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back to article Ten... two-bay Nas boxes

Network attached storage is the panacea for many of today’s data excesses, especially you’ve developed a music and movie habit, need a backup server or fancy your own personal cloud. Two-bay nas drives are an affordable option for file sharing, supporting mixed platform environments in addition to web HTTP and FTP services. …

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I went down the DIY route

HP Microserver N36L, now the N40L. The N40L offers AMD Turion Neo II (1.5GHz), 4 drive bays, 6 USB ports, Gigabit ethernet, VGA out and 2 PCI-E slots. You get a 250GB HD and 2GB RAM included. Power consumption is under 45W. Certified for Windows and RHEL.

Ebuyer sell them for £230-240, and HP have been offering £100 cashback on them for months now. Stick something like Open Media Vault or other OS of choice on there. Far more flexible option if you're that way inclined.

A friend of mine did the same as me, using Open Media Vault, and he was complaining that it all just worked. He was expecting hours of tweaking and fiddling.

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Emo
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Re: I went down the DIY route

Me too, HP Microserver N36L £129 after cashback, 2x2TB Samsung F4 drives @ £70each (week after the floods just before they rocketed up) and Windows Home Server 2011 - £40, and 8gb of Ram for about £40.

Hooked up on gigabit ethernet - 109/mbs all day.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Yep - HP MicroServer with OMV is the way to go. Mine is happily serving content from the cupboard under the stairs via some TP-link homeplugs. Put 4 old 500Gb disks I had spare in there in a RAID 5.

Works a treat and got set up in about an hour.

Got it via my company, VAT back & £100 = ~ £110.

Absolute bargain.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Me too, but running ESXi with a SME server install and couple of other linuxy server to play with and the cpu utilisation is negligable. Infact I was so impressed for what turned out to be a £130 server that I got another one.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Another vote for the Microserver from me. I'm running WHS 2011 on it and with over 4Tb on board it makes a great media streamer and automatically backs up every windows box in the house too. For a "real" price of £140 after cashback it is (still) the steal of the decade. I'd get another one but I genuinely have no use for it other than as a cold standby if the existing one blows up.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Same here only running 4 x 500Gb drives I already owned and FreeNAS 8.

Worked out around £110 with the cashback when I bought mine. It really is the way to go.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

How do you do hardware RAID on the HP microservers? As far as I've read, there is no dedicated RAID controller so any array is software based.

If I have misunderstood, a link would be helpful as I’m interested!

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Re: I went down the DIY route

I'm using Linux SoftRAID, just like nearly any LInux-based NAS device uses. You'll find few off-the-shelf NAS devices do hardware RAID. The beauty of using Linux SoftRAID means that if your hardware gives up the ghost you can stick the HDs into another Linux machine.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Again, i too got the HP microserver although i didnt go for OMV. Instead a USB stick loaded with Debian Sid and RAID-Z for my old 500 gig HDDs.

I'm just waiting for the price of HDDs to come down enough to make it work buying 4x2TB (or more) and then ill be laughing!

As for RAID-5... i had a nasty experience with it before and really like ZFS as a file system. Just dont forget to check your RAID content every week to prevent the bit rot!

(use zfs scrub if using ZFS)

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Another vote for the Microserver.

My first one is running ESXi with a couple of VM's on it, a second running Windows 2008 R2. I have to be honest I also have a Netgear ReadyNAS as they are on the VMWare HCL so using that as an NFS datastore and backup target for the windows server. Lovely!

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K
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Re: I went down the DIY route

True - You can't beat these boxes for value...

Personally I wanted something with a bit more umph though, so I built a custom box, with 4 Bay NAS case, i3 cpu, 8Gb RAM, 4x1.5TB HDD's in RAID 5.. cost just over £300 and I'm running Windows 7 with VMWare Workstation (Could not use ESX as it would not work with the onboard RAID controller).

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Re: I went down the DIY route

It is a bargain, but be careful on the cashback. I was looking at these yesterday as it happens and the form on HP's website says that it must be invoiced and delivered by 30th April (ie. Today!) They may extend it though as it's been running for ages now.

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Re: I went down the DIY route

I bought one today, (I was thinking about it anyway but seeing the comments here made me go for it!) and emailed the company doing the cash back to see if I could still claim. they said no problem and hinted the offer has been extended. This does seem the way to go to me. I already have a small off the shelf NAS but it just doesn't seem to have the grunt to do decent streaming - this seems much more promising and given the cash back it's a steal!

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Re: I went down the DIY route

Thanks all for mentioning this - I now have one too.

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Synology all the way

I have a Synology DS211j and it's an excellent device. It does what it's supposed to without complaint and the management software is some of the best web based software I've ever used. It also benefits from a rich feature set and frequent updates. I use it streaming media (it even demuxes mkv content for the benefit of my PS3) and as a general file server and it's never given me a spot of trouble.

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Re: Synology all the way

Seconded. The management software is amazing for a bit of HTML/JS. Feature rich and simple to use. The only negative I have is that it's a bugger to find a replacement fan here in the UK. I've a DS209+II and I only found two distributors in Europe - both of whom appear to be the same person who was out of stock indefinitely. :(

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Re: Synology all the way

Agreed!

Been running a 410j for two years now. Hardware RAID, great management software and so on. The internal backup system is great - backups run from the main shares to a hidden share to do version management and the really important stuff is backed up to an external USB drive. I hook up the USB disk Saturday morning and by lunch my mailbox is full of messages telling me my data is safe once again.

Meanwhile, it serves up music and internet radio to the Squeezebox in the kitchen and serves whatever else I want wherever else I want it, like sharing holiday snaps with the family abroad over the built in photo sharing server.

The only two gripes are the awful desktop backup software, and the inability to upgrade the RAM (128Mb is not quite enough) but considering the price, I won't argue.

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Meh

I still dont get the use of iTunes server?

When you can just point iTunes on whatever PC to the iTunes folder on the NAS.

Whats the benefit?

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Re: I still dont get the use of iTunes server?

So you can stream to you Apple TV/iPad/iPhone without having to have your PC running & iTunes loaded

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Re: I still dont get the use of iTunes server?

I've never had much luck doing it this way. My music library is 100 gig or so (160 gb ipod classic).

Every time I plug in the ipod to sync, itunes seems to want to pull EVERY single file over the network. This takes ages.

Media monkey doesn't do this.

The itunes server tho I agree, its a bit pointless.

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Anonymous Coward

I'd love to see 'proper' reviews of these kind of devices.

What features are supported - is iSCSI there, for example? What's the management software like? What sort of sustained throughput do we see? How quiet and cool do they run? Do they use 5400 or 7200 rpm disks.

Are these 2TB & 6TB devices referring to the total capacity? Is there RAID support? Is it set up to begin with and if not, how many hours does it take?

You get the idea.

I second the HP microserver, by the way - superb piece of kit for the money (with cashback offers these were down to £100 at one point) and loads of disk expansion capacity. I wouldn't want to throw any serious load at one, but Ubuntu server + no gui + the relevant software turned mine into a hell of a media & time machine server.

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Anonymous Coward

depends what you mean by serious load

I have two HP microservers. both stuffed with 4x2TB. Makes a good workhorse for old-fashioned data processing, chugging through the data overnight in no great hurry. Te other has a ATI FirePro 2270 Graphics card to drive my two large monitors and is plent fast enough for my publishing, programing and analysis workload.

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Anonymous Coward

depends what you mean by serious load

I have two HP microservers. both stuffed with 4x2TB. Makes a good workhorse for old-fashioned data processing, chugging through the data overnight in no great hurry. Te other has a AMD FirePro 2270 Graphics card to drive my two large monitors and is plent fast enough for my publishing, programing and analysis workload.

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Smallnetbuilder nas charts should have the info

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Re: "Proper" reviews

It would have been good to see power draw figures from each of these, too...

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Holmes

Re: "Proper" reviews

It bothered me, so I looked them all up - used the Reg review as primary source, then manufacturer figures, then other review sites if there was still no figures published)

1) Buffalo Linkstation - 24W max (src: http://www.reghardware.com/2011/01/20/review_storage_buffalo_linkstation_pro_duo_nas/)

2) Buffalo Terastation - 47W max (src: http://www.buffalo-technology.com/en/terastation-pro-duo.html)

3) Freecom Silverstore2 - 24W (src: http://www.freecom.com/Products/External-Hard-Drives/Network-Hard-Drives/SilverStore2)

4) Freecom DualDrive - 16W (src: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/network-storage/1283860/freecom-dual-drive-network-center-2tb/specifications)

5) NetGear ReadyNas Duo v2 - 60W (src: http://www.reghardware.com/2012/01/18/review_netgear_readynas_duo_v2_network_attached_storage/page2.html)

6) QNAP TS-219P II - 23W (src: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/network-storage/1291528/qnap-turbonas-ts-219p-ii/specifications)

7) Synology Diskstation DS212J - 17.6W (src: http://www.synology.com/products/spec.php?product_name=DS212j&lang=enu#p_submenu)

8) Synology Diskstation DS212+ - 18.7W (src: http://www.synology.com/products/spec.php?product_name=DS212%2B&lang=enu#p_submenu)

9) Thecus N2200EVO - 52W (src: http://nas.findthebest.com/l/748482/Thecus-N2200EVO)

10) Western Digital My Book Live Duo - 15W (src: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/network-storage/1291513/western-digital-my-book-live-duo-4tb/specifications)

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Happy

If all you want is something basic...

...you don't even have to spend that much.

I've got a D Link ShareCenter Pulse which I paid about £50 and we've got a Zyxel NSA221 at work which was £45.

My biggest criticism of the D Link so far is that I can't get the built in print server to work with my printed, a rather ancient Brother HL1430, but I think that's probably more down to the printer than the NAS. Other than that, it's got everything that I wanted built it.

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Re: If all you want is something basic...

I have a d-link sharecentre pulse as well, and it's passable, but not great. Although you can improve on the basic functionality by using funplug so you can install your own media server etc.

My main issue with it, is that it seems to randomly stop broadcasting it's shares on my network and needs a reboot for my AV streamer to be able to pick it up again. For the price it's great, but if I ever have to replace it I'm going for a higher end, more reliable one. probably a 4 bay synology.

One of the thinks I'd like to have seen on this is disk compatibility, a lot of NAS boxes don't like 2TB or greater disks, depending on the format. Although this may have been sorted now, it was a while ago when i was looking.

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Anonymous Coward

Why, a box with a webinterface, how nice.

If I wanted something really simple I could make do with an external enclosure and a "home router" with USB-host support. But for a dedicated appliance, I might have use if it did more than just serve files. It would also need to keep them safe and secure.

So how about a box that has vibration-dampened drive mounts, a cpu with hardware crypto support, and for me, a way to run custom softare on a custom OS (linux, possibly even FreeBSD)? What choices does that leave me?

This roundup doesn't really go beyond the most base of hi-tech consumer needs (rilly fast and shiny webpages, guv!), and doesn't really hint at which ones might be useful for serious tinkering. Bit of a pity, that.

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Linux

Re: Why, a box with a webinterface, how nice.

Lessee, the Synology DS212 (btw, the 212-non-plus has all the same features less the eSATA port for a good bit less) has hardware AES 256-bit, the two drive cages I mounted to had shock bumpers on the screwdowns, it's running Linux already with a fairly broad ecosystem of add-on apps and the toolchains to roll-your-own whatever, so what again were you whinging about?

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I've never really understood the benefit of NAS boxes when a fully functioning PC could be had for the same price or lower. Or for that matter the bits left over from a recent upgrade.

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Less power use, less space taken up, less to fiddle with, so more time to spend doing something else.

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@xenny

Agree totally. Got the 4-disk QNAP here. It' small and just gets on with it with little effort; I have too many other things to do that already take up all my time. Consumption is also very low, most of the time the UPS doesn't even notice that it's running.

I started off looking at the hp microservers and small some cases for a DIY system, but in the end I'm happy with what I've got.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @xenny

Same here but my old NAS is a QNAP TS-209 (500mhz Marval, 128MB RAM, and 2x1.5GB Samsung 5400rpm Eco drives).

For me speed is not the main goal, its having somewhere to store data that is easy to access from any of the PC's I have (desktops, laptop and even an old VAX3100-96).

Having an always avaialble NAS that uses between 10-20Watts, that can also act as a print server, is all I need.

As for speed that old box is only capable of delivering about 160-190Mbit, but that's vastly more than is required to do occational backups, play movies and the like.

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Stop

These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

All factory built ARM and Atom based NAS hardware have inadequate CPU, RAM and OS, and insecure RAID models, it's way overpriced and only for technical illiterates; this is just as bad for 4+ bay models.

I really don't see the point of 2 bay NAS, given RAID 0 is pointless on a NAS, and RAID 1 is an expensive use of drives and not adequate protection. You need to go for at least 4 drives and ZFS RAID models to get decent data security. If you really need speed, buy PCIe Flash cards, given they will thrash RAID 0 easily.

A much better value and more powerful approach is to built your own FreeNAS box using ZFS RAID models and either low power (e.g. 50W) or high performance 64-bit hardware; it can be a substantially cheaper approach if a 64-bit AMD Fusion based motherboards is used.

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Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

for "the lazy and technical illiterates" - not exactly a niche market then! What percentage of the population can make their own NAS?

I was lucky - I got a 1TB Buffalo LinkStation Duo 1TB (refurbished) for £73 delivered almost a year ago - pretty close the the cost of 1TB of USB external drive. Fine for storing my videos on (no need for RAID for my usage). They're £90 from ebuyer now.

I think they have their place but I agree that at these prices - not so sure.

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Meh

Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

+1 for overpriced, but I suspect the main cost is in the selling, not the manufacture. Time to archive the selling of these to a big warehouse with internet frontend.

+1 for technical illiteracy too. Is it a server or backup system? You could use one disk for server and one for backup, but yes raid0=heartbreak. If you have ISCSI and a mac, use it for timemachine, but don't use the same disk (or controller) for server and backup functions. That's leads to heartbreak too. In fact, you probably want your server and backup systems on different electrical circuits and you do have offline backups too, right?

I run myth off my backup system, but its an old pc. A far "better" solution. Plenty of SATA ports, plenty of grunt, runs a proper full OS. By the time I move to quad-core form dual-core on my desktop, the server will be grossly overpowered. A cheap core2duo is far more than you need. Just remember not to get a SFF or you'll need a new chassis. If you get a branded desktop pc, you'll probably get a rubbish intel graphics system, which is fine for a server and "just enough" power supply and fans to keep things cool.

So... +1 for generic box, probably your last desktop. Really, there is little point buying a separate box, if you're going to keep it on your desk. Stick it in the garden shed or the attic, it'll be safer from the MIAA there, and the noise won't matter.

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Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

This is a common mistake many posters on El Reg make. Most users ARE technically illiterate and don't have the time/inclination to learn to build something themselves, let alone do it. So in that sense, you kind of miss the point of these boxes.

Using an old PC or a home build is going to consume either more space, more power, more money and be noisier (in any combination, depending on your focus). For example, the HP box above is nice tin, but somewhat bigger than most two-disk boxes, not to mention a sight noisier - it is much cheaper though.

Quite right about RAID 0 on any NAS (barring 10GbE boxes in some caching capacity or some odd use cases...).

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FAIL

Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

Always amazed that the technically literate still are not clever enough to realise that most folks out there are not technically literate hence why most IT projects fail and hardware purchases never realise their full value.

The Tech Literates never bother to give the less able what they actually need and just push the wrong solution.

I have seen many small businesses languishing in tech nightmare with a £3000 Windows 2008 server that some Tech guru said they needed (then cleared off when they got too small for him to bother with) when in fact a £400 NAS would have worked perfectly for their simple file sharing needs with a little redundancy.

Tech Literates? Muppets who like wasting other peoples money more like!

Know your customer and work with them. If they trust you you can raise them up from IT befuddlement. It just takes a little time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

Gitme, dead right. I don't class myself as illiterate, spent my life designing and developing computer systems and later, running them, since I graduated in the early 60s. But the thought of messing about putting a pc together when I can afford a pretty little, quiet, box that jut sits in the corner of my home office, serves dlna as well as running RAID, does my print serving... Lovely little devices. Mine's a ReadyNAS.

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Meh

Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

Exactly, some of us have lives, factors and other people around us that help absorb our time.

I weep when I see some twenty something stating proudly that he spent an entire week in his mum's basement tweaking his RAM CAS timings, running benchmarks over and over again to gain a 'massive' 0.1FPS over the 132FPS he was already getting at stock settings.

What a waste of life!

If a £300 simple set and forget box does the job then do it and get on with something more important. Your friends and family are not impressed with your homebrew Frankenstein box and are just being kind if they say so.

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Mushroom

Re: These are just for the lazy and technical illiterates.

Jason, and many of the other people replying are dead right.

How about this one, Infernoz: Spending hours building things from scratch is for the lazy and poor.

How much is your time worth?

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Alert

Backups to RAID0=Heartbreak

For the people who need to buy one of these devices because they're "technically illiterate" (the *vast majority* of computer users are in this group, guys), suggesting they back up to a device running in RAID0 is asking for trouble. A failure of either drive means they lose all their data! You're much better off with RAID1 and half the usable space than RAID0.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Backups to RAID0=Heartbreak

Forget RAID. RAID instantly backs up your mistakes :-)

I had a 2 drive QNAP TS209 and just got fed up of its limitations. QDownload, and other bundled packages are pretty rubbish. So I recycled an old Shuttle with Ubuntu Server LTS to a NAS. After messing with LVMs and disk mirroring I ended up with a single 1.5Tb, small system partition and the rest on an encrypted volume which gets backed up via USB to a standalone hard drive frequently (honestly - most weeks). I keep the backup drive off site.

Only problem is I was planning to upgrade to a single 3Tb disk except prices haven't fallen.

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Boffin

Re: Backups to RAID0=Heartbreak

Within a business, NAS boxes tend to be for non-critical / cheap storage with real servers holding fast disk arrays.

Small business I know of used a couple of old boxes running FreeNAS, each running RAID 0 but kept in sync over the network with RSync. Meant that storage was effectively RAID 1, but with seperate physical locations, power-supplies, OS versions etc giving a little more redundancy over an off-the-shelf NAS box.

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Sir

I bought a 4 bay terastation about 5 years ago and it hasn't missed a beat in all that time.

The only problem I have with is it's constant chattering. I've neglected going SSD because I think it would just wear them out.

The support team couldn't tell me why it was constantly chattering either, so not a plus for support.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sir

I also bought the 4 bay terastation 5 years ago. As you have, I think, also discovered, when it approached capacity the drives became very active. Three of the four then failed in succession over the following months so it went into the bin.

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Re: Sir

Oh dear, none of my drives have failed (yet - famous last words) but they have been chattering all that time, not just now they are getting a bit full.

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Re: Sir

We had a terastation for about six months three or four years ago. Wasn't impressed at all. The key problem was that it kept falling over. When it did the NIC started jabbering, taking the entire broadcast domain down with it. The first time it happened it took most of a morning to track down. Three days after the second time it happened the drives had been removed to something more dependable, and a screwdriver driven through the circuit board to ensure that it could never, ever, be connected to the network again.

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