Why do I need a Synology NAS instead of using an old Win7 Box I have for storage?

Don B September 8, 2013
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I have video and audio files stored all over every computer on my home network. I want to centralize them in one spot and make it available to all the computers I have so I am thinking about getting a Synology NAS box. I have many 2T to 4T Sata III hard drives and 1T to 2T USB 2.0 drives on various computers that I have to put in it. A while back I removed 3 older AMD Athlon II X2 or X4 boxes with 4G of memory and running Win7 from my home network and replaced them (in whole) with new boxes. These older AMD boxes are sitting in the corner of my computer room doing nothing. My wife wants me to just hang one of them back on the network and put the hard drives in them and be done with it. And, I have to say, I can’t justify why I need to spend so much money for a NAS box when I already have these boxes available. I’m not looking for Cloud Storage, Web Server, Mobile Access or any like that. I just want central hard drive space available to all my computers and one of these older AMD boxes with Win7 will do that. So, I ask, is there anything a NAS box will do that I can’t do with one of these older AMD boxes. The older boxes are regular Sata and not Sata III but that shouldn’t be much of an issue in my home environment. Thanks for any help or info about this.

  1. James B
    September 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

    A dedicated NAS is far more reliable and uses much less power. Those are the only two reasons. I used to have the same setup as you're considering - but with Windows Home Server running to aggregate and backup disk space. So glad I switched to a dedicated NAS.

  2. Don B
    September 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Thanks all for your info. I am going to go the FreeNAS route. Also, while I said the Cloud Storage, etc wasn't what I was wanting, if I can do this, I certainly would. I have also been looking at the backup situation. I currently use BitTorrent Sync and sync all my data to 2nd drives in case I lose one and will continue to have some type of feature for a backup. I am going to close this out now since I have decided on going the FreeNAS way.

  3. Oron J
    September 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I agree with Jan and Kev. You certainly don't NEED a Synology NAS - though they are very nifty! FreeNAS probably makes a lot of sense for you since you have all this kit lying around.
    Although Windows 7 may do the job for you, I do think you'd be served by a dedicated system like FreeNAS, which will a) make the management of your data more straighforward b) be more secure and c) make better use of the hardware and expending "computing energy" (which ultimately means electrical power) on file-serving rather than on graphics and all the other things Windows 7 needs to do.

    Jan makes a very good point about backups. If you keep all your data in one server, you increase your chances of losing it all in one go, so I'd suggest you also consider how to back up your NAS (AMDm Synology or whatever) to offline discs which you should keep in a separate place (different room, or ideally, different location altogether). Good luck!

  4. Kev Q
    September 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I was going to recommend FreeNAS as well. Although I've never used it myself, I do know a few people who have, and they swear by it. I believe it can be a bit of a pain to set up at times though, but most techies enjoy that kind of thing, so it's all good.

    You could of course always create something like an Ubuntu server with samba running on it for all your shares. However, I'd say that FreeNAS is your best option.

    You mention that you're not interested in cloud storage etc. But what if there's a large hardware failure (especially if you don't have RAID), or (god forbid) your house burnt down. You would lose all of your data.

    IMHO all backup routines should have an off site portion to them.

  5. Jan F
    September 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Your question sounds like someone forces you to buy a NAS solution?

    If you have 'spare' systems available and you can equip them with enough storage (internal or external) then just go ahead and grab FreeNAS.
    http://www.freenas.org

    Theoretically you could take all the existing drives and connect them to the AMD system and fire up FreeNAS. Of course this would come at the downside of not having a RAID which means if a drive goes bad the data is gone. On the other hand you will spare yourself hours of copying the data to a new storage.

    If you have spare drives (with no data) or are willing to buy new drives do that, setup FreeNAS, create a RAID and then move the data to the new server. You could then keep the old drives as a backup and use them for future backup.

    Similar to Synologys solution FreeNAS has a built in DLNA/UPnP server and also comes with Plugins (like DiskStation Packages) which add even more functionality.

    At the end of the day you have to compare the expenses and effort it takes.

    A Synology NAS is pretty much plug and play, you are guided through the setup and then it's ready to go with RAID and everything wherein the FreeNAS solution may require a bit more effort to setup and configure.

    The other part would be power consumption:
    Synology NAS pretty much maxes out at 150W for the highest-tier DiskStations, with most SMB and Home versions being sub-100W. Depending on all the components and the number of hard disks the AMD may be around the same although in my experience desktop systems usually start at 100-150W just in idle.

    • Don B
      September 9, 2013 at 10:10 am

      I did not know about FreeNAS and will check it out. It sounds like that is the answer I was looking for. Thanks much. Oh and nobody, except myself, is forcing me to get a NAS. It is just technology that I have been wanting to learn for quite a while.

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