December 18, 2021 - General Computing

For some time, I’ve been using my primary desktop as an informal NAS. It has two 4TB Drives which serve as mass storage(one WD Red and a WD Blue), and I’ve shared folders on those drives to allow other Windows machines to access them on my network.

It has not been a perfect solution. For one, being my two largest drives, the data they contain isn’t really backed up- some of it that is important is burned to blu-ray, and most of the rest of it I could get again, but it would be incredibly annoying. Secondly, none of my Linux machines are able to access it- I suspect because I have disabled parts of the SMB protocol on the system. Third, transfers are often very slow, to the point that I can sneakernet large files faster.

I also like the idea of having a system serving as dedicated mass/archival storage that I can just upgrade over time by adding hard drives to it.

This has been a long-term idea, but I’ve never been able to justify the cost of building a new NAS. All my existing machines had their own roles, and those that were most fitting I don’t feel comfortable running 24/7 (A QX6600 Quad Core for example).

That was, until I found a cheaply priced i3 540 machine at the thrift store, with 4GB of RAM. It was a no-POST system but that turned out to be an extra standoff being installed. It was a perfect candidate for a NAS; reasonably low power usage, and while the case was pretty cheap (it’s the exact same Rosewill case I used for a cheap Pentium 4 build a few years ago), it has room for 5 Hard Disks, which is a good start. (If I need more I could always transplant everything to a new case). The idea sort of sat on a "mental shelf” for a while until the other week when I finally ordered the only things I needed to make it a reality: a 120GB SSD for the OS, and 2 6TB Drives; They are SMR Drives, both because those are cheaper and because read speeds are probably m ore important for most of my uses- the data won’t be changing much, and I won’t be rewriting files frequently. I’m thinking it is more an “archive”. I’m also fairly tolerant of stuff being slow, seemingly more than a lot of people are. If it takes 5 hours to copy say 2TB of Data, that’s fine with me.

Once the SSD arrived, I couldn’t wait, though. I have two spare 4TB Drives in a cupboard as emergency replacements if I detect any sign of trouble from the two in my machine, and I unsealed the WD Red drive and decided to run up the NAS.

For OS, I’ve opted for OpenMediaVault. I was able to get plugins installed for Mergerfs, which allows multiple drive filesystems to effectively be merged and seen as one filesystem, and Snapraid, which I can use to add parity drives. With the two 6TB Drives added I’ll have a total of 16TB of storage which should be plenty for my needs for the foreseeable future. I’ll add a third 6TB Drive as parity for my own peace of mind (and set it up to properly recalculate parity every few days, I think). Getting a 16GB NAS for <$500 total is a pretty good deal, particularly since that’s half the price of many NAS Devices!

So far with the 4TB Drive and acting as an SMB and NFS server, it’s exceeded my expectations. Copying files over the network doesn’t feel any slower than copying files from one internal drive to another, and the i3 540 may be rather old, but it looks like it will be perfectly capable of keeping up with the demands of the NAS.

One thing a lot of people use a NAS for is “cloud storage” in that they make it accessible from outside their LAN, but I’m not interested in that application- it will live solely on my home network.

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