Buying a NAS or External Hard Drive - Part 1
Need more storage space? A NAS (Network Attached Storage) could be your answer. But what are the other solutions?
- Additional internal hard drive (disk size: 3.5", 2.5" or SSD).
- An external hard drive (disk size: 3.5").
- Portable external hard drive. (disk size: 2.5" or SSD).
- Network Attached Storage or NAS.
- Homebuilt NAS (or homebuilt server).
Additional Internal Hard Drive (disk size: 3.5", 2.5" or SSD).
Fairly straight forward if you have built or modified a desktop computer before - Health & Safety warning though. Disconnect the power lead before opening the case, or you may get a nasty shock / blow one of the components! Check to see if you have a spare power and data (SATA) connection for your new drive, of the right type (adapters are available).
An External Hard Drive (disk size: 3.5").
Easy – Just plug into a spare USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 connection on your laptop or computer. Usually comes with a separate power supply, as the power from the USB connection isn’t man enough.
Portable External Hard Drive. (disk size: 2.5" or SSD).
Easy – Just plug into a spare USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 connection on your laptop or computer.
Network Attached Storage Or NAS.
Fairly Easy – Just plug into a spare Ethernet port connected to your network (internet router or network switch). The USB connections can be used for connecting your portable drives (for exchanging data). Your laptop, computer, tablet, phone, connect via the network Ethernet connection or through your internet wireless connection. A NAS usually comes with a separate power supply. Most NAS’s are supplied ‘Diskless’, but can be purchased ready built with the hard drives included.
Homebuilt NAS (Or Homebuilt Server).
This is basically the same as the ready built ‘off the shelf’ NAS described above. The difference is:
- You either use an old computer or components you have lying around.
- Or you buy the components and assemble it yourself, but with the following differences.
- You can use ‘Open Source’ software which is free.
- It will be more time consuming setting the system up, but you will potentially have more flexibility and can build what you want.
- It will potentially be more powerful and cheaper than the ready built NAS. An old computer PC CPU is likely to be more powerful than the ready built NAS CPU. The downside is it will be more power hungry; typically:
- 60w to 120w for a PC based NAS.
- 20w to 60w for a purpose built system.
- This makes a difference when left running 24/7.
- The speed of the system may be limited by the Transfer rate of the hard drives (which is the same for all NAS systems) typically 150 MB/s max, or the max network speed. Therefore, a home built NAS may not be any faster if you just install 2 hard drives. It does score well if you have multiple drives.
- The open source software such as ‘FreeNAS’ suggests a minimum of 8gb of EEC RAM. This is more expensive. The purpose built NAS may have a minimum of 512mb of RAM to 2GB (for the lower end systems). The EEC type RAM protects against data corruption and is not normally fitted to the usual desktop PC, so you will probably not have it in your pile of computer parts?
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