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Hybrid NAS and External Hard Drive ?

 
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KrisRoberts



Joined: 21 Jan 2007
Posts: 111
Location: San Diego


PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 4:53 pm    Post subject: Hybrid NAS and External Hard Drive ? Reply with quote


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I have a server closet with three machines and several other computers and media devices spread around the house.

Ideally I would like a RAID storage device that provides an eSata or USB port for my primary machine and a Gb network interface to serve the rest of the household.

When I started looking around I saw that there are NAS devices now that do have eSata and USB ports - and at first I thought it was great. But then looking more closely at the manuals, they all seem to have those ports to connect drives for expansion - not to serve as a client device for PCs.

From what I've seen, there are two seperate types of devices: NAS storage and External Hard Drives.

The NAS devices support network connections, and sometimes have other interfaces - but not to let PCs connect to them. The External Hard Drives have some combination of eSata/USB/Firewire ports to let PCs connect to them, but no network interface.

Am I missing something, or are there hybrid devices that do both?

I want consolodated storage thats available on the network for all the computers and dont mind the speed limitations of the network for them. But for my main machine at least I'd like to connect with a faster connection. Is that really too much to ask?
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emdawgz1



Joined: 14 Mar 2006
Posts: 7949



PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the Wiki

A NAS unit is essentially a self-contained computer connected to a network, with the sole purpose of supplying file-based data storage services to other devices on the network. The operating system and other software on the NAS unit provide the functionality of data storage, file systems, and access to files, and the management of these functionalities. The unit is not designed to carry out general-purpose computing tasks, although it may technically be possible to run other software on it. NAS units usually do not have a keyboard or display, and are controlled and configured over the network, often by connecting a browser to their network address. The alternative to NAS storage on a network is to use a computer as a file server. In its most basic form a dedicated file server is no more than a NAS unit with keyboard and display and an operating system which, while optimised for providing storage services, can run other tasks; however, file servers are increasingly used to supply other functionality, such as supplying database services, email services, and so on.

It sounds to me like this could be a good solution. If you just want to store data... music, movies etc....

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greg_mitch



Joined: 03 May 2006
Posts: 5321



PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why not just hook up an external eSATA HDD to your main machine and share it over the network??

I just picked up a DLINK 323 NAS and it has been tested to provide 55mbps write speed and 42 mbps read speed. This should be plenty for streaming any media file.

I do think that is only about a tenth of the eSATA speed in real world tests but unless you are transferring mulitple gig files a day I wouldn't worry about it.

You could probably get both an eSATA for your main machine and a NAS and set up the NAS to mirror whatever is on the eSATA drive...lots of options, unfortunately none of them seem to be what you really wanted.
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ecrabb
Forum Moderator


Joined: 13 Mar 2006
Posts: 15909
Location: Utah

TV/Projector: JVC RS40, Epson 5010


PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Because then you're back to managing Windows filesharing (as well as any other protocols you want to support (FTP, UPnP, iTunes, etc), sucking 200-300w 24 hours/day to do what a $100 appliance can do with 75w.

Kris, what you're talking about is the NAS vs. DAS question. Network attached storage or direct attached storage. Besides, the fact that it really isn't even necessary, the main reason you're not finding a "hybrid" device is because it would be extremely difficult to do.

It's difficult to do because in your proposed scenario you have two completely different operating systems (and interfaces) trying to control the drives simultaneously. How do you do that? Most NAS appliances run a flavor of Linux and as such, the drives are formatted that way. Controlled access to the drives is through network file sharing, which is easy. Now, try to throw a USB interface in there on top of that, with a different operating system, and you can see why you can't find that product. It's like asking why you can't connect a hard drive that has both a USB2 and an eSATA interface on it, to two different computers simultaneously, each one using one of the interfaces.

Now, I know you're thinking about how much faster the storage would be if it were connected to your main computer via USB, and in the case of 100T, you'd be right. But, there's an easy solution. Spend a few more bucks, and just connect the NAS and your main computer to a gigabit switch, get a gigabit NIC if your main computer doesn't already have one, and pick up a couple of Cat 6 cables. Voila! Problem solved. Shut the Windows box down when you're not using it, and have a cheap, simple, low-power, easy-to-manage NAS appliance (like Greg's D-Link 323).

SC
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ecrabb
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Joined: 13 Mar 2006
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Location: Utah

TV/Projector: JVC RS40, Epson 5010


PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, Greg - The way you wrote it, that's 55 and 42 megabits/second - as in just over typical Blu-ray rate or 6-7 megabytes/second. You meant 55 and 42 MB/s (as in megaBYTES) per second, right? In that case, that's not just "enough" for streaming - that's about EIGHT TIMES what you'd need for any sort of streaming - even ripped BD. If you had a good network, you could probably have 3-4 clients all streaming ripped BD off that thing simultaneously.

I assume those benchmarks were taken setup for RAID 0, right? I'd be using it as RAID 1, so would only get about half that - which is still more than enough for any sort of streaming.

SC
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greg_mitch



Joined: 03 May 2006
Posts: 5321



PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well now that you bring it up SC, no, I meant what I said and that is unfortunate. According to CNET the 323 averaged only megabit speeds not megabyte speeds. I am not sure if they were using a gigabit network or what but I will have the opportunity to try it on this Friday I suppose...oh wait...I still need some HDD's.

CNET test of 323
http://reviews.cnet.com/external-hard-drives/d-link-dns-323/4505-3190_7-32002040-2.html?tag=txt;page

CNET test of eSATA HDD
http://reviews.cnet.com/hard-drives/seagate-freeagent-xtreme-1tb/4505-3186_7-33300463-2.html?tag=txt;page
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ecrabb
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Joined: 13 Mar 2006
Posts: 15909
Location: Utah

TV/Projector: JVC RS40, Epson 5010


PostLink    Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, that's weird. That throughput pretty much sucks. There'd be no reason at all for gigabit ethernet, as you'd only ever be using about half of a 100T connection - never mind 1000T.

Streaming is no big deal, but you have to put the crap on there in the first place. At 55mbps, that means your write speed is only about 6.9 MB/s. At that rate, six 4-gig DVD rips are going to take almost an hour to copy to the NAS - six rips that would only take 5-10 minutes to copy on a FireWire or eSATA drive. That totally sucks. I was all set to pick up a 323, and now I'm not so sure. What the hell is the point of putting gigabit ethernet on these things if they won't even come close to saturating a 100T link? I wonder if CNET has some weird network configuration (half-duplex 100T) that's crippling these things.

I don't know... maybe the speed isn't as important as the need to have a place to put all this crap I'm accumulating and don't know what to do with. Keep us posted on how the 323 works out for you - I'm still interested.

SC
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Chuchuf



Joined: 11 Mar 2006
Posts: 548



PostLink    Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Hybrid NAS and External Hard Drive ? Reply with quote

KrisRoberts wrote:
I have a server closet with three machines and several other computers and media devices spread around the house.

Ideally I would like a RAID storage device that provides an eSata or USB port for my primary machine and a Gb network interface to serve the rest of the household.

When I started looking around I saw that there are NAS devices now that do have eSata and USB ports - and at first I thought it was great. But then looking more closely at the manuals, they all seem to have those ports to connect drives for expansion - not to serve as a client device for PCs.

From what I've seen, there are two seperate types of devices: NAS storage and External Hard Drives.

The NAS devices support network connections, and sometimes have other interfaces - but not to let PCs connect to them. The External Hard Drives have some combination of eSata/USB/Firewire ports to let PCs connect to them, but no network interface.

Am I missing something, or are there hybrid devices that do both?

I want consolodated storage thats available on the network for all the computers and dont mind the speed limitations of the network for them. But for my main machine at least I'd like to connect with a faster connection. Is that really too much to ask?


Kris,

If it's NAS you are looking for and you have an old MB hanging around, you may want to consider FreeNAS. I just test built one on a table top with a couple of small drives I have here and an old Athlon CPU and found it to be very useful and fast to serve up Music an Videos as well as a Slimserver serving up a SlimBox (written as an addon by someone). It only takes 64M so if our MB can doo it you can boot from a small usb thumdrive or get a cheep CF to USB converter and use it as your boot. You can partition a HD for boot but you don't want to do that as then the remainder of that HD isn't available to any RAID you may want. Freenas is seen by my MAC as well as Windows PC's (vista or XP) and supports iTunes protocal for sharing to itunes as well as a lot of other protocals that I haven't even fooled with.

Go to www.freenas.org for more info.

Terry
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ecrabb
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Joined: 13 Mar 2006
Posts: 15909
Location: Utah

TV/Projector: JVC RS40, Epson 5010


PostLink    Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A good friend of mine is playing around with FreeNAS and really likes it. So, two thumbs up there, apparently. I'd be all over it, but I'm really trying to get away from a big space-sucking, noisy, juice-sucking box sitting around running 24 hours/day just to serve up some media for an hour or two per day... hence my quest for a small appliance like the D-Link NAS.

SC
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KrisRoberts



Joined: 21 Jan 2007
Posts: 111
Location: San Diego


PostLink    Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies!

I guess my experience so far sharing files between my machines with gigabit ethernet has been underwhelming, so I started out looking at that as the low watermark and was hoping to find something that would provide better access to my main machine.

I've started poking around and found a lot of good information on smallnetbuilder.com and some tools to help me figure out if the network I'm running is actually working the way it should.

I'd like to have a small low power applieance too, but am now thinking about putting a raid controller and disks in one of my linux machines thats on all the time anyway...
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