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1st Published, Dec. 2004

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Network Attached Storage (NAS) for Home/SOHO Networks.

A basic Home/SOHO Network can be made much more flexible by adding a stand alone central Storage system that is Independent of any specific computer.

Currently most of dedicate one computer to be the Server and we share this computer's Hard Drive with all other computers in the Network.

Doing so means a loaded computer always running with Licensed. OS, and all the cost and the noise that goes into it.

In contrast NAS consists on small Interface box with a Hard drive (In the box. or attached to it), that can be directly connected to the Network (it is plugged with CAT5e cable to any available port on a central unit like the Cable/DSL Router, or any other switch).

NAS drives usually have an embedded ftp server and it can be used to exchange files with any computer on the network.  Since it is a regular ftp server it can be connected to through the Internet as well.

With the correct setting and security, you can access this server from any Internet connection in the world. You do not need to leave any Computer On. Just the Internet Modem, Router, and the little quiet NAS box that takes about 20w of electricity.

Currently there are three Entry Level NAS Offering available. 

1. Buffalo Tech offers a NAS line with the Hard Drive already in, and it can be daisy chained with additional Drives for more storage

Link to:  LinkStation.

Linksys Market a standalone NAS that needs an External USB2 Drive attached to it.

Link to: NSLU-2 

3. D-Link Market a standalone NAS that needs an External USB2 Drive attached to it.

Link to: DNS-120

4.  Hawking Model HNAS1 provides a solution that is somewhat different then the others. For under $100 (as low as $80 Mar. 2005) you get a NAS that can accommodate a single Internal IDE Drive inside the unit box. You have to open the unit and install your own 3.5” Internal IDE Drive up to 250GB. The HNAS1 includes ftp and SAMBA Servers.

Link to: HNAS1

All of the Hardware above include embedded Ftp and work well.

There might be differences in prices and the way the menus interface are set, log to the above links get the data  and decide for yourself what is to your liking.

Once the NAS is connected to the Network an IP is assigned to it and the configuration is done similarly to the way we configure Cable/DSL Routers, by logging to the NAS' menu using an Internet browser addressed to the NAS’ IP.

 The caveat.  

All of the current Entry level NAS’ are based on Linux firmware and thus the NAS Hard Drives might have formatting related issues with Windows.

The Buffalo comes with the Drive inside ready for action (in Linux Format).

The Linksys will automatically Format the attached drives to Linux (make sure that there is No needed files on the Drives, they will get lost in the formatting process).

The Hawking has a utility that would format the drive to Linux EXT3 after the initial installation.

The D-Link would work with a FAT32 drive that is already Windows formatted and ready for action.  It would Not work with a Drive formatted in NTFS.

Take the above into consideration that your Network's security might be format related and it would not apply to the NAS Drives. The NAS system offers its own security settings.

No matter what is the format there is No problem to communicate with Windows Network since Ethernet is universal, so the Drives work well with any Windows Networked computer.

Even though the drives are in a mobile USB Enclosure, given the formatting, and or the propriety security settings, the Drives must stay as dedicated drives on the NAS and can not be used for any thing else.

The D-Link NAS can be found for about $75, and at the moment looks like the preferred inexpensive solution for Entry Level NAS unit.

USB2 Enclosures average $30.  300GB hard drives can be found on sales for about $100 (Nov. 2005).

So a nice Standalone 300GB NAS could be assembled for less than $200

Or 600GB NAS for under $300

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