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Data Storage Operating Systems Software Hardware

What is the Ideal Low-end NAS Solution? 45

Mark asks: "As demand for storage continues to grow and prices continue to drop, network attached storage (NAS) devices are popping up everywhere...from large enterprises to restaurants to small offices and homes. Several vendors are now offering low-end NAS solutions targeted at SOHO users, with varying results. Most of them are just standard PC components and standard IDE hard drives running Linux, but the price tag on these often far oustrips what one would expect to pay for the parts. Hence, people all over the world (myself included) are building their own NAS machines at home at a fraction of the cost. Beyond support for RAID, CIFS, NFS, HTTP, and FTP, what would the ideal home NAS operating system include? And more importantly, what should it leave out to avoid conflicts, security vulnerabilities, and instability? Are there any Linux/*BSD/other distributions out there optimized specifically for NAS applications? What does the ideal NAS distribution look like to you?"
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What is the Ideal Low-end NAS Solution?

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  • by ElForesto ( 763160 ) <elforesto @ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @03:50PM (#9951761) Homepage

    A NAS is little more than a box of hard drives with a NIC attached. They get a nifty web-based interface or somesuch to make it real simple to setup and they often come in small packages, but is that worth the premium? You could buy a small-ish desktop/tower case and probably build your own very cheaply. Setting up Samba on Linux with simple "everyone can write" access is braindead simple.

    Do you need a web-based interface? Do you need hot-swappable drives with auto-rebuild? Do you need a 2U rackmount or other small-ish case? (Remember, need is a very strong word.) If you can't answer yes then save yourself a few grand and do it yourself.

    On the flip side, if you DO need that stuff, I've been very pleased with Fastora []. Good interface, easy setup and lots of options. We got a 1.337TB unit (8x250GB hard drives in RAID5, one drive as a hot spare) with 2x100Mb NIC and 1x1Gb NIC for around $7,000.

    • 1.337TB? (Score:3, Funny)

      by sczimme ( 603413 )

      We got a 1.337TB unit

      1.337TB? Wow - 1337. :-)
    • Probably the ideal for a cheap home NAS is a small PC with 4 SATA channels and a 2x5.25" to 3x3.5" SATA enclosure. Run software RAID5 over the drives since even Gb ethernet is going to limit performance more than the CPU. Total cost is about $1,200 for a half TB capacity, 512MB ram and an Athlon 2100+.
  • by ( 562495 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @03:53PM (#9951792) Homepage
    I don't know of any any distro optimized for creating a NAS. But I have used RedHat successfully to create a NAS.

    On my NAS, I have also included support for WebDAV [] protocol. It comes in handy when your users are publishing Web Content.
    • Not to do another endless gentoo plug, but it will give you a system with almost no software installed. One could simply install samba and use ssh to run the show. If you're uncomfortable about gentoo's reputation, check into a stage 3 install. All you really have to do is configure the kernel and that isn't much work. I've set up a computer running gentoo for this application and it wasn't difficult and I don't believe any other distro (AFAIK) would have alowed you the freedom.
  • If it is just for NAS work, then only have the servers necessary to share the files, and perhaps a SSH server to modify configurations. Leave everything else out, the less stuff running on it, the less stuff to have to keep patched up for security reasons.

    To me the ideal disto would probably fit in under 100 MB, just need the servers, network support files, and a way to get in and edit files. If the machine has a monitor that can be used, perhaps you don't need SSH or any other remote method of getting i
  • It is much easier to create a NAS that far outperforms your needs. For example, how many users do you have accessing the hard drives at once? If your answer is less than 10, you probably will be able to get along fine with 7200 rpm drives. Also, if you are just setting this up attached to your home network, RAID is not necessary because the network can most likely only transfer data at 10/100 speeds. Right now, my NAS is a Slackware linux box with a 166 mhz pentium running four 200GB IDE drives. I get
    • RAID 0 (Score:2, Informative)

      That is RAID 0 by the way. Obviously, RAID 1 would be useful if you needed the redundancy.
    • RAID isn't just for speed (infact I wouldn't think that would even be considered its primary purpose).
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      RAID is not necessary because the network can most likely only transfer data at 10/100 speeds. Right now, my NAS is a Slackware linux box with a 166 mhz pentium running four 200GB IDE drives.

      When one of those 200GB drives dies, you might think a little differently.
  • Distributions... (Score:4, Informative)

    by facelessnumber ( 613859 ) <drew@pi[ ] ['ttm' in gap]> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @04:02PM (#9951920) Homepage
    Might have a look at Mitel (formerly e-smith) SME Server []. I've been using it for my file server at home, email, and to host a few domains for a couple of years now. Good stuff, pretty secure, can also be your router/gateway. One ther I haven't looked at, but I intend to check out soon, is BlueQuartz. [] Not really a distro, but the results of Sun open-sourcing the Sobalt RaQ550 network appliance. There's a binary install kit for a basic Redhat/Fedora setup, source, and many howto's out there...
    • I think ClarkConnect is another "distro". Never used it.
    • Might have a look at Mitel (formerly e-smith) SME Server. I've been using it for my file server at home, email, and to host a few domains for a couple of years now. Good stuff, pretty secure, can also be your router/gateway.

      Here's another vote for Mitel SME Server. Download an iso from here [] and off you go. *Really* simple web interface, DHCP, NAT gateway, Email server, DNS, print server, samba server, web server, appletalk server, VPN server... etc all ready to go. Easy backups, easy administration. I'd
  • Two ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @04:07PM (#9951977)

    I would consider two OS's for a low-end home NAS.

    First OS:

    Debian GNU/Linux

    Why? 1) Easy to update. 2) Wide selection of packages. 3) Possible to do a minimal install and have a pretty bare-bones OS.

    Second OS:


    Why? 1) Security. 2) Security. 3) Security.

    • I run my NAS/Backup server on Fedora because of its nice and easy Software RAID installation interface that lets you mount / on a RAID device from the first boot(I hear this is really a pain on Debian).

      For anybody reading this and wanting to use his custom NAS for backup: you want []. Period.
  • Build your own (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vlad_Drak ( 20809 )
    You might have answered your own question.. most of the products out there do use some form of Linux, and rarely do these vendors offer anything of value beyond a unified web based interface. You'll invest more time in the front end, but you'll gain much more in having the ability to upgade, use the machine for other tasks, etc. You'll get more for your money if you have even basic linux skills though.

    There are plenty of recipies out there utilizing LVM, MD, Samba, NFS, etc. You could make a MythTV ser
    • Re:Build your own (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Vlad_Drak ( 20809 )
      As far as distributions go, its really a matter of opinion mostly, but I use debian/sarge; dpkg/apt makes updating very easy. Don't know of any file server centric distributions out there, which ultimates testifies to the relative ease one can set things up from any distro.

      If you're using the unit for home, it can make sense to also use the box for your internal audio/video streaming, home directories, web, and mail, and backup for other workstations. This is what's going on over here.

  • Most work (Score:2, Informative)

    Most distributions would work, I'd suggest grabbing something with your prefered journaling filesystem support. Some OS's don't support XFS natively, some don't support JFS, some don't do, whatever you feel comfortable using, make sure your distro does it. Other than that, I'm a fan of LVM, so perhaps a look at distros that support that as well.

    NAS boxes are pretty cheap and easy to build these days, just make sure if you're going to do RAID that you buy a REAL raid controller, with hardw

    • Re:Most work (Score:4, Informative)

      by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Thursday August 12, 2004 @11:31PM (#9955462) Journal
      I had always used reiserfs for everything, but having been recently asked to set up a small bunch of inexpensive file servers, I took the time to research which filesystem is best able to survive a crash or power outage. The few recent tests I've found suggest that of XFS, JFS, reiserfs, and ext3 (ordered), ext3 had the by far best recovery rate, and reiserfs had the worst among the journaled filesystems tested. In one, where a disk intensive app was run and the system was reset several several seconds later, ext3 survived over 300 power cycles with minimal damage, while reiserfs became unbootable after 10 cycles, and the rest did better but came nowhere near ext3.

      After a few days of disbelief and frantic googling, I decided to make the switch to ext3. Now if I can only get approval to purchase UPS's for the servers.

      As for which distribution to use, we tested Slackware 10, Fedora Core 2, and finally chose CentOS.
  • My dream! (Score:3, Funny)

    by LincolnQ ( 648660 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @04:24PM (#9952201)
    Make it wireless, 40GB, the size of an ipod, with a good battery. Allow me to plug it into external power too (AC 110/solar panel/turbine/car battery/etc). Always encrypt files when storing and transferring. Also add some facility to signal the device to turn off its wireless signal quickly so that it cannot be found using signal-locating devices.

    The last element of security is a thermite detonator with a separate trigger circuit and antenna frequency. Ship the product with a 'kill button' that transmits the detonator signal when you activate it.

    When you build it, I will come! I plan to bury one in my backyard and make the most secure file server evar. The USA PATRIOTS will never read my data!
    • Yes, the most secure file server ever... until those ingenious Russians to hack your thermite detonator and hold your data hostage. They could give someone a pretty hot-foot that way!
    • Powerline.. and on the same branch circuit as your powerline router..
      seriously, what FBI agent on premises is going to know that siemens 5424 router is pulling in stuff from your back yard, in the DIRT? when it's not using radio waves..

      + you get a good 14mb connection, as opposed to the 1-5.5 with 802.11b..

      I have a powerline setup to transmit all over my house.. Love the speed, love the fact that it doesn't give my neighbor wifi...

  • Get a normal 3.5" or 2.5" IDE disk, put it into an external case (20 - 60 bucks) and connect it via USB 2.0 or IEEE 1394 (Firewire) with your computer. Most home users can't deal with IP networking anyway, but they can plug in an external drive. And if they really need to share the data, they still can turn an old PC into a file server or simply open a NFS or SMB share.
  • I'd like to see pluggable devices about the size of a USB enclosure. Single drive, single 1G NIC, plug it in and tell it how to authenticate.

    For my small business customers, a slightly larger box that can hold multiple drives. Dual 1G NICs, one for the users and 1 VLANed to other NAS and backup devices. Build boxes that support 2 and 4 drives in pullout chassis. I'm not overly concerned about RAID, but RAID 0 could be useful at times. IDE is OK, speed isn't a huge factor because we're going to be bottlene
  • I recently began a Usenet thread [] on this very topic. I've copied the original post below:

    Subject: I want to build a 1.5TB storage array for MythTV

    Recently ran into the account of a guy who built his own 1.2TB RAID50-based storage array for $1600 []. I really like the idea and have been thinking about following suit.

    Like Finnie, I want to be able to store huge amounts of DivX/Xvid files online. In addition to the storage array, I also plan to build a separate MythTV [] box, which among other things will let m

    • by vlm ( 69642 ) *
      Well lets think about this here.

      Most of my "TV episode" DiVX collection is in the general area of about 350 megabytes for a 45 minute show. Now about a minute with Octave will show that 350 / (45*60) * 8 is about a megabit per second.

      That sounds reasonable considering the bandwidth of real digital TV mpeg streams.

      So we will assume you need about a megabit a second.

      I guess that would rule out ArcNET or a 9600 baud SLIP but everything newer than say, 10 meg HDX thinnet, will work. You're asking if a net
    • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @10:19PM (#9955091)
      Recently ran into the account of a guy who built his own 1.2TB RAID50-based storage array for $1600. I really like the idea and have been thinking about following suit.

      Just for anyone else reading who gets similar ideas, he's got some big errors.

      It looked like a normal 4-port ATA RAID controller, but with one difference: it boasted the fact that you could do RAID across 2 devices per channel. Normally this would be a stupid feature. Under normal circumstances, NEVER connect 2 drives to one channel if you intend to do RAID. Why? There is just as good of a chance that the channel itself dies than a single drive failing.

      This is incorrect. The reason you only put 1 device per channel is because with IDE, only one device on a channel can be active at once. It has nothing to do with the likelihood of failure. Even if that weren't true, his assumption is silly - a single drive is much more likely to break than a single channel on a controller.

      This erroneous assumption carries through his entire implementation and has crippled it's performance (as seen in the benchmarks - 36MB/s ? That's pathetic for an 6 disk RAID0 array - effectively what is is for disk reads). Using the "hardware" RAID on the card is another mistake, tying the array forever to that particular brand and model of disk controller.

      Folks, if you're setting up honkin' great big RAID arrays at home and don't want to pay for decent RAID controllers like 3wares, *use software RAID*. The CPU overhead is insignificant and the bonus of being able to move the array between arbitrary machines and not having to worry about a disk controller failure permanently making your data inaccessible is more than worth it.

      • Folks, if you're setting up honkin' great big RAID arrays at home and don't want to pay for decent RAID controllers like 3wares, *use software RAID*.

        I'd love to, but the guy whose Web page I first cited said a purely software RAID-based didn't work for him for an array his size. Ideas on what happpened?
        • I'd love to, but the guy whose Web page I first cited said a purely software RAID-based didn't work for him for an array his size. Ideas on what happpened?

          Hard to say without more details, but I'd guess either the motherboard (VIA chipset = buggy & unreliable), cheap & shitty/buggy IDE controllers (he doesn't say what he tried the first time) or buggy drivers (in descending order of likelihood). Amazingly, he actually goes on to recommend an even cheaper, dodger, almost certainly buggier motherboa

    • I don't know the answer to your 100Mbps vs 1Gbps question. I'm going to operate on the assumption that you use "enough" and it's either switched or a crossover cable, so you don't suffer when your network does other stuff.

      However: Having MythTV on the same box is, in the general case, SLOWER than having it on a NAS with at all similar hardware. Moving data over ethernet _may_ be more latent than moving it to your HDD controller, but you're going to blow throught the 32 or so MB of HDD cache fairly qui
  • Another question... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For a homebuilt file server with infrequent access, how do you minimize power draw and disk accesses (when files aren't actively being served)?
  • What does the ideal NAS distribution look like to you?

    Like this Linksys box []. It is silent and cheap and has Linux inside [].

    • At under $80 according to one vendor on the web, this is potentially very useful for low-performance, high-storage data storage, such as you see in many corporate environments. It's a bit pricy for SOHO use, but if it were half that price, I'd buy it today for my home office. As is, I just carry my USB drives from PC to PC, or plug them into 1 PC and serve it up from there. Oooh, and open-source too!
    • Does it handle NFS, AppleTalk, and NetBIOS?

      I'm looking at the data sheet and don't see any mention of it anywhere. But maybe I'm just skimming over it too fast.
  • NASLite (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nm42 ( 310685 )
    If you're looking for something really low end to use at home, check out NASLite []
  • Openfiler [] is very friendly, and getting more polished every day. I'm not keen on building an "enterprise service" on FC2, but I'm sure it can be implemented on other distros.
  • If I just wanted to pop a drive on a network for SIMPLE attached storage, I'd look at Netgear's model 624 "media router". The router runs about $100, supports 802.11g speeds and has a USB port that accepts either a USB flash device or a USB hard disk.

    I set one up for a customer. With a 160GB USB 2.0 hard disk, it's just spiffy for everything he needed that volume of storage for.
  • I am working on building a custom NAS box for a small buisness. I have done a lot of research, and from what I have seen a gigabit network connection is just not enough. Is there any way to truncate two gigabit network connections, when using a cisco switch to truncate the ports on the network end? if not, why do they give cisco switches the ability to truncate the ports?

Air is water with holes in it.