The continuous improvement in home networking (also valid for small companies) has made external LAN drives a valid option for low-cost data storage, independent from each user's computer. This article could review the basic characteristics that those devices should have.
Installing a network
Of course, the main requirement is to have a network installed, either through a switch or a router. The NAS server will have usually an Ethernet connection, and maybe some host USB port.
The PC hard drives and their storage capacity
Of course, a shared storage will be defined mainly by the available space for data.
Current "best" hard drives (in 3.5in size) can store around 2 - 3 Tb of data.
If the data size to be stored is "big" (multimedia files such as complete films, or maybe photographic collections), then a big disc size is recommended (at a price).
In general, the drive will have as much space as you can afford, but this should not be a limitation.
Number of discs
Installing several drives
Fortunately, the space limitation of a single disc is not a problem anymore. Current Network Attached Storage (NAS) solutions offer the possibility of installing several drives in a single case, that can improve the server performance in two ways:
- On one side, they can work as summed space, working as a single drive with the capacity from all of them (JBOD configuration, "Just a Bunch Of Drives").
- On the other side, twin discs may store exactly the same information (RAID configuration, "Redundant Array of Independent Discs"), so that if one file is corrupted, it can be recovered from the other drive. This makes the system more expensive but also safer.
In professional server configuration, the mixed strategies of added / replicated discs can be found.
This involves typically an even number of drives. There are many different configurations again and most of them are for professional use. You may check Wikipedia.org for more detailed information.
Host USB ports
One great option in home servers is the availability of host USB ports, which allows for the attachment of standard external drives to increase shared capacity.
Added features of network sharing devices
Finally, some network sharing devices include also some added features, such as
multimedia server (DLNA) or file-sharing (bit-torrent) application.
This can also be a point, when selecting your home server.
With such a device, you do not need to have the computer powered overnight to appear online.
In the market, you will find multiple devices from usual brands (Iomega, Lacie, Western Digital).