I own a small production company and use a lot of hard drives to backup my data. I want to find an affordable solution for file storage. What is the best way to achieve this? It doesn't need to be attached to a network nor 24/7 running. I imagine this as one huge hard drive where I can dump files from my editing computer. Could this be a cheap PC with multiple hard drives, or something else? Easy and hassle free would be great, thanks!

  • How much space are we talking? How often do you need to access it? Is a cloud provider an option? Is it one machine being backed up or will an entire team be using this? – Andy Sep 13 '17 at 2:13

A Network Attached Storage (NAS) is something you may be interested in. There are several plug and play products available from companies such as Synology, Western Digital, etc. As well, there are a couple options for DIY'ers such as Freenas, Unraid, etc.

I have a Freenas machine that I built running in our home that I am able to access over the network, through any of our devices as well as remotely. As well, I've set up the computers in our home to back up to this NAS often. This is made up of spare computer hardware that I had laying around, that I've been slowly upgrading and replacing. I chose to house it in an Antec P100 case (plenty of hard drive trays, quiet, and plenty of fan / cooler mounting options).

The requirements for a machine to run Freenas is pretty reasonable. Looking at Freenas's website:

  • Multicore 64-bit processor (Intel strongly recommended)
  • 8GB Boot Drive (USB Flash Drive suffices)
  • 8GB
  • At least 1 direct attached disk (Hardware RAID strongly discouraged)
  • One physical network port

I've ran both Intel and AMD Freenas machines and honestly haven't noticed a difference (I'm sure there is, but as a user, I haven't seen a difference in my tasks). It is encouraged to use hard drives rated for NAS (WD Red, Seagate Ironwolf, etc.) as the manufacture warranty's for such use. I've used spare hard drives that I've had laying around for my personal machines and haven't had issues so far. I am in the process of saving up for WD Red drives to replace my current set of drives.

There may be better options that are out there, but for me and my use-cases, Freenas has been perfect.


As operating a professional data recovery service, I would not a advise using a NAS (see below why).

My golden rule is "KISS" : Keep It Simple, Stupid.

  • Use preferably professional-grade hard drives (with 5 years warranty) if you can afford them. You can buy them second hand if you want to reduce costs, but format them fully and afterwards check the SMART values with a software like HDSentinel or HDTune.

  • Don't put all eggs in the same basket. If something goes wrong with one drive, you can go on working on other projets whilst the data recovery is being done by a data recovery company.

  • If you have a tower PC, use one (or more) hot swap bays to make inserting/removing hard drives easy. For instance: http://www.icydock.com/goods.php?id=141 Huge benefit : you'll have SATA speeds when doing your backups. Much faster than USB 3. On Windows, the HotSwap! utility will be the perfect companion of the hot swap bay: http://mt-naka.com/hotswap/index_enu.htm

  • For regular backups, use a file synchronizer, like FreeFileSync for instance, which will make your life easier: https://www.freefilesync.org/. Preferably don't use such tool on your long term backups to limit the risk of human mistakes.

  • Don't forget that drives that are not spinning for a long time can catch some kind of rhumatism (platters oxidation, a.s.o.) Make multiple copies.

  • Preferably use backup hard drives from different brands. So, if one brand or serie is subjet to a particular failure (eg. firmware bug) you will have more peace in mind that other drives that are not affected by it.

  • Store your backups in one or preferably more locations that is away from the your office, in order to limit the risks of loosing all your data (burglary, fire, water damage).

  • Store the drives in a cool and dry room and use an air dryer (dessicant) for that room.

  • Additionnally, you can use anti-moisture/anti-ESD bags with a small dessicant bag in them (silica gel or equivalent). Some bags have more foils than others and make a better moisture barrier.

Why I would not advise a NAS:

NAS often use RAID systems, and RAID 5 is frequent amongst systems using three drives or more. When things go wrong, it can be pretty difficult (and long) to recover data from RAID 5. And I can ensure you that things go sometimes wrong with RAID 5 arrays. For instance, problems can become visible after more that one drive have failed. Any serious data recovery company will have identify which drives(s) is/are defficient and this can take time as a full scan of each drive may be necessary in some case. Most of the time, defective drives will have to be cloned to healthy ones before a data recovery can occurs. NAS systems are mini-computers, with a tiny operating system. When problems like bad sectors affect the operating system, the OS may fail to start. Reassemblying stripes from RAID 5 systems is not obvious, as several parameters will have to be "guessed" (width of stripes, order of disks, offset, a.s.o.) with the help of softwares and often using an hexadecimal editor. All this requires hand and brain work and time. Waiting days or weeks can be painful for any company.

To all these drawbacks, one should mention that to spare on license costs, most NAS use systems based on the Linux kernel and many use the ext3 file system. The nature of the ext3 file system makes a data recovery more difficult, also in case of accidental file deletion, especially as one cannot reconstruct the folder tree and have the files keep their name like with NTFS.

If you however want a NAS take it RAID 1 (= full redundancy).

  • I don't know if I agree with this answer. First off, you should NOT rely on data recovery services. It is not a guarantee that they will be able to recover everything. If you can't live without it, you can't live without having it backed up. Second, there are more types or RAIDs than just 1 and 5. I personally use RAID 10 at home. There are pros and cons to each setup, so please do your research and don't pick one at random. – Cfinley Nov 17 '17 at 16:41
  • @Cfinley: I believe you misunderstood my thinking. I agree that people should in theory not rely on data recovery but in practice it is often not the case. I see many people and companies selecting a storage without caring about what will happen if there's some failure. When they face a data loss, they sometimes have complicated systems (like RAID 0) for which the data recovery will cost MUCH more. RAID 10 is nothing else than RAID 1 and RAID 0 combined. There is nothing wrong with RAID 1. RAID 0 is for speed and useless if the bottleneck is a USB or RJ45 cable. – OuzoPower Nov 17 '17 at 17:27
  • @OuzoPower, my data-recovery plan is quite simple: I pull out my backup and restore the data from it. If you've got a reliable backup, it doesn't matter how complicated your live-data storage system is. (I use RAID-6.) – Mark Nov 17 '17 at 20:34

Synology has a line of diskstations with every RAID discipline you could ever need. Their site has a customer wizard, just for you: https://www.synology.com/en-us/support/nas_selector

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.