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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > How does Network Attached Storage (NAS) work?

How does Network Attached Storage (NAS) work?
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iDriveX
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Jan 25, 2005, 01:11 AM
 
So I'm thinking about buying about three of these:

Network Attached Storage Case (IDE to RJ45)

but I'm wondering how this will work....

- Will it show up in your list of hard drives as a an external drive?

or

- Will it show up when you click on "Network" as a file sharing server?

- How are the speeds with this connected directly to a computer using a 10/100 Ethernet Cable?

- If I were to connect all three, I would want to connect them to my airport extreme, which only has one ethernet port. What would be the easiest and most effective way to do this?

- Are there any other great advantages to this and disadvantages to this method of storage that I am missing?

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power142
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Jan 25, 2005, 02:42 AM
 
Originally posted by iDriveX:
- Will it show up in your list of hard drives as a an external drive?

or

- Will it show up when you click on "Network" as a file sharing server?
As if it were a network file server....

- How are the speeds with this connected directly to a computer using a 10/100 Ethernet Cable?
That depends on how fast the embedded processor inside can throw stuff out the network jack... but don't expect more than 10MByte/sec.

- If I were to connect all three, I would want to connect them to my airport extreme, which only has one ethernet port. What would be the easiest and most effective way to do this?
Just grab a <your favorite brand> 10/100 switch and plug it into the LAN port on the Airport Extreme, then plug each of the NAS units into the switch.

- Are there any other great advantages to this and disadvantages to this method of storage that I am missing?
That type of unit is usually expensive compared to your average firewire enclosure.

You won't get anything close to 100Mbit speeds through an Airport Extreme, but that much is probably obvious. Also, your wireless bandwidth will be slashed if you try to access multiple disks and/or use multiple client computers simultaneously. If you want reasonable transfer speeds, then you must use the wire.

Also, bear in mind that 100Mbit ethernet can't carry the data at the same rate that a Firewire/USB2 connected local disk could. Typically, getting close to 10MByte/sec over 100Mbit ethernet is considered good, whereas with a "direct attached" disk you might see 30+ MByte read/write speeds.

The only advantage I can see is that different machines can access the data on them without the disks having to be unplugged and moved.
     
Mithras
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Jan 25, 2005, 10:35 AM
 
power142 pretty much covered it. These things often have a tiny RISC Linux computer, or (more likely for this one) a simple OS in firmware. Their main advantage is simplicity -- you want more storage, just buy another one and plug it into your switch.

I would try to do a little research on the stability of the model before taking the plunge -- a good NAS box you never have to think about, while a bad one you spend all day rebooting.
     
-Q-
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Jan 25, 2005, 11:08 AM
 
Originally posted by Mithras:
I would try to do a little research on the stability of the model before taking the plunge -- a good NAS box you never have to think about, while a bad one you spend all day rebooting.
That is excellent advice. I made the mistake of jumping in and grabbing a Linksys network storage box and it's the biggest POS I've ever purchased. The thing is just not reliable. It constantly needs to be rebooted every day or so. And I really don't know why. I just use it for backing up the machines on my network and to store my music library.

So definitely do some research for plunking down the cash...
     
iDriveX  (op)
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Jan 26, 2005, 01:38 AM
 
Since you can mount FireWire Drives over a network connection (as long as file sharing is enabled on the host computer and you have a user account on said computer), I don't really see the benefit of having one of these devices. In almost every instance for a home user with two computers, it seems more appropriate to have firewire drives connected to the most used computer.

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-Q-
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Jan 26, 2005, 10:13 AM
 
Originally posted by iDriveX:
Since you can mount FireWire Drives over a network connection (as long as file sharing is enabled on the host computer and you have a user account on said computer), I don't really see the benefit of having one of these devices. In almost every instance for a home user with two computers, it seems more appropriate to have firewire drives connected to the most used computer.
Oh, I completely disagree.

It's true that in many instances, the scenario you outlined will work. However, as soon as you add a mixed OS network, that doesn't work extremely well. Mounting a firewire drive over a network on a windows or linux machine is flaky at best. I must have spent the better part of a weekend trying to get my FW drive to appear as a network drive on my wife's XP box. The network storage device, even tho' it has proven unreliable, was a far simpler set up that doing the whole share/user/pass system (for me, at least).

It also offers the option of being always available, where as I do turn my computers off on occasion. Power consumption is also less than having a computer on, and having just moved into a new house, I try and keep my electric bill low.

So while it's not the perfect solution for everyone, it definitely has it's benefit.
     
iDriveX  (op)
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Jan 26, 2005, 04:39 PM
 
Here's my situation, make a recommendation:

I have two computers, a G4 Cube and a PowerBook. I use the cube for everything. I use the PowerBook for surfing the web in bed and on the couch and some mild iChat. I have started to run out of room on the Cube. I currently have one FireWire drive that serves as a Backup Drive, and Digital Software Archive. I am mainly running out of room because my media on my cube is just getting too big and the software archive is getting too large on the FireWire drive. SO I was thinking of buying two additional drives and splitting them up like this:

FireWire 1: Media
FireWire 2: Backup
FireWire 3: Software Archive

Daisy chain them all and connect them to the Cube. I rarely connect to the drives on my PowerBook, only when I need to install software on the PowerBook I connect to the Software Archive. Your recommendation??

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PLin
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Jan 28, 2005, 06:39 PM
 
NAS drives are useful, because you don't have to leave a computer running just to serve files. Also, using a computer as a server can tie up some system resources.

However, almost all of the affordable NAS drives on the market only have 10/100 Ethernet controllers, which signicantly limits transfer rates compared to a direct Firewire connection.

Different network drives support different protocols, FTP, SMB, AFP, etc. Ximeta makes NDAS (Network Direct Attached Storage) drives that require installing drivers on each computer that accesses the drives. I'm not sure if this results in more or less overhead than using the standard networking protocols. I have a Ximeta NetDisk, and it's a very slick piece of hardware, but 100Mbps is too slow for transferring files larger than 1GB. Luckily, there's also a USB 2.0 port when you need faster transfer rates.

A semi-affordable NDAS Gigabit drive was recently announced and looks very interesting. The page is in Japanese, but you can tell by the speed chart that it's just about as fast as Firewire 800.

http://buffalo.melcoinc.co.jp/produc...004/077_1.html

I'm definitely going to consider purchasing it when it's available in the US. I have Gigabit ethernet jacks in almost every room in the house. I would love to be able to transfer files at these speeds using my PowerBook regardless of what room I'm in.
     
power142
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Jan 28, 2005, 07:50 PM
 
Alternatively, get a gigabit-equipped G4 (one of the quieter ones) and let it handle it. You'll have space for 4 drives internally, and if you need more you can then think about firewire.

As for network interfaces, you can always add extra ones - I believe some of the D-Link cards work in a PowerMac without requiring a driver (the DFE-530TX/+ but only 10/100).

Those NAS units are mightily expensive for a given capacity and don't provide an upgrade path, whereas at least Panther Server (or Tiger Server) will make a good go of it
     
jgordon53
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Jan 30, 2005, 01:00 PM
 
I currently have the Linksys NAS and don't have any problems with it. I have connected a 200 GB (USB enclosed drive) as storage for a mixed network of my powermac g4 (digital audio) and my home built athlon 2500+ pc. It is slow as everyone mentioned! I did notice that when I copy files from my mac to the nas there is a limitation for the file to be 2 GB or less in size. This makes it a pain to use for backing up anything from my mac. I have no such limitation on the pc side. I am wondering if I need to investigate some settings on my powermac to fix that? Anyone have an idea? Thanks! PS: I am a switcher from the evil side, so my knowledge of the powermac is not very good.
     
mintcake
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Feb 12, 2005, 06:01 PM
 
I just got one of these. I got it thinking I'd be able to hotswap my various drives in USB2 enclosures, but in fact it won't let you do this - I think the sales literature should be a bit clearer on this. Any drive you use with it has to be reformatted and can only be used with the NSLU2.

It was also a pain to set up - the configuration program that ships with it is Windows only, natch (the manual even saying the NSLU2 can only be used with Windows - idiots). You have to use the browser configuration utility, which is fine unless like me you forgot to turn Airport off before trying to access it via ethernet. OK, once I'd worked that out I had to switch on DHCP and then I could get to it via my Airport network. Then it mounted via SMB.

Speed seems unremarkable - 2 gigs transferred in 20 minutes, whatever that translates as. I suppose the ethernet link to the Airport Extreme basestation is the bottleneck. Seeing as I got this thing to set up a wireless media server, playback is the crucial thing, and playback with VLC is unusable, though that may apparently be resolved with Tiger (see this thread. Quicktime playback is much better, but still slightly jerky.

If I'd known about the other NAS solutions which would let me use my Mac formatted drives then obviously that would have been preferable (and cheaper). Does anyone know if that Argosy IDE-RJ45 enclosure is available in Canada? If so then I'll go with that and take this Linksys POS (TM) back.
     
Simon
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Feb 12, 2005, 07:22 PM
 
Originally posted by power142:
As if it were a network file server....
What protocol does the embedded CPU/OS use to server the data? AFS? NFS? SMB?

Is there any NAS that supports AFP?

Just grab a <your favorite brand> 10/100 switch and plug it into the LAN port on the Airport Extreme, then plug each of the NAS units into the switch.
Why did you say switch here? Would a hub work too? Or are you worried about collisions on a hub and expect a switch to deliver better performance?
     
power142
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Feb 12, 2005, 08:56 PM
 
Originally posted by Simon:
What protocol does the embedded CPU/OS use to server the data? AFS? NFS? SMB?

Is there any NAS that supports AFP?
Those units often use a PPC chip with an embedded Linux, but not always.

There are several that support AFP, but you should double check for a given unit you are interested in.

Why did you say switch here? Would a hub work too? Or are you worried about collisions on a hub and expect a switch to deliver better performance?
A hub would work too, but with a switch you get dedicated 100Mbit between any two given ports, whereas a hub can only handle 100Mbit combined. This can be noticeable if you have multiple (more than 2) computers communicating with each other, so if you're going to have desktop computers and wireless computers connected (via airport) to the hub/switch, you're much better off with a switch. The price difference is negligible these days.
     
Simon
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Feb 13, 2005, 04:20 AM
 
power142, thanks for that information.
     
power142
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Feb 15, 2005, 02:07 PM
 
You're welcome!
     
   
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