The Register NAS Review
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There has been a fair amount of talk about NAS boxes here and The Register has a nice review of 10 options.
It's a UK site so prices are in pounds but such stuff is cheaper here anyway.
The main thing I like about the NAS's you can buy, is size. They typically will hold 3/4 drives, and you won't find a PC case on the market that will hold 3-4 drives, and be the size of any of the commercial NAS options.
That said, I love the versatility of building my own. Since home made NAS's will be based on Linux or BSD (usually).. the things you can do with them is pretty much unlimited. I think both have their advantages and disadvantages
Below is strictly my opinion, not meant to be the authority on this issue, it was just how I looked at things when I was trying too decide on whether to buy or build. I admit that I was (1) Probably a bit biased and (2) I have/had never owned or used a "store bought" NAS.
Hardware (not related to drives):
Store bought -- Pretty much limited to what is inside the NAS build, case specs, etc.
Custom build -- Pretty much limited by your imagination and budget. Do you want 2 drives or 10, 1gig of ram or 16gigs of ram (yes, I've seen this)
Winner -- Custom
Store bought -- Installing "custom" services to integrate with the rest of the NAS will probably be fairly difficult/impossible.
Custom build -- Again, limited only by your ability and willingness to learn to configure services (depending on the OS you use, a lot of them may be configurable by the webUI, others may have to be configured via command line)
Store bought -- Technical support, documentation, etc.. should all be fairly good. If you have a problem, there's likely a technical support phone number you can call, or possibly a forum on the manufacturers website.
Custom build -- Big hang up for the custom build here. If your "google-foo" is broken.. You'll have a helluva time. If the operating system you install is fairly well supported, finding answers can be pretty easy, but still very frustrating at times. Initial setup can also be quite a bit more difficult (again, depending on the OS you decide to use)
Winner: Store bought
This will probably be the biggest section, as most people will probably buy a NAS if building one is going to be considerably more expensive.
Store bought: I've saw some store bought NAS's that were very reasonable, others that were super expensive. Probably how good a shopper you are will come into play here.
Custom build -- Again, it's all about the hardware you choose and what you need.
My Build would require 4 storage drives
A 4 bay ReadyNAS -- $529 (I think it was a tad more when I built, but this is the current price)
Case: Antec Sonata Proto $49 (this was on sale)
Motherboard: MSI 760GM $60
CPU -- 2.8ghz Sempron $49
RAM -- 8gigs of Crucial $40
Power Supply -- 500w Antec $50 (to be fair, this had been sitting unopened in a closet for quite some time)
Misc -- Fans, cables, etc.. $50
Time -- Took me about 60-90min to assemble, install an operating system, and install and format the storage drives to a Linux filesystem. After that, it was simply a matter of setting up services.. which I don't count here, as you'd have to do that with a ReadyNAS as well.
Total: $300.. probably figure another $10-15 bucks on shipping, tax, etc.. for a few items... so I'll be generous and say $320.
Is my NAS faster than a ReadyNas? I honestly don't know.. but I'm really happy with it. Now if you're the type who calculates some "hourly rate" into your builds... I guess if you're paying yourself $200 an hour, you could find the ReadyNAS wins here.
Winner: Custom* -- I'll give this an asterisk, as you may well consider your time way more valuable than the amount I saved building my own.
After looking at the above, deciding to build my own was easy.
Edit: In the interest of fairness, I forgot to add the cost of some cables, fans, etc.. to the price on my custom built NAS.
Next thing I build will be a NAS. Unless I find IBM DS shelf or similar storage shelf with internal controller for a great price. I already have a HP DL360G1 server with an external SCSI connector if I find a SCSI MSA shelf for cheap.
Honestly, the reasons I went 8gigs, is because:
1. If I decided to use nas4free, I really wanted to use ZFS (which is RAM hungry)
2. I figure in the year 2147 when btrfs is considered stable, ;), my machine would be ready to use it. Again, btrfs, like ZFS, is pretty RAM hungry (or at least it's presumed it will be..lol).
3. The RAM was super cheap on sale at Fry's. I could either spend $33 on 4gigs, or $40(just realized I typo'd the price in my first post, it was $40, not $49) on 8gigs (or dipped down to 2gigs for around $23). This seemed like a no-brainer to me.. especially if I ended up wanting to use ZFS or btrfs.
However, in light of the fact I'm not using ZFS or btrfs, yes, 8gigs is way more than I need. I could probably get by pretty well with 2gigs minimum, and 4gigs I'm sure would be more than acceptable.
One more thing.. if you go with building your own NAS... If you decide you don't need hair anymore and want to go w/ FreeNas.. it can be installed to a thumb drive. Same with nas4free. If you decide to go with OpenMediavault or you'd like to support a product that hasn't been upgraded in 10yrs (OpenFiler), they cannot be installed to a thumb drive (unless you only want it to last about 2 weeks). They also require an "entire drive" to themselves... in other words, you put them on a drive, and that drive is only used for the operating system, not for file storage.
For this.. I had several 2.5in SATA drives here from broken laptops/netbooks, etc... so I just put OMV there. If you don't have one.. You can get new 40-80gig SATA drives on Ebay for $35-$45 bucks all day long. Those drives aren't good for much now days, but are perfect for hosting the OS.
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