Network Attached Storage - build a low cost one

Network Attached Storage - NAS can cost you as low as zero and upwards of $25,000...
 

Running out of storage for your files? Have an old PC just collecting dust?

Welcom to diy-computer-repair.com, I am Monte Russell owner/author of this web site.How to build A Economical NAS...

After reading an article on PCMech.com about a NAS, I decided to tell you how to make a reliable system to backup your computer or network computers and it will not cost as much as your house.

What is NAS? And what will it do for me?

What is it? Network Attached Storage  - NAS, file storage, or Network Appliance, is a very basic computer with large capacity hard drives. It also has 'redundancy' - that is the hard drives have a fault tolerance that if a drive fails you don't lose your data. This is called RAID (see this page for explanation on RAID Arrays)

One of the NAS systems I am familiar with is Network Appliance this is a high-end system that the storage capacity started (in 2005) at 30 tetra bytes, they also cost $25,000 or more each.

What if you want to have 30 Tetra byte of storage for your home or small business, do you have $25k to spend? No?

Well there is a way to get this type of storage with out the cost.

Note: Storage has increased in size and the price has dropped, thus it is fairly cheap to have a NAS with 10 TB of storage. And there are manufactures that are making special devices that are true NAS, they range in price from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands. They also range in storage from 1 TB to 20 TB+ with RAID.

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If your data is of high value then this solution may not be the right solution for you, but if you want to have a place to keep your backups, your sound and video files then this is cheaper than say the online solutions like Carbonite.

So what do you need to make a Network Attached Storage?

A old computer, a raid array controller, and the hard drives that make up your raid array.

I upgraded the drives in my server last month and paid $260 for two 500 gig SATA drives. So I have a Tetra byte of storage. It is not however a RAID Array, it is two drives that I use all the storage, To make it a RAID of one Tetra byte I would need one more 500 gig drive and the array controller.

What you will need to make the Network Attached Storage -NAS (minimum hardware):

  • A computer - P III, P4, or better that is reliable, 256 meg of ram, network card, CD
  • 3 drives (minimum - using a RAID array you need 3 drives, all the same size, add up the three drives capacity, subtract one for the parity and you have the size of the volume that will be use able. Using my upgrade, I need one more 500 gig drive, 3x500 = 1500 subtract the parity drive and I have 1 Tetra byte of storage with redundancy).
  • A RAID Array controller (it can be either IDE or SATA - I recommend SATA)
  • Two network cards of the same make that can be teamed or bridged.
  • The Operating System.

Note: These specification were written in 2007, the processor speed, ram, and drive capacity have increased, you would use what you have available but this is the minimum that a server operating system will install on.

How to make the Network Attached Storage:Install your Array controller, Drives, and Network cards.

Clean up your old computer (dust / dirt) and the data on the hard drives that you don't want to use. You may want to upgrade the network cards to the maximum your network can handle. You may also want to upgrade the processor and memory - not necessary.

Install your RAID Array controller and you hard drives. Some PC RAID Array cards need to be setup when you first start your computer. Such as with the HighPoint controller, you pick the drives you want for your array and the type of array. I suggest if you can afford it you use a RAID 5 Array for you drives (see the page for an explanation of RAID Types) because if one fails you will be able to recover your data with a replacement drive.

Your Operating System can be Linux, Windows, or if you have the experience DOS. I suggest that you use Windows XP. Why? Because most people are familiar  with XP, it  is stable, and MS will be supporting it until 2014.

Note: All Windows Client Operating Systems will only allow for ten (10) consecutive connections at one time. If you need more than ten then I would suggest you move to a Server Operating System.

Once you have your OS installed your next task is to setup the network. If you have two identical network cards in your computer you can either 'Team' them or use Microsoft's Network Bridge. This will double the network speed of the computer. You will not see the '200MBS' but you will see a dramatic increase in your through put for the computer, this would be the same for any computer on your network. This however will not work if you only have two computers and want to use a crossover cable to connect them together.

Next you need to setup the volume that will hold your files, how you setup the array volume or make it multiple volumes depends on your situation. You may want to separate applications from video and sound files, or have a separate volume for computer drive images, or like me one for just games.

When you have all this done your last consideration is security. You should harden your NAS the same way a server is hardened. Also you should consider turning off services not normally used such as COM+, DCOM (see this page for a list of Network Attached Storage services you can turn off).

Now you are ready to back up your computer(s) to the NAS. You can use any backup software to do the deed, such as Windows XP Backup, or you can do it manually. You can do a search for programs that will do a scheduled backup, this is one I am testing at this time: Cobian Backup

To go a step further with your new network attached storage you may want to use a tape backup to back up your valuable data for redundancy.

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