2012/05/16

Some thoughts about NAS devices

Today I'm going to share some thoughts about various NAS devices I've considered for my home environment.

Number one objective is to have a power efficient device, since these things will most of the time sit there and contribute to your monthly electricity bill.

Couple of years ago I've decided to try Thecus N2100, it seemed nice and hackable and it had two GigE ports, but it had a really IO subsystem making it really slow. I was hoping that the bugs could be worked out, but it didn't happen. So, I've popped two WD green drives (1TB), replaced the internal fan with a quieter one, upgraded the memory to 512MB. The transfers are still really slow and the included version of BusyBox is pretty outdated and buggy. If you have filenames with some bad characters in them, or lots of files in the folders some services such as the Mediabolic media server would just crash. It's real legacy hardware now, the CPU on the unit is plagued with some serious bugs and the original kernel seems to be much better than most other available. I've tried different things with it, but I wanted to keep it fairly stock, so adding the extra modules was the way to go. But eventually I got tired of it, and I've decided to retire it, after running it for a few months 24/7. I needed a device with an ftp server, and enough storage to be able to serve some content through DLNA and DAAP (iTunes-like).

One of the days I was looking for Raspberry Pi (still waiting for my order to arrive) specs and I've noticed a pink Pogoplug on sale for $25. Once I found out that it has a SATA port on the inside, I thought that I could use this thing to replace functionality of my other NAS. In a way this would be a downgrade, from two SATA ports to one, but on the other hand 4 USB ports and  less power hungry device with support for optware seems like a perfect match. Not to mention the initial investment part. So, I've chopped off a little sliver of the back cover to run the 90-degrees-angled SATA to e-sata cable, and it's almost ready. All I need now is a decent e-SATA drive dock or an enclosure and it's ready.

One of the big selling points for me was the 5GB of free cloud storage, that shows up up in the management screen as another drive. I'm trying to keep my ISP costs down, so my link is seriously limited in upstream bandwidth, so I was able to use that to host my pictures for my family members.

Another great feature is the built-in DLNA media server. It's been pretty stable, one of short comings was that it wouldn't index my small 80GB drive for the movies, but then luckily I was able to find the 5GB of the ShmooCon 2012 videos by browsing through folders.

It goes without saying that the thing allows one to turn on the built in ssh server, and mount optware from the USB drive

My final solution to the problem became much simpler than ones listed the above, and it entails a relatively beefy broadband router with an USB port, a  few tiny 32GB flash drives, an USB hub, and OpenWRT. It is still having some little issues that I'll have to take time to iron out, but at least it serves a multitude of tasks. So, I have there an VPN server, an ftp server, a samba share, DLNA media server, DAAP (iTunes compatible) server, and I couldn't be happier with it. It allows me to use Wake-on-LAN to turn on my beefier media server based on HP N40L microserver and OpenMediaVault when needed, where I have much more space for my git repositories, family albums, as well as vacation pictures and videos.


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