Home Network Attached Storage,Data sharing and Backup

If you take lot of pictures, shoot high quality video or simply generate lot of data files, you need some way to safeguard your valuable data. Computer hard drives are most vulnerable piece of hardware, and they will crash at some point of time. It is absolutely  important to preserve your valuable data by backing it up. If you have more than one computer and or connected devices then you may want to keep your data at one place and access it from everywhere in the home or even from Internet.  Once your home network is all set, then you have basic infrastructure for a  Network Access Storage.

While deciding on proper Network Access Storage , following issues should be considered.

  • Data backup should be reliable, automatic and easy to use.
  • Built in redundancy, if one drive fails other should be able to mirror
  • If NAS fails it should not bring down the HDD with it
  • Data sharing should be fast within home network, you should be move/copy files in and out of the storage .
  • Should have enough storage space.
  • A good NAS backup system should not cost a fortune. Remember it is not a PC.
  • Should not consume too much power, as NAS is likely be powered on 24/7.Should at least support hard drive spin down
  • Optionally it should support UPnP/DLNA server for streaming music,pictures and video to remote DLNA clients, like PS3,XBOX etc.

Depending upon your budget and what features you need  following are the choices for Home NAS.

  1. External Hard Drive.
  2. Dedicated Network Access Storage Drive.
  3. Setting up your own Free NAS machine on a spare PC.

External Hard Drive

External Hard Drive is the cheapest method of setting up Network Access Storage and backup. External USB storage hard drives are cheap and they come with backup software. Just plug in your hard drive to your computer which is connected to the home network LAN and  you are done.

You can add your video,audio, pictures folders on this drive to any DLNA server and you should be able to stream your contents to multiple clients in home as described in Sharing Music,Video and Pictures.

For sharing files you can use either windows file share or samba share of you are using Linux. You can also install an FTP server and use FTP to move data around many machines. Some FTP servers also come with http interface for access of files from a web browser. I use Serv-U FTP server, last time I checked it was free from home use. You may want to use open source FTP server called FileZilla.

Main disadvantage of this method is you need that you need to keep your computer which is connected to the drive always on.

Dedicated Network Access Storage

A real network access is essentially an external hard drive with an Ethernet port. Its like a minicomputer with on board CPU and memory which can run File Server ,Media Server and even Print Server  programs. Some NAS servers come with multiple hard drives. you configure them for RAID, so if one goes down you can still restore the data from the other hard drive.

It doesn’t consume as much energy as a regular computer, some NAS server go to low power mode when not in use and come back up again of a file access is requested.

Advantage of NAS is you can leave them on 24/7. Built in Media server and File Server make sure that you alway have access to your files and can get streaming content on your XBOX,SP3,Network TVs without having to install special server software. RAID (RAID 1 and up)feature make sure that you always have a second back of your data.

The only downside of NAS is that they can be bit expensive.  A good quality NAS with 1TB storage and all the good features listed above can cost you in excess of $200. I have some posted some good quality NAS drives at the bottom  of this section. You can get good quality from the manufactures like HP,Buffalo and Netgear.

Free NAS

If you a old PC you were planning to get rid of, well we have found a good use for it. You can build your own Network Access Storage  by installing Open Source NAS software called FreeNAS. This is option is not for everybody, you need to be comfortable with configuring computer and installing software. You should not risk your valuable data by going this router if you don’t what you are doing.

Important features of FreeNAS are

  • Samba Share (Access files from Widnows PC)
  • NFS (Network File System)
  • UpNP (For Streaming media)
  • RAID 0-5 (Data Redundancy)

Best storage virtualization solutions that provide high performance data migration services.

Printer Sharing

Home Networking Forum

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