Thoughts on building your own NAS device

In a previous post I shared the research I did on the various NAS solutions that are available. I’ve been experimenting with the software solutions I described in that post, and have decided to forego a pre-built solution in favor of a DIY project. There were a couple of reasons for this:

1. The hardware costs were significantly less than the pre built solutions.

2. I have quite a bit more flexibility rolling my own box.

3. The commercial solutions come with a ton of bells and whistles that I don’t really need.

4. There are functional streaming solutions that run on top of Linux and FreeBSD.

5. I don’t have to worry about my NAS being EOL’ed or the company that sells it going under.

I’m not sure if I’m going to run FreeNSD or openfiler, but I have settled on my hardware. Based on a recommendation from a reader named Dave, I ordered a HP micro server along with 4 2TB Samsung disk drives. The server cost me $300, and I got the disk drives on sale for $80 each. That puts the total price tag for a NAS device with 8TB of RAW disk at just over $600. Not bad! I’m planning to do a thorough evaluation of freenas and openfiler, and will post my thoughts on the two as I start digging into them further. Also planning to do some serious performance benchmarks to see which performs better. Viva la NAS!!

*** UPDATE ***

Part two of this series is available here.

Making sense of the various NAS hardware and software solutions

This past weekend I realized I had a sufficient need at home for some type of centralized storage solution. Ideally this solution would allow me access my data from all of my machines via NFS, CIFS and iSCSI, and have some capabilities to stream music and videos across my wireless network. The number of NAS solutions I found astounded me, and I have been digging through reviews to see what is good.

During my research, I came across a slew of hardware and software solutions. The hardware solutions I added to my list came from various vendors, though I decided to scratch one large vendor (Drobo) after reading Curtis Preson’s blog post about his drobo support experience. Here are the hardware vendors that made it into my possibility list:

Buffalo Technology

In addition to pre-built hardware, I also debated buying a low power system and running one of the following software NAS solutions on it:

EON OpenSolaris-based NAS distribution
FreeNAS FreeBSD-based NAS distribution
NexentaStor Community edition
OpenFiler Linux-based NSA distribution

Once I had a better feel for what was out there, I decided to pull out my notebook and write down the things that I wanted vs. needed in a NAS device. Here are the items I really wanted to have out of the box:

– Support RAID and drive auto expansion
– Support for NFS, CIFS and iSCSI
– Ability to run a DLNA/UPnP server to stream audio and video
– Easy to use and manage
– Low power consumption
– Extremely quiet
– Built-in hardware fault monitoring
– Well supported organization or community

The synology devices seem to provide everything I’m after and then some, but the FreeNAS and openfiler projects provide a lot of flexibility that can’t be matched by the Synology (e.g., all the source is available). I’m currently leaning towards the Synology DS411J, but I may end up nixing that idea and build a small quiet machine that runs openfiler/freenas. If you have a centralized NAS device at home that meets the checklist above, please let me know in the comments.