Replacing a Linux Server in the Basement with a NAS Box

I've got a five year old Linux server in the basement at the Home Office. It was state-of-the-art before 9/11:

  • Built by one of the biggest Linux-hardware companies of the early days: VALinux (now called VA Software).
  • Big disk capacity: 72 Gigabytes of SCSI-based hardware RAID. That was great five years ago.
  • 2U case

A copy of every disk file that Kathleen, Jimmy, and I can't afford to lose is stored there. This machine is probably way past its MTBF on a number of components, so I need to consider my options and figure out my budget.

The thought occurred to me to rebuild the server to 2006 standards by buying individual components and integrating them on the basement workbench. This would mean I would build another 2U server, probably with SATA RAID this time. That's an option I'm willing to consider for certain applications, but it's probably not a good idea for the file vault.

A better option is a 1-Terabyte Network Attached Storage appliance like the Infrant ReadyNAS RN600-1000. You can have about 630 Gigabytes of RAID 5 storage up and running with one of these servers in practically no time. The price is also reasonable, considering you are getting four 250 GB Seagate SATA drives in a well-designed enclosure with gigabit Ethernet with large data frame support, and some pretty intelligent NAS software.

Some of the comments on the ReadyNAS RN600-1000 at Amazon.com are worth reading also:

  • From Philip Greenspun of Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing: "... It took about fifteen minutes to plug in and set up the Infrant. My Windows XP desktop machine automatically recognized the newly available shared folders served by the Infrant. The Infrant is very quiet (Net wisdom is that this is quieter than the competitive Buffalo NAS), producing about 10 percent as much noise as the desktop PC, which was custom-assembled supposedly as a 'silent PC'.

    "I use the Infrant as the core of a whole-house music system. When the Windows machine needs to be rebooted or is suffering a 100 percent CPU load doing photo processing the Sonos music boxes just pull the MP3 files directly from the Infrant...."

  • Another person commented: "Unlike a lot of the low-end NAS boxes, this one is designed and supported in the USA and it shows. The designed-in-Asia NAS boxes have much more cryptic interfaces, less elegant firmware, fewer features and marginal documentation."

A 600 GB file vault ought to do fine for our house for at least five more years. I think we could do a lot worse than to buy either the Infrant ReadyNAS RN600-1000 or the Buffalo HD-H1.OTGL/R5 TeraStation. Hopefully I'll find the money to make this purchase in the next month or so.

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