Tips and help for choosing a network attached storage device (NAS) for your home or small business.
When choosing a NAS device to share your files between multiple computers or other devices such as media players etc, there are several fundamental considerations involved:
Build or Buy
The biggest advantage to building your own array is that you can end up with whatever it is that you want. This can also be cheaper, especially if you have a lot of the necessary hardware just sitting around.
That said, there are a lot of disadvantages involved as well. The cost advantage really falls when the hardware isn't already on hand, and not everyone has the technical expertise to build a reliable NAS from parts. Unless you feel really comfortable working with both computer hardware and software, you should really consider buying an already constructed NAS.
1, 2, 3, 4 or More Drives
This decision really boils down to what your needs are for your NAS. How much do you want to store, and exactly how secure do you want it to be? If you need to store a lot of data or require something that will be continuously available no matter the situation, you'll probably want more drives than if you're just looking for a personal backup solution.
RAID 0, 1, 5 or JBOD
RAID usage is really one of the major reasons to even consider a NAS solution, so there really exists a high priority to decide exactly what you're looking for here. The most common setups are RAID 0, 1, 5, and JBOD, though other arrangements are possible. If you're just looking for a slightly faster access speed, RAID 0 is probably the best bet, as it improves recall speed significantly. JBOD is even more rudimentary in organization, with each individual drive existing entirely indepently of the the others in the device.
Neither RAID 0 nor JBOD offer any protection in case of drive failure, so if data retrieval is the primary goal, RAID 1 and 5 are probably preferable. RAID 1 requires at least two drives, while RAID 5 requires at least 3, so generally speaking smaller NAS devices are set up for RAID 1 more frequently than RAID 5.
If you're buying off the rack NAS storage, this can really affect a lot of your other decisions. Most major manufacturers of NAS hardware come with their brand of software already set up for various features, so depending on what features you want some manufacturers are better than others. It's also worth considering what other hardware you've got on your network, since sometimes compatibility issues can become a problem, though serious issues are a lot rarer with modern equipment.
As with any electronic solution, one final thing to consider is how much you want to spend. Though new, top of the line solutions might appear attractive in theory, often you'll be better off seeking out an economical alternative. In most situations, a similar device can often be found online at sites such as eBay, making purchasing a new NAS a questionable investment at best. As always, make sure to shop around a bit before making a final decision.