My Storage Problem

Storage is cheap, or so we're told. Amazon will sell me storage for $0.055/GB/month in “the cloud”; 3.5" hard drives are hovering around $0.06/GB. However, my laptop has a little 250GB SATA drive that is (a) slow and (b) getting full. So I desire to replace it with a fast little SSD. But that raises the question of what to do with my stuff. I'm asking you, Internet. Details below the fold.

Since my laptop spends all of its important time in my home, I'm looking at various network attached storage products. I've narrowed it down to two main options that do what I want (namely; running Time Machine backups on my laptop, and exposing a crapton of storage over a sane network protocol).

Option 1: NAS

A NAS box from someone like Netgear or Patriot is pretty much designed to do what I'm asking for here. You put in disks, and it exposes NFS or CIFS or AFS or whatever. If I were to go this route, I would probably go for the Patriot PCNASJV35S4 (newegg link; $339.99) combined with a few of Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARX disks (newegg link; $129.99/ea). Total cost for 4TB of storage in RAID5: $729.96.


  • Cheap
  • Power-efficient
  • Not a lot to manage


  • Can't do anything that the manufacturer didn't make a button for in the web GUI
  • Probably going to stop being supported at some point in the near future, at which point I'm screwed
  • Limited to about 30MB/s throughput

Option 2: Small PC

Computers turn out to be pretty cheap to build now. A nice Mini-ITX case, H67-based motherboard, Core i5, decent power supply and 8GB of RAM can be assembled for about $599. Stick in the aforementioned drives, and you end up with a total cost for the desired amount of storage of $988.92 (newegg link for the whole system).


  • I'll run Debian on it, so I can have it do other stuff (offsite backups, network gateway, whatever)
  • Substantially faster than the NAS option; should be able to saturate network


  • Will use substantially more power
  • I have to deal with maintaining and setting it up
  • More expensive, although I could reduce the cost a lot by going to a last-gen CPU and motherboard.
  • mdadm makes me sad

For completeness sake, what I'm doing now is backing up my laptop to a cheap-ass 1TB USB drive connected to my AirPort. It gets about 8MB/s and annoys the hell out of me — plus, that drive is SPOF and has no monitoring whatsoever, so I don't really have any way of knowing if my backups will actually work when I need them.

Okay, lazyweb. What should I do?

Edit 2012-01-29 12:57 PST Zeke convinced me that I couldn't justify a Core i5; dropping down to a Core i3 2120T drops the price for the homebuilt system to $514 + drives and drops the power usage by about half.

Edit 2012-01-29 13:29 PST And another few dollars saved by switching from an ASRock H67M-ITX/HT to an H67M-ITX. Current cost is $480 + drives, which is cheaper than the QNAP TS-419PII that some people have tried to sell me on, although not cheaper than its underpowered little brother, the QNAP TS-412.

Newegg wish list is updated.

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