External Hard Disk, SSD and NAS Drives

Network-attached storage (NAS) devices

Using a central file server on a network makes sharing files and making backups much easier than having a peer-to-peer network. You can set up one of the PCs in, say, a wireless router-based network to act as the file server. However, that PC must be switched on all the time in order to be able to serve any of the workstations on the network. A superior alternative is to make use of a network-attached storage (NAS) device, which is smaller and uses less power than a PC. Moreover, many network storage devices can also act as media streamers (most NAS devices have a media streamer built into them), printer servers and FTP servers, and using one makes creating backups a relatively simple matter compared to backing up the files on a peer-to-peer network. Remote access is provided by most NAS devices, making it possible to access files from anywhere via a web connection.

Note that you can set up a NAS device that has two hard disk drives of identical capacity to run a RAID 1 backup system, which mirrors the contents of the main drive to the support drive so that if the main drive fails, the support drive takes over until the failed drive is replaced. If you use RAID 1 and the capacity of the NAS device is 2TB (2024GB) split between two drives, the usable capacity is less than 1TB, because only one drive is used for storage and some drive space is used for indexing and formatting information. The usable capacity of a formatted drive is always less than its total capacity.

Most network storage devices support Microsoft’s Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) protocol, which allows devices to connect to the PCs on a network with little or no configuration. Windows Vista/7 SP1/8.1/10 support UPnP. Network storage devices that don’t support UPnP rely on their own software device drivers, setup utilities or web interfaces for installation and configuration and may require a PC connected to them to be using a specific version of Windows. If a network storage device supports UPnP, additional software shouldn’t be required, you should just have to enable it.

In Windows Explorer, you can make a network storage device easier to access by using the Tools => Map Network Drive to assign the device a drive letter of its own.

Network attached storage (NAS) devices are small file servers that are designed to be left running continuously in order to allow the computers on a network to share documents or media files (music, photos, videos, etc). Some NAS devices allow the network to share a printer via them, or download files from the web overnight. They are much quieter and less power-hungry than PCs. Without the use of a file server, both PCs would have to be switched on in order for the user of one PC on a network to share files with another PC on the network. Therefore, using a NAS device saves power and reduces office noise. Some NAS devices include backup software that automates making backups, and some support RAID 1, which stores all of the data on two hard disk drives, so that if one drive fails, the data can be recovered from the other drive. If you need to access your files away from home, a NAS device with an FTP server can allow you to do that from a remote location on the web. Moreover, if a NAS device has a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) server, you can stream music, photos, and videos to a network media player so that you can access those files from another room in the house.

How to turn an old computer into a Network Attached Storage (NAS) home file server

If you have an old PC that still works perfectly well and you have a network, you can put it to good use by turning it into a network attached storage (NAS) device that can serve files to the network – free of charge. FreeNAS from http://www.freenas.org/ is an excellent network storage operating system that can convert any computer into a fully-featured NAS device that can also provide remote access via a web browser. The website provides all the information you need.

To create a bootable CD/DVD containing the operating system, that supports most x86 Intel and AMD platforms, you just have to download the ISO from freenas.org and burn it to a recordable CD or DVD using the image-burning option provided by disc-burning software. A good free ISO burner can be obtained from cdburnerxp.se.

FreeNAS can also be installed on a small SSD drive or flash drive. Flash drives of 4GB and 8GB capacities both work well. However, the process is more involved than creating a bootable CD/DVD. The following webpage provides instructions on how to do so.

Turn old PC hardware into a home server with FreeNAS –

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2243748/turn-old-pc-hardware-into-a-killer-home-server-with-freenas.html

How-To: Set up a home file server using FreeNAS –

http://www.engadget.com/2012/02/01/how-to-set-up-a-home-file-server-using-freenas/

There are several other webpages dealing with this topic should you need further clarification. Just use freenas as the search query.

Here is the user guide for FreeNAS 9.3, which was the current version at the time of writing. You must make use of the user guide for the version you are using or intending to use. –

FreeNAS User Guide 9.3 –

http://doc.freenas.org/9.3/freenas.html

NAS reviews

Network attached storage (NAS) devices reviewed in Expert Reviews
Expert Reviews: Network attached storage reviews –

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/network-storage

Example – Synology DiskStation DS215j review –

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/storage/nas-drives/1402879/…


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