through dozens of them they all get into the specifics that I really do not understand. Ive just recently started searching for this solution and landed upon either getting NAS or buying yet another pc. The delima I have is due to the amount of computers I already own:

- Windows 7 (800gb used, used for work, music)
- Mac Air (photos, browsing, music)
- Windows XP Pro (media center, would have been perfect for this but already using it to watch netflix and movies... cant install a different os due to netflix requirement)
- Windows XP Home (misc, take on trips)
- Ubuntu Server (has a raid setup, however using this for work and cannot repurpose this)

In a perfect setup, all of these computers would resync or push files to a centralized point nightly. All photos, music, videos can be accessed from any computer on the network or through ftp, ssh when outside the network. Then the file server would be rsync or mirrored to another drive. I would also backup the file server to an offsite external drive in case of disaster. Optionally store encrypted logins and other vital info in dropbox or cloud solution.

The problem I have is I had no idea what direction to go in. I really do not want to add another computer to the mix or mess with building a machine. I opt for something plug and play and easy to use. Obviously this is leaning toward NAS but then I think I really do not want a RAID setup which adds another point of failure or possible corruption to the mix. Id rather just have a NAS that is essentially a big hard drive that I can sync to another drive and backup the other drive for an offsite backup. I also have no clue about any brands or what to even look for.

Does anyone have any advice? Thanks for taking the time to read this.
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  1. Best answer
    You can certainly have just one drive in your NAS but then you have a much bigger point of failure than if it were RAIDed. You'd have to retrieve your offsite backup copy before you could do anything with the data locally.

    The idea of RAID is to provide redundancy in the event of drive failure.

    If you don't really care about speed then running RAID1 is probably the best for you - it provides a mirror of everything you put into the array. If you want to combine both optimal redundancy and improved speed, then RAID10 would be better, but you would need at least 4 drives in the array for both striping and mirroring. With RAID10 you can even have simultaneous multiple drive failures and not lose data (as long as both of one pair of mirrored drives don't fail).

    Given that you have different needs for data access across the different clients, you probably want to do more than just have your NAS look like 'a big hard drive.' You may want differing access rights from your work-related clients than from your media center pc. Almost any NAS can do this for you easily, I believe.

    If you can get work to ante up for the costs, or if Santa is nice to you this holiday season, then I'd recommend the Synology products, which I've been using for about 10 months (I have the 1511+) with high satisfaction. It does everything I want it to, and more. I've had to rebuild my RAID10 array once, replacing a drive, and it was able to do it smoothly. I'm using it mostly for media storage but also for system backups and for an iSCSI drive.

    The only real problem with NAS right now is the increased hard drive cost due to the flooding in Thailand that hit the supply chain. The Synology servers have a feature that's particularly useful in this situation; hybrid RAID that allows you to have drives of differing sizes. You could start with a couple of 500GB drives and later start adding 3TB drives, or do some other permutation.
  2. Well.... RAID is a good thing. It's designed for redundancy as long as you have the drives. A very good and standard design is a server with an attached storage unit that houses a RAID 5+1 array.

    Typically, you can build any reliable PC, even a small HTPC case would work.

    I used a LianLi PC-Q25 case. It's small, uses an ITX MB and is running a Core i7 2600k. Right now I've crammed 8 full sized HDD's in it using the RAID 5+1 and then 2 SSD's in a RAID 1 to install windows and programs on.

    This design allows you a huge amount of centralized storage that has ultra-redundancy and can resist almost any type of failure other than a site disaster like a fire or tornado. Since the system runs windows (you can use home server 2011 or server 2008 R2) you can configure your data and shares any way you like.

    I purchased a RocketRaid 2740 to for the internal storage, but you can use whatever. The RAID 5+1 is a simple RAID 5 with an extra hot swap drive for redundancy.

    If you're running a business with millions in assets, you may want to think about disaster recovery and an off-site storage solution. My recommendation would be a hosted cloud solution. But again, you'd have to justify the investment in cloud services as a backup and weigh the cost against the possibility of a natural disaster or fire.

    Bottom Line:

    Build your own server. Either find a case suitable to house the storage internally or find a good SAS chassis and grab a solid controller.
  3. Thanks for the advice. This will really help when making my decision. I appreciate it!
  4. Best answer selected by evocore.
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