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NAS Buying Guide

A rundown of options to store your life on.

Storage is one of the easiest things to overlook when buying a new PC or laptop. When I got my first PC, the hard drive space was not very important, or so I thought. Gradually, as the internet got faster, the more things you could store, the better quality of things you could store, all, came at a price of the capacity limit of your hard drive. The other issue of storing all of this information on a single disk was running the risk of total failure. If you HDD expired, so did your work or uni life, memories of your holidays, letters to the solicitors for your divorce etc.

I have an external USB, I?m fine thanks.

Got an additional hard drive? Me too, and it works very well, very portable. You?ve probably said ?I?ll just use it for data and if my PC busts, I?ll reinstall Windows and ba-da-boom. Connect my second drive and were running again?. Sounds lovely and this does work.

Today however, having just one PC in the house isn?t the norm. Take this situation for example. Dad is working in his office on his laptop, mum is on the sofa on her laptop. The eldest daughter is in her room preparing an essay and the twins are both messing on iTunes downloading songs and possibly other things over bit torrent that you don?t know about on their PC?s. Well we all can?t have separate drives now can we, that?s just expensive and unneeded. There?s pointless replication when little Timmy sends all his holiday photos to mum and then mum sends them to dad and they all end up on external disks!

What?s is the solution then?

Well sir, I think you need a NAS or?that is a Network Attached Storage solution. It?s exactly as it sounds. In its basic terms, a Hard Drive plugged into your network that all can use. If you have a wireless printer, it does the same thing but with data. Just like a wireless printer, you install a little software that says hello to it on your network and everyone on your home network now has access to this drive. Some models will even let you access files stored on it from the internet which means you can access your documents from another location. Your own personal Cloud storage.

Sounds great, what do I look for?

There are products out there from ?39 to ?15,000+ so you should have some requirement in your head. Ask yourself what your current situation is.

??Do you need a rock solid unit that will hold your data for life?
??Do you need speed, capacity or both?
??How many people or devices are going to access it?
??Wired or wireless?
??Do you need external internet access to your NAS?

First, a little bit about RAID


Typically called RAID-1, this is where if one disk in the partnership dies, the other carries on. When you replace the faulty disk, the live one copies the information onto the new one and the partnership is re-established. This is also called a ?mirror?.

? Good Performance
? Excellent Redundancy
? Capacity is reduced
? Expensive
? 2 x 1Tb Disks = 1Tb usable.


This is typically referred to as ?striping? or RAID-0. This is where the partnership of disks shares the information and because you have two hard drives doing the same work as one, the result is excellent performance matched with great capacity.

? Excellent Performance
? Outstanding Capacity
? If one disk fails, you?ve lost the lot.
? 2 x 1Tb Disks =?2Tb usable.


This level of RAID, RIAD-5 is known as ?striped with parity?. For this to function, you need a minimum of 3 disks, so yes, the price is going up for this route. This works by distributing all of the data you save to it to all 3 hard drives, one piece here, one piece there and a ?parity? bit on the third. As this is all evenly distributed, if a disk should fail, the RAID array fills in the ?blanks? of the missing data and you are left with a limping but working data store. When you replace the unit, it will automatically rebuild itself and get up to full speed.

? Great performance
? Great redundancy
? Works when ?injured?
? Need 3 disks
? 1 x disk is needed for ?parity?
? 3 x 1Tb Disks =?2Tb usable.

Hang on, one more to consider...

There are lots of RAID configurations, however one more to look at is RAID-10. This is a mixture of RAID-1 (mirror) and RAID-5 (striping). This is having a pair of disks in a mirror format and then another pair striping that mirror. You do need a minimum of 4 disks for this to work and you only get half the capacity you buy, but, it is the best bang for your buck. Unlike RAID-5, if a disk dies, you won?t suffer from a performance hit as your data is mirrored and there?s no ?guess work? from your array.

? Best performance
? Best redundancy
? 4 x?disks to buy
? Only half the capacity is available to you
? 4 x 1Tb Disks =?2Tb is available

So that?s all cleared up, now what?

Well, let?s have a look at what we have available for each of our RAID jobs mentioned above. Our first entry is a great little unit from DLink. It?s has 2 bays which means you can have RAID-0 or RAID-1 or just single disks. It connects to the network with a cable and is gigabit which means plenty of bandwidth for lots of people.

DLink ShareCenter Pulse 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure DNS-320
Disk Bays:?2 (RAID-0, RIAD-1, JBOD)
Drive Type:?SATA-II
Connection:?1 x RJ45 (10/100/1000), 1 x USB 2.0
I?d go for: 2 x?1Tb Samsung SpinPoint HD103SJ

Next up we look at two single bay NAS units for the purpose of CAPACITY. The ZyXEL NSA310 and the Synology DiskStation DS112j. Both are empty and require a drive to get going so if you don?t have one, a large capacity unit from Seagate like the Barracuda 7200.14 3Tb disk is a great start as it combines great capacity with throughput as well as a great price per Gigabyte.

ZyXEL NSA310 Single Bay NAS
Disk Bays:?1
Drive Type:?SATA-II
Connection:?1 x RJ45 (10/100/1000), 2 x USB 2.0, 1eSATA
Great for:?CAPACITY
I?d go for:?Barracuda 7200.14 3Tb

Synology DiskStation DS112j Single Bay NAS
Disk Bays:?1
Drive Type:?SATA-II
Connection:?1 x RJ45 (10/100/1000), 2?x USB 2.0
Great for:?CAPACITY
I?d go for:?Barracuda 7200.14 3Tb

My final selection is at the top end of our function. It does all three on the list. It?s not down in your bargain basement but who cares when your PC goes pop! Here we have a 4 Bay enclosure, so coupled with 4 of those Barracudas above and you have a whopping 6Tb of redundancy. Alternately you could stripe the lot and have 12Tb of space for the capacity junkies out there.

QNAP TS-412 4-bay NAS Enclosure TS-412
Disk Bays:?4
Drive Type:?SATA-II
Connection:?2 x RJ45 (10/100/1000), 4 x USB 2.0, 2 x eSATA
Great for:?CAPACITY
I?d go for:?4 x Barracuda 7200.14 3Tb


So then, four NAS units that can do different jobs for different price brackets. CCL have lots of different NAS?s and I hope that my guide has been of some help in getting you on the right path to choosing a NAS.