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NAS Network Storage Recommentations

#1 User is offline   spectrumrt 

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 03:30 PM

Hi All.
I'm after purchase advise for a some network attached storage please.
Doesn't have to be a huge data store, say a TB or so, RAIDed, will connect to a Gb switch for availability to a small personal LAN.
What are people's experiences, pref's etc?
Cheers.
SpectrumRT.
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#2 User is offline   GraphicX 

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 03:35 PM

hey mate. at work we tried a pc solution with onboard hardware raid. it constantly broke the raid mirror requiring it to be rebuilt & formatted & started over.

we've now moved to a lacie 2-big disk. twin 500gig drives & it just works. quick 20 minute setup via web browser & off it went & never had a problem with it (about 6 months old). gets daily use in a design studio.

i highly recommend it to you (but it's not as fast as the standalone pc solution was).

hope this helps.
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#3 User is offline   mickdevlin 

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 09:46 PM

The best person to answer this question is rhysbartels (who hasn't been on the forum for a few weeks).
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#4 User is offline   gazza 

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 08:55 AM

QUOTE (mickdevlin @ Dec 23 2008, 10:46 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The best person to answer this question is rhysbartels (who has been on the forum for a few weeks).

Errrr..... do you mean hasn't been on the forum for a few weeks, Mick??

There are actually quite a few regulars who have been "missing in action" for the last month or so, and as for Cambo who went on a holiday up north back in August/September...........he must have set up camp permanently just south of the "Black Stump" where his internet connection is just a wee bit "wobbly!!"

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#5 User is offline   mickdevlin 

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 01:21 PM

QUOTE (gazza @ Dec 24 2008, 08:55 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Errrr..... do you mean hasn't been on the forum for a few weeks, Mick??

Indeed I did. It's corrected now.
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#6 User is offline   Anthony Caruana 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 11:52 AM

QUOTE (spectrumrt @ Dec 22 2008, 04:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hi All.
I'm after purchase advise for a some network attached storage please.
Doesn't have to be a huge data store, say a TB or so, RAIDed, will connect to a Gb switch for availability to a small personal LAN.
What are people's experiences, pref's etc?
Cheers.
SpectrumRT.


Howdy

I review a lot of NAS boxes for another publication. My first suggestion is that, if you're serious about storage, performance and reliability then look for a "proper" NAS box. I wouldn't bother with the PC modifications. For example, there's a Linux distro that makes a PC into a NAS. I couldn't recommend that to anyone unless theyb were a reasonably technical person with the time to mess about. Besides, your data is precious - I'd prefer to look for a unit that didn't require any tinkering.

The LaCie unit mentioned by GraphicX is nice but I'd suggest a larger unit with capacity for at least four drives so that you can either load it up now or add disks later if the budget doesn't allow for a full complement of disks.

Also, you need to do a little research so that you understand different RAID levels. Here's a quick summary of the three main options (there are others but for the vast majority of folk, these are the main ones.

RAID 0 - All the disks in the RAID array are treated as if they are one single disk. If you have two disks in the RAID 0 array, then your total storage will be the sum of each disk's capacity. If one of the disks in a RAID 0 fails then ALL your data is lost. However, this sort of config has excellent performance.

RAID 1 - Typically found in two disk units, the content of one disk is mirrored on the other disk. There's a performance hit as all the data is written twice but if one disk fails then your data is safe as a copy is on the other disk.

RAID 5 - For RAID 5 you'll need at least three disks in the RAID array. The total amount of available storage is the sum of all of the disks less one disk. For example, in a three disk RAID 5, the total storage is the sum of two disks. In a four disk RAID 5, it's the sum of three disks. In the even that one disk fails all your data is safe. You get the performance benefit of RAID 1 (with a redundant disk) and RAID 0 with data being written faster.

So, what do I have? I went for a Thecus N5200 (around $1000) and loaded it up with five 1TB disks in a RAID 5 config. This gives me about 4GB of available storage. If the unit has any problems, it emails me to tell me. There are many other units on the market that are far more user friendly but I like its flexibility (there are many third party extensions for it) and it allows me to connect two gigabit network that can be either set up as redundant links or aggregated links for a performance boost.

I also like the Netgear ReadyNAS units as they are very easy to set up and work well. I'd get the 4 bay unit as it supports RAID 5.
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#7 User is offline   Genshin 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 03:37 PM

QUOTE
So, what do I have? I went for a Thecus N5200 (around $1000) and loaded it up with five 1TB disks in a RAID 5 config. This gives me about 4GB of available storage.


Only 4GB Anthony?
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#8 User is offline   skyhawkmatthew 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 05:15 PM

I set up today a 480GB RAID 0 using 3 160GB drives salvaged from a couple of dead Big Disks in my Quicksilver G4. It seems to work pretty well; maybe if you have an older Mac tower around you could repurpose it for the role?

An advantage of this setup is there's a good and familiar GUI to configure and manage the server via Screen Sharing. It's pretty quiet as well - the loudest part is the whiney old 20GB Quantum Fireball the OS is running off!
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#9 User is offline   Anthony Caruana 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 05:17 PM

QUOTE (Genshin @ Dec 27 2008, 04:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Only 4GB Anthony?


Ooops, 4TB is what I meant. That'll teach me to post in haste while I'm writing my feature for Feb's issue.

I only just got used to GBs having moved from MBs and KBs and now I have to adjust to TBs.
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#10 User is offline   Anthony Caruana 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 05:22 PM

QUOTE (skyhawkmatthew @ Dec 27 2008, 06:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I set up today a 480GB RAID 0 using 3 160GB drives salvaged from a couple of dead Big Disks in my Quicksilver G4. It seems to work pretty well; maybe if you have an older Mac tower around you could repurpose it for the role?

An advantage of this setup is there's a good and familiar GUI to configure and manage the server via Screen Sharing. It's pretty quiet as well - the loudest part is the whiney old 20GB Quantum Fireball the OS is running off!


I agree that might work well but I assume that you've set the RAID up completely within Disk Utility. Is that right? If so, it mans that you're 100% reliant on a piece of software in order to preserve your data. If the software goes screwy then you'll more than likely be losing data.

RAID 0 has it's place - it's great for capturing data quickly. But if you suffer either a disk or software failure then you'll probably lose your data. Some data can be lost whereas other stuff is irreplaceable. What sort do you have on your RAID 0?

Incidentally, i think Alex K once set up a RAID array using a bunch of USB sticks and some USB hubs. All those small (sub 2GB) memory sticks we have lying around can be aggregated in a RAID 0 as a quick and dirty RAID set.
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#11 User is offline   skyhawkmatthew 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 05:28 PM

Yes, it's set up completely in Disk Utility, but I'm not concerned about the software messing up because the computer's running headless with its only purpose being running the RAID. The RAID is for the MacBook Pro's Aperture vault and Time Machine backups. If Disk Utility allowed RAID-6 I would have done that, but as it doesn't, I went for a RAID-0 which gives me the capacity I'm after for a >200GB Time Machine sparseimage plus a large Aperture vault. I may use it to store video in the future as well.
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#12 User is offline   Alex Kidman 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 06:08 PM

QUOTE (Anthony Caruana @ Dec 27 2008, 06:22 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Incidentally, i think Alex K once set up a RAID array using a bunch of USB sticks and some USB hubs. All those small (sub 2GB) memory sticks we have lying around can be aggregated in a RAID 0 as a quick and dirty RAID set.


Not I, sir. And for the record (to my understanding, having discussed the idea with a bunch of journalists with tons of spare flash drives) , it's a better sounding idea than a practical one, for reasons of data reliability; having to be in one big RAID array means tons of write cycles to drives that don't have that much practical write life. Especially really cheap USB sticks, which is what press releases tend to get sent out on. I had a desk drawer full of them.. and then installed digital photo frames with all my elderly relatives. Now once every four months, they get a a new USB "photo album" from me in the post...

For the record, I have the ReadyNAS NV+, and love the thing. Lots of extensibility, solid as a rock across Windows, PC and PS3. The Xbox 360 is flaky with it, but that's just MS obstinacy...



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#13 User is offline   skyhawkmatthew 

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 07:36 PM

The G4 NAS RAID seems to be working pretty well now - after rebuilding the RAID just now after having Time Machine fail every time it tried to start its backup it's now doing its initial backup fairly rapidly - much faster than a friend's Time Capsule I set up today. Would it be because of the faster drive(s), or something else? Both backup machines are MacBook Pros, within a few metres of the AirPort/TC in the same room at 130Mbps. G4 is connected to the fast ethernet (not Gigabit) AirPort via cable.
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#14 User is offline   spectrumrt 

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Posted 30 December 2008 - 10:59 AM

Hi All.
This is great - many thanks for the replies so far. To give you some idea, I was once a regular on a particular car forum and they had players from around the world contributing, but every time I had the simplest of questions, I got maybe one or two replies and they were pretty useless to me. So this response is really refreshing and useful. Great forum!

OK, my day job is as a Sys Admin so I'm reasonably ofay with RAID and I agree with Anthony - PC modifications, for my purposes anyway, seem a bit toy (no offense to anyone else!) so I'm keen on the NAS box Anothony described. My budget is tight but only because I watch my SMB cashflow like a hawk ;-) but I can manage that OK and RAID 5 at least guarantees hot swappability which is what I'm after.

The added bonuses of this are that for my consulting business, I can arrange it so a separate portion (say, a secured folder) is available to the planned FTP server (shortly an old Mac Quicksilver) for large file transfers when I'm on site with clients etc. Actually, in that case I'd want to make sure the security on this is pretty tight - Anthony can you comment on this further at all?

As for performance, well let's see... my current arrangement is a Mac Dual G4 tower with two internal drives un-RAIDed, one for OS, the other as the data store (it works but not really cleanly). So ideally we'd have local data, say mail etc. on the second drive and move all other data to the NAS and a Gb channel should be sufficient for this.

OK so I'm assuming that when I buy a NAS box I supply my own disks? (this was the arrangement when we invested in a SAN for the workplace...)

This brings me to my next point about this stuff - the NAS will also be a backup for any small data stores such as mail etc. on other localised disks, say the main Mac, the Mac FTP and probably a couple of Wintel boxes I use for consulting/troubleshooting. What's the recommendation for independent backup/DR software (I feel sketchy about Time Machine and don't hae 10.5 anyway at this point...).
Just to add quickly to that - I'm hopefully running into some spare stock which includes a Sony AIT2 tape drive which is ideal if the backup software suits the hardware arrangments above ;-)

Many thanks! Like I said, bloody great forum!
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#15 User is offline   Some Random Bloke 

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Posted 30 December 2008 - 12:40 PM

QUOTE (spectrumrt @ Dec 30 2008, 09:59 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
OK so I'm assuming that when I buy a NAS box I supply my own disks? (this was the arrangement when we invested in a SAN for the workplace...)

What's the recommendation for independent backup/DR software (I feel sketchy about Time Machine and don't hae 10.5 anyway at this point...).


I've seen NAS boxes advertised with a TB or two of HDD included, but depends on brand and retailer, I think.

Everyone seems to go with SuperDuper or Carbon Cloner for back up.

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#16 User is offline   Anthony Caruana 

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 12:04 AM

QUOTE (spectrumrt @ Dec 30 2008, 11:59 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The added bonuses of this are that for my consulting business, I can arrange it so a separate portion (say, a secured folder) is available to the planned FTP server (shortly an old Mac Quicksilver) for large file transfers when I'm on site with clients etc. Actually, in that case I'd want to make sure the security on this is pretty tight - Anthony can you comment on this further at all?


You can create separate shares and assign different users access to each share (either read or read/write). Providing you set up the correct port forwarding on your router you can then allow folks to FTP into the NAS. The Thecus N5200 I have has a built in FTP server so there's no need to have a computer left on for the FTP. I don't believe it supports SFTP but you can disable anonymous access easily and change from the default connection port.

I FTP into my NAS most days to grab files and to back stuff up when I'm on the go (I also use Dropbox but go for a "belts and braces" approach with important stuff).



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#17 User is offline   Genshin 

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 12:07 AM

Anthony, a question if I may.

Do you store files in the Dropbox folder on your Macs - for the files to sync online? Or do you copy files over to the Dropbox, and thus have two copies on your Mac of said files?
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#18 User is offline   Anthony Caruana 

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 08:55 AM

QUOTE (Genshin @ Dec 31 2008, 01:07 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Anthony, a question if I may.

Do you store files in the Dropbox folder on your Macs - for the files to sync online? Or do you copy files over to the Dropbox, and thus have two copies on your Mac of said files?


Typically, whatever I'm currently working on goes straight in the Dropbox. I have Dropbox set up on my Mac and a PC in the office. That way, my current files are in three places, at least. As I'm almost always online, this works quite well. Dropbox works in the background, syncing files from the Dropbox folder on my Mac up to the "cloud".

When I get to a point where I feel it's required, I also copy the work to my NAS (either when I get back home or via FTP).
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#19 User is offline   spectrumrt 

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 12:42 PM

OK, thanks - I've looked at the Thecus N5200 and it looks good - is there a slightly lower model, more entry level offering similar features at a lower price point? Recommendations?
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#20 User is offline   Anthony Caruana 

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 12:52 PM

QUOTE (spectrumrt @ Jan 7 2009, 01:42 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
OK, thanks - I've looked at the Thecus N5200 and it looks good - is there a slightly lower model, more entry level offering similar features at a lower price point? Recommendations?


I have a couple of their other units for review at the moment (N3200 and N4200 from memory but those model numbers might be incorrect).

When i fire them up later this week I'll provide some first impressions.
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