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USB Drive, Computer, or NAS?

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Initial post: Oct 13, 2009 11:37:15 AM PDT
Geomancer says:
I'm looking for a large capacity backup system to store all my files, pictures, and home HD camera movies. From the looks of it I have three options:

1) A dual USB hard drive like the WD 2x1 TB unit that can be configured in a Raid 1 for reliability.

-Low Power
-Can be plugged into my router for local network access
-Can be used to backup PS3 data (direct connection)
-Cheap to buy

-Non upgradable
-Can't be expanded
-PS3 can not access via network, only directly connected

2) Use a cheap/old computer and run either Windows or FreeNAS

-Expandable (numerous SATA and USB ports)
-Can run a web server and be accessed on the internet, as well as locally
-Cheap initially (I own an old computer I'm not using)
-Raid 1 or Raid 5
-Media Server

-Extreamly high power usage compared to other options (5 or more times the power usage even when idle)

3) NAS like the D-Link DNS-323 2 bay enclosure

-FTP access over the internet
-Media Server
-Low Power

-Expensive initially
-Not really upgradable (max drive size 1.5TB)
-Not expandable (2 drive limit)

I'm not really sure what to get. Using a cheap/old computer has the most possible features, and has the lowest initial cost. But the operating costs are HUGE. Every 100 watts that it uses would cost me about $13.50 a month ($162 a year) if left on 24/7. An idle computer (with no monitor on) with the hard drives off still consumes 100+ watts. In comparison, the D-Link NAS uses something like 25 watts when active, and 16 watts when idle.

So even though the computer would be the cheapest to get going due to the fact that I already own an old computer and I would only have to buy the hard drives, in just one year it would cost more than either of the other options because of the power it uses.

I think the USB drive is the worst option due to its limitations, I just can't decide if the benefits of using a computer outweight the extream costs to keep it running. What do you think?

Posted on Oct 22, 2009 5:02:52 PM PDT
something like this may be exactly waht you are looking for. room for 4 drives initially and you can add esata and usb as your storage need grows.

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 7:23:07 PM PDT
Ryan says:
Skip option number two right off the bat.

Number is mostly knocked out too since you need network connectivity.

For my needs (similar to yours) I chose option 3.

Good luck


Posted on Oct 26, 2009 6:56:36 AM PDT
Geomancer says:
Thanks for the advice. I ended up cheaping out and just buying two 1 TB drives for $145 and putting them in my computer.

Nothing I saw offerered very good remote access (beyond the basic FTP) and I needed something fast.

I have a new baby and a new HD camcorder that's chewing up space fast and I really don't want to loose any videos and pictures. I was looking for a way to share the videos easily with the grandparents who don't know computers very well. I'll end up just burning them onto a DVD they can use.

That HP MediaSmart Server looks pretty good, although expensive. A hell of a lot better than that Netgear garbage (Netgear Stora has some serious flaws). The one you linked is sold out though. The cheapest is now $480 which is really, really high.

Posted on Nov 25, 2009 1:22:38 PM PST
I use the Stora and I see no flaws that it has. Just as a baseline, Im a tech-pro and have a home network including a more serious NAS, a Linux server, 6 Windows machines, two Macs, a PS3, 2 XB360s, 2 Tivos, PSP, DSi, Archos Android tablet, WinMo phone, etc etc.

People nitpick endlessly, but for the money, the Stora is fine. I'd say its a lot better than the scenario above. Why waste time burning DVDs, not being able to share files outside of your home network, not being able to share files *inside* of your home network unless the power hungry PC is on, etc. People seem to want to call out "flaws" all the time in the various *low cost* NAS solutions (that are designed to be *easy* and for consumers) but then, as a compromise, they end up with a computer based solution that really accomplished none of what you would want a NAS for (convenient, low power, small footprint, always on storage). Just doesnt make sense.

If the features are so important, and the commodity NAS solutions seem 'flawed', then spend the money on a proper NAS ($500+) If thats too much money, then the features obviously arent so important and you'll almost certainly be fine with one of the low cost solutions. Either way you're better off than stuffing more and more drives into your PC.

Posted on Dec 17, 2009 1:10:55 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 17, 2009 1:48:33 PM PST
I think that people overlook a feature on many PC's called Wake on LAN. This allows your PC not to be spinning its drives all day and not to be using all of the power that some people claim that PC NAS solutions use.

The cheap PC with a raid 1+0 in it and FreeNAS or some other OS is the best of all solutions. 640 gig drives are now less then $70.00. 4 of them give you about 1.2 TB in a very reliable solution that is very quick (comparable to a velocaraptor). Drop in a Gigabit card for about $7 and you have more capabilities then one of the "wanna-be" NAS boxes will ever provide. If you need more then FreeNAS can provide, then install a Linux distro and be off to the races. You can even get a RAID card from eBay that will run 6 drives for less then $70.00. Stay away from RAID5 on these and you are golden.

Old PC - Free
4 640 GB HD for RAID 1+0 = $280.00
Gigabit NIC - $7.00
RAID Card - $70.00

$357.00 for a system that will allow you to loose 2 drives and still be operational (research RAID 1+0) with very quick transfer speeds (I get around 60 Megabytes per second sustained on the slowest parts of the drive) yes, MB not Mb per second on a Gigabit network. If you want more space, add up to two more drives (up to two TB in size) and set these up to be MIRRORED. That gives you 3.2 TB. If you need more space, add another RAID Card for $70.00 and you are good for another 6 drives. Heck, if you don't care about data security, just stripe the drives and have more space then you ever thought you would need.

My point is that if you choose a canned solution like the ones many companies are spitting out now, you will be stuck with that solution and the money spent on that solution. None of them have very quick access to the data. All of them have their own issues and so does FreeNAS or some other Linux based solution but, with the FreeNAS or other Linux based solution you can expand and grow your NAS as your needs grow and expand.

These devices as far as home products are in their first few years of production. It wasn't that long ago that these devices first started showing up in server rooms. There were a lot of headaches then, believe me. I lost databases that were many hundreds of GB in size because of a hickup on a NAS that cost a lot more then the $350 listed above. I do believe that it is the future of home storage, but that is a lot that these devices need to figure out before being ready to compete with a PC (proven hardware) with Unix (proven OS) and expandability (proven to be necessary for everything I have ever done on computers).

Just my two cents, Hope it helps someone make an informed decision.

At the time of this post, the cheepest comparable solution to the one outlined above was the Iomega StorCenter ix4-200d Nas Server found for $728.62. That is just over 2 times what the solution costs that is outlined above. Both do support RAID10. This device still only gets around 30MB/Sec on GB network based on real world tests. "". Go with the PC solution and you will be much better off. If you don't know Unix, ask someone you know to help. This is an exciting enough project that us geeks will be all about helping you get this up and going...

Posted on Aug 5, 2010 12:59:26 AM PDT
Phrehdd says:
You need to be careful when considering the use of the word "back up" vs a duplicate of data. NAS is fantastic for storage but techies will tell you right off the bat it is not a "true" backup. The reason they will tell you this is that it is multiple drives and though a real RAID has drive redundancy, the unit itself can fail and sometimes recovery of the data is not that simple (even placing it in a new NAS that is an identical model).

For real back up safety, go with your notion of a DAS - Direct Access Storage. This means hooking up a hard drive to your computer via USB or Firewire or eSATA. The mirrored storage units for drives is even better. What you will end up with is a drive that ideally can be hooked up to another computer if yours fails or the storage unit fails but the drive(s) are ok. Alternatively, you could burn your data to CD, DVD or Blu Ray discs which can be cumbersome but quite useful.

For me, I use NAS for accessing files on a routine basis and then have backups on drives that get incremental backups and their only purpose is if the NAS or my local system(s) fail. Apple's Time Machine routers would have been ideal if it was a mirrored drive solution. There are special internal storage units that fit in a 3.5" drive bay that holds two 2.5 drives mirrored or striped. The former would be an excellent backup device with proper care.

I have a 4 Tb Nas unit (2.7 TB available in RAID 5) and then 1 tb drives for true back up. I only engage these for back up and use the NAS for real time work. I believe this is an acceptable compromise other than the business approach of off site back ups.

Posted on Dec 5, 2010 8:00:43 AM PST
Which one of these home NAS units will support remote access via Blackberry?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2011 2:11:21 AM PST
Languy says:
You hit the nail right on the head when you said that, excluding the disk drives, the other hardware in a NAS box can fail, and recovering the data may not be so simple (even for the case where the disk drives are placed into a new NAS enclosure).

As you probably know, in addition to the disk drives, a NAS box contains a power supply and a controller card that has a CPU, RAM, ROM, external cache memory (that hopefully has battery backup for pending writes), etc. etc. What happens if any of this hardware fails?

My old Western Digital NAS unit, that I used for backup, failed such that it was no longer accessible from the network. In other words, it effectively became a brick. Even if the internal disk drives were still OK, Western Digital said that they would not fix the NAS. Instead, they pointed me to a disk recovery company that wanted to charge me a fortune, with no guarantee that they could actually recover my data. Fortunately for me, the original disk drives that I backed up were still OK, so I didn't lose any data.

The above the incident scared the hell out of me!

Maybe the best backup solution is to use a DAS (Direct Attached Storage) box with SATA drives. This box should have less hardware to fail than a NAS box. Furthermore, if the DAS box failed but the SATA drives were still OK, I could hopefully plug the drives into another SATA controller and not lose any data. Of course, this assumes that the SATA controller would not force me to format the drives.

In summary, if a disk drive fails in a RAID 5 NAS box, the drive can be easily replaced and no data will be lost. However, if the RAID 5 disks are OK, but other hardware in the NAS box has failed, there may be Trouble in River City...

Posted on Jan 14, 2011 9:47:08 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Aug 8, 2013 1:56:08 PM PDT]

Posted on Jan 23, 2011 3:23:21 PM PST
BruceK says:
If you put stuff on the network, back it up. Meaning you either keep data on your PC and back it up to the network, or you buy 2 of whatever network boxes you are looking and and set them in different locations and back then up to each other - assuming you care about your data.

I would not get a USB drive because they are slow, and even if you do not use the drive directly to work from it will eventually being slowing your system down when you need it to work. FW800 is very nice, you can buy two boxes that daisy chain to each other so you can keep two copies up to date.

Don't get a computer, they are expensive, use a lot of energy, breakdown. The only reason to do that is if you are an expert and want to remain and expert and devote a lot of time to it when you build it, maintain it, or have to fix or upgrade it. It's nice to have the upgrade cycle be pushbutton like most consumer stuff is now.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2011 2:34:00 PM PDT
Foto Gato says:
I wouldn't use internal drives to back up files on a permanent basis; they're ok for short term use. Virus/trojans/Malware/static electricity, etc can strike any single or multiple internal drives. Or, a "strange" electrical strike could pass through all or part of the Mothernoard to wipe out one or multiple drives, For regular backups an external or networked drive is likely the best option, if it's technology works as it should. For CRITICAL files (financial, family photos, legal, etc.) a plug-in and removable drive might be best - never plugged in all the time. One thing, never depend on an thumb drive for safe backup. So, let you gurus criticize advice from my PC experience dating to 1980.

Posted on May 18, 2012 9:51:35 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 20, 2013 1:11:31 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2012 4:22:39 PM PDT
BruceK says:
> an good honest opinion is the one which just works for "you".

Now there is a good content-free comment. What does that mean? Who knows what works for them if they do not have a good survey of what is available and how they work?

I do think you are right about NetGear as the best overall consumer value. The price might be a bit more expensive, but performance is very good ... I have had 2 ReadyNas and 1 Pioneer Pro for years now without any incident - except a few drives failing which easily recovered. When NetGear first started with NAS they were worse than unacceptable, but when they bought Infrant they got it right.

The recovery is what you take on faith with these boxes. Who wants to find out too late that they did something wrong, or the NAS they have is deficient in some way and lose their data?

Something to also consider if data is important is BUY TWO OF WHATEVER YOU GET - one box backing up the other. There is always a chance that something will go wrong with whatever box you have that is unrecoverable, or the chance that a human being will make a mistake or deliberately destroy data. Do not splurge on one big non-redundant box, eventually you will regret it, or you are just counting on luck.

DLink and QNAP also make good NAS boxes, QNAP especially makes very powerful servers that can do many other things that most other NAS boxes cannot, but support is not so good or capabilities will be lacking.

Posted on Sep 14, 2012 6:24:46 AM PDT
galaraf says:
I purchased one of these USB3 4-disk enclosures: Sans Digital 4 Bay SATA to USB 3.0 JBOD USB 3.0 External Hard Drive Enclosure - Black (TR4U+B) to go with two others I had purchased in the past that were made by the same company. Those are esata units, but all will do the same and can be used in various raid arrays, as JBOD, or as I currently use the USB3 unit. It shows up as 4 individual 2TB hard drives on one USB3 cable with power from a cable the same as a computer cord. The unit has a fan (I think it's an 80mm) for cooling. I started with 1.5TB drives, added (one at a time) 2TB drives and recently added a 3TB drive. I had a problem with one of the boxes, got personal email response from a company tech within 24 hours of my first email to tech support. The issue got resolved. So not only do the units work, I can vouch that you actually get a response from Sans Digital and deal with that person until you are satisfied.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2012 8:22:09 AM PDT
DrBill says:
I feel for you. I had the same problem. But fate intervened. A relatively new computer came my way for next to nothing, I got a great deal on four 3 terabyte, 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drives($80ea.) and a Synology 212 was misposted on eBay(no one bid but me). So, I decided to try both and sell the loser(?).

I'm using a Dell Optiplex 780 in sff(small format) and a Synology 212 simultaneously as my back-up/storage. Hands down the Dell with its core duo drives @3.25MHz and 8 GB of RAM is much faster than the Synology. However, the Free NAS operating system is taking forever for me to configure. I'm a relative noob when it comes to computers.

As far as electrical consumption the Synology is much cheaper to run. Additionally, its firmware is constantly being updated and the company encourages third-party development of apps. However, as far as company support, at least in my experience, is non-existent.. You can't call or chat. All questions must be submitted via email. I'm still waiting for a reply to an email which was submitted 5 months ago.

If you can or enjoy tweaking a system and speed of data transfer is a concern I'd say go with a computer with Free Nas. However, if plug and play along with saving a couple of inflated dollars makes you happy do your homework and purchase one of the NAS systems on the market.
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Discussion in:  Nas forum
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Initial post:  Oct 13, 2009
Latest post:  Oct 16, 2012

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