NAS Setup - First Time

Hi Everyone,

I have never used or setup a NAS before. I am looking at buying a NAS to sit on a workgroup with around 10 PC's, they do not have an amazing internet connection so I don't want to use a cloud solution and they currently communicate between each other and save documents onto a local PC (shared folders). which is old and will probably pack up.

so I am guessing that what I am looking for (because the LAN speeds are all fine) is a NAS? unless someone can suggest an alternative which is better.

but here my problem, I have never set one up before. just some HDD's with an UI + NIC? do I need to look out or check anything?
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Most NAS boxes are nothing but a computer with a custom version of linux (ok.. sometimes windows too) that has a user interface that just allows the management of shares and permissions, so yes.. pretty much hardware, including a NIC, and some custom OS on it..

Some offer "SMB" / "SAMBA" / "CIFS" which are 3 ways of saying basically a share of the type you're used to with Windows, and some can offer them through NFS or maybe even AFP for apples..

There are SO MANY possibilities it's hard to know what would be best for you, but there's a couple free ones that you might actually find are good enough, if you want to just load something on a PC you have laying around..  And, at the least, you may try a few to see what features you like or dont need, so you'll be more educated if you buy one.  

I've been using one called UnRaid for about the last 7 years, and it's been great - One advantage of UnRaid is that it offers you "Raid-5 like" protection without being an actual raid5, which has allowed me to upgrade my disks one at a time over the years, slowly going from 200g drives in my system to the 4tb drives I have now, all one at a time upgrades, with no data loss or reformatting..  There is a limited version that's free.

In the past, I've also used "FreeNAS" and "OpenFiler"  Which are pretty similar to each other, and easy to install/configure/use..

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peggiegregAuthor Commented:
Hi 172pilot,

this is perfectly explained and it makes a lot more sense now. I didn't want to install application/software on any PC's due to such a mismatch of PC's being used (in all conditions) it would be hard to find one. in addition to that they will probably get replaced in the near future.

so using that logic I guess the best thing to use would be a physical NAS which can sit inside a locked comms cabinet!

the data that is backed up is very standard stuff, documents, pictures etc. will be about 10 PC's max mixed between win7 pro, XP 32bit 7 and 64bit 7 on a workgroup. standard 1GB switches being used so LAN should run at NIC speeds, all good cabling.

Do you have a model/series recommendation for this at all? I couldn't find much on the unRAID (in case you wasn't aware, I am located in the UK)
Yes.. locked up in a closet, typically not even with a monitor attached is usually how these things stay..  

Unraid is by  "Lime Technologies":
 they sell turnkey solutions, as well as just software to build your own..

I think Openfiler only supplies software:

FreeNAS does both hardware and software options:

You could also go with a more feature-specific hardware NAS:

There's probably dozens of examples of those small NAS devices on Amazon and elsewhere.  I dont have much experience with those, but my worry is that they are so "single feature" focused that you may not get the performance or broader feature set that you'd get with a PC based one as above..  Then again, for something quick to deploy and easy to manage, both of those would be fine, as long as there's not a limitation on number of simulaneous connections or performance that you'd hit..  I'd read the marketing info and reviews on those to make sure nothing jumps out at you as a show stopper for your specific use case..
David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
What has been suggested above is primarily using some existing computer that is not currently being used and adding drives to it being managed by the software.

A 'NAS' box as has been described also (above) is simply a simple computer with a collection of disks and it is designed to run without a keyboard or monitor (AKA headless) and managed via a web interface.. If you want pre-built then Synology  and Drobo are known reputable manufacturers.
Cheap Synology2 bay
Drobo 5 bay
peggiegregAuthor Commented:
cheers for this, I am looking into the suggested and will hopefully make a decision on this soon!
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