SHCC WYSIWYG Article from January 2009

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the January 2009 WYSIWYG newsletter.

What's a NAS (Network Attached Storage)?

by Don VanSyckel

Have you heard of a "NAS"? Do you know what it is? A NAS is a Network Attached Storage unit. Yeah, so? Storage as in disk storage. When it come right down to it, from one point of view a NAS is very similar to an external USB drive. It's disk drive storage for your PC that's external to the PC and has it's own power supply. From another point of view it's very different from an external USB drive.

An external USB drive is connected to one computer by a USB port. There are four significant differences:

1)The USB drive is connected to one computer and a NAS can be connected to all the computers on your home network.
2)The USB drive is managed by the PC and the NAS is managed by itself. There's a control computer inside the NAS.
3)The USB drive has some buffering in the disk drive itself. The NAS, in addition to the disk drive's buffering, can contain more buffering in the control computer.
4)The speed of USB is 440Kbits and the NAS uses your real network. If 100Mbits, then the transfer rate is 227 times faster. Note due to network protocol overhead the actual speed difference will be less than 227 times but in any event way faster than USB.

A NAS is a small simple file server in a box as an appliance. This means that there is some set up but the setup is minimal and easy. Hopefully you've all set up your home network router. It's no harder than that. Most NAS give you a choice of Windows style file share or Linux style file sharing. Then you make a user accounts for you and anyone else you want to have access to the NAS. You can choose to share data between users, keep it private, or some of each.

Most NAS I have seen come with one disk drive and can have a second one added. Some NAS can do disk RAID protect. RAID is a technique that offers real time data duplication on disk and depending on the RAID 'level' also offers improved disk through put. The down side is some storage is lost; generally on disk's worth However, with disk drive prices still falling this shouldn't be a problem if you need data integrity.

Currently NASs are a bit more than external USB disk drives but the price will narrow and the feature set is quite a bit more. The other feature I expect to see is the number of disk drives which today is generally two, should grow to 4 or 6.

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