NAS drives for the home

27 October 2005

I had an idea the other day. I was beginning to realise that my laptop was beginning to run out of drive space, and that I had far too many photos and ripped mp3s (from my own collection, for the benefit of any RIAA lawyers out there), and I didn’t want to have to make decisions on what to keep and not what to keep. So I thought about buying another computer to act as a fileserver – just a simple box with a great big hard drive and cheap processor, which I could access as a virtual drive on the laptop.

Trouble is, that’s a bit of a waste of all the extra hardware around the hard drive, as well as the trouble building it, installing it, keeping it secure, not to mention the extra power requirements. I was having qualms. Then Max told me of a new thing he’d seen – the Netgear Storage Central. Approximately the size of a toaster, it’s a budget NAS (Networked Attached Storage) device which plugs into a router, taking one or two IDE drives.

This is a great idea. More and more households are adopting home area networks, usually with wireless (the other week on a train from Edinburgh, two lovely middle-aged ladies from Cleveland were excitedly talking to me about the quality of the wireless network one of them had set up in their house), and with more and more photos, mp3s, movies etc. being recorded that users want to share. A NAS device plugged into the router would take the hassle out of the usual sharing of drives or folders (computer must be switched on, security issues, etc.) between people. The fact that it’s only ?60-70 (without any HDDs included, which makes a 160GB device roughly ?120) makes it even better.

So why haven’t I bought one? Because although it’s a great idea, it’s been done very poorly. To access the drive, you need a Windows-only proprietary client running in the background, rather than go through the normal sharing protocols (sorry Mac/Linux users). It has a custom formatting system, so if it goes wrong there’s no way you can rescue your data unless you buy another one. These would be bearable, if the thing worked, but from the technical support forums it’s clear that they don’t like wireless connections, the firmware is buggy and the devices are prone to overheating.

Which is a real shame, because I think there is a definite market for a cheap, simple network drives (with none of the complex partitioning or permissions stuff nor the high performance that businesses require) in the home. It would save having to buy a dedicated fileserver and would take up less room and energy. Sadly, it seems Netgear haven’t yet delivered the goods. I’ve gone back to the idea of a dedicated box (there are a couple of similar products out there but neither seems particularly good quality either) – either that or wait for them to produce a version that actually works…


10 Responses

Graham

I might be able to get you one…surplus to requirements…SME quality.

I’ll ask the IT boys.

I use one of these cheap NAS things. Its LAN addressable with about 300Gb on board and then has two USBs for connecting satellites. I have it wire attached to my home LAN and then accessible over the Wifi from the rest of the house. It has a normal name //mars in my case and the two other disks are called diemos and phobos (moons of mars – geddit?). Works well and took abot 10 mins to set up. I think its a storagemax, but to be hones, I wired it to the top of a cupboard out of site, so it really is local storage in the sky.

rashbre

I have a freecom NDAS. It is awesome. But the drivers are awful. Really bad. Did I really not tell you about it? Maybe I should blog the story…

Catch me on IM at some stage and I’ll tell you about it….

I’ve seen the Freecom ones, and they look frighteningly cheap and shoddy. I’ve been meaning to ask you about it but I thought it should wait until the week is over and your jetlag gone. From the reviews I’ve trawled through the only decent brands appear to be Western Digital or Buffalo, both of which are sold out everywhere at the moment. :(

Seb

You’re right that it’s a gap in the market. But while you’re waiting, why not just buy a crappy old machine and kit it out with a big HDD? e.g. http://tinyurl.com/dqmz2. Bigger than a toaster, but cheaper than a Netgear Storage Central.

I could buy a crap box second hand, but I would have no idea as to its quality or its remaining lifetime, and it would be a pain to have to keep on buying new ones. Also I wasn’t sure that, given the old BIOSes and motherboards on those computers, whether they’d even take a hard drive 160-200GB in size.

ripped mp3s (from my own collection, for the benefit of any RIAA lawyers out there)

Irrelevant — you are still infringing copyright by doing this.

Chris – yes, technically it is still infringement, but since they’ve still got their hands full chasing people who download pirated music rather than those who rip their own CDs (so far), this at least puts me well down their list of targets.

Robert de Bruin

You should look at the NSLU2 from LinkSys, good thing is (at least for me) you can hack it and turn it into a lightweight linux box. So do cool stuff as run a server on it, stream your mp3′s. Take a look on: http://www.nslu2-linux.org/

Is ripping your own CD’s illegal? Can’t I make a copy for personal use? I do believe I have that right (fair use).

Meej

I’d second Roberts recommendation of the NSLU2. I’ve got mine setup as a wireless network print server and with Slimserver running I can listen to my music anywhere in the house.