I’ve used and managed servers for many years from server rooms filled full of unix systems to smaller installs with NT4, 2000 servers and recently linux distro’s….. so what made me consider a cheap NAS (network attached storage) box, instead of a larger system and what was my experience? In this case the nas box was a 35-HD-Dualide-Nas .
It all depends on your needs and if and how you utilize any servers you may have. The NAS box I brought was cheap and not power hungry. However it can act as a dhcp server, ftp server, itunes library (has bonjour) and a print server…. but I just wanted to use it for basic network storage. It runs a cut down version of linux for it’s operating system and you need to allow up to three minutes for boot up.
In the poor quality picture below you can see the network and usb connector. I have tried this box with a usb printer before and it worked well. Then the attached printer is seen on the network and easy to install.
I have used this NAS box before with raid and it worked well, but I only wanted to install one old hard drive (a 60gig ide) this time I had spare. If you are considering a NAS box purely for part of a backup procedure, then buying two indentical hard drives and using raid is a good idea.
As you will notice from the picture, space is tight and I choose to connect the ide cable to the hard drive before I screwed the hard drive rack into place. This gave me a bit more room to work with.
Now this isn’t a quiet hard drive I used and in this NAS box it truly sounds like I am in a server room. Loud enough that it won’t be sitting in the main area, instead in another room out of the way.
I had previously upgraded the firmware to the latest version. Before I used the nas box again I reset the device by using a unfolded paperclip in the reset switch on power up and leaving it for ten seconds or so. I had also plugged in a network cable linking it directly to the router acting as a dhcp server. On boot up it was given a dhcp address which I then I worked out which is easy enough (I could of just connected it solely to a laptop / desktop computer and it would of then used a default ip address after the reset).
You access the configuration via your browser (chrome, firefox, IE etc) and once logged in, straight away I changed the password for the device and gave it a static ip address. Then I formatted the hard drive. I could chose partition types ext2, ext3 and fat32. I left the default ext2. There is also a scandisk option and encryption, which I didn’t want to use.
Next step was to configure the users, which is very easy. You can assign users their own directories, allowed spaced, password etc or just share a specific area to a defined group of users.
Once setup it was then just a case of browsing to the network device via windows explorer.
From here I can access and map a directory to a drive letter on the computer if wanted. Plus if a printer had been connected I could of installed a printer also to be used on this computer.
So the conclusion? It’s noisy, but it’s very good. It’s feature rich, cheap, low powered, small, easy to configure and use. However if you want an external hard drive, but no need for network sharing a cheaper usb hard drive enclosure might be a better alternative for you. I will write a blog post regarding those soon.
For further reading material regarding the device I used and similar models you can visit: http://mrt.nas-central.org/wiki/Main_Page