What is a NAS?
NAS is the acronym for ‘Network Attached Storage’ and that is just what it is. Storage that is directly attached to your network, thereby allowing you to access its content from all your smart devices. In this article I’ll take you along the road of setting up and configuring your own NAS, even for a small wallet. It sounds so simple and it is. But it is also something that can make your every-day digital-life a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Having a NAS in your household allows you to have a centralized storage for all your backups, media files and documents. This again gives you the ability to easy access them from all your devices, may it be your smart TV, your phone or tablet, your computers or game consoles and what else comes to mind.
Some of the first words that scare most people away from setting up a NAS themselves are ‘linux’ and ‘network’. While it might not be something you have experience with, I guarantee it’s all very easy and quick to do.
What about the hardware?
So how does it work and what exactly is it you ask? Well, a NAS is technically just a PC like any other, some might also refer to it as a server or computer. In the end it is the operating system that is the factor. The whole idea behind it is to have a centralized storage for all your files. To archive this, it has to be running all or most of the time and there are some key features we need to look at:
- Low power consumption
- Headless usage (no keyboard, mouse or monitor required)
- Small form factor and silent operation
In my opinion there is the perfect device on the market for just that. It’s cheap, it’s solid and at many times you even get mail in rebates or cash-back on them. But more on that later.
What Skills and Tools do you need?
To set up a NAS? Actually not many. You will need the following skills: Use the screwdriver that is included, Able to attach a cable to a plug and you will need to be able to read and use a website.
You will also need a couple other small things in order to follow this little guide to setting up a HP micro server, but not much. You need a MOLEX to SATA power adapter, a SATA data cable and either some duct tape or a 3½ inch to 5¼ inch adapter. You will also temporary need a USB stick, a Monitor and keyboard during installation. And that is pretty much it, so you see, everybody can NAS.
The perfect device
For this job, Hewlett-Packard have created the perfect line of micro servers. The N36L, N40L and N54L, also known as G7 microservers. The only difference between the three models is the CPU speed. Slower doesn’t always mean cheaper, so check prices on all three devices before you commit. On my last purchase I found that the N54L was the cheapest of them all, but any of the three will do fine for a home NAS.
It has 4 cold-swap bays for your storage hard-drives and a 5¼ inch for either your boot-drive, extra hard-drive(s) or anything else that fits. In most cases, and in ours here, it will used for the boot drive.
The G7 microserver comes with a 250 GB 7200RPM HDD included and that is just perfect as system disk for our new NAS. If that wasn’t enough, it also has 4GB ECC memory included in 1 module with room for a second.
Inside it has two PCI-Express expansion slots, one x16 and one x1. The single also has additional control ports for HP remote-control cards.
It even comes with tools included, nothing extra is really needed. It can be run straight away with what’s in the box, but you will of course also need some hard drives as storage for all your files. You can start with one and upgrade later or you can fill it up right away, the choice is yours.
At the time of writing, the N54L can be had for €153 in Germany and £131 in the United Kingdom making it a real bargain. I couldn’t find it cheaper than $357 in the US making it less of a deal over there.
The HP N54L comes in a very simple cardboard box only printed with the name and a representation of the server on the front and back.
On the side of the cardboard box we find a small sticker with the model and serial number. The box doesn’t offer much information besides that.
Opening up the box we see all is securely packed in spacey Styrofoam and with the accessories on top.
Unpacking the accessories, we find power cables for UK and for Germany/EU, a small manual and update instructions.