What’s The Best Way To Safely Store Terabytes Of Data Cheaply?

What’s The Best Way To Safely Store Terabytes Of Data Cheaply?

Individual hard drives are becoming ridiculously cheap, but as they pile up to create massive storage arrays the cost gets pretty massive as well. What’s your best bet for storing huge amounts of data affordably?

There are tons of storage options, directly attached and on the network, so when you want to store a lot of data the right solution can often depend on specific needs. Still, it’s better to keep this general-purpose so we’re coming up with solutions people can adapt to their needs. With that in mind, we’ll keep this challenge simple with some target specifications:

  • 6TB of usable storage (i.e. 4x2TB hard drives in a RAID 5 array)>
  • Connectivity must be faster than USB 2.0
  • Bonus points for network connectivity

How would you do it? Build it? Use an existing solution? Do something unusual and creative? Let’s hear your storage solutions in the comments.


  • Using old hardware for a NAS device:
    4x Western Digital 2TB Green 64MB SATAII WD20EARS – $(138 x 4 = 552)
    Old PC with SATA lying around that most of us might have – $0 (already paid for)
    FreeNAS Linux distribution – $0

    Or the way I did it three days ago:
    4x Western Digital 2TB Green 64MB SATAII WD20EARS – $(138 x 4 = 552)
    QNAP TS-410 4-Bay NAS Server – $530

    The TS-410 is a brilliant piece of hardware, highly recommended.

  • One word. Drobo. I have my Drobo FS at home with 5x 2TB drives, and an Drobo original Drobo (USB2/Firewire) for work with 4x 2TB drives.

    I use FTP to sync to two boxes together over the interent.

  • Windows Home Server (Vail). It effectively forms a software RAID via it’s Drive Extender Layer. Best thing is you can mix and match connections: SATA, eSATA, USB, FireWire, etc.

    Once everything’s on it can stream media via the Windows Media Network Sharing Service, i.e. uPNP/DLNA.

  • It looks like these guys have got the right idea: http://www.inxtron.com/products/hddmulti/hydra/hydra_superscombo. Unfortunately, their network-accessible version doesn’t support any other interface.

    I’d really love to be able to build something like this myself (i.e. a SATA/USB interface to a bunch of drives in a standard desktop computer), but have no idea how one would create such an interface, or whether there are (for example) expansion cards built for that purpose.

  • I would look into a linux small pc running the raid 5 array, or a win home server, not sure if a NAS with level 5 raid will be on the “cheap” side of the spectrum.

  • This is something I myself have been interested in for quite some time. drobo or similar products would be the nicest devices around for drive expansion and hot swapping, but the cost associated is a killer.

  • Cheapest Atom mobo with enough SATA ports and GigE, add cheapest case with sufficient drive bays, a little OpenFiler or FreeNAS to taste. Garnish with SDCard for OS if desired, and serve with gigabit ethernet.

  • that’s exactly the spec i got for my nas
    not that cheap though.. but QNAP TS-639 does the job perfectly (5x 1.5tb raid 5, dual ethernet, and i believe the newer version got usb3)

    for cheapest, grab some old PC, install raid controller and linux os
    voila =)

  • Tried all the rest. NAS, Linux, etc.

    Just finished Windows Home Server.

    Best thing is it’s expandabbility and scalability. Adding drives is a piece of cake. Installing applications is a piece of cake. Accessibility outside the home – piece of cake.

    I now have a server with 12Gb of storage (added another PCI card) and the perfect setup. Also, add to all this – automatic backup of all the machines on the network.

    Definitely worth considering – especially for adding software scuh as Air Server so that video can be streamed to the iPad and iPods for the kids.

    If you want one cheap – keep an eye out on Grays Online or OnlineComputers – they have some good deals. Machine doesn’t need to be anything special and you can always build it into another case for more expansion.

    Good luck…..

  • am I the only one that has a problem with the spec?
    RAID 5 with 4x2TB drives is 5.3TB with most formatting this is less 5 TB of storage.

    Also the is no mention of data protection besides the suggested RAID5 in the spec. RAID5 will not help you if your house burns down or your computer is stolen.

    The cheapest solution will always be a lower end PC (buy or re use old 1) plus hard drives. A example solution would be to get a net book (around $300) and USB converters with a USB hub. Run software RAID5 for aprox 30MB/s throughput, which is fine for WiFi or 100Mbit ethernet both a netbook supports.

    If you seperate the data you need backed up from what you could live without or regenerate then a back up solution will not be so large. Hence a single 2TB usb drive should cover a multi TB array.

    If faster access required use a desktop PC with a mother board with 6 SATA connectors, Etc.

  • I’ll agree with the ‘old hardware and linux’ crowd, assuming you have the space for a full case – mine is behind the TV, with an athlon xp 2800+ and 512mb.

    I tend to be a bit non-standard with the RAID array, though. I stick with raid1, just because, when a drive fails a few years down the track, I’ll want a size upgrade anyway. It’s easier to buy a matched pair of drives and increase your available space than to track down an older drive to rebuild your existing setup.

    And if you don’t need instant redundancy or the bandwidth, you can just use rsync+cron to do a quick copy over each night. It’s not something I’d ever consider doing for work, but for a home media server you may not need any more.

  • The easiset solution is a PC case with plenty of drive bays and a motherboard with 6+ SATA ports (assuming that you want a DVD/BluRay drive)

    For 6Tb of useable space, get 4 x 2Tb drives, the OS of your choice and FreeRaid.

    FreeRaid, despite its name creates a simple parity drive for however many drives you have. The only rule is that the parity drive needs to be at least as large as the biggest drive you’re doing parity for.

    No dependence on proprietary hardware or slow software, fast, simple and elegant.

    The only downside v’s raid 5 is slower performance, which for streaming media is essentially irrelevant.

  • Currently I own 2 Standard Drobo’s connected to my network with a DroboShare, this is the least expensive way I could get good EASY redundant, expandable storage. (Keyword, EASY!) As I find it’s a pain to have to worry about keeping PC’s on, maintained, and updated. I’m an Uber geek, but I have better things to do with my time. The downside to this setup is from the drobo’s to the droboshare is a USB 2.0 Connection. The Drobo FS is a great choice, however I have found another option with better connectivity, more expandable and provides more integrated server software options. Never used it but it will be my next Network appliance purchase. It is the Synology DiskStation DS1010+. (http://www.synology.com/enu/products/DS1010+/index.php) Check it out, it blows the Drobo FS away in my opinion.

  • This really depends what you are trying to achieve, If you just want mass storage but don’t worry about fire, theft, corruptions or virus attack the NAS/DAS solutions are always great, but remember this will not help you for situations mentioned above.

    Some good units I’ve found to be are the Promise Network Attached NS4600 and Direct Attached DS4600… I believe they are releasing 6 bay versions soon as well!

    I’ve also invested in a tape backup drive (LTO-4) to get a copy of my data away from home. Some might think it’s a bit of an overkill perhaps but it offers me protection that not every one can read the data, very fast to backup and protects me from some of the situations mentioned above.

    I’ve lost data in the past and do not want to loose any data ever again, things like pictures you can never get back so if you don’t have ofsite copies at least do your self a favor and get something even if it’s a 2.5″ USB drive to backup your pictures, documents, insurance details (proof of ownerships, receipts, pictures of rings/household items..etc..etc)… Don’t think it wont ever happen to you and always prepare for the worst with your data… Don’t be stingy!

    Think of this, if your house burnt down and you lost every thing and could not prove to your insurance company what you had and provide receipts how much would you be prepared to get your memories of pictures back and household items… At that point in time I would say you would not blink at giving away thousands of dollars!

    Just my 2cents worth…

  • How about a giant JBOD on 3000 free Dropbox accounts? 😛

    This would provide a free storage solution for 6TB (3000 * 2GB)

    And with a fibre connection you’ll have gigabit connectivity (faster than USB 2.0)

    Plus you’ll be able to share the backups between all internet connected pc’s

    You can’t get much better than free 😀

  • IMHO – If you have lots of time then by all means go down the build and maintain a small PC route. But if you just want easy you can’t beat a Drubo, plug in any hard drive and it just sorts it all out for you. The only thing its missing is Ethernet, and i know there is a NAS thing for it, but its not worth the money. I’ve heard that the QNAP 4 port NAS is good and it certainly has a ton of features, but all the hard drives have to be the same spec. Whereas the drubo can start with 2x2gb drives and then when 3gb drives are cheap you can go for those.

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