I’ve been wrestling with our data storage issue for a few years. It always ends up that all of our pictures, videos, music is scattered across various computers throughout our house. And if any one of the PCs or hard drives quit on us, we’re going to never see some of those files again.
Tenille and I have always discussed that if the house ever burnt down, we’d most regret losing our pictures and videos. Almost everything else, we can just buy again (assuming our family escaped the blaze safely also.)
During my paternity, I finally addressed the issue. Warning: This blog is a bit nerdy, but I thought it might help others who have the same problem and may find this useful.
I took an old Dell (probably not even ebay-able at this point) and converted it into a NAS (network attached storage) unit. I created a LiveCD of FreeNAS which is software that turns your PC into a NAS. A NAS is basically like a hard drive that is plugged into your network. The advantage is that multiple PCs can access it. The disadvantage is that it can be slow depending on your networking.
A LiveCD is a CD image that you burn to a CD. You just have to pop this CD into your CD ROM and reboot your machine, and voila! – Your PC has turned into a NAS unit. There are other LiveCDs for various distributions of Linux, if you want to try out Linux without installing it on your hard drives. One of my favorites is Slax. If you’re just browsing the Internet, the performance is incredible! One great advantage of a LiveCD is that if you don’t like it, just pop it out of the CD ROM, and your computer is back to the way it was as if nothing ever happened.
I did purchase 2 250GB Hard drives which I have configured with RAID 1 which means that they are mirrored. (FreeNAS support software RAID.) If a single hard drives fail (and hard drives will fail eventually), the other hard drive still has all the information. I just have to replace the failed hard drive, and we’re good to go. We will also implement a quarterly DVD backup plan and leave copies down at my parents. Otherwise, if the house burns down, we still lose all our data.
I also purchased a cheap D-link gigabit switch and gigabit ethernet adapters to spice up the performance. The most important thing for me is that I want to make sure I can watch video from all of my PCs. It seems like 100 MB/sec (which is probably what most PCs come equipped with today) is fast enough for watching video, but the gigabit is nice for transferring LARGE amounts of data. I watched Curious George with Caleb today as a test run. Looks great!
Now, all our media files are accessible by all our PCs. They are mirrored on redundant hard drives and get backed up regularly. The performance is decent. Some people like to do construction projects around the house on their time off… I’d best stick to playing with hard drives lest I injure myself.
Let me know how the gigabit switch works. Do you have all the machines wired or are you primarily wireless? My NAS is good but due to the lack of speed in my wireless network it is not really living up to my dreams of having a central media storage. Can\’t really just browse the photos on the NAS.