I have just started to do research on this a week ago, before that I didn't even know what a NAS was, so please bear with me.

TL;DR I want to set up shared storage for a family to have all data in one place and easily accessible (We are currently filling up cheap 2 TB external Hard Drives you never find when looking for them with Photos and Videos from tons of holidays, invoices, documents,... you name it). And yes, I want to do it all myself because I want to have my data under my control.

I have done a lot of research around RAID and Redundancy, I'm currently leaning towards a RAID 5 Setup. I have read about 4 similar Questions to mine here on Super User and seen a sizeable amount of recommendations towards ReadyNAS over Drobo all the way to building your own PC. Which device I choose in the end will probably be way too broad of a question (although I'd appreciate any help I can get on that front too).

What I wanted to ask was how to handle scalability and remote access. Even though I might not need it I would really want to have the ability to slide in a new Drive whenever the need arises instead of having to buy a whole new Case, Controller, whatever. Do things like ReadyNAS or Drobo (for example) come with RAID Controllers or do I have to buy a Windows Server for Controlling that?

And how would I be able to remotely (Even from outside my LAN Network) get access to that storage? Would I need to buy an entire Server - Firewall Appliance - Static IP Package for that as well or is there an easier way to do that? Is it generally a dumb idea to run this over a Home Router with Dynamic IPs?

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide me with.

  • 1
    I wouldn't go with RAID5 in any its incarnations neither hardware nor software(Try to search internet why don't use it in 21 century, shortly it is a PITA when one HDD get failed, it will took days to sync new drive and slowdown performance a lot ). I suggest you to take a look at xigmanas that has previous name nas4free and even originally called freenas. It supports imho most advanced filesystem ZFS. Go with mirror raid, hdd are cheap but it will give you speed and a good sleep. – Alex Aug 25 '18 at 21:43
  • You don't need static ip, DDNS would be sufficient. – Alex Aug 25 '18 at 21:44

There are a bunch of things to talk about here.

First thing's first. Size. You need to take a look at how much data you have and how much its grown. Based on that, you need to estimate how much it will grow in the future. You need to know this information, as it will determine the hardware you need now and in the future. Without getting a good sense of this information, you might go with one solution and find it cannot sustain your data growth. Its always better to overestimate, than to underestimate. There is no point in buying a hardware NAS that supports only two 4GB drives, when you expect your data to reach more than 8GB.

Next is RAID. All RAID configurations, except RAID-0, provide redundancy. People often misunderstand this concept. Without getting technical, redundancy provides continued availability to data. This means, if a drive dies you can still read and write your data. Redundancy does not protect your data. If more than one drive dies, data gets overwritten, data gets corrupted, your data is gone. RAID is not a replacement for backups. If the data is important to you, you will make proper backups.

As for RAID controllers, you dont need to worry about that. NAS hardware will either come with either come with hardware RAID controllers built in, or the RAID will be done created by the server software.

There are a variety of NAS appliances out there. Higher end "prosumer" devices like Drobo work, but are often quite expensive. The more storage they can hold, often means the price can grow quite high. These higher end NAS appliances often use proprietary RAID technology that allows you to add disks to them after the array is created, which you cant do on standard RAID arrays. Obviously this has advantages, but locks you into their ecosystem. Hardware reliability is another issue. I dont know about Drobo's current hardware, but in the past there have been many complaints about them. The higher end devices often come with lots of additional features, which you may or may not use.

Lower end NAS appliances do exist, some of which do RAID, some are JBOD. Again, you need to look into their cost, reliability, and size limitations to see if they are right for you.

The real advantage of a hardware NAS appliance is size. They are incredibly compact. You also get support, but once the warranty expires, your mileage will vary.

I am a fan of building your own NAS. You can turn just about any PC into a NAS with little effort. Operating systems like FreeNAS are extremely robust and almost limitless in scalability. You can add internal or external storage to increase its pool. Some people find FreeNAS to be overkill. There are a variaty of free NAS operating systems. OpenMediaVault is one I highly recommend. Its lightweight and easy to set up.

I had an old PC that had room for a surprisingly large number of drives. I packed it full of 8 drives I had laying around and installed OpenMediaVault onto a flash drive which that PC boots from. This NAS system literally cost me nothing. While much larger than a Drobo, you cant beat the price.

As for remote access, thats easy. Many of the "prosumer" appliances give you access to your data through their websites. They dont copy the data, the appliance just connects to the website, therefore you dont have to set up any services on your own.

All the NAS software I have seen offer a variety of methods of access, such as web, FTP, ans streaming. Using dynamic DNS is perfect for these setups. Even ISP provided routers often have DDNS built into them now for home users.


First off, as per other comment don't use RAID5 - it's slow and does not protect well for large drives (with large being any modern hdd!). Consider RAID10 - which is fast and reliable - even with software RAID -at the cost of needing to increase drives 2 at a time and 50% overhead. Be aware that RAID is not backup and only deals with some types of failure.(eg won't help against theft or deletion )

Be careful that the drives you buy are designed for RAID - not all are, and it is important because of vibration and issues with retrying writes. WD RED drives are often used in NAS's

Remote access can be done using dynamic DNS or a VPN for your connection + port forwarding in your router. Beware that some connection types (like DSL) are much slower out outbound the inbound.

Using an Intel PC will provide greater speed, but if most of it is done remotely some kind of NAS will be OK as the bottleneck will be the Internet.

RAID controllers will help speed in some cases, but probably not worth the cost - unless you are doing RAID5 or RAID6. Software RAID means you are not reliant on a RAID card which can be a single point of failure.

Most NAS systems use a variant of Linux and Software RAID under the hood (and use ARM/cellphone type CPU's to save power and money) - this gives you a nice Interface, but FreeNAS can often do the same on a second hand PC. Of-course it costs a lot more to power a PC then a NAS.

If you are looking for advanced management, look at ZFS - but this is going to be more expensive (hardware wise) and have a steep learning curve. It's also very scalable and robust. It does offer low cost snapshots for point in time recovery.

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