Aug. 25th, 2017

mellowtigger: (tech support)
What do you know about Network Attached Storage (NAS)? I have a specific set of features that I want, and I'm wondering how best (and frugally) to achieve it.  It seemed too complex a technical question to type in a tweet or other social media, so I'm writing it up here.

The end-purpose of this storage device will be simply to save many files that are quite large but seldom accessed: games, movies, and eventually security cam archives.  Speaking of games, I expect Star Citizen to need 150GB when it finally releases, but that's another post.

The features that I want are these:
  1. Varieties of hard drive capacities, because I want to reuse the old hard drives I already have laying around without having to buy a fleet ($$$) of the same drive models whenever I want more capacity.
  2. SATA 3.5" hard drives, because the old drives I have are that physical size and interface.
  3. Redundancy, so any one hard drive can fail without losing data.
  4. Low power usage, so I can keep it online fulltime without expecting to see my electric bill spike upwards ($$$).
  5. Ethernet accessible, so any number of devices in the house could use it simultaneously.
I don't care if it requires technical tinkering to get it to work.  I don't care (for now) if it offers a powershell interface.  I don't care (for now) if it offers HDMI 4K output for streaming movies to television.  I don't need cloud backup or redundant power supply.  So that brings me to the main question:

What do I select for hardware and software?

Software: I never remember RAID levels without looking them up every time I discuss them, but I'm wondering if Feature #1 above means that I should actually be looking at unRAID as my software choice.  It also serves Feature #4 well.  And it's cheap, since it's also free ($$$) for only 3 drives total (1 stripe + 2 data).  So, I've already halfway convinced myself to give it a try, unless someone points me to a more common alternative that works well.

Hardware: Which leaves the hardware choice entirely up to me.  Buy some traditional NAS then just overwrite its operating system?  Buy a regular desktop computer system, but overwrite it then fill it with as many hard drives as it can handle?  Is there a cheap rack solution that might even allow hot-pluggable SATA drives?  Too many options, so I don't even know where to start.

I'm open to brainstormed ideas and real-world anecdotes.


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