The fast-increasing number of storage drives on my desk jump-started a quest for a networked storage device that could: replace three drives (in other words, have 1 terabyte of disk storage), be quiet, be fast for easy backups and recovery, act as a repository for my […]

The fast-increasing number of storage drives on my desk jump-started a quest for a networked storage device that could: replace three drives (in other words, have 1 terabyte of disk storage), be quiet, be fast for easy backups and recovery, act as a repository for my iTunes library and, of course, be setup easily. Oh, and it had to work out of the box with both Mac and Windows machines.

There are many drives that would fit the bill. Apple’s Time Capsule or Drobo, using the excellent Drobo Share attachment, seemed to be good candidates, but I ruled them out quickly: Drobo is excellent for backing up information, but its not as nimble when it comes to acting as a digital media server. Time Capsule is temperamental and a resource hog — sort of like an Alfa Romeo.

My pick is LinkStation Mini: it is fanless, quiet, tiny, and comes in two flavors: 500 GB and 1 Terabyte. It uses 2.5-inch hard drives, measures only 1.57 x 3.22 x 5.31 inches and weighs 1.1 pounds. It has two ports: an Ethernet port to connect to your network and a USB port to attach an additional drive (which I did, adding another G-Technology Mini drive.) It is relatively inexpensive: $500 a pop, give or take. The 500 GB version is less than half that price.

Setting it up was relatively easy: The accompanying CD has a software called NASnavigator that allows you to discover the drive and set it up. The setup on Mac proved to be much easier than for a PC. I have not used the software since the install: the drive automatically shows up in my Mac’s Finder and ThinkPad’s Network Drives. It also comes with Memeo software to backup your computers, but frankly it isn’t worth the trouble — it slowed down the computer drastically. I much prefer Apple’s Backup software.

The drive also allows you to access files remotely using a special web site, but I haven’t really bothered, because frankly all I wanted to do was backup my computer and playback music. I should try it out though. On Monday, the company will also announce that its LinkStation Mini’s Web Access is now available even using iPhone’s browser and allows you to remote access to any content stored on the drive. You can stream music and call up photos and files.

The drive has a built-in media server that allows you to stream any digital content — music, videos or photos — to any other DLNA player or a PC. It showed up on my iTunes as a “shared music” folder. On a ThinkPad X300 running Windows XP, the drive showed up automatically (thanks to the wonders of UPnP) and asked me if I wanted to stream music using Windows Media Player.

Bottom line: I’ve used it for nearly two weeks and not encountered any problems. I have to say, this just works. If you are in the market for a network drive, you might want to seriously consider this one.

Open question: Why network attached storage device do you like and why?

By Om Malik

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  1. huge dilemma. i’ve narrowed my choice to the higher end 3+ drive bays at raid 5/6 nases:

    raid 0/jbod: scares me silly. we’re talking terabytes here. imagine losing terabytes of information. your pictures, your video, your music.
    raid 1: 2 drives, half the space? nope.
    raid 5: n-1 space where n > 2. can lose up to 1 drive and the array lives.
    raid 6: n-2 space where n > 3. can lose up to 2 drives and the array lives.

    i further narrowed my choices to the thecus (thecus.com) 5200 series and drobo v2+droboshare (drobo.com).

    thecus: 5 bays, linux os w/great connectivity, and ability to run, well, anything really. its just a computer+storage (creating a web app for the content should be easy as cake). all raid options. value for money better than drobo.

    drobo: 4 bays, ok connectivity, some ability to run drobo apps. beyondraid(tm).. basically, you’re getting raid5 capabilities. v2 only, srsly.

    ended up choosing drobo. while thecus is more like what i would usually go for, i’ve had my share of raid rebuilds experience. i don’t want to spend days offline because of a rebuild. i want my storage to keep on running, and i want it expandable (again, without downtime).

    got it with 4x500gb drives as 500gb are best price/performance, and once terabyte drives prices fall further, i’ll just replace them, 2 at a time.

    another point worth mentioning – people might ask why spend the extra bucks on nas vs das. i’m using laptops pretty exclusively now, and been keeping 3 desktops online just for their storage. no more. i’ll probably make up for the price difference in a few months worth electricity bills.

  2. I have a “Fujitsu Storagebird LAN 2″ with 500 GB and it sucks balls. Really. The software is so buggy that the drive has to be reinstalled every 15 minutes, and this is not an exaggeration. While it only cost me 120 Euros, I still should have gone for something else. Damnit.

  3. Om, you may not have checked out the Time Capsule since 1.0. My 1TB critter purrs like an Egyptian cat. Has zero hiccups and backs up 3 computers.

    Oh, it only gets as loud as a kitten during the backup + I run the 80211.n at 5.0ghz and folk in our guesthouse get the strongest signal ever.

  4. I’ve been looking at home NASes for a while. i bought a WD and returned it when I realized how bad the remote access software was. I’m increasingly convinced that NAS doesn’t make sense for the home as it is always just one feature shy of perfect.

    I’m going back to a very small server (think Mac Mini but Linux based) and as many external drives as needed over time. That allows SMB, WebDAV, HTTP and even FTP access with no 3rd party web sites needed. Plenty of streaming media options though I think I’d still just use it for iTunes storage.

  5. I bought a ReadyNAS NV+ a couple years ago, and I couldn’t be happier. 2.1TB network attached RAID array. Gigabit Ethernet, streaming media, user shares for the family, accessible from anywhere. It was expensive, and the fan can be a little noisy, but other than that, it’s a great product.

  6. I’ve been looking for a NAS for a while – I want one that can run Slimserver easily and is on the cheap side (<$500) – but I have yet to find anything that matches my specifications.

  7. @Eideard

    I don’t think it is the noise issue. It is more of a performance issue and it bogs down everything from the computer to the network. at this point, it is not something I use actively.

  8. @Tom Sella

    For me, I think it boils down to two things – ease of access and if I can use to read-files off the drive quickly. If not, the drive has failed from my perspective.

  9. I use an old little server with SW raid. So even if the hole machine gives up, power, motherboard, one drive, I just pop the remaining drives into another machine and recover. And for really bad luck I backup really important stuff to another machine and DVDs at night.
    The machine also runs an adoptable firewall, maintains firewall via RDBMS automatically.
    RDBMS also provides CALDAV.
    LDAP, SIMAP, DNS in house and cache, drives for the few MS machines we got, Phone access.
    Web server, WebDav.
    Backup for kid TiVo shows.
    Thinking about it I just add stuff without really worrying about it. Other then updating DNS SW lately.
    But I have to admit it’s noisy, want it in a room isolated from the rest of the house.

  10. [...] August 25th, 2008 (8:00am) Mike Gunderloy No Comments At our parent blog GigaOM, Om Malik is tackling a question that will be familiar to most independent web workers: what’s the best way to add a bunch of bulk storage to your network, beyond just putting a larger drive in your computer? After considering his own needs, Om pronounces the Buffalo Linkstation Mini “almost perfect.” [...]


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