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For those who have no idea what NAS is I'll give you a brief rundown (this is all from scanning a bunch of product reviews so excuse me if there's more). They are small profile file servers (although some seem to be able to do more) with one or more IDE drives in them which are pre-configured for a network. You plug the unit into your LAN with an Ethernet cable, they get their own IP, and presto instant file server. Some even have software RAID built in. The NAS units I was looking at seem to run some sort of Linux/Samba configuration. You configure them via a browser so they are supposed to work with any type of network; *nix, Win, Mac.
First of all I was wondering whether these were worth it. The smaller 250-500GB models seem to be less than $1000 US.
Next, I was wondering how tough it would be to throw something like this together from scratch. I'm not a Linux buff, so the pre-configured aspect of this was appealing.
Finally, are there any units or setups out there that you would recommend?
There are other options as well, something along the lines of FreeSBIE [freesbie.org], or Knoppix [knoppix.org], which allow you to boot from CD, and have a bunch of apps and servers ready to run. I know FreeSBIE is customizable, so Knoppix may be as well, so you could strip out everything that you didn't need, and just have a system that run NFS,Samba,etc etc.
The reason I suggest a bootable Live-CD, is so that you don't depend on the OS being on one of your disks, and taking up space, etc. Just a basic, bare-bones OS, with no OS data on the drives.
You might also want to check this out:
Linksys Network Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives [linksys.com]. It looks like a neat product, and may be worth looking into!
I saw that Linksys unit discussed in a few places. Some people complained that the unit would lose connectivity from the network and that they were having trouble with it. Regardless, that is one type of entry level NAS that sounded like it might have promise down the road.
With home and small office storage needs ever increasing I'm surprised that this type of device isn't more sought after by the consulting types.