NAS Basics (Data Protection, Performance, Configuration and more) PART 2 Other Features NAS devices are not just boxes of storage on your network, many can provide extra funcitionality. For example, the latest Synology Disk Station Manager (DSM) software (v2.2) gives the NAS the following features: (and ReadyNAS, QNAP etc provide very similar function sets) RAID Management (RAID 0, 1 or 5) iSCSI Target Desktop Backup (PC/MAC Time Machine) Server Backup USBCopy Windows + Mac + Linux Access File Station 2 Encrypted FTP Server Windows ADS Integration Privilege Management Web Station Photo Station 3 Download Station 2 iTunes Server DLNA Media Server Printer Server DDNS Link Aggregation Resource Monitor 3rd-Party Application Integration Firewall HDD Hibernation Fan Control Schedule Power On/Off UPS All of which are detailed here: http://www.synology.com/us/products/features/index.php Be sure to check the website of the vendor you are considering for a full feature set of the NAS you have in mind. Power Consumption (go green with NAS) A big advantage of having all your storage on a NAS rather than a server running 24/7 is the amount of power used. Below are figures for Synology boxes. I've chosen figures for a 1 disk box, 2 disk box and 4 disk box, with the information coming from their website. Model, Spin, Access ,Idle, Hibernation DS107e, 43w, 26.9w, 25.4w, 14w DS207+, 52.2w, 32.7w, 28.3w, 11w DS407, 68.5w, 50.6w, 47.5w, 13.4w Updated 28/10/09 with newer Synology models. DS109: 19w access, 9w hibernation DS209: 25w access, 10w hibernation DS409: 44w access, 16w hibernation As you can see even when spinning and accessing the power consumption is way below that of a server. And when the idle parameter kicks in (time limit configurable on the Synologys), it can draw under 10 watts. Hows that against what a PC/server would draw? So that's another great plus point for NAS. Here is a calculation from NTM where he compares the Synology DS1010+ NAS to a PC. Build your own NAS Rather than looking for an off the self ready built NAS, there is nothing stopping you building your own. One of the most popular methods of doing this is to use spare PC parts that you might have. But you really need to watch the power usage when doing this. As shown in the "power consumption" section, running a normal PC 24x7 could really rack up the energy bills. You'd be much better seeking out some of the newer low power CPU and motherboard combinations. (ITX motherboard boards, Atom CPU's etc). This should allow you to get much closer to the sub 50w ratings of even the largest standalone NAS devices. Once you've built the hardware, you're going to need some software. The main alternatives are: 1. Windows Home Server (license around £70) http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/default.mspx Or for those on a budget, there is always the free alternative. 2. FreeNAS http://freenas.org/freenas Filesystem The majority of NAS boxes use the ext3 file-system (as they are in essence, mini-linux servers) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ext3 Both Windows and Mac can read ext3 file-systems, so there is no need to format in NTFS, HFS or any other native file-system to make the NAS compatible with those operating systems. Using 4k or 8k block sizes in ext3 allows a maximum single file-size of 2tb!! Want a NAS? Ask yourself these questions When considering buying a NAS, ask yourself these questions: What is your budget? (including drives) What usable capacity do you need? Based on your capacity requirements, how many drive bays do you need? (max hard drive size at the moment is 2tb) 2 drives in RAID 1 give 2tb usable 4 drives in RAID 5 give 6tb usable. What is your backup strategy? And have you budgeted for that? Don't rely on RAID, consider an external drive plugged into the back of the NAS What is your performance expectation? Streaming Audio Video? Most of the basic models from the usual suspects will suffice Heavy File Access and Multiple users? You might want to consider a higher spec unit. What is you network infrastructure? If wireless or 100mbit access only, then again, a low end box will probably suffice. If you are expecting to get gigabit type performance, then you'll need to look higher-end. (and also get your network GigE end-to-end) Once you've answered those questions, it should be easier to choose a model from each manufacturers range. (QNAP, Netgear, Synology the usual suspects) Get on their sites and see if they provide all the features that you require. Conclusion If its "performance" you are after that is on par with your desktop, then forget it. That sort of NAS device just does not exist in the consumer market place and price point. A NAS is no desktop hard disk replacement. I'd suggest you continue to use your desktop to do all your intensive work requiring high speed access (uncompressing large files, video editing, video rendering and encoding etc) and use the NAS for protected storage, backups, video/audio streaming or any other low speed access. Decide what you want from your NAS, be that fault tolerance levels and extra features as listed above. Then use the myriad of webpages dedicated to hardware reviews to make your mind up and of course the forums here at www.avforums.com Other useful sites: www.smallnetbuilder.com www.tomshardware.co.uk Both of which have their own forums too. I hope this mini-guide has helped you. If you have any questions, comments or corrections, then please let me know. One more thing, if you post a question up and someone goes to the trouble of answering you, please have the courtesy to use the "thanks" button to show your appreciation. Rudeness is not a welcome attribute on these forums.