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Advice on a NAS hard drive to buy

Posted on 2013-01-06
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I'm setting up a NAS backup solution for a client.   He's a home user with a laptop and two desktops.  The laptop is running Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit.  One desktop is running Windows 7 Pro 64 bit.  The second desktop is a Mac running Windows XP on it.

I've never used a NAS hard drive but assume it's basically a hard drive that's ethernet connected to a router that can be accessed over the Internet or from any computer on the network.  Is this true, or are they a special kind of animal?  

We're looking for a 2 or 3TB drive.  He doesn't have that much data.

The NAS drives run their own backup software.  I run Acronis for backups on my computers.  Will I be able to run Acronis to the NAS?  Is there any advantage to running the NAS manufacturer's software? I'm wary of backup software in general, especially software I haven't extensively tested.

I've been reading reviews of various drives on Newegg and Amazon.  Some say that certain drives are very slow and others that the software is bad, or they charge you for it.  I'd like information on these types of drives in general and recommendations for specific drives.
Thanks,
Al
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Question by:alanlsilverman
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by:smckeown777
smckeown777 earned 101 total points
ID: 38749269
To be honest there isn't a 'NAS hard drive' - the hard drive is irrelevant, the NAS unit itself is what makes it 'fast' or 'slow'

What i mean is there are different manufacturers of NAS devices - Netgear, QNAP, Synology etc...

I have 2 NAS units that I use(and have used for other clients) - Netgear and QNAP

I've installed as backup units in multiple businesses the Netgear ReadyNAS 2 drive models and never had any issues, different makes of drives in them and no difference I've ever seen

I have the same at home and use as a network storage unit for storing films/data etc...no speed issues

Have a QNAP model as well(8 bay) - again this is a great unit and never had any issues...

Hope some of this helps...

Each manufacturer will have a 'Recommended' or 'Supported Hardware' section on their site to say which drives are compatible - but in general most drives will be...
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by:Akinsd
Akinsd earned 30 total points
ID: 38749321
I rate all NAS devices the same as the prices vary across the board (I mean from manufacturer to manufacturer). If I understand your question very well, I would say the point of failure is not the NAS units themselves but the actual hard drives in them. I would worry more about the transfer speed or processor speed of the NAS drive more.

Use the following as guides
- Support for 3 or more Hard drives at the barest minimum - 5 recommended
- RAID 5 recommended
- Transfer speed / Processor Speed


The above are the core features, but there may be other features like embedded backup utility, itunes support, cloud support etc

I've used a couple of Thecus and Iomega units and just got used to them.
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by:duttcom
duttcom earned 30 total points
ID: 38749324
I second smckeown777's recommendation of the Netgear ReadyNAS.

I can specifically NOT recommend any of the Lacie NAS devices. I had the power supply die in one and I ended up having to plug the drives directly into my PC's motherboard and rebuild the RAID in Linux to rescue my data. Should have gone with Netgear.
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by:Frosty555
Frosty555 earned 30 total points
ID: 38749416
A NAS is more comparable to a "small computer with a hard disk inside it". Most NAS are small embedded Linux systems.

NAS typically have a small web interface to configure it, and expose the filesystem to users via a number of services:

- NFS  (Linux file sharing)
- SMB (Windows file sharing)
- FTP
- SSH/SCP/SFTP
- iSCSI

etc.

These services typically work the same regardless of what NAS you get, because they are standards compliant services. So long as the NAS is halfway decent and properly implements the promised protocols, it you are using SMB for example, the NAS offers the same functionality as a windows box with a hard drive stuck in it with folder sharing turned on.

Some NAS have extra utilities - proprietary software or services that they run to provide some added value. Things like Cloud sync, backup utilities, iTunes / Time Capsule support etc. I try to not make my purchasing decision on these sorts of added features and try to stick with the core access services above.

However, the more expensive NAS devices generally have more powerful CPUs, more memory, and have more features than the cheaper NAS. This is critically important especially if your NAS is running complicated things like backup utilities, RAID 5, iSCSI etc. - and usually you get exactly what you pay for. The $800 QNAP drive is going to perform better than the $50 Pogo.
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38749430
We're looking for 2-3 TB of backup space for $150-200.  Are there simple external drives accessible via ethernet as a network drive?  
Al
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by:pgm554
pgm554 earned 45 total points
ID: 38749456
You're not going to get 2 or 3 tb nas at that price.
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by:smckeown777
ID: 38750217
@alanlsilverman - as already mentioned, there's no hard drive with an ethernet port on the market - you need a NAS which is an enclosure that turns a regular HD into a network HD...

As for the price(I'm in the UK/Ireland) the cheapest NAS unit I can find is here - http://www.broadbandbuyer.co.uk/Shop/ShopDetail.asp?ProductID=10071&utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping

Note however the make(D-Link) - I've no experience with this model and as some experts have already mentioned you can purchase NAS units that don't perform as expected

So your price range is low for sure(the other option you have if price is that important is simply purchase an external HD and connect it to a pc/server and share the drive)
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by:Boilermaker85
Boilermaker85 earned 101 total points
ID: 38751094
I agree that there is no NEtwork Attached Storage of 2-3 TB for less than $200. I would recommend the Qnap TS-219-PII for about $300 without disk, and then add 2 drives of 2 TB in a Raid0 config. Total cost about $500. Qnap has a smaller model, the QNAP TS-212-US, for under $200, and again you still have to buy the disks (2) to put in it.  You will love the feature set in the Qnap for all kinds of network connections - ftp, web, CIFS, NFS, etc.
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38751262
$400-$500 is too expensive for the ordinary home user, although I'll talk with him about it.  He's got a 1 TB drive already attached via ethernet to the router.  He bought it 3-4 years ago. Said he thought it cost about $100. But the fan is going.  Did they used to sell ordinary external drives with ethernet attachments?
Thanks,
Al
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by:smckeown777
ID: 38751271
I wasn't aware that they did - what make/model is this external 1TB he has?

Are you sure its connected to the router through ethernet? Normally I see drives connected to routers through USB and then its accessible through ethernet(since its really shared by the router to the network)...
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by:smckeown777
ID: 38751307
Here's a single drive NAS enclosure from Amazon - http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/zyxel-nsa310-best-cheap-nas/
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by:Boilermaker85
ID: 38751482
$500 is too expensive for a home user? Wonder how Apple sells so many $599 Ipads then? If a home has multiple PCs and devices and wants a central place to store documents, music, videos, and backups, I think the cost is justified. I know of no disk drives sold with an ethernet port. Most are USB attached to a router, which then shares the disk with the network. The rest I know of are a purpose built Linux server with drives you add (a real NAS). If his current drive has a bad fan, buy another 2-3 TB drive and a usb 3.0 enclosure. Attach it to your PC, copy all the data from your current router-attached drive to the new drive, then move it to attach to your router, freeing up the bad drive. By the way, what kind of router does he have?
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by:pgm554
ID: 38751529
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by:asavener
ID: 38751680
Lots of options over at newegg.com.  Search on "NAS", select 2.1 TB or higher, sort by price.

voila!
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by:Boilermaker85
ID: 38751685
Thanks pgm554. That looks like a replacement router/storage for this user for only $309. And it supports a USB attached second drive, which you can get by buying a USB 3.5" enclosure and a 7200 rpm Sata HD of your choice of size. The second drive could be his original drive (if it was usb attached to a router), and he could easily copy over his data over the next few nights).
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by:asavener
ID: 38751698
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148661

Seagate
3TB
expandable via USB mass storage
$179.99 + $20 off through today
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38752228
That Seagate STAM3000100 is $159 at Amazon.  Right price but terrible reviews. 120 one star reviews versus 65 five stars. Then there's the BUFFALO LS-X3.0TL.  Looked on Amazon and saw lots of bad reviews too. Still it's tempting.  The primary bad review talked about integrated BitTorrent downloader.  My customer doesn't do anything as fancy as that, nor even sharing video and audio across computers.  And he has very little data.  Like maybe 50GB across all computers. Basically he wants the security of knowing that if any of his computers gets stolen, something that disastrous, he's covered.
Al
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by:smckeown777
ID: 38752252
The old saying is still through - you get what you pay for ;)

Back to the question though - what drive does he currently have? If its ethernet integrated I'd love to know just what it is?

As @Boilermaker(and myself) have already mentioned - the norm for HD's connected to a router is a USB connection and the router handle's the 'network sharing' - so I'd be interested to know what he's currently running...maybe that's all you need, a new drive and connection to his router...otherwise I can't see you getting this cheap
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38752253
And simplicity of setup is a must.  This client lives almost an hours drive away from me.  I go there for major installs (I recently set up two computers and his network) but otherwise I do everything online.  If I can buy him something online, have it delivered to his house, and if he can just plug it in, I can then set everything up online.  Otherwise mileage alone adds $150 to the cost.
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asavener earned 102 total points
ID: 38752266
Like maybe 50GB across all computers.
Oh.  That changes things

From your original post:
We're looking for a 2 or 3TB drive.


For only 50 GB of storage, you can buy a cheap (and I mean cheap) used PC and just use it as a file server.  Alternately, dump the original OS and install FreeNAS, and you've got a cheap, commodity NAS box.

Join Freecycle, and post if anyone has an old PC that they're not using that you can recycle.  Use Darik's Boot and Nuke to erase it and avoid any nasties.  Install FreeNAS on an 8 GB memory stick, and you're in business.
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by:akahan
akahan earned 30 total points
ID: 38753581
What he might possibly think is an ethernet integrated drive is one of the old Ximeta units.  These were essentially USB enclosures which, in addition to a USB port, had an ethernet port...so if you weren't clear on the concept of the difference between the enclosure and the drive, you might think you had an ethernet drive.  See, for example, this product:

http://www.amazon.com/Ximeta-ENCL-1P-Ethernet-Drive-Enclosure/dp/B000E1D36S
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38754522
For only 50 GB of storage, you can buy a cheap (and I mean cheap) used PC and just use it as a file server.  Alternately, dump the original OS and install FreeNAS, and you've got a cheap, commodity NAS box.

I've got two dozen old desktops in my basement.  I set them up and give them away to people who need them and to charities.   But then I recently bought two decent Win7 machines for $210 a piece at Bestbuy clearance.  But this guy doesn't need charity.

His existing drive is a Fantom.  I just remembered it.

All three computers are Windows, two Win7 and one XP.  I should probably just network them and back the critical data up to each other.  I'm looking for a simple solution I can trust.
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by:Boilermaker85
ID: 38754738
You can get a new Fantom drive at lots of places. Here is 1.5 TB for 89$ US.
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=782831&CatId=4230
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by:asavener
ID: 38755301
I wasn't suggesting charity.  Charge for your time and materials.  But FreeNAS is extremely stable and interoperable.
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by:tweakmasters
tweakmasters earned 31 total points
ID: 38759697
I noted you mentioned backup of critical data.

Main idea of NAS of course is an easy way to accomplish network data storage and collaboration even between different operating systems, but unless you're going for single bay NAS, most users use NAS for BACKUP, even they might not have only important files on it (they might use it for streaming as well). Starting from 2-bay NAS systems they all should provide support for RAID 0 and RAID 1. What this basically means is that you can configure NAS to go for security (RAID 1) or speed (RAID 0). Since there is always a network speed limit unless you have at least 4 HDD's going for speed is not a very good idea, even more as if one HDD fails you will loose all data.

Also when talking about NAS a great importance is what type of HDDs you use in it. It is highly advised no to use desktop HDD in such systems due to their construction. Server HDDs are highly advisable, but they are way too expensive. Recently WD introducted Red series of its HDD which are mentioned for use especially in NAS systems and are just a bit more expensive than regular desktop HDDs. The secret behind this lies in TLER (Time Limited Error Recovery) - you can read more about it here.

Now when I've made a simple thing complicated and went a bit way to much into details, may I suggest you to reconsider using Cloud storage as another suitable solution? For mentioned amount of data (you mentioned 50GB) you can lease or even get free (not quite 50GB, but this can be achieved too) cloud storage and make all the worries go away. This way all the data will be available to all the clients all the time - the only prerequisite is they need to be connected to Internet. Data can even be encrypted using free tool named BoxCryptor so you don't have to worry about privacy.
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by:asavener
ID: 38763003
You could get even more creative....

Build your favorite Linux distro and put a virtualization hypervisor on it.  Then you can run a virtualized instance of FreeNAS and still be able to add other virtual machines that allow you to manage the site better....
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by:alanlsilverman
ID: 38763275
Thank you for all your good advice.  I’m going to ruminate on it a bit and then choose a solution.
Thanks again,
Alan
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