I want to talk a bit today about my storage setup, specifically my NAS or Network Attached Storage. I have been running my system for a little over a year now and have had no issues so it is a good time to give a brief half review, half description of setup. I started considering a longer term storage setup when the available space on my desktop began to dwindle. I am a bit of "digital hoarder" if you will, constantly butting up against my limit. When space is so cheap and ubiquitous why throw anything out? The problem with this is you always need to be increasing your capacity. At the time I was getting my NAS my several year old external drive had failed, another drive in my desktop was faltering, and the rest of the case was already filled up with other drives. I did not want to get rid of my existing drives and I also wanted a better solution than continuing to lock data to my desktop. Enter the ReadyNAS 104.

The first thing you need to know about NASs (NASes?) is that there are a ton of models on the market featuring wildly different prices and sets of features. You will need to determine what you want out of your NAS before you consider purchasing one. For me I had just two requirements:

1. Four drive slots. This allows for a ton of storage and is very flexible when it comes to determining your RAID setup. 2. Minimum computational performance, I do not need my NAS to be a file server or another computer. I need to put files on it and get files off, that is all.

With those requirements you can pretty much be satisfied with things at the low end of the market, hence the ReadyNAS 104. Your real cost on the low end here is going to be in drives. I went with four of these drives for a total capacity of 16 terabytes. Total (including the NAS) this ran me $1045.94. You could cheap out here and go for smaller drives or slower drives. From what I read 5600RPM drives work just as well, albeit slower. I went max size and max speed because I wanted a long term solution. There were at the time some rebates, but I do not remember how much they were for. As far as quality of drives this particular brand came recommended, but other brands are just as well regarded.

For setup I configured the drives in RAID 5 (~10TBs of space). Take a moment to read up on the different RAID options here. In my opinion RAID 5 gives you the best space efficiency (you lose about 1/4 of the capacity compared to 1/2 in some other configurations) and reasonable fault tolerance (you can lose one drive and not lose any data). I do not want to lose data, but then again it is not exactly mission critical. Actually formatting and configuring the drives takes about a full day so sit tight. After that there is not much other configuration to be done. Plug it into your router and it should assign itself a local IP address automatically. It would be wise to configure a static address in your router's control panel so its not always changing on you, but this is not required. You can access your system via its IP and (at least on Windows) it will appear like one giant network drive.

Of course since your NAS is basically a low powered computer you can run any number of programs on it. The ReadyNAS people helpfully have a site with some options. I myself jun run qbittorent for my torrenting needs, but there are some useful apps to be found. If you are handy with the command line you can SSH into your NAS and do whatever you want since it runs Linux.

For daily use a NAS is pretty helpful. Transfer times can be slow since I connect through mine wirelessly, but its not terribly slow. Think a few minutes for a couple GBs. It is certainly quick enough to stream video from itself to your computer which is what I primarily use it for. Although when initially transferring all your files to it I suggest hooking up an external drive. There are a few USB ports on the back so it can mount drives, but I could not figure how to connect it physically to my desktop.

In regards to configuration you can mostly roll with stock settings. I suggest disabling file snap shots, which can be a bit of a pain, but will save you a lot of space. I also recommend enabling SSH access (so you can fiddle with things yourself) and enabling "Disk Spin Down" to both conserve power and the life of your drives.

Overall a NAS is a little pricey, but it is a convenient way to get a lot of storage you can access from anywhere in the house. It also allows you to sleep safe knowing your files are backed up. Granted its not off site, but if your house burns down you probably have bigger things to concern yourself with.