Best file storage for multiple computers

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Old 08-10-20, 06:49 AM
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Best file storage for multiple computers

Believe it or not, up until about a year ago, we only had one desktop for the family. My wife and I each have our own files under our profiles and then I created some shared folders on the 4 TB drive of all the pictures and videos we have. We also have an Office 365 subscription with the 1 TB of storage so the files in our profiles are synced to that. When we got a laptop, we just synced the stuff on One Drive from our profiles and that works fine, but there is no room to store all of the pictures on the laptop. Anyways, we are probably going to have to get another laptop here soon for the kids for school so I am just trying to figure out the best storage solution moving forward. Right now, I share the large drive on the desktop so we can access pictures and stuff on the laptop, but is that the most efficient solution? Would having a NAS be faster? Or just keep using One Drive or similar? What about for the larger amounts of files?
 
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Old 08-10-20, 10:33 AM
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Unless you have fiber optic internet with gigabit bandwidth (up & down), a NAS should be faster than using a cloud-based storage solution. My internet is 100Mbps cable, however that is the download speed, the upload speed is only 10Mbps. If you have a gigabit LAN network at home, your connection speed to the NAS would be (theoretically) 1 Gbps, which would yield a realistic speed of 100MBps, which is in the range of what the hard drive can do. You should get similar speeds with your desktop computer with external HD as with a NAS. The advantage is that the NAS should be significantly more energy efficient.
 
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Old 08-10-20, 12:12 PM
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I like a nas ( or 2). I have a wd mybookduo and added a synology ds218+ for a plex server, camera nvr and extra storage.
 
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Old 08-11-20, 08:43 AM
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Unless you have fiber optic internet with gigabit bandwidth (up & down), a NAS should be faster than using a cloud-based storage solution. My internet is 100Mbps cable, however that is the download speed, the upload speed is only 10Mbps. If you have a gigabit LAN network at home, your connection speed to the NAS would be (theoretically) 1 Gbps, which would yield a realistic speed of 100MBps, which is in the range of what the hard drive can do. You should get similar speeds with your desktop computer with external HD as with a NAS. The advantage is that the NAS should be significantly more energy efficient.
Actually, that is what I meant to ask. Is having NAS going to be faster, slower, or the same as sharing my desktop? It looks like you answered the question, that it will be the same, but how about on the actual desktop? I have a SSD on it for Windows and for the programs, but all of the files are just stored on a regular 7200 RPM HD. If I stored everything on NAS instead of on the desktop, will file access from the desktop be slower than if I just have the HD in the desktop? The desktop is wired to the network so wireless speeds won't factor in.
 
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Old 08-11-20, 10:40 AM
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Comparing speed between an internal 7200 RPM HD and a NAS, the internal HD will be slightly faster. However, unless you're very focused on speed, I don't think you'll notice much difference in real world operation. I think you'll find the NAS will be significantly faster than reading/saving files from cloud storage.
 
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Old 08-11-20, 10:44 AM
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For local network storage, there are definitely some good NAS devices out there.

I know some here will vehemently disagree, but I think some cloud providers offer some perfect solutions for that type of storage. Whether it's Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or another, they are inexpensive, easy to access, and reliable.

The biggest issue about managing your own NAS or shared drive is ensuring you have good backups. How many computer crashes, hard drive failures, or even natural disasters have caused the loss of data. If you go the NAS route, be sure to have some kind of backup process in place.
 
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Old 08-11-20, 11:28 AM
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Let me add a few points to make sure I understand everything:

I think I am treating media and other documents separately right now. Both my documents (non-photos and video) and my wife's are both stored on that SATA internal hard drive on the desktop and on the SSD of the laptop and synced to One Drive. We are talking less than 100 GB total so there is room to keep them on the local HDs and they sync up nice with each other if one makes changes on one device. That works fine so far, but the photos and video are the main concern. I don't want to store those only in the cloud because that probably would be a lot slower and I just like to have a local copy. There are way too many of them to store on both local hard drives so I am looking for the best place to access them from one location so there will only be one version. I guess they won't have to be synced if they are in one place. I can tell now when I open a picture, I hear the drive fire up and it takes a second to load so I know it is not that fast now. If I use a photo viewer like ACDsee, I think it stores thumbnails locally so at least those load quick. I also use an online back up (iDrive currently) to back up the drive on the desktop so I imagine that could be used to backup the NAS.

Anyways, with this current setup with the non media stuff, it also makes it accessible anywhere away from the home as well. If I go with the NAS route to store the media, will I be able to access those if I take the laptop out of the house? It is not feasible to store multiple TB of media on the laptop so what is the best way to access that when I am away from the house? Or is there away to like keep just the most recently accessed ones on your local machine so they load faster but don't take up a bunch of space? Would be nice to access them on my phone too if this solution solves that.
 

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  #8  
Old 08-11-20, 11:56 AM
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Most store-bought Network Attached Storage devices are just a Linux computer running firmware that's been optimized as a file server. And there are flavors of Linux made specifically for powering a NAS, so D-I-Y is an option, too. Load one of these Linuxes on old "retired" PC hardware and, badabing, you've got a NAS.

You might already have all the hardware you need for a bargain-basement NAS. Many WiFi routers have USB ports on them and all you've got to do is plug in an external hard drive (or even a thumb drive), enable the NAS function in the router's firmware, and you're in business.

In all cases, speed will be a matter of the particulars of the hardware involved and the answer to your question can be pretty complicated. For instance my NASs are not WiFi-capable but they do have gigiabit ethernet cards. My WiFi router has 802.11ac WiFi, which is potentially faster than gigabit ethernet so the choke point in the transfer speeds of these NASs is always going to be the ethernet cables connecting them to the network.

But I also have two USB external hard drives being hosted as (separate) online storage by my WiFi router. One of the USB ports is USB3 but the other is only USB2 so the transfers always are going to be slower from the HDD that's connected to the USB2 port.

And your router might not have gigabit ethernet ports. They might only be fast ethernet, which will be slower than the wireless on most a/c-band WiFi routers. In which case you won't get optimum speeds unless the transfer is conducted wirelessly end-to-end. Meaning both the NAS on the one end and the PC at the other would need to have WiFi network cards that are at least faster than gigabit speeds. A lot of routers have just one gigabit port and that's the one it uses to connect to your gateway device (the modem) and the LAN ports are all fast ethernet. In which case your router can receive data from the Internet faster than it can distribute it to your LAN on copper. If that's your case then it's possible that your cloud storage could be faster overall than the NAS on your LAN.

So what a NAS will do to your transfer speeds will depend on how well you've selected your NAS based on the particulars of your LAN. Like they say in drag racing, speed costs. How fast can you afford to be? You can make your LAN well faster than its Internet connection, but it probably will cost more than just plugging a USB HDD into your router.

One advantage of a NAS versus hosting files from your PC is up-time. NASs are made to be left switched on all the time so availability is very high. Your PC, OTOH, you might not want to leave switched on 24/7. Similarly, network storage hosted by your WiFi router should have very high availability. Plus, whenever someone is using your host PC while it's being accessed by another PC, you'll take a hit on both HDD performance and network speeds.

One down-side to using your WiFi router to host network storage is that the controls offered by a router in its web interface usually is more rudimentary, less sophisticated that those offered by a bespoke NAS. Sometimes you might want to protect particular files, make them read-only or out-and-out block access to them depending on who it is trying to access them. Or even based on the time of day. You're more likely to find that sort of sophisticated management functionality in a real NAS rather than a router hosting a USB HDD.

NASs also usually offer storage redundancy by means of RAID, which effectively convinces multiple hard drives that they're really one BIG hard drive. Which improves read/write performance because it can be reading or writing from all the HDDs in parallel at the same time. It also potentially gives you a single storage space larger than anything available from a single hard drive. And some RAID schemes feature redundancy. You might have four HDDs but you only have a resulting drive the size of three of them combined. You've lost one hard drive's worth of storage but in return you have data distributed across all four HDDs such that one hard drive can die and you won't lose any data. In some cases you can select how many hard drives are dedicated to redundancy so your NAS might have six hard drives and three would have to fail before you'd have data at risk.

I don't know to a certainty that there isn't a router made that offers RAID for its hosted hard drives but I haven't seen one. But HDDs produce a lot of heat so a NAS running multiple HDDs is going to run up your air conditioning bill. I have central heat and air but I run a window airconditioner 24/7/365 in what I call my "home office" primarily because of the two NASs that run eight HDDs between them. Then again, in the winter I block the HVAC registers in that room (so it doesn't get any central heat) and still might need to leave a window cracked.

Plus if you've gone to the trouble and expense of a NAS, IMHO you also really want to invest in a UPS. Because RAID arrays are vulnerable to corrupting data when they're subjected to "graceless" shutdowns. Just don't get the idea that the UPS is there so you can ride out the storm and not interrupt your work. The UPS is there so you can shut down the NAS gracefully before it exhausts its battery and risk losing data. Some NASs even have a USB connection so they can communicate with your UPS and shut themselves down gracefully when the batteries' charge has fallen to a certain (configurable) point.

I couldn't function without a NAS because I have a fetish for back-ups (and I'm a data packrat). My first rule of sysadmining is that data that only exists in one place is merely an illusion. It doesn't really exist until it has at least one back-up. And the convenience of having terabytes of storage perpetually available on my LAN makes keeping backups, even of enormous files, stupid-easy.
 
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Old 08-12-20, 09:16 AM
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Thank you for all of this information. I never thought of the router idea. I have an Asus RT-AC68 which is a 1900mbps router and it is 802.11ac. I didn't think of wireless being faster than wired but I guess 1900mbps is faster than 1 gig wired, however, isn't that the highest speed rating? I can't imagine getting a steady speed on wireless faster than gig, can you? Anyways, that router does have USB ports and I have a 2 TB Passport drive, but it is USB 2 so that will probably be slow.

As far as making my own, I do have an old PC, but it takes up a lot of room and won't that use a lot more power than NAS? I also didn't take the heat into consideration. I have my modem and router on a shelf under the stairs and was hoping to put a NAS or drive there as well. Is cooling something I need to consider with only 1 or 2 drives? RAID might be a good idea because right now in addition to using the online backup, I also used to backup to that external drive, but RAID would eliminate that process and I wouldn't need to run a local backup, right? Anyways, sorry I am so all over the place. I am just trying to organize things better around the house and thought I might find a way to better organize my files as well so I appreciate you guys bearing with me while I figure out the best route to take.
 
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Old 08-12-20, 12:40 PM
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My experience with the USB port on routers (several different brands/models) has been less than spectacular, even on routers that have a USB 3 port. At best all I've been able to get is 15-20MB/s, which while not terrible, is well below what the same drive gives when plugged directly into a USB 3 port. So, if you're looking for speed comparable with what you're getting now with your current configuration, that option is out.

As for RAID drives, you need to be careful. RAID 1, which has redundancy, is good for maintaining access to your data, even if you have a drive failure. However, it's not a substitute for backups. It's possible for the data to become corrupted and then you have 2 drives, both with corrupted data. While it depends upon the make/model of the NAS drive as to how hot it will run, in general they should be okay on your shelf.
 
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Old 08-13-20, 10:14 AM
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Ok, this is all great info. To compare speeds, what is the typical speed of a SATA HD on a desktop? I have a 4T WD Blue 5400 RPM drive that I bought earlier this year to replace a 1 TB that was full. I know SATA is 6 GB/s, but is the drive limited to about 150 MBps? Anyways, I think I will rule out the router even if I had a USB 3 drive.

If I do get NAS, what would be the benefit of using that instead of just sharing the drive on my desktop? Would it have faster access from the other computers than they do to access the desktop, of would the only benefit be power consumption? Would that 4 TB drive I mentioned above work in it? I guess I don't need RAID or another local backup as long as I keep using the online backup. Would it solve the solution of being able to access these media files remotely?
 
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Old 08-13-20, 12:23 PM
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The sustained transfer rate for a 7200RPM drive is typically ~150MBps. However, since you have a 5400RPM drive, I expect the sustained transfer rate will be somewhat lower, probably about 25% lower (based on the RPM difference).

I expect you would get similar speeds with a NAS drive as you would with your desktop computer via the network. The primary advantage of the NAS would be less power consumption. If that's not a big issue for you, you could just stay with your current configuration. The 4TB drive should be compatible with your desktop computer. You will need to partition the drive using GPT rather than MBR, as MBR is limited to a 2TB partition.

To be able to access any storage device (NAS or desktop computer) from outside your LAN, you'll need to either know your external IP address, or subscribe to a Dynamic DNS service that you can use with your router. Dynamic DNS will let you assign a name to your network that is accessible from anywhere.
 
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Old 08-13-20, 12:52 PM
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I'm a fan of repurposing old stuff.
Option 1 - USB storage on a "smart router"
For example, my "MP3 server" is an ancient Palm Centro with a 4GB micro SD card of favorite CDs ripped to a micro-sd card, running "Palm card export" (converts the Palm to a USB card reader) which is connected via USB to-and-powered-by a "smart router." The smart router means the Palm microSD card is available by logging into the Linksys Router webpage. It's basically an easy way to dump podcasts and voice-memos onto the Palm, then listen to them while mowing the lawn, or working in the shop.

Option 2 - Drop a Terabyte (or several) SSD drive into an old netbook.
As one example of a solution to your NAS question, I kludged together a NAS from a 2008 Samsung netbook with fast-ethernet 10/100 : I did a bare-bones installation of Windows 10 on a 1T SSD drive, then partitioned the unused space for NAS storage. Started it up, set to allow to run with screen closed, screen sleeps immediately, HD never sleeps, killed all unnecessary background processes to get the CPU use down, share the SSD partition, and share a couple of otherwise unused USB drives and a 128G microSD card via the card adapter.
Ripped out the plastic caps & threaded spouts/flanges from 4 paper milk cartons. Super glued the flanges to the netbook so it had 4 screw-adjustable "big feet" to ensure airflow. Stuck it in a bookshelf with the "big feet" ensuring airflow and the exhaust pointing up, and it's been running nicely ever since.
 
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Old 08-29-20, 07:17 AM
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I have not read all of the above replies but here is my recommendation.

If you want speed of transfers, nothing will beat SATA when compared to USB. I have something like this for my regular hard drives. Remember to turn on AHCI for hotswap mode.
https://www.microcenter.com/product/...ack-for-35-hdd

The reason why I have it setup like this is because
  • None of my data will touch the web when my computer connects to the internet. This is for security reason. I have a manual kill switch on my Ethernet cable and developed a program to auto disconnect the network when it detects my drive. In addition, I pull out all of my hard drives.
  • It prevents wear and tear on the drives when not in used, not to mention to save power.
  • I prefer not to store confidential data on Cloud.
  • This also allows me to stick my drives in my gun safe when I am on vacation. It protects if the house catch on fire or if there is a burglar on my computers.

However, if you want portability, then I would get something like this:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073W3ZF9N

Then stick a SSD in it. It will be faster than your average USB thumb drive.
https://www.microcenter.com/product/...te-drive-(480g)

I use both setups. One for stability and the other for transfer and share mobility.
 
  #15  
Old 08-29-20, 09:26 AM
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It is not feasible to store multiple TB of media on the laptop so what is the best way to access that when I am away from the house? Or is there away to like keep just the most recently accessed ones on your local machine so they load faster but don't take up a bunch of space? Would be nice to access them on my phone too if this solution solves that.
If know I'll need something when I'm on the road, I copy it onto a 256GB micro SD card in a low-profile USB adapter that fits into the laptop usb port, and I bring an android "OTG" adapter so my android phone can read full sized USB drives if necessary.

For the things that I may need, I plug my 3TB usb3 backup drive into a Linksys "SmartRouter" so I can access copies of files and backups through the web.

Microsoft DOES have a file update/sync application, "SyncToy 2.1"
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/down....aspx?id=15155
with three options, 1- sync two folders, 2- copy changes to one folder including delete, and 3- copy changes but never delete. That can be a quick way to create a folder full of "what stuff has changed" and drop it onto a USB drive.
 
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