The Gift of NAS

NAS, or Network Attached Storage is probably the now most personal reliable, and afforadable backup and central storage solution that is both easy to use and setup, as opposed to regular back external hard drives which needs to be connected every time you want to backup, and can only talk to limited number of computers at once. Worse, my experience and from what I saw and read, most these external hard drives have a tedency of failure after 1 or 2 years. So much for a backup ehh?

 

For several years I waited for the right backup solution to come, after my terrible Maxtor experience. The concept of NAS was so appealing to me, however lacked the good implementation of it. This was until my friend and I found the 1 TB Netgear ReadyNAS Duo.

 

 

1 Tb of Gigabit ethernet network attached SATA storage, with a secondary optional slot for a mirror one, giving you extra data availability. Unfortunately however, the secondary disk does not seem to add anything to read performance. The price tag was really what kept me thinking for a couple of days, until my friend called and said his PC drive was dead. This is when price tag becomes no issue. There were 5 pieces left only at the time on Amazon, later that day, 2 were already sold.

 

And if you’re getting a Gigabit ethernet device, you might as well utilize the G side of it and get your self a Gigabit switch. Mine was the D-Link 8 Port Desktop Switch, while my friend went for the NetGear one. It’s hard to tell them apart without seeing them both in action, but when reaching out for the NAS folder, I do notice a slight tiny delay which he says does not occure to him. Not sure though. Either ways, file transfer remains pretty fast and reliable.

 

So What’s So Good About this NAS?

 

1- Backup solution for unlimited number of home desktops and laptops. Works with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

2- Central shared data among all devices. Use less storage for same amount of data, with central advantage. Useful for media files and documents you want available across different devices.

3- Streaming: The NAS comes with built-in streaming capabilities that could allow you central storing of your videos and photos, then go and enjoy them on your favorite player device. I have personally not utilized this feature enough yet, and friends tell me streaming off their PC remains faster.
 
4- Quick Recovery: Say primary SATA drive fails. If you have taken the step of the secondary drive, simply pull out the primary drive, and replace it with the secondary one. In few minutes, you’re good to go.

5- QUIET: As opposed to external drives I’ve seen, this one is so quiet, personally I like it.

6- Primary Documents Storage Location

This last point is what made most of the difference to me, and while it applies better to desktops rather than laptops, it still is the best thing I’m getting of my NAS. Shortly after using the NAS for backup, I took my friend advise and made the NAS the default Documents folder for all my work, so that My Documents folder would point to the NAS storage rather than my PC. It’s automatically mirrored, and centrally stored to be read by other devices. No need for schedule backup and sync tasks. Much of a relief.
To do so, you will first need to do Directory Mapping. Simpy go on Windows to any directory window, clicks Tools -> Map Network Drive. From there, simply specify the drive name you want to use, say V:, and the file path it maps to, which should be the relative documents directory at your NAS as shown below:



Next step is to make the My Documents folder on Windows point to that location. Simply while in the My Documents folder, right click on any empty area and select properties. From there, change the Target Folder Location to the new Mapped Drive, V: in our case.



There is a nice article about mapping Mac drives here


Now, your documents are directly written to the NAS, and if you have a secondary drive, you got your self double the reliability. You will need also (if you want) to change settings of some programs to point to the new location. For example iTunes, or any other download program that takes default location. Make sure you change it to your liking, and you can aslo create separate folders at the NAS for separate purposes. Say Media, documents, backup (for laptops for instance).


Does It Really Help?


I got it back in August, and just last Thursday, my PC finally decided to quit living. It would simply restart everytime I reboot, after a glimpse of a blue screen, I couldn’t read it in ten times. I had to video record the screen, replay it in slow motion and pause to read it! Mr. Bean stuff, but it does the job. 


Blue screen message wasn’t very helpful (as usualy), and nothing worked and I thought reformat is fastest resolution. For the first time ever I was totally ready for it, and except for the programs I had to reinstall, I just mapped the netowork drive and targeted My Documents to it, and almost all my data was back. I thanked God I got it, and thought of sharing it thus with you.


Does it have problems?


NO. Just kidding. Ofcourse it does. Here are some issues I face from using the NAS:


1- Minor slight delay in accessing files as opposed to when they are stored locally. Pretty minor stuff for me.

2- Lack of some program support. Some programs like Sony Vegas studios refused to work with network drive locations, and only worked with mapped network drives. Some others even refused the mapped network drives for some reason.

3- Some programs run slow when trying to access and list files from the NAS. For instance, GIMP takes a long time to list folder files before savin when accessing a NAS folder. iTunes Library browsing also seems to get extremely slow when using NAS for it’s storage. The famous Mac Time Machine also does not allow NAS drives for backup by default, and even when I tried the solution, it also failed to back in my case. Sure there is way, but didn’t give it much thought yet. I expect it needs time for companies to give full attention to this technology, and support it better.

4- Executing some tasks like Unzipping large files will take enormous time if done on NAS. For me, unzipping 70 MB of intensily zipped files took over an hour (and failed eventually). In such cases, simply move the zip file to your local machine and do the unzipping.

5- As mentioned above, it would’ve been much better if this mirrored disk was used for reading improvements rather than just a backup. But it doesn’t seem to be the case.

WATCH IT: The Amazon page of NetGear NAS has a Watch It In Action link you can follow for nice demonstration of the product.


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  • Hussain Al-Fadhli

    Salam Bashar …

    I was looking for similar device but the price was very high. Later, and because of Doa’ae Al Waledain :) I got a 2-TB LACIE network storage for only 70 KD. The only problem with this device is the noise. It is not quiet at all.

    Ta7eyati …

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    Hussain Al-Fadhli: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I heard quite a lot about Lacie. And then read some Lacies end up with Maxtor from inside. By all rates, I did not want something noisy, which canceled many options.

    Does it have mirroring? The Amazon review I found sounds interesting. Just make sure you don’t take data for granted if it ain’t mirrored :)

  • http://bojacob.net Bojacob

    blaah you guys! Just build a cheap crappy old PC and slap 4-5 SATA drives on it, then pick either Ubuntu or FreeNAS and be done with it.

    Much more options with the PC route. Heck, I have a webserver running on the crappy thing. In fact, you might even put in MythTV on the box for a NAS/HTPC mutant PC.

    Still, your way “just works” I guess.

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    Bojacob: Thanks. I do recall your post and once asked for your advise. As a matter of fact I think you’re the one who introduced me to the NAS from your post :). Your solution is something I still would like to tinker with, but not yet rely on for all my precious data.

    Didn’t your NAS eventually crash or fail? Luckily it was mostly anime movies or something like that? I cannot take that risk with my real data. PC is a PC with all its goods and bads. So how much did it cost? I dont think we’re talking about huge price difference. The NAS I’m talking about is like 160 KD + 40-50 KD for another drive.

  • http://bojacob.net Bojacob

    It only failed because I didn’t use RAID 5. I was using LVM to just add a bunch of drives to make up a single virtual volume.

    Get it in RAID 5 and you’re done. Or get a Drobo and connect it to the server and let it handle all the recovery stuff. In fact, that sounds like a much better solution now.

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    Bojacob: I shall look more into this, and use your help. What was the final cost of it?

  • http://3baidsblog.wordpress.com/ 3baid

    There aren’t any cheap solutions other than building your own server from scratch. Here’s how you might create one.

  • http://cute-nemo.blogspot.com nemo

    thanks for the review …

    i currently have nothing to backup, :p

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    3baid: Thanks, I’ve also gone through this interesting post. While I’m quite positive yours is more scalable, did it cost less than the NetGear NAS eventually? And how much overhead is there in the maintenance? I love to get into what you guys did, but on the other hand, I needed something yesterday and I couldn’t wait or gamble. I ain’t got the luxury of time anymore :)

    Budget is kinda squeezed to tinker with such stuff now. I will add it to my wish list.

    nemo: Do get a NAS for God’s sake. Whichever choice u make, build ur own or buy another brand. U need one, before it’s too late.

  • MacaholiQ8

    Believe it or not I have always done manual backups on my maxtor drive but now with this great review I know exactly what to look for. Thanks for the heap load of information, especially the Mac related link.

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    MacaholiQ8: Glad you liked it :). See also comments from bojacob and 3baid. They have nice insight too.

  • http://macaholiq8.blogspot.com MacaholiQ8

    I sure did. :)

    Haven’t been following any backup techniques so I’m kinda lost with all this. I guess I’ve been missing out on a lot.

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    MacaholiQ8: Then do it before we read bad news on ur blog :)

  • http://www.ahamshay.com Shaymaa

    build! build! build! It’s more fun if you have the time. I do want a Drobo though…

  • http://blogallalong.com/ Bashar

    Shaymaa: That’s interesting to hear from female side :). You’re embarrassing me now. I do like to do, I do lack the time, and I needed something to save me from such crisis ASAP :)

    Thanks for the push.

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  • http://www.australiaseocompany.com.au/ Alex Pitersen

    I read your blog post and I also need backup. But I can’t set it. Please help me. :)

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