Looking for NAS advice (pre-built or scavenge?)

I've been contemplating getting a NAS for centralized data storage for a few months now and have been really looking into it for about a week or so. I have two desktops that were each built a little more than 5 years ago now and I'm hoping to get all my data centralized and a little more secure. I'm working on a budget (hoping to keep it under $450) and, from what I have researched so far, I'm leaning toward a NAS with at least 2 drives in RAID 1. I'm leaning toward RAID 1 because I had a ~7 year old hard drive die a couple years ago and almost lost all my engagement/wedding pictures as a result.

I built my first rig in '03 and have been doing IT work in a business environment since early '07, so the hardware side of scavenging parts from an old rig to build a NAS wouldn't be too difficult.

I found the Entry Level NAS Benchmarks page and noticed a big gap between the Thecus N2200XXX and Synology DS212j/DS211j units at the top and all the others below them. The All NAS Charts has a wide variety of NAS options, but it doesn't include any of the "entry level" models to give me a point of reference. Additionally, the charts seem to indicate that the $375 Thecus N22000XXX outperforms all the more expensive options in the All NAS list, including the $1000 Qnap TS-559 Pro. I feel like I must be reading something wrong or missing a difference between the charts. If someone can help explain to me what I'm missing there that would be awesome.

That said, I have spent most of my time focusing on researching the top 3 performing NAS in the Entry Level NAS Benchmarks as they are less expensive and still seem to give good performance. So my main questions pertain to those specific NAS; the Thecus N2200XXX, and the Synology DS212+ and DS211+.

1) The Synology NAS would require purchasing separate HDDs and, according to Synology's website, I would have to get Enterprise class drives in order to run a RAID configuration. Can anyone verify this for me and explain why it is or is not necessary? From what I can gather on Synology and Western Digital's websites, the only real difference between an Enterprise and Desktop HDD are the TLER for the Enterprise drive and deep recovery cycle for the Desktop class drive. Western Digital also says their Desktop class drives are approved for RAID 0 and 1 applications utilizing no more than 2 HDDs in consumer RAID appliations. How does that apply here and would there be any problem running 2 x Desktop class drives in a RAID 1 configuration in a Synology NAS?

2) According to the benchmark chart, the Synology NAS tested were the "+" editions. According to Synology's website, the only difference(s) between the DS212j, DS212, and DS212+ are the processor speed, amount and speed of RAM' and the available external ports. Would these difference produce a major difference (downgrade) in performance?

3) I have seen a couple places where purchasers of the Thecus N2200XXX were unhappy with the "ease of use" factor. Allegedly it has a bit more complicated setup. The Synology, on the other hand, seems to have good reviews for all aspects of its interface. Can anyone comment or provide insight with regards to either of those?

4) Lastly, if I were to build my own NAS, should I be able to do it at approximately the same price (2 x 1TB SATA II or III HDDs in RAID 1 is my desire either way) and get the same performance level? Would I likely end up having a larger space requirement? And would I be able to get the same funcationality? (iTunes Server, "personal cloud", etc.)

I do realize having two drives in a RAID 1 configuration would not mean the files are technically "backed up", but they would at least be duplicated so that I should be OK if one HDD failed. I think it would be safer than the way it is only stored on my System hard drives now. I plan on attacking the issue of truly backing up my data after I get it all centralized and (hopefully) build a new rig.
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  1. I've used QNAP, Synology and Netgear ReadyNAS NV+

    I have the NV+ in my office w/ 4 1TB drives. I like it, a little on the $$ side of what you want.

    For the average home, use the Synology 2 disk units, good features and a good price.
  2. Thanks for the reply corroded. After doing a bit more research I think I'm likely to go with either a Synology DS212 or DS212+, or the QNAP TS-219P II.

    The general consensus for the comparisons I've seen seem to have the Synology NAS units with better software/UI and external ports while the QNAP TS-219P II has a slightly faster processor and more RAM. If the Synology DS212 had 512 MB DDR3 RAM instead of 256 MB I think it would be the hands down winner.

    I'll probably be waiting a month or two in hopes that the HDD prices drop, but I'll post my final decision here for others to see if they come up with a similar situation.
  3. Best answer
    You can get away with using non-enterprise drives. The issue is that without the advanced reporting features in the enterprise drives (TLER? I don't really remember the details at this point and am too lazy on a Friday evening to look it up), if the drive is slow in responding, the NAS may think it's gone bad whereas in reality it's really fine.

    I am absolutely delighted with my Synology 1511+ device. It's been working flawlessly for almost a year and does everything I could ask of it and more. There is a new version of the OS coming out that will enhance the already good interface and 'cloud' usability. I use the Synology apps to access my media from my Android devices across the internet and they work great.

    You actually save $$$ by buying the NAS without drives as you'd see if you price it out, as the vendors usually gross up the cost of the hard drives significantly over what you could pay through NewEgg or similar. It's a piece of cake to load the drives into the device.

    I don't know about the 212, but the 1511+ has dual gigabit ethernet which you can either bundle for a super-fast connection (you also need to use a switch which supports this), or for a redundant connection in case the primary port fails.

    Another nice feature of the Synology DSM operating system is that you can add drives dynamically without needing to take the system offline while the RAID is rebuilt. It also provides the ability to add drives of different sizes without the standard requirement of only being able to use the lowest common denominator of drive space (that is, in most RAID systems if you have 3-3TB drives and one 500GB drive, you could only use 500GB in each of the 4 drives, or 2TB; in Synology 'hybrid RAID' you'd have 9.5TB available).
  4. Best answer selected by Isaiah4110.
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