I record lots of personal HD film footage and am looking for a cheap way to store all of this. I take ~120 GB of footage each month, so something expandable would be nice... something that might be able to hold 6+ SATA drives.

There is a low load requirement, as there is never more than a user or two... but it should be able to keep up with streaming 2 simultanious HD videos.

I don't really want to spend more than $200-$300 on top of the $900 I am thinking of spending for 6X2TB SATA drives@ $150 apiece, but I am willing to pay extra for a quality solution.

Should I get a cheap NAS server? a cheap multi-drive external enclosure? should I just get some used systems off craigslist? If it is an independent system I'll probably just throw ubuntu on it since I can maintain that well. Its easy to do a software raid from ubuntu too, if I choose to go that way.


  • 1
    Don't forget to contemplate disk mirroring requirements.
    – pcapademic
    Mar 15, 2010 at 21:46

6 Answers 6


Build a new computer. Your budget is too low for specialized hardware which is often overpriced because of its "speciality" and all it does is being computer with few features.


Buy a Drobo. It's cheaper than a new computer (of any decent quality), smaller, quieter, and does a better job of storing an expanding dataset reliably (single-drive failures are no problem).

You can expand them without losing any data, and even while the volume is still online and being accessed (it just slows down a bit during the upsizing).

I've owned one for quite some time now, and they're the shiznit.

Zero maintenance, just replace drives if and as they fail over time. No patching, no vulnerabilities, no headaches. It does what it does better than any computer can, and you can start out with smaller drives now and replace them as you need to grow, keeping your cash outlay smaller up front.

Update re building a base-level PC and doing the RAID yourself: By the time you buy all the parts to make a machine of decent reliability (you do care about your data, right?), how much will you have spent? How much is your time worth to mess around with the hardware and with Linux to get everything set up and configured -- plus the hassle to keep Linux patched as time goes on?

The base-model Drobo (four drive bays, USB 2.0, FireWire 800) is $399:


You can even buy them preloaded with drives, which may or may not make sense for your application.

That's not much of a premium over rolling your own, and you won't get the sort of in-place upsizing the Drobo offers. There's even a $50 mail-in rebate until the end of March, making it $349.


  • 2
    Drobo's are awesome, but you are paying for a lot of their integration and design. I would say if you are comfortable installing Ubuntu or other linux distribution you should look at rolling your own solution. It will be significantly cheaper. There a number of high quality linux distributions geared towards use on these sorts of NAS that include browser accessible configuration pages to manager storage, permissions, users, etc. Mar 17, 2010 at 15:29
  • @user26453: I updated my answer to respond to your suggestion. What you suggest really doesn't make much sense.
    – Alex
    Mar 18, 2010 at 4:07

You could try looking into Windows Home Server, I think they has great expandability but it isn't free like ubuntu. I think its $99 but you can expand raids and drive sizes by just adding new hard drives into the mix.

  • You can also set up automatic Backups from your other windows machines. I have not used it but i have heard of its simplicity.
    – jburke
    Mar 11, 2010 at 21:49
  • Thanks for your suggestion, but I am mostly looking for hardware help. Ubuntu can actually expand raids as well.
    – Jarvin
    Mar 12, 2010 at 0:13
  • Windows Home Server does not support RAID
    – MDMarra
    Mar 12, 2010 at 0:14
  • 1
    You can use hardware raid, the windows has a raid-like feature, as far as software.
    – jburke
    Mar 12, 2010 at 18:28
  • You can use hardware RAId, but that's not what your answer says. Your answer says use WHS because it's easy to expand RAID volumes, which is wrong. WHS has share duplication which makes a second copy of the data to a different hard drive. If gives you the redundancy of RAID 1 without the read-performance gain.
    – MDMarra
    Mar 12, 2010 at 21:05

if its storage only, freenas might be worth looking at os wise. Hardwarewise, a decent desktop board these days has 6 sata ports + 1-2 ide- you could get away with a budget processor (even maybe something celery based).I wouldn't suggest getting used hardware - its gonna be a pain if something drops dead- other than the case. older cases are better made ;p

  • Many recommendations through superuser for FreeNAS.
    – pcapademic
    Mar 15, 2010 at 21:45

Should I get a cheap NAS server?

Yes, however your budget is extremely difficult to work with. For the amount your looking for, you'll barely get a 2-drive NAS. Maybe 4 drive NASes are available if you look hard enough, but I doubt the quality in that price range.

I don't really want to spend more than $200-$300 on top of the $900 I am thinking of spending for 6X2GB SATA drives@ $150 apiece, but I am willing to pay extra for a quality solution.

As far as I know.. there's no real vendor that sells a 6-bay solution for $300. There are real quality solutions out there, but way above and beyond that $200-300 range. 6-8 bay solutions teeter from $800-$1600 depending on features, vendors and included disks.

a cheap multi-drive external enclosure?

This is possible with eSATA enclosures. I've never personally used them so I can't recommend one. Someone recommended Drobo and while they are pretty sweet and versatile (low end models), my complaint with their 4-disk model is that it doesn't include 100/1000 ethernet (to my knowledge). Redundancy is great, but speed does become an issue with data storage (especially HD stuff) so unless you have firewire, I'd say Drobo isn't worth it without some access speed like gigabit or USB 3.0.

should I just get some used systems off craigslist?

No. Don't bother. Cheap is cheap and I wouldn't chance spending $200-$300 on something that may break down without a warranty, receipt or anything of substance.

If it is an independent system I'll probably just throw ubuntu on it since I can maintain that well. Its easy to do a software raid from ubuntu too, if I choose to go that way.

If you have a big enough case (something with at least 3 5.25" external bays) you might want to look into a disk enclosure like Supermicro's CSE-M35T-1B (black version; there's an off white one available too). It houses 5 SATA disks and add a good RAID card, you have your own little NAS-ish storage. Granted, this enclosure is meant for one of Supermicro's Workstation/Server chassis, for the price ranging from $95-$150 (depending on vendors) it's a nice workaround (assuming you have a computer for it). I bought one on eBay and with the bing discount, I managed to get one for just around $88. I'm still setting it up so I can't say how good/bad it is, but it might just be the workaround you're looking for.


Just wanted to reiterate the Drobo answer - I say it doesn't get any easier for the flexibility it offers.

Also, they are much cheaper than $399 on Amazon now. You're looking at $329.99 base price, with a $50 rebate after that - so $279.99 total @ Amazon. I don't know whether to be happy about the price, or worried that a new model is on the way ;)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.