Been trying to do some detailed background research on this topic but I need a second opinion on this.
Simply put, I am looking for a solution to store a lot of my projects. I do a lot of research work at home and I need something to store my data while I am working on it.
I will admit I am a packrat and a hoarder when it comes to my data, sometimes even making multiple copies. I'd prefer to just roll with it and, hence, I would need a lot of space (2TB+). I would like to stay away from cloud storage or anything that requires my data to be put on another company's server or something similar.
Should I be looking at NAS? Building a Dedicated Server? Or is there another solution I should be made aware of?
Depends on what machine you are using. If you are using a three-foot-tall tower case, cram several 3 TB drives into it.
If you are using a laptop, you can use several external drives with the fastest interface (FireWire, USB 3.0, eSATA) the pc supports.
A NAS is a good storage solution if you don't need blazing access speeds. It will be slower than directly attached storage on any connection better than USB 2.0.
So what is your exact situation? Are these files where slow transfer rates are acceptable, so that you can just plunk down an 8 TB NAS and forget about it? Or do you edit video, in which case transfer speeds become very important? Which solutions are best depends a lot on your particular situation.
Two things. First, you _should_ have at least two copies of everything, on different drives, one of which is not online. That's backups. If a drive crashes, or your machine explodes, you still have your data. Even a NAS should be backed up to offline media.
Second, I don't know if this would work for you, but I use a hot-swap bay in my tower machine. I've got about fourteen external bare drives, with backups and bootable OSes and all sorts of stuff. Tons of storage.
Finally, 2 TB isn't much these days. You are in a perfectly reasonable situation.
Transfer speeds would be something to keep in mind about. Specifically I work on Image Processing and work with video very often.
The files are usually videos, audio files, documents, pdfs, project files from engineering suites and other miscellaneous stuff. Ideally, I would like it to access it directly from the storage without any hiccups, but I would like to use the second best option if the ideal case is VERY expensive.
Do you have a tower or laptop? If tower, ideal case is to install a new 3TB drive. Your stuff will fit. Then get the fastest (USB 3.0 / eSATA / FireWire / NAS) external backup device that will attach to your machine.
I've got a desktop which I will be upgrading or rebuilding in a few months. It's actually the reason I'm trying to make some sort of storage outside my computer. Is there any difference between a file server and a NAS?
A NAS is, in many ways, a limited-function server.
Another option to consider is a RAID-1. While it does not obviate the need for backups, it does add some data safety, and increased read speed as well. My own primary system has a RAID-1 of 2x2TB drives in it. You do not need a full tower case in order to run a RAID, but decide how many drives you will have before you buy your case to make sure they will fit.
RAID-5 also increases data safety, but needs at least three drives, and requires TLER drives for reliable operation; they are typically the "enterprise" models and cost more than "consumer" models. RAID-1 generally does not have this requirement; in fact I use slower "green" drives in mine, which you would never do with a RAID-5.