Linux is an open source Unix operating systems that is great for a desktop computer as well as for dedicated devices like a router or network attached storage (or NAS). A NAS system can store files so that they can be shared between multiple computers on a network. Users do not need to depend on a specific person's desktop is available to access needed information. The dedicated storage space is critical for many businesses to make key documents easily available and can also reduce overall storage costs by consolidating large disk drives to a single server. With the advent of multiple computer households and multimedia networked devices, NAS devices have also become popular for home use. There are many commercial NAS solutions available, but with a little know how and effort you can build a NAS that is ideal for your needs very cheaply.

Network Areas Storage Hardware

NAS (18121)A Linux based network attached storage device can be built from almost any PC hardware you have available. Linux requires very little computer resources as it was originally designed to run on Intel 386 CPU. A NAS does not need certain hardware such as computer monitor, mouse and keyboard. A few hardware that you should consider are:

  • Computer Case – There are two directions to take when considering the perfect NAS computer case. If you have limited space, look for a small form factor. If space is not a concern, look for a case with a lot of expansion room for hard drives that has good ventilation.
  • CPU and Motherboard – Almost any x86 compatible CPU will work for a NAS. For most uses, you do not need a fast CPU. Indeed you may want to consider a low powered chip that will consume less energy as a NAS device tends to stay powered on longer than a desktop computer.
  • Network Card– Always make sure that you connect the device to your network using a wired network. The connection should least 100 megabit in speed, but gigabit a network connection is better for fast file transfer.
  • Hard Disk Controller – A fast and reliable hard disk controller is one of the key components of a NAS device. An SATA controller is ideal for modern systems and is faster than the older IDE or SCSI hard disk controller types. The new larger hard drives almost all use the SATA connector. You may also want to consider getting a controller with RAID capability to protect against disk failure and extra speed.
  • DiskHard Disks – In general, the larger the larger the hard disk, the better. In addition, a hard disk that consumes less power and is quiet even at the expense of speed is ideal for a NAS device.

Linux Distribution

There are many different versions or distributions of Linux freely available. Most any Linux of these distributions can be used to run a NAS device. The final selection of which distribution to use is very much based on personal preference. Since they are free you can always try them out to see which one works best. All of these options allow you to share drives and manage the system remotely. Some of the most popular distributions are:

  • NASLite – NASLite is a very small and fast Linux distribution created to specifically run a NAS. It is ideal for older hardware but is a little out of date.
  • Open Filer – This distribution is another one built to run a small and fast NAS device. The system is freely available and is easy to set up.
  • Linux NASUbuntu Server - Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distributions available. It is easy to install and can be used on more than a NAS device. It is the best solution if you are interested in experimenting or adding non-standard features to your NAS device. But because the distribution is not specifically up to act as a NAS, it will require more work than the other options.

Other Software

Modern NAS devices can do much more than share their disk drives. Most of these additional features require installation and configuration but they can greatly enhance the functionality of the server. If plan to go down this route, the Ubuntu Linux distribution is recommended as it is the easiest to upgrade.

  • Media Serving using UpnP or DLNA protocols. If have televisions or other media player that use these protocols, adding this UpnP or DLNA service is a great way to share your media.
  • An automatic backup up program that can back up key computer files over the network.
  • A Bitorrent client to that will download the files on to a server with plenty of disk space and which is on most of the time.
  • Secure shell or VNC server which will allow you to remotely log into your machine.