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CenSin

Network Attached Storage or External Enclosure Recommendations

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Can anyone recommend some network attached storage device or external closures? I've looked on Newegg.com, but most of them don't have stellar ratings. I've also tried sites like TigerDirect.com and Directron.com, but searching on those sites isn't easy and ratings are not as reliable as those on Newegg.com.

 

I'm looking for something that:

  • is file system-agnostic (not tied to Window's NTFS, Mac OS X's HFS+, FAT, FAT32, or exFAT) or uses a Linux file system since it will be used with a Linux system. That means the unit should present itself as a raw block device if it's connected via USB or eSATA, and at least FTP if over a network.
  • has 2~3 drive bays or more; self-contained mirroring or RAID-5 feature is a plus, but proprietary redundancy features are frowned upon.
  • has USB 3.0, SATA 6.0 Gb/s, or gigabit Ethernet connectivity; a combination of any is fine as long as older technology like USB 2.0 or 100 mbps Ethernet isn't in the mix.

 

The first seems to be a reasonable requirement, as Linux is a popular operating system for servers (even used internally within many NAS devices themselves). 2-bay enclosures aren't difficult to find. And USB 3.0, SATA 6.0 Gb/s, and gigabit Ethernet have all been around for some time. The difficulty is finding something reliable as having good reviews does not equate to enterprise reliability (such as SAMSUNG 830 vs Crucial M4 vs OCZ Vertex 4).

 

Does anyone working in IT have any recommendations?

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Have you considered a Drobo?

 

As for file systems, I don't believe that there is one true universal file system. NTFS can only be written to by Windows (but Macs can read it), the Hierarchal File System can't be written to by Windows (least, I don't think), FAT and FAT32 both have limitations. For example, FAT32 has a maximum file size of 4GB. In my experience, exFAT works on both Mac and Windows (not sure about Linux), so you might consider using exFAT. Problem with this is that on Apple's forum, one user mentioned that after a call to Apple support, they said that OSX cannot share exFAT partitions with PCs, only on other Macs, so that presents a problem right there if you're thinking about network storage.

 

Me, I have a Windows Home Server 2011 machine that I use to back up USBs, External Hard drives and all of my Windows machines (including Windows 7 on my Mac via Bootcamp). I back up my Mac to a second external hard drive formatted using OSX Extended (Journaled)

Edited by YankeesPwnMets

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Have you considered a Drobo?

 

Yup. I've considered a Drobo, but they are only optimized for NTFS, HFS+, or one of the FAT incarnates. The units don't have great reviews on Amazon, with many citing data loss from these so-called "reliable" enclosures. All the RAID doesn't help if the RAID hardware itself fails to keep track of where the data is. They have ones that support Linux's EXT3 file system, but they cost around $10,000.

 

As for file systems, I don't believe that there is one true universal file system. NTFS can only be written to by Windows (but Macs can read it), the Hierarchal File System can't be written to by Windows (least, I don't think), FAT and FAT32 both have limitations. For example, FAT32 has a maximum file size of 4GB. In my experience, exFAT works on both Mac and Windows (not sure about Linux), so you might consider using exFAT. Problem with this is that on Apple's forum, one user mentioned that after a call to Apple support, they said that OSX cannot share exFAT partitions with PCs, only on other Macs, so that presents a problem right there if you're thinking about network storage.

exFAT is patent-protected, so it's safe to assume it won't be seen under Linux. FAT and FAT32 are too limited for volumes that scale into the multi-terabyte range. So, either EXT3, EXT4, or BTRFS support is desirable for a network attached storage unit. They are modern and are not associated with Mac OS X nor Windows.

 

Me, I have a Windows Home Server 2011 machine that I use to back up USBs, External Hard drives and all of my Windows machines (including Windows 7 on my Mac via Bootcamp). I back up my Mac to a second external hard drive formatted using OSX Extended (Journaled)

I've got a Linux box that I use as a desktop and home server. If I can get a USB/eSATA enclosure, I'll extend its role as a file server, otherwise a FTP network attached storage device would be great.

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I agree, there is limitations. But IMHO the file system of choice in my opinion would be NFTS file system and because of the storage capacity it allows for as you've said. Not to mention capabilities related to file encryption that FAT32 does not offer.

 

I personally think RAID 1 as opposed to RAID 5 arrays provide better security and failsafe data protection then the latter. Because the arrays can be set up as mirrored drives with duplexing, which helps with fast read/write speeds. Also since it can take a large number of drives as long as it's an even number of drives giving the need for adding more capacity as needed. Drawback? It needs huge amounts of storage capacity for it to work.

 

RAID 5 takes up huge amounts of capacity for distributed parity too, sometimes an entire drive. One HUGE advantage to RAID 5 that this array is the fastest RAID array money can buy. It's the most popular form of this technology today.

 

On exFAT, programmers are experimenting on Linux platforms running on exFAT, as far as I know now. I've never seen a system set up like that yet.

Edited by realizm

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Yeah that's true NTFS is incompatible with any Mac OS, forgot about that. It will see the NTFS partitions made and that's where it ends.

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This one looks good so far: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822108091 / http://ukdl.synology.com/ftp/ds/DS212/DataSheet/Synology_DS212_Data_Sheet_enu.pdf

 

The internals are Linux to the max: the native file system for storing data on this thing is EXT4; it comes with an FTP server; and it's extendable with applications. The thing is essentially a very compact x86-compatible computer with room only for disk drives. I should just build my own mini-PC instead and I'll have better control over the entire unit!

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In that case, instead of looking for a network attached storage device, what I should really be looking for is a USB 3.0 or eSATA hard drive enclosure that takes 2+ hard drives and turns it into one huge block device. The enclosure should abstain from trying to optimize for specific file systems (like HFS+, NTFS, FAT, FAT32, or exFAT); in other words, it should just be a dumb blob of storage made from smaller units of storage. Drobo's largest Professional enclosure can turn 8 drives into a single 24TB device, but tries too hard to be smart (and does not support USB 3.0); none of the Linux file systems are supported as a first class citizen.

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