Free NAS Software

NAS or "Network Attached Storage" ( http://tinyurl.com/lumpz ) is a technology for adding disk space toa network for use by everyone on the LAN. It’s one way that the huge amount of storage provided by our $500 terabyte PC ( http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=183702383 ) can be used:

Fred: Just a note on your server project.  I too am building a server for my home use (something I never thought I would be doing 5 years ago!).  In it I have some old hardware running high capacity drives and a specialized linux build call Freenas ( http://www.freenas.org ) – an open source operating system for servers.  It seems pretty nice, and can work with samba, ftp, http, nfs, and can handle many disk formats, and hardware interfaces.  Installation was a breeze, just do some simple network hardware setup then login using a web browser to configure and mount your disks.  A real neat solution.  Also, there is a similar solution called Naslite ( http://www.serverelements.com ) that does a similar thing, but as a commercial solution. Great newsletter, Scott Barrett

Thanks, Scot. NAS-specific software is a good alternative if you’re not especially interested in using the NAS hardware as a PC. If you DO want to use the hardware as a stand-alone or spare PC, then it’s probably better to go with a traditional operating system that allows sharing— say, XP with file-sharing enabled; or Linux with SAMBA ( http://www.google.com/search?q=linux+samba ) On the other hand, if the NAS hardware is *only* going to be used as shared storage, than NAS-specific software gets you there via the most direct route.

For that matter, that approach can lead you full circle back to dedicated, all-in-one NAS devices:

Fred: Thanx for the Langalist… so much to learn!
 
I like your idea of a "Terabyte Server"…. but there is a much easier way.  The Buffalo Tera Station costs less than $700 and only takes a few minutes to setup.  On sale, with rebates, I’ve purchased many at around $650.  These are S*W*E*E*T units, with all sorts of features, like RAID 5, spanning & mirroring, FTP access, gigabit nic, email reporting, built-in backup, print server, and more.  I’m guessing with the introduction of their new Tera Station Pro, the price might drop a bit soon.
 
We use these beasts for backup, archive space, and as the main "server" for smaller companies.  At Fry’s Electronics (Outpost.com), you can get a 3-year no-questions-asked replacement plan for $85.
 
‘Nothing against your $500 creation… but time is money these days… I’m done building "Frankenstein" boxes.
 
Keep up the great work! —Tim Greer

You’re right, Tim: There are instances when a prepackaged NAS bundle (hardware + software) is the best choice. But as we discussed previously, shared storage via a PC can deliver the same effective benefits as a vanilla NAS unit, but also uses utterly standard, commodity-level parts, and familiar, well-proven technologies. Not only does this keep the prices down, but also means that all your normal PC knowledge applies— there’s nothing new or different to learn. And, because the server is a normal PC, it also can be used as such, performing any and all normal PC tasks in addition to the NAS-specific task of adding massive storage to the network. Having the storage in a standard PC also means you can have direct access to the 1TB of disk space (as opposed to the network-only access for a classic NAS unit), and further means your 1TB file server can act as a backup or spare PC for your operation. Familiarity, low-costs, high operational flexibility— there’s a lot to be said for this approach to massive storage, too.

As with so many things, there’s no absolute right or wrong here: It depends on what you need, what you want, what you can spend, and what your personal tolerances are. As long as whatever you choose works, you’re golden! <g>



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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.