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Data Storage

Best Home Network NAS 802

jammerjam writes "My WD 120GB drive got its MBR scrambled so it no longer mounts in my W*ndoze box (I can recover the data so I know that's intact). But now that's made me realize I need to implement my data backup plan. Scouring the Internet I can't find a reliable resource for home NAS solutions. For every positive review I can find a negative that refutes it. My first choice from what I found starts at $1200...I've got $500. Anyone have a suggestion? I'm not looking for enterprise-level storage here — but I do want reliability."
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Best Home Network NAS

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  • OpenFiler (Score:5, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:01AM (#21434761) Homepage Journal
    Buy a couple of 500 GB SATA HDDs. You can build a box with a SATA RAID controller for probably ~$200 or so and throw OpenFiler [] on it. You still won't do this under $500, though. Probably under $750, though, for sure, if you're careful.

    As for the botched MBR, boot an MS-DOS or even a FreeDOS boot disk and do a fdisk /mbr. That should fix it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Another option for the trashed MBR: if you have a Windows CD lying around, boot into recovery console ( []), and run fixboot, then fixmbr.
    • does fdisk /mbr. affect data already on the drive though?
    • Re:OpenFiler (Score:5, Informative)

      by imipak ( 254310 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:37AM (#21435423) Journal
      Why not use £50 NSLU2? Dinky little ARM box with a Cisco logo on the front - it comes with a cheap as chips web UI, supports SMB and various other ways to push/pull data. And of course you can nuke the default firmware and blat it with a proper full-blown Linux installation [] and install software galore (Asterisk, even!) I've got my root fs on a flash stick, which makes booting pretty fast - the other USB slot has a single 500Gb drive, but you could easily make drives 2.

      You have to buy the drives as well of course, but I paid less than 70 quid for my 500Gb EISA drive. In my specific setup, the main drive could of course go bang, but I'm using it for network attached backup rather than primary storage. No reason you couldn't do it though.

    • Re:OpenFiler (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mortonda ( 5175 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @12:12PM (#21435931)
      I just recently made a backup server from parts off newegg:
      • inexpensive AMD64, mobo with built in Gb nic and 4 SATA controllers
      • 1GB RAM
      • 4 x 500GB WD Caviars
      • case and misc parts

      All for just under $700. If you really want to rock and roll, get some of the new 1TB drives!

      I don't use the raid chip on the mobo, just Linux Software Raid all the way. For a home backup system, it's the way to go - I can always stick the drives in a new system and have it recognize and reconstruct the array. OTOH, I have had a hardware raid card go bad, and man, that's a world of hurt unless you have an exact duplicate card on hand. Not good for a file server! The performance of a software raid is more than adequate, given that the CPU has nothing else to do - it's a file server! The cost/risk/usefulness balance is very heavy in favor of software raid.

      I divided the drives into 4 partitions each: a small one mirrored across all drives for the /boot info; a swap mirrored across all four... the third partion had two drives mirrored for the root partition and another two for the /var system. I also made sure to pair those across separate ide controllers - sda3/sdc3 and sdb2/sdd2 so if a ide chip goes out, it may still have some limited functionality. Of course, it won't help with the raid5 below.

      The remaining partition on all four drives is used for the (raid 5) actual file storage, I put it on /storage, though you may have a better preference. This yields a useable storage space of nearly 1.4 TB. If you really want redundancy, you could do a raid1+0 on it, at the cost of a third more of the storage space.

      For software, I see some turnkey systems that people are pushing around here, but I just went with a basic Ubuntu server 64 bit. That way I can install any number of packages from Ubuntu's massive package repository.

      For backup solutions, I went with backupPC, though I am also experimenting with Bacula. Samba and Webmin round out the file services and maintenance.

      The best part of the whole thing? Since I implemented this, I have had 2 complete system losses ... but I didn't lose any files. Just fix the hardware, reload the OS, and restore all the files. Sweeeeeeeet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raddan ( 519638 )
      Skip the RAID. RAID is for availability-- you don't need high availability at home. What you want is a fast, easy backup procedure. RAID arrays increase your likelihood of failure-- you have more disks-- the difference being that failure no longer [necessarily] equals downtime. Done right, it is expensive. This is worth it if downtime costs you more than RAID does. If you're using RAID in a machine which requires you to power off and disassemble the machine to replace the disk-- you're wasting your mo
      • by StandardCell ( 589682 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:28PM (#21437917)
        RAID is most definitely about reliability and recoverability as well as availability. It all depends on the level you choose. Your argument that multiple disks increases your likelihood of failure is trumped by one simple fact: how do you know that the single drive you buy for the job will be more reliable than the one next to it?

        You can't, and that's why using at least something like RAID1 is a smart way to go. When one drive fails, your data doesn't all go with that one drive. I've seen drives from batches fail literally within a couple of days of each other. If you're smart and rebuild offline as soon as a failure occurs, your chances of losing all your data are very small. Reliability engineering is all about probabilities, and the mirroring and parity concepts of RAID facilitate this reliability. The only place where your argument holds sway is on RAID0, and that's a pretty specialized application to be sure.

        If you want to swap drives without disassembling the machine, get case with enough 5.25" bays for the drives you need and buy some removable trays for $10 a piece. When one drive fails, you turn a key, pull the tray, swap the drive and back in it goes for a rebuild.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Openfiler requires the use of a network directory server (NIS, LDAP, Windows Domain Controller or Hesiod) somewhere on the network. Most home networks probably do not have such a server and adding one increases the cost and complexity considerably.
  • by freedom_surfer ( 203272 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:02AM (#21434769) Homepage
    I'd get one of those cheapo walmart linux boxes...stick it in a closet....then just use rsync or rdiffbackup....with a real box you'd have the luxury of being able to add additional storage can even setup a software raid for extra protection...
    • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:28AM (#21435261) Homepage Journal
      But some 300-500GB USB external hard drives. They are like $70-$100 now. Plug it into your Linux/Windows machine and share it out. Not as sexy but it will work. You can use rsync or the windows equivalent ntbackup or robocopy to back it up to another drive somewhere on your network. Hell, $100 for a 500GB external, buy two and plug one in periodically and copy one to the other with your scheduler.

      There is no raid controllers and setup to worry about, no elaborate "recovery process" to follow if there is a failure, never a need to open up the computer, nothing special needed for installation (plug them in and share them out), and the external drives can be plugged into any USB port on any computer and mounted. Total cost for 500GB of "network" storage backed up to another 500GB drive on your desired schedule will be about $200 +tax.

      As with any NAS or backup solution for the home... Speed, Reliability, Cheap. Pick any two.
  • RAID 0 (Score:3, Informative)

    by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:03AM (#21434779) Homepage Journal
    For $500 you could buy a whole PC with a pair of 7200RPM 500GB SATA2 drives. You could configure a mirrored RAID 0 array and back your stuff up over the network. For many dollars fewer you could upgrade your power supply and stick those drives in your current PC, assuming your motherboard supports software RAID.
  • I've got the DNS-323 (Score:4, Informative)

    by ThatDamnMurphyGuy ( 109869 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:03AM (#21434789) Homepage
    Last year I ditched the file server at home for the DNS-323. With the current firmware, it's been rock solid for me. At the time, it was $300 for the unit and two 250GB drives. It's iTunes server works well enough for me as well.

    As a bonus, it's debian based, so you can hack the OS as well to server up things light lighttpd, upgrade samba, or run subversion.
    • by jmahler ( 192217 )
      Thank you for mentioning that system - the iTunes server functionality intrigues me. I'm looking into getting one for my house now.
    • by giminy ( 94188 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:30AM (#21435293) Homepage Journal
      As a bonus, it's debian based, so you can hack the OS as well to server up things light lighttpd, upgrade samba, or run subversion.

      I also own a DNS-323, and I can't recommend it so much. The 323 is *not* debian-based, it runs busybox. You can install debian on your hard disks, chroot a shell to the debian install directory, and start services like a separate http server, ssh server, etc under debian. It isn't quite the same thing, however...

      The kernel that comes with the 323 is a huge problem, and the chroot debian can't fix that. There is a hack to load a new linux kernel image on top of an already-running kernel (akin to the way that you used to use LoadLin to boot linux from DOS, if anybody was doing that way back when). This method of replacing the kernel is highly experimental though. As it stands, nobody knows how to create a custom firmware for the 323 and load it without hardware hacking -- the firmware update interface checks new firmwares for a digital signature from D-Link.

      I should also point out that even the latest version of the 323 firmware, 1.03, disappears files. It has also been reported that it will not rebuild RAID-1 arrays correctly. To demonstrate the former bug you try to transfer a file bigger than about 20GB to the NAS. It will report to your operating system's SMB layer that it took the file fine, but the file just won't be on the filesystem. I have tried this using Windows XP, Mac OS X tiger and leopard, and my stock Feisty Fawn boxen, using two different switches. The 323 exhibits the same behavior to all of them. The earlier firmwares are also really notorious for dropping files if you transfer large numbers of small files in batches (like, say, backing up your filesystem).

      Also, the 323 only supports ext2 as its underlying filesystem. This probably explains some of the problems that it has when working with terrabyte-sized arrays? Also, the 323 does not provide a safe way of running fsck (you can do it via the command-line if you set up ssh/telnet, but only if you are willing to fsck a mounted filesystem [eep!]). In any case, it has been over a year, and D-Link has not got the kernel right on the 323 (and all they have to do is compile a kernel > 2.6.6 and ship it in a firmware), so I would suggest avoiding it...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I bought one of these about a year ago. I populated it with two 500GB SATA drives. I chose to stripe for speed, not redundancy. I am very satisfied with this box. It just runs 24x7, takes up very little room, and is fairly quiet (there is a fan). Another bonus which was a big deal for me was that it has a GigE connection. And best of all, you'll only spend about $450 to build a fairly fast 1TB NAS.

      The only downside I have found is that the DNS-323 does not correctly implement the Windows Archive attribut
  • by dhartshorn ( 456906 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:05AM (#21434817)
    $179 for an Airport base station, $321 for three 500GB USB drives and a USB 2.0 hub. Should be enough for a serious porn collection, and you get wireless N for free.
  • Drobo? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Old Man Kensey ( 5209 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:05AM (#21434819) Homepage
    Without knowing what you've looked at, it's hard to give you an intelligent reply, but a friend of mine just bought a Drobo [] and loves it.
    • I've heard very good things about the Drobo. Plus it's got lots of purty blinkenlights. I'm sure there are probably better DIY solutions, but this is likely one of the quickest/easiest.
    • Re:Drobo? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:28AM (#21435253) Homepage
      I've read a LOT Drobo looks like an EXCELLENT choice, but there are two things to consider:

      1. It isn't cheap at $499--without drives.

      2. It is not a NAS as such. Drobo is a USB-attached external drive system. Yes, its volume(s) can be shared over a network, but it is not a standalone, network-connected device.

      Now, if Drobo had a gigabit Ethernet connection, I would seriously consider saving up for one....
  • Freenas (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:05AM (#21434821)
    Try the freenas server. It works great.
    I use a old beat up computer with 3 500 gig external usb harddrives in a raid 5 which gives me a terabyte of storage :)
  • FreeNAS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hlt32 ( 1177391 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:05AM (#21434823)
    Get an old box, age doesnt really matter.

    Insttall FreeNAS, [] .

    Raid-1 (mirror) a pair of reliable disks (hitachi or seagates).

    Set up CIFs shares.

  • by didde ( 685567 ) *

    Usually people have older hardware laying around doing next to nothing. If this is the case for you, have a look at FreeNAS []. It's really robust and works well for me.

    Internal drives are cheap these days.

  • For the record... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:07AM (#21434867)
    ... you'll always need backups. Even the most reliable systems will eventually fail. Routine backing up is essential.

    You don't need enterprise storage solutions: great. That means that you probably don't need to do nightly backups.

    The lesson in you losing your data is not that you needed NAS, but you needed to make better backups.
  • Define "reliable" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:09AM (#21434889)
    Try and work out exactly what you're protecting against before you worry about solutions.

    Do you want data to survive a hard disk failure? RAID. (Though I make no guarantee that any of these things have implemented RAID terribly well, particularly if a disk fails 2 years later and the replacement you plug in has totally different geometry).

    Do you want data to survive your own mistakes? Then use the NAS as a backup for your own PC(s).

    Do you want data to survive poor implementation in the firmware? For best results, you'll probably need two totally different devices and some means of keeping them synchronised. (Though a number of Buffallo's Linkstation products can support a separate external USB disk for backup of the NAS itself).

    Do you want data to survive a house fire? If you've got immense quantities of data, you'll need a unit you can take offsite. If not, perhaps a subscription-based internet backup provider is the way to go.
  • How many computers? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:09AM (#21434891) Homepage Journal
    If you've got data on only one computer, don't bother with a NAS and get a USB (or Firewire, which would be better since FW doesn't hog the CPU) hard drive. SyncBack isn't a bad free backup program for Windows, but the free version can't copy open files.

    Even if you've got two or three computers, a good external HD will be cheaper and probably more reliable than a NAS box, simply because there are fewer parts to break on a USB drive than a NAS, which is typically a power supply, network card, some RAM, an OS in ROM, drive controller, and one or more hard drives. The only thing you won't get from an external HD is RAID, but you can fake that with software if you get more than one per computer, and RAID only means that the data's still accessible if one drive dies (assuming you're not stupid enough to use RAID 0), so it's probably not important for you.

    If your data is valuable, burn the most important stuff to DVD periodically and stick it in a bank's safe-deposit box.

    • If your data is valuable, burn the most important stuff to DVD periodically and stick it in a bank's safe-deposit box.

      Is that one of those magic boxes that stops the disk from degrading within a couple of years?

  • by Caltheos ( 573406 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:10AM (#21434927)
    Go to office Depot or Staples or whatever the local office supply store is, buy out their entire stock of paper and number 2 pencils. Proceed to copy down bit for bit the content from your hard drive. If you write really small, you might be able to fit it in under $500 worth of supplies. For even greater redundancy, you can use clay and chisels, but thats just too time consuming for the average user.
  • linksys nslu2 (Score:2, Informative)

    by nsupathy ( 515587 )
    I run a slug [] with a 500GB WD essential drive attached to it. There is one more 250GB WD essential drive (my old one). The two combined together is more than enough to backup all the machines and laptops. It runs OpenslugOS/SlugOS 3.10 []. It's reliable and a cheap solution. You can implement software RAID if you want.
  • I'm currently considering one of these little boxes for non-NAS backup: [] [] []

    Or this puppy, which looks fricken sweet, on-line array expansion, and does NAS as well as direct-connect: []

    Just add hard drives.
  • by armer ( 533337 )
    I just got a 1 terabyte WD MyBook World Edition 2 from Costco for 390 canadian. And it seems to work well. Of course I had to upgrade my router to gigabit to get decent network access. It also is software hackable( and user servicible. One of the problems I have is that it doesn't spin down the drives after inactivity. I didn't use the supplied software. I also had a Netgear SC101. It is nicknamed the toaster, not only for its looks, but the heat too. It did spin do
  • You could try a D-Link DI-624S [] - I have found a UK price of around $100, and add a couple of external USB drives to it.

    If I'd known that I could have bought one of these, I'd have not bought my 2640B :-(

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:15AM (#21435001) Journal
    I have an old Celeron box with four 500GB hard drives in it running Fedora Core 7. It has RAID 5 (software RAID), two network cards (I get one NIC, and my wife gets the other one), Samba, and NFS (for my Mac and Linux machines - much faster than Windows sharing). The whole wad was made from spare parts, and the biggest cost was the drives (but w/ ~1.5 TB of storage space, no problemo).

    I run Bacula [] (it's not just for the enterprise, folks) and back up all the important data to the disk array.

    I think I peek in there once a month or so, mostly to check disk space and see to patching. The box has zero Internet connectivity, so no probs there.


  • ... and I built my own software RAID solution.

    - Cheapo processor/mobo/case combo, $100. Make sure it's a low power, or you'll have a very noisy box. Ensure that the motherboard has onboard network and at least four SATAII connectors.
    - RAM: 512MB will do just fine, $20.
    - HDD's: 3x500GB, shouldn't run you more than $250 for the lot. I like Seagate drives, but you can get cheaper ones if you wish.

    Install your linux distro of choice on one drive and create a software RAID5 using the mda
  • Linksys NSLU2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by powelly ( 70306 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:16AM (#21435017) Homepage

    I'm using a Linksys NSLU2 [] as a NAS. I've wiped it of the original Linksys firmware and installed the officially supported ARM version of Debian Linux on it. Debian is installed on a 2GB USB Memory Stick, and I have a 500GB External USB HD attached via a tiny USB hub. I also have an HP F380 Printer/Scanner attached.

    I'm using the box as a Samba server for file sharing, SANE server for remote scanning, CUPS server for remote printing and a Twonky Media server for steaming audio and photos to my XBox 360. It all works really well.

    Not a bad NAS (or really a complete Debian Linux box) for about $250 for the NSLU2 and the Harddisk.

  • Selected models (Score:2, Informative)

    by olip ( 203119 )
    For the usual Home/Soho NAS with SATA/software RAID :
    - Thecus (2 bays - 700$ ; 4 bays 950$)
    - Synology (2 bays - 750$ ; 4 bays - 800$)
    - QNAP (2 bays - 650$ ; 4 bays 1250$)
    - Netgear (4 bays - 1300$ ; 2 bay model seems sub-par to me)
    Prices are for 2x750GB and a few weeks old.

    Check the specs and reviews for what is important to you.
    My criteria are : Media protocols capability, BT client, rsync, throughput, software maturity, webserver : I'll go for the Synology DS207+ , that is - unless this discussion
  • Wait... did you say Win-bloze?
  • Like everyone else here will probably say, you can build a pretty basic NAS with any old PC. I like the old corporate Compaq Deskpros--those things last forever. Load it up with a distro you are familiar with (I used to use RedHat, now I use Ubuntu, others will probably suggest FreeNAS) and two big drives. My old one has two 120 GB drives--one has the OS and data, it runs rsync each night to copy /home/ to the other drive.

    The computer you buy will be dictated by how much space you need--if you want multiple
  • I would just put extra HD's into my PC. I just bought an extra IDE card to add all the IDE cards I have.

    However if you want to have it cheap and ONLY for NAS/Backup, then I would buy a cheap PC via Ebay that still works, put any Linux distribution I like on it and put as much HD in it as I can lay my hands on. Connect it to a network and done.
    The only connection you need is a network card and even if it is not on the mobo, a cheap 100MB card will be enough for any homeuse.

    Alternatively, if you like to do mu
  • by Sarlok ( 144969 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:23AM (#21435159)
    I've been using a ReadyNAS NV from Infrant (company bought by Netgear) for a year and a half, and have had no troubles with it at all. It just works. When I wanted to increase capacity by adding another disk, I just hot-plugged in the drive, and it rebuilt the RAID array and increased the capacity automatically without any intervention other than a reboot after a couple of hours. And it sent me an email to let me know when to do that.
  • by squarefish ( 561836 ) * on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:27AM (#21435219)
    The DriveStation Quattro [] is in your price range and provides you with 750GB of storage using RAID 5 and it's in your price range.

    I just got a 2TB buffalo terastation pro II [] for 1K and it's awesome. Here's [] a review of the 1TB model. They offer other options, but this seemed like the best one for me based on price, capacity, and reputation. True reliability means you probably want RAID 5 and that means 3 or more drives. If you don't want to fight with raid cards and configuring it from scratch, then this is a great option.
  • by psbrogna ( 611644 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:28AM (#21435233)
    I've had good luck with the two Ximeta NAS devices I've bought in the last couple of years. They have a proprietary architecture that allows you to put a standard low cost, high capacity drive onto your home network for file sharing via either Cat5 or USB (through a PC). The network connection provides superior performance. I've used these drives in Windows & Linux environments succesfully. I believe you can pick up the external enclosure (that only needs a drive; already contains power supply and interface hardware) at Radio Shack for ~$60 and then put whatever compatible drive you want in it. Read more at: []
  • by Lazy Jones ( 8403 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:30AM (#21435277) Homepage Journal
    I looked at various reviews and concluded that all existing NAS solutions had major drawbacks for my intended use (next to my desk). The Buffalo Terastation [] are good & silent but the software seems to be lacking a bit. The Thecus boxes should have high performance but are very noisy according to SmallNetBuilder [].

    So I built a debian box (after looking at FreeNAS [] and OpenFiler [] and concluding that they were inadequate for the hardware I had already bought ...).

    I used: SilverStone GD01 [] case (it has room for 7 HDs and big, quiet fans), an Asus AM2 board with 6 SATAII connectors and 2 x gigabit ethernet, I installed a low power Athlon X2 BE-2350 and 2GB RAM as well as 6 Seagate SATA disks with 250GB each. I partitioned the disks to contain a small (2G) partition for RAID-1 and swap (2 x RAID-1 for the root/boot fs - Linux can't boot from software RAID 5 yet, 4 x swap partitions) and the rest of the disk is used for a 5+1 disk RAID-5 setup.

    Performance is very good, I can saturate at least the gigabit ethernet LAN connection of my desktop PC both at reading and writing (it chokes at 44MB/s - local speeds are much higher, mail me if you want a benchmark run) and I can also run various server stuff on the box that a normal NAS wouldn't support. The box is extremely quiet, so I'm very pleased.

  • by SteveJohnson ( 610255 ) <> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:34AM (#21435365) Homepage
    BackupPC ( will keep versioned backups of any network file shares including SMB and NFS. It just Does The Right Thing (TM) for using the backup storage efficiently. Throw in a web i/f for admin and file restore and it's hard to beat. I have used this to backup a small office (around 20 workstations) using a really old Compaq PC w/ an upgraded disk drive.

    All you need is a cheap Linux box (Debian works well) with one or more large disks. The disks and disk controller don't need to be particularly fast either since backups happen during off hours. If you are worried about disk failure put in two drives, use software RAID, and forget about it.

  • by KWTm ( 808824 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:40AM (#21435475) Journal
    The title and summary do not explain what NAS is. Nor have the comments so far.

    Of course, any geek worth his/her salt must know what NAS is. Since it must be a very common term for people to use it without explanation, I looked it up on Wikipedia. Now I no longer need to turn in my geek card, because I know that NAS is a 34-year-old American rap musician []. It would surely be awesome to invite him home to perform over the network, thus solving problems of scrambled hard disks with the Best Home Network Nas.

    Of course, NAS might stand for any number of other things [] including Network-Attached Storage, Network Access Server, Non-Access Stratum, Network Audio System, or of course that shining epitome of disk failure prevention, the New American Standard bible.

    Anyway, I'm glad I'm done scratching my head over this, because I'm developing a bald spot.
  • flyback (Score:3, Informative)

    by deander2 ( 26173 ) * <public@ke[ ].org ['red' in gap]> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:48AM (#21435607) Homepage
    just buy yourself an external hard drive and use flyback: []

  • Leap Frog (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kcdoodle ( 754976 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @11:54AM (#21435695)
    Last time I had a hard drive failure, I bought 5 identical 80G hard drives.

    I build one drive until I "get it right", then I place anoth drive in the system as slave. Then I boot Knoppix 3.8 or DamnSmallLinux or something similar from the CD drive (I found some Live Linuxes make this process take much longer).

    Then I issue the command

    dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/hdb bs=512M count=160

    I have 1G of ram in the machine so I am assured of getting full 512M reads, then 512M writes, so the OS does not have to do extra buffering.

    It takes almost exactly 1 hour and 8 minutes to totally mirror a drive. This copies the MBR, all partitons, even the blank, space byte-for-byte from one drive to another. It ignores files, folders, etc (so those long filename errors NEVER happen) it just copies RAW data.
    I then take the second drive out of the system and place it on the shelf.
    In the event of a failure (I am down to 4 working drives now.)
    I take the good drive off of the shelf, make it /dev/hda and a blank drive and make it /dev/hdb and clone it.
    I then take /dev/hdb and put it on the shelf.
    I take the failed (or failing) drive and make it /dev/hdb then boot up from /dev/hda and copy everything that I did since my last clone to the new drive (mostly email and some programs).
    After the new drive is happy and in place for a few days, and I am sure I got everything I needed off of the failing drive, I re-clone the good drive and put it on the shelf.
    So, far it has been the most hassle free disaster recovery plan I have ever used.
    You can get 5 identical 80G hard drives for less than $200 with a very short search.
  • unRAID FTW (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BLKMGK ( 34057 ) <> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @12:15PM (#21435977) Homepage Journal
    First, I'd not heard of Openfiler and will be reading up on it but for now I'm using unRAID from and it's working well. Here's why I like it and why I think it's better than standard RAID:

    1) It doesn't stripe and it easy expands to as many as 16 disks.
    2) Because it doesn't stripe disks that aren't being used can goto sleep, much less power usage, noise, and heat trust me.
    3) One disk is used for Parity and must be as big as or larger than all others but all other disks can be any size you want - they need *not* be identical. JBOD indeed!
    4) If you lose a disk you still have access to the data, if you lose TWO disks you will lose data - two disks worth and NOT the whole array! Yes I know RAID can protect against multiple disk failure but only with hot spares or schemes that mean you get to use even LESS of your disks for data. I get to use ALL of my disk space save just one disk. I'm actually running sans a Parity disk right now since I had a hardware failure, I have access to ALL of my data and am hoping a second doesn't die on me while NewEgg ships. :-O
    5) It boots from FLASH memory on cheap hardware, you do not lose storage space to an OS.
    6) The trial version supports two data disks and a parity disk, perfect for testing. The full version isn't super expensive. The product has decent support.
    7) The disks use standard ResiserFS as their F/S. Want to pull one and take it someplace to mount to a Linux box? Sure, go for it. Need to do a data recovery for some odd reason? It's ResierFS so whatever works for that works for this.

    Doing this for just $500 won't be easy without some spare hardware around. The Asus P5B V0 M/B runs about $106 at NewEgg and has 8 SATA ports (one is eSATA) and GigE. That and two 4port Promise cards (SATA or IDE) will get you up to 16 drives but obviously I'd start with just the M/B. Buy some cheap memory, no more than a gig. I spent $25 on the RAM I bought and $60 for a 2.4Gig Celeron D and that's WAY more than enough. Slap all that into a case you have laying around with a decent P/S and you're good to go on the cheap sans drives. Spend the rest on drives, I find Seagates work well and their 5yr warranty rocks! Oh you will need a FLASH stick too, 512meg is WAY more than enough so figure $25 here too.

    Some things you might NOT like about unRAID:

    1) You aren't going to turn this into a NAS\WEB server\Mail server. It's storage stupid, use it for that. To do all of those things you'd need a swap space and out of the box this doesn't have swap - nor is it needed. It can be added but....
    2) Each drive is it's own share. I address them using UNC naming and there are ways to access files across multiple drives as a single share but it's not like RAID with one big fat volume. IMO the advantages outweigh this downside, more details can be found on the unRAID site.
    3) It ain't super fast. Yes, it will max out a 100meg NIC pretty good but not the GigE. You're getting the throughput of a single drive with some overhead so there's no aggregation of disks to improve speed. It IS fast enough to stream HD and multiple SD streams are no biggie either. I *do* back my machines up to this without issue using Acronis. Do use a GigE NIC however, it bursts above the 100Meg mark and testing has shown advantages to having it, it just cannot max it out continuously.
    4) unRAID doesn't YET support NFS, Tom is working on it. SMB is what I use.
    5) The driver is open source but the controlling software is closed source and yup Tom makes some money on it. Source is available for the GPL'd driver software he's modded so you could go around this but frankly I think his pricing is reasonable, zealots might not think so.

    Check it out, if nothing the ASUS board is a good base for damned near anything else you might want to build for a NAS and is supported under Linux, it has onboard video on it too. More details about the M/B, HD deals, or other hardware like SATA cages can be found on the unRAID support forums and in the Wiki.
  • My thoughts... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @12:22PM (#21436063) Homepage
    I've been doing research on this very issue. Here's an excellent site [] that has performance statistics and ratings.

    • The Thecus 4100+ is rumored to be extremely slow.
    • The Infrant/Netgear ReadyNas NV+ is the one I'm looking at. It has an iTunes server, a DLNA server, and a USB connection for TimeMachine.
    • The Qnap TS-401T seems to have a USB port, but it is not for computer access to the filesystem - it's for backing up files to external drives!

    My 'dream NAS' would support 3.0 Gb/s SATA transfers, support RAID 0-6 + JBOD, use a Linux-mountable filesystem on the drives (ReadyNas uses EXT3), have iTunes and DLNA media streaming support, firewire 800/USB 2.0 connections for the currently-direct-connect-only OS X Time Machine, support and use 1 GB transfer speeds.

    The Thecus 5200B is sinfully fast, but doesn't have the iTunes or DLNA servers (it is a SMB box, not a home server, after all).


  • by Agripa ( 139780 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:09PM (#21436737)
    I am going to be looking at NAS for my home network soon and am leaning toward a BSD or Linux based NAS solution using software RAID: []
  • External Drives (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CopaceticOpus ( 965603 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:57PM (#21437479)
    A fairly thorough and cheap solution is to use external USB drives. This plan protects you against pretty much every conceivable failure, including theft, fire, accidental deletions, and double hard drive failures. It would take extraordinarily bad luck to lose data. The weakness is that it requires regular human intervention, but the required work is very easy once it is set up.
    1. For every drive in your computer, buy two external drives of the same capacity.
    2. Label one set of external drives "A" and the other "B".
    3. Give the drives from A and B the same names so that when they are plugged in, they will mount to the same location. (Assuming you have automounting turned on, like Ubuntu does by default.)
    4. Write a script to backup your internal drives to one set of external drives.
    5. Run the script with set A plugged in, then with set B.
    6. Move set B to a convenient remote location, perhaps your office if your employer allows.
    7. Every week or so, backup your files to the external drives currently at home. Then take those drives to your remote location, swap the sets, and bring the other set back home.

  • by originalhack ( 142366 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @04:03PM (#21439287)
    You jumped from realizing that you need a backup to NAS. NAS might use RAID for hardware protection, but you can still wipe it out with a mistake or a virus. My favorite approach is to buy a cheap USB-HDD enclosure and back up the internal drive on the PC (which needs to be powered on whenever you use the PC anyway) to the USB. Then, switch off the USB drive's power and it is safe.

    Once in a while, yank the drive out of the enclosure and drop it in your safe deposit box and put a new drive in.

    1) Easy approach to off-site storage
    2) Protected from errors and viruses
    3) Doesn't cost much
    4) Doesn't waste power
    5) Can restore on other systems

    1) Not a very impressive geek toy
    2) Not particularly fast

  • NAS != backup!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @05:52PM (#21440685) Journal
    I can't believe I have to mention this AGAIN, but every time there's a discussion of home-RAID systems, 90% of /. jumps to the wrong conclusion.

    Let me state something VERY VERY CLEARLY here:

    RAID is not backup.
    NAS is not backup.
    SAN is not backup.
    Snapshotting is not backup.
    Backup is backup.


    RAID is a way of providing data availability and reliability. It doesn't provide backups. SAN and NAS are various frameworks for presenting the data in a storage system (generally RAID, but not necessarily) to an environment. It doesn't provide backups either. Backups consist of making COMPLETE COPIES (and yes that includes incrementals--ultimately, with a base copy plus incrementals, you have a complete copy) of files, STORED OFFLINE. Snapshots provide copies of files (and the smart snapshot systems do provide complete copies), but they're still online copies of the data. They will let you recover files to a point-in-time, but if your storage array goes T.U. for some horrible reason, you're still screwed.

    RAID is fantastic for keeping your online data from being destroyed or taken offline due to hardware failures. SAN/NAS is great for making data available to a networked environment. However, if you want backups of your files, then back up your files--don't use RAID (and SAN/NAS on top of it) as a backup scheme, because it ain't.

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