Monday, August 31, 2015

Geek Recap: Why I run a NAS vs desktop storage

Yes, I am a total data whore.  I have files from the 90s and my first floppies and of course all of my digital photos since 2003 and beyond.  These files take up A LOT of space after you have several decades of them.  My solution three years ago was to go the network area storage (aka NAS) route.


Prior to my Lenovo purchase, I had a WD Live (3TB w/LAN and Twonky) and then a Zyxel NAS and finally in 2011/2012 bought a 4bay Lenovo ix4-300d so I could also downsize the size of my desktop pc/mac setup.  My windows tower had a total of 5 hard drives (platters!) and total size of about 4TB and I also had a larger Mac desktop tower w/about 2 TBs of storage.  These two machines were monsters in size and power consumption and heat output.  My next upgrades would include a very small desktop and all my storage moved into a RAID5 setup on the NAS.  

After saving up, I finally made it happen.  I bought a late 2012 Mac Mini w/the Core i7 but only 4GB of ram (I'd be upgrading this the moment I opened the box) and a small 320GB platter hdd.  The main appeal of the Mac Mini vs any windows desktop was that I could run Mac OS X and also Windows XP/Vista/7/10 if I wanted to but couldn't really run OS X on non mac hardware (minus the hackintoshing which gets old fast after you update and it breaks the os, better now but back then a real hack at times..).  I upgraded ram to 16GB and then put in a 480GB SSD and a 1TB platter drive.  In the ix4-300d, I loaded it up with 4 Western Digital 4TB Red Edition NAS drives and upgraded all my wired networking to gigabit.  I setup this in a RAID5 setup so this left me with about 7.4TB of space.

Initially getting all data moved to the new NAS was time consuming.  You basically just set it up and let it run a few days. I used Robocopy on my desktop to do this since it's the most efficient way and I can also rerun it after it runs to be sure I don't miss any files and get any new one's  I had added.

The best part about having a NAS like the Lenovo ix4-300d is that you can offload a lot of tasks that you may normally run on your desktop or laptop to it.  For example, the one thing I hated about my old setup was having to leave my PC on ALL the time if I was doing any torrenting or streaming media from PC to HDTV or mobile devices.    With the Lenovo, I can use it's built-in Transmission client to send torrents to and have it directly download the files while my pc can reboot or be off while it happens.  I definitely recommend Transmission Remote GUI on PC or Mac to manage your Transmission on the nas.  Very handy and free! :)  Link: http://sourceforge.net/projects/transgui/

Another nice feature is the Twonky Media Server that it also runs.  Most NAS devices have some type of DLNA server built in and in turn let's any device that has a DLNA client stream movies to it.
PS3 and PS4 have DLNA along w/XBOX 360 and XBOX One; all Android devices can playback DLNA streams and on Apple devices you would need a client.  

Finally, the best thing is having redundant data and lots of it available on all devices when I'm in my network.  I could make my personal cloud available to the internet but prefer to access it just locally.  

So there is my NAS story and why I'm a huge fan of network storage.  However dealing w/the fun that comes with such a device such as firmware updates is another blog post in itself.