Backup Concerns: Building My Own Network Attached Storage

This is the second part of my Backup Concerns series. The first post, Backup Concerns: Network Attached Storage, explored the options that I have with regards to keeping all my data backed up. As the title implied, I knew I really wanted some form of Network Attached Storage, but my options in that regard were wide open.

I have since decided to use an older computer I have sitting doing nothing, and transforming it into my network attached storage box.

The current specifications include a 1.83Ghz AMD Athlon 2500+ Barton Core Processor, with 512MB DDR RAM, and 120GB P-ATA (IDE) main hard drive. It isn’t really anything too fancy, and has more than enough processing power and RAM to make a great NAS box.

I have purchased two 500GB Western Digital serial-ATA hard drives which will be the storage drives for all my backups. Unfortunately, the motherboard I have doesn’t include any SATA ports to plug in the drives. This means I am now waiting to purchase a PCI card that has at least two serial-ATA ports on it.

I made sure to select one with RAID functionality on board as I am going to use RAID 1. RAID 1 will mirror the data on both hard drives, meaning that if one of the two hard drives ever fails, I won’t lose any data. The chances of both drives failing at the same time are very low, and as such, I should be relatively safe. This was the most cost effective RAID level for me, as I didn’t want to purchase any more than two hard drives.

The other option I had was to not use RAID at all, and just have two 500GB hard drives. I would then place certain data on each one, and have to make sure to be vigilant about drive testing. With RAID 1, since the data is mirrored on both hard drives, I will only have 500GB of backup space.

For my needs, this should be just fine, as I am currently only backing up around six to eight gigabytes of data a month. This means that I will have upwards of fifty months worth of data backup space at this point and time, barring too much increase in the data I output and manage each month. Even if I fill the drives in half the time, that is still two years worth of backups, and that is without removing past backups, something I can do to reclaim space as I need to.

This whole set up, if I had to purchase everything would have set me back around six hundred dollars or so, as my computer I will be using could be bought on eBay for under three hundred dollars, easily. Add in the brand new hard drives, and the Serial-ATA controller card, and you are building a system that is more expensive than the Drobo, a device I am interested in, but can’t afford to purchase at this point.

The difference with my set-up is that I will have much more versatility, and the ability to do a variety of different things with the completed project.

I am hoping to use the FreeNAS software to power my NAS box once complete, but I am unsure yet if that is my best option. I haven’t heard of too many other options, but could a properly set up Ubuntu box do something similar for me? I will be exploring the software options over the coming weeks as I get closer to implementing this project.

Here is hoping that it all turns out well. Expect another update on my Backup Concerns project in about two weeks or so.