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Old 07-03-2006, 11:21 AM   #1
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NAS or DIY File Server. Your thoughts

I am not sure if this topic is best suited here, if it is not feel free to move to a more appropriated forum.

I was wondering if i could pick the brains of more experienced inividuals to provide me with a more suited solution.
I have run gentoo for a couple of years now, but please treat me as a beginner. Although i may use it as more desktop OS it does'nt mean i know what i am doing.

I want to setup a network between a PC computer and a laptop. I have the age old problem of not being able to keep track of what files are more upto date than others as i work on multiple machines and copy a file locally and work on it. Obviously this causes multiple copies of files, each with subtle differences.

The solution:

This is were i would like your help.
In order to have a better setup i have decided its time to have a third unit in the middle of my computers to serve me with all of my and my families files.
The problem i have is i cant decide whether a purpose built NAS (Network attached storage) box is the way to go, or to build a file server.

At first i wanted to build a file server based on VIA's nano-itx form factor. A single disk setup that was as small as i could get.
It means that i can set it up hpw i would like, on a filesystem of my choosing and would be future proof for a very long time as all i would need todo is slam in a bigger HDD when the occasion requires it.

The issue i have with that is; although this seems like a great idea i can't help thinking its alot of wasted hardware, cpu cycles etc, for its purpose. Overkill if you will.
Obviously i could build a server from very old parts and save money but:
1. If i have another computer it has to be very small, space is extremely limited.
2. It needs to draw as little power as is possible as i plan to live in a house running entirely of solar panels in the near future.

So i decided to look at NAS. Most of the solutions i have looked at, limit you to certain filesystems, or HDD space, or the user restrictions are not strict enough.

The requirements:
1. As i have a laptop i intend to retrieve file remotely at times, so security is of paramount importance. Cant be over cautious. Mac address restrictions etc.
2. Very strict file user privileges. Read only, write etc.
3. Print server
4. Very quiet.
5. Support multiple OS, Windows, linux.
6. The ability to plug in a external usb HDD for file backup. (I decide i will back up this way so i only have to run one drive all the time and secondly i can unplug the backup device and put it in the cupboard.
7. 500GB storage. I need this storage for general files and for raw video capture.
8. Disk quota setup.

So really i need your help in deciding which is the better way togo. I need to make a decision soon and get on with it because once the storage is setup i can then put gentoo on my laptop and get on with some work.
Maybe you have had experiences with a similar issue.

Also your thoughts on the following would be greatly appreciated.
Having the "/" on the file server. So all computers store all their files on the own user/disk quota on the file server.
How would the above work if i wanted to use my laptop away from home without a net connection
Filesystems: NFS ? smbFS or what about sshFS (Secure shell filesystem) ??
Hard drive encryption.

I know i am asking alot of questions but any pointer are greatly recieved.

Thanks again
Take Care
Old 07-05-2006, 12:12 AM   #2
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Laptop file server

Perhaps you could turn the laptop into a file server. That way you can mount the desktop's /home/me from a network connection.

Rsync is pretty cool, and definately efficient. You could rsync with a usb drive, or even just mount that as /home/me. I'd bet you could even come up with some crazy overlay stuff to make sure that your configuration is different on both machines, but the data is the same.

Maybe you could combine the two approaches above. After you use the laptop, plug in the usb drive and rsync from laptop to drive (more efficient than network). Mount (or overlay) the drive as /home/me on the desktop. After you use the desktop, just rsync from drive to laptop.

I would be interested to see if Subversion could be used for this type of thing. Technically it's not just for source code, and I think it's perhaps underused for other types of data.

Whatever you do, it will largely depend on your habits.
Old 07-05-2006, 12:43 AM   #3
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A simple solution would eb to use Samba for general file serving (it does what you are asking about above - not sure about quotas though), and you could use ftp for remote access and work the necessary security around that.

Don't know about synching you laptop, but if you do all your stuff on the server you could just copy up before you go, and down when you get back.

Does the laptop run linux or windows - if linux you could write a synching script - I don't know about whether or not windows can synch these sorts of things.
Old 07-05-2006, 10:53 AM   #4
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Firstly thanks for everyone thought on this.

As i say, i am in new waters with this, so getting my head around it all will take to reading and re-reading.

For reference though, i intend to run a nano-itx system with a SATA drive. I have taken serious consideration to you suggestion of a multidisk setup, but i would like the smallest unit possible. It also means that noise and power usage wont be an issue. I know they dont draw much but i intend on living in a house that runs purely on solar panels in the near future.

I also intend to run the OS off a Compact Flash Card / Secure Digital car or something similar, with the "/" directory on a 500 / 750 HDD.
Then i suppose that i setup up my users from there ie "/home/user1" and "/home/user2" then i suppose its the job of the laptop OS to look at the file server for its files.

Hmmm...there is still lots to think about, but i will keep this one brief for now and will reply again soon.

The laptop itself (i am hopeing) will run Gentoo linux. The computer will run a flavour of Windows (sorry but its not mine, i have to, lol)

Thanks again, and take care.
Old 07-06-2006, 08:13 AM   #5
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What ever you get, it will have an OS and CPU. Just because it is a black box and you don't have access to it, does not mean it's not there.

I'd go down the build it myself path. But that's me.

If money is less of a factor than low power, you should be able to set up a low power CPU and have all disks spin down after a short period of no use. The real low power CPU's can be cooled by a heat sink, rather than a fan.

Then you can build your own NAS, SAN or straight file share.

Much more fun than buying a black box.

Old 07-06-2006, 08:38 AM   #6
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A small 100GB laptop usb drive would probably be the lowest power solution. You could have it plugged into either host and share it.
Old 07-31-2006, 12:09 PM   #7
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Have a look at the linksys NSLU2. Nas that you attach usb dirves too. Very low power and runs on linux.($90 last I looked w/o drives)



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