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Please help me pick out a new NAS


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Which vendor?  

9 members have voted

  1. 1. Which vendor?

    • QNAP
      0
    • Netgear ReadyNAS
      4
    • Synology
      1
    • Thecus
      0
    • Buffalo
      0
    • Other (please post)
      4


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I'd like to buy a NAS appliance but need some help choosing one from people with NAS experience. Right now I am evaluating vendors to see which company I like in general. Then I'll pick a device from that vendor.

General features I would like:

Hackable - runs on some fairly generic Linux distribution and is open to addons/customization.

Active user community - lots of support in userland. Addons, wiki, forums, etc.

Hardware generic/robust enough to run and serve other applications.

Ability to telnet/SSH into the machine and gain root.

Not required, but would be nice: an optional, alternative firmware built by users.

So far it looks like QNAP or Netgear ReadyNAS might be what I'm looking for. But Synology, Thecus and Buffalo are interesting to me, as well.

Can you please provide recommendations based on real-world experience?

For those who would recommend FreeNAS: I will be building a FreeNAS box. I also want an appliance.

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Unfortunately, I'd say ~99% of NAS'es I've seen didn't meet several of your criterias, and were abysmally slow (EXTREMELY common in comsumer NAS products!) I'd definitely look for real-life benchmarks of any product before buying anything.

In fact, if you want a NAS that doesn't suck (poor features, unitasker, but mainly slow as molasses), it'll most likely cost quite a bit more than your FreeNAS box. I've long given up on even trying to find a decent NAS. BTW, I'd also look at openfiler. Some also build theirs based on opensolaris (ZFS being a big selling point)

I've finally decided (after a lot of wasted time with this all -- overall slowness, CUPS being a nightmare, no nice AD replacement and samba/openldap being a REAL pain, poor integration, nothing like Hyper-V built-in, etc) to go with Win2008, likely R2 as it'll RTM real soon (going to build it sometime after summer). You really get what you pay for here.

Edit: BTW the Netgear ReadyNAS Pro in the next post is $1200 (or $1650 for us canucks) + the six hard drives (+ potential RAM upgrade) + taxes and ship... Just like I was saying (it'll most likely cost quite a bit more than your FreeNAS box). For ~40MB/sec write speeds (beyond the first few MBs where you're only "writing" to a cache in RAM) in RAID5 -- assuming you're on gigabit ethernet, and that your whole network is capable of jumbo frames. A whole lot better than most, but nothing spectacular besides the price tag (would cost me $2500+ CAD for one with 6TB i.e. 5TB in RAID5, that's $500+/TB!!!) You're really only getting a low-end Linux box with software RAID here, hardly anything to warrant the hefty price tag, especially when you look at what you can build for the same $1200 e.g. Norco RPC-4020 4U case (OS drive + slim DVD writer + 20 hot-swap SATA bays), Phenom II X4 940 with 8GB of fast DDR2 (nice for VMs and such) on a nice Asus or Gigabyte 790 board, powered by a high end enermax revolution 85+ 1050w (modular too) PSU, a slim DVD writer, locking SATA cables for all, and 4 inexpensive SATA controllers (PCI and/or PCI-e) like Syba (use software RAID like the NAS does if you want to) and have 22 ports total (6 on mobo, 4x 4 port cards) -- one for OS drive, one for the DVD writer, and 20 left for the 20 hotswap bays. Not perfect (an ARC-1680IX-24-2G would be nicer for sure), but it still truly puts the same-priced NAS to shame all-around (drive bays, CPU/RAM, power, expandability, etc)

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Hey there, I would recommend a Netgear ReadyNAS Pro. Very fast (very, very fast), large drive capacity (up to 6TB I think), quiet, works with Linux and easy to share files over the internet. 5 year warranty for peace of mind. Upgradeable to 4GB Ram (from 1GB stock) and has a dual core CPU. :hello:

Edited by Zenskas
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  • 2 weeks later...

CoffeeFiend, I'll definitely take all of your advice into account when building my homebrew NAS. But I still intend to buy an appliance as well...just to spite you! :angel Though I think I'll go with FreeNAS over OpenFiler as it seems to be a more active project.

Price matters, of course, but I'm willing to spend enough to get a quality appliance. Here is a a Newegg link with some of the boxes I am currently considering.

Zenskas, do you have any experience with your ReadyNAS that helps me decide based on the features in my first post?

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But I still intend to buy an appliance as well...just to spite you! :angel

:lol: I'm not worried about that, it ain't my money ;) I just haven't come across what I'd call a "decent NAS" ever (especially if you want more than 4 drive bays). Mind you I pretty much gave up on looking in the last couple of years, so there might be some by now.

Though I think I'll go with FreeNAS over OpenFiler as it seems to be a more active project.

One is more basic NAS-oriented, the other is a "more advanced" solution (IMO), with more SAN-like features (e.g. iSCSI). Personally I'm not worried by how active a project is, versus what features there are, how good the admin interface/tools are and so on.

Personally I'm using Windows' own network shares :P

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Any cheap POS that'll run OpenFiler? Other gets my vote, as OpenFiler is far better than any appliance I've tested (and I've run a few).

CoffeeFiend, I'll definitely take all of your advice into account when building my homebrew NAS. But I still intend to buy an appliance as well...just to spite you! :angel Though I think I'll go with FreeNAS over OpenFiler as it seems to be a more active project.
I've used both, and although OpenFiler is "less active" the devs are FAR quicker at fixing things. And the interface is more sane (FreeNAS gave me a friggin' headache after a few days). To wit, the OpenFiler devs expect to support all iSCSI modes to make OpenFiler work as an iSCSI target for Server 2008 Clustering - they'd be the *first* noncommercial NAS/SAN solution to do this. The fix is expected in version 3.0 (replacing the current iSCSI implementation with one that does). It's in test, although it's still not stable, but just to give you an idea. They don't update frequently, but they are big updates usually (and the versions available are very stable).
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Zenskas, do you have any experience with your ReadyNAS that helps me decide based on the features in my first post?

I have no personal experience but have heard many good things. Read a few reviews and look at the features it has. :hello:

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  • 1 month later...

I'm starting to think that the proprietary RAIDs have the "killer app" that will limit my options. Drobo's BeyondRAID, Netgear's XRAID and Lime's unRAID are all non-standard RAID implementations that allow you to more easily mix drive sizes/speeds and provide for a n incremental upgrade path (upgrade one drive at a time). These features seem like they can make life so much easier.

BeyondRAID seems to be the most robust of these options while XRAID the least so as it requires you to upgrade all of the drives sequentially. unRAID is somwhere in the middle and it is basically implemented as JBOD plus a parity drive. And it runs on Slackware.

FreeNAS has a ZFS trick to run nested RAID5 that comes close to these solutions but it is a fresh hack and not supported.

So I think I'll build a testbed unRAID box and see how that goes. The 3-drive version is free and there seems to be good userland support. If it meets my needs then $80 for the Pro version seems reasonable.

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Update to the X-RAID data...there is also X-RAID2.

http://www.readynas.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=19414

The difference between X-RAID and X-RAID2 is that X-RAID requires you to replace ALL drives in order to increase capacity, where as X-RAID2 only requires enough capacity to maintain redundancy.
X-RAID2 Technology

X-RAID2 is the 2nd generation of ReadyNAS’s proven patent-pending Auto-Expandable X-RAID technology. X-RAID2 automates the volume expansion for you as you scale from 1 drive to 6 drives while keeping your data online. Additionally, as your storage requirement grows, you can replace your disks with larger capacity ones, and X-RAID2 automatically and incrementally expands your storage “vertically.” No other NAS devices in this class can do this without reformatting your disks and shuffling your data back and forth.

Looks like this was introduced in the RAIDiator 4.2.1 firmware last September for devices that support the feature (not all of them).

Too bad QNAP et al. don't have competing technologies in this respect. So it looks like I've found my Drobo-killer as far as appliances go. But unRAID is looking pretty cool so I'm going to play with that before buying a ReadyNAS.

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unRAID is pretty nice but it runs Slackware as the base OS. Slack is great and I've used it off and on over the years. But it doesn't have robust package management and dependency checking like, IMO, a modern distro should. I would be more enthusiastic about running it as a long-term solution if it was based on RPM or DEB.

So I ordered a ReadyNAS Pro Pioneer. Looks like it should meet all of my needs except that it isn't rack mountable. If I end up being really happy with it then I'll likely eBay it and buy a couple of the ReadyNAS 2100 series rackmount boxes.

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So I ordered a ReadyNAS Pro Pioneer.

$1200 USD, without any drives! This better be god-like! For that much dough, you can build a half decent box, and also buy 12x 1.5TB drives, giving yourself a "slight" 18TB head start. Or make a REALLY high end Windows Home Server box (or even build a decent server with a Win 2008 Server license) Edit: looks like I already had said all that in post #2. That's what I get for only reading the previous post.

The only thing that seems somewhat interesting here (IMO) is the auto-expansion. I'm afraid the asking price is a little steep for that feature alone (especially when you make a already maxed out box with more place for less $).

And even at that price, they're still selling you a "lite" version... No iSCSI, no volume snapshots, etc. And it only has 1GB of RAM, which is a noticeable limitation, as the speeds drop a by as much as 2/3 once you have to actually hit the disk instead of in RAM cache -- a unimpressive 40MB/sec or so (less than half the advertised speed; yeah, writing to RAM over Gigabit isn't slow -- who would've thought?). Another $30 or so on a RAM upgrade. Their media server doesn't support DLNA either, you have to spend another $40 for Twonky. As for jumbo frames, forget about using 9014 bytes on your whole network, this only supports 7936 bytes, so you'll likely have to scale everything else back for compatibility.

Maybe I'm just a whiny little little b****, but at $500/TB (in RAID5, taxes in) with average drives, I expect not to have to spend $30 here and $40 there afterwards, just to have 40MB/sec speeds (and that's RAID5 with 3 drives only -- expect it to be even slower with 6 as it has to XOR twice as much data first! Wimpy E2140 CPU too) This is why I don't buy NAS boxes.

If I had this much money to blow on storage, I'd be getting one of these instead. Sustained 800MB+/sec writes in any RAID level no problem! Reads well over a Gigabyte/sec, sustained! It could max out a 10Gbit card! Up to 4GB DDR2 cache onboard, battery backup option, up to 24 drives with LBA64 support, adding capacity online (much like the X-RAID thing), "advanced" RAID modes e.g. 10/5/6/30/50/60, staggered spin up, the very best management/monitoring software, drivers for every platform out there and much, much more. Makes every single NAS out there look like a cheap dinky toy, and many low-medium end SANs as well.

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I have a FreeNAS box currently, but I'm thinking when it gets a bit older of replacing it with a 2008 storage server box running one of these, for basically that reason. While the netgear kit is always made well, things like this seem a bit overboard for the price. The features are great, but at that price they're a bit too expensive for even my blood.

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oh god the price on that just makes my cringe.

you could get a nice raid controller and many terabyte of hdd and but them into raid 5/6 along with the case and hardware you need all for that price, believe me, i have done it.

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