Can I use one internal drive as a NAS and keep the rest local?

Anonymous October 2, 2013
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I have the ability to attach 8 drives to my motherboard and one eSATA. I’d live to have a network drive that I can access through an IP address from anywhere – for example; if I’m away from home I’d like to be able to read files that I didn’t think I’d need or a movie that I don’t have to store on my tablet.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. Oron J
    October 3, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Bruce and Kev make excellent points, and I'd just like to add that just because your motherboard has 9 SATA sockets (not 10?), it does not mean you should use them all, and personally I don't think mixing the functionality of a PC and a server is very wise.

    Typically, as Kev explained, a NAS is a small always-on device, which you can access from a variety of computers in the home and (potentially) over the internet. You can turn any PC into a NAS (most often by using the FreeNAS system), but you can also buy very small NASs which use far less power (computing and electrical) and still do an excellent job. Some common uses of NASs include:
    * Storing all your files in one place, so you can access them from different computers.
    * Storing your files on the local computer(s) and using the NAS as an always-on backup device.
    * Storing media (esp. video/audio) files so they can be streamed to the TV, tablets etc.
    * Setting upo a mini web server.
    The fact that a NAS is not a powerful machine is not usually a problem a) because the action of serving files does not require a lot of power and b) because access, particulary from the internet, tends to be slowed down by a variety of factors (not least being your broadband's upload speed) so the actual processing load is rarely an issue.

    All that said, if you want to do this for fun and to learn, then I think Bruces suggestion of using a VM is a very sound one. Enjoy!

  2. Kev Q
    October 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    You could, but that's not really what NAS drives are designed for. The whole point of them is to be a small, always on device, that's independent from your other machines, that's simply there to add storage.

    You can pick up a 1TB Buffalo NAS drive for around £80 from Amazon, so for the money, I'd recommend actually getting a NAS, as the price of an extra drive, plus the electric bill of leaving your machine on all the time, doesn't really make running a NAS on your machine a viable option.

    However, if you just wanted a drive that was available over the internet, and has to be connected to your computer, then why don't you just setup an FTP server on your machine, using something like Filezilla server. You will of course need to setup for forwarding on your router so that all port 21 (FTP) traffic goes to your PC.

    I'd recommend the KISS principle here (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and just buy the right tool for the job - a NAS drive.

  3. Bruce E
    October 2, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    You have a couple of options here. You can simply share the entire drive (using Windows sharing) to allow access to the drive in question and open up the appropriate port(s) on your router/firewall to allow access to the machine via the Internet and do port forwarding to your computer. Just make sure you set the appropriate permissions to only allow access to that one drive as well as making sure that only authenticated users have access to it. You just need to be very careful about all of your security settings on your computer when doing this.

    You could also set up a virtual machine on the box that is running FreeNAS (or a similar NAS software) allocating the drive in question as its primary store, though it will need to have guest additions installed to get access to the entire drive or you will need to create a virtual disk that encapsulates any space you want to allocate on that drive. You still need to open the necessary ports on any router/firewall you have to allow access to the VM as well as configuring port forwarding to the VM. This option is safer from a security perspective as the VM is being accessed instead of having direct contact with the host machine.

    Since you want to do this on a single machine instead of having a dedicated NAS box, your best option would probably be to run a NAS in a VM with a fixed size disk for the OS located on one drive, then another dynamically sized disk for your data sitting on the drive you want to share.