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Why Not DIY?
I want to thank all the participants in Tom's Forumz discussion of my DIY Cheap Fast Raid 5 NAS for the lively discussions about appliance NASes vs. DIY NASes. Table 1 is a "score card," summarizing the pros and cons from our Forumz discussion.
Table 1: Pros and Cons of DIY vs. Appliance NAS
In addition to the pros and cons discussed by Forumz members, reviewing the CS-406 made me aware of two additional pros for NAS appliances:
- Additional Benefit #1: Functionality Improves Over Time in Appliance RAID NASes.
Synology continuously adds more functionality to its read-fail logic so that its appliances remain resistant to bad sectors over time. Providing updates with increased functionality may be considered an "if-all-the-planets-were-to-align-perfectly-with-each-one" benefit, since not all NAS appliance makers are doing the same.
Most electronics companies, which make firmware for the products I use, only update their firmware enough to prevent wholesale customer defections. Synology, however, is investing in its reputation. They are providing backwards-compatible software and enterprise-class error recovery functionality. Even though Infrant ReadyNAS users encouraged each other to use the latest firmware to add power-saving functionality, this "ongoing-upgrading" benefit of NAS appliances wasn't discussed by the Forumz!
- Additional Benefit #2: New Cross-LAN Applications Are Being Developed for NASes.
I wasn't surprised that the CS-406 had a backup program for Windows XP; however, I was surprised by the Synology Redirector, which enables you to transfer download tasks from your PC to the CS-406.
The Synology Redirector functionality raises questions about the possible applications that can be developed for and built out of NASes. A few of my questions are listed below:
- Automatic Backup: Could a NAS be set up to synchronize automatically with my "ancient" Toshiba 2032SP PocketPC phone? Can the NAS automatically perform a direct backup of my phone?
- Easy Photo Server: Is it possible to add iPhoto functionality to NASes? Imagine if the NAS had a compact flash and a secure digital reader and if it could upload pictures automatically from a card and store them in a built-in photo library. It seems simple enough to set up the CS-406 to store photos in a <year>-<month>-<day> folder in a photo directory.
- Automatic Email: Could I configure functions such as emailing (the CS-406 already emails the operator when important NAS events occur) thumbnails to grandparents?
- Knowledge Repository: What about selling NASes pre-loaded with content? If Wikipedia can be loaded into $100 laptops, why can't content be loaded into a NAS?
Application software that runs on NASes or that runs on other network clients that draw on NASes blurs the boundaries of PCs, palmtops, network printers, and even servers. On the one hand, I love iPhoto and use it a lot. On the other hand, it isn't reliable enough to use as the only backup for my photo library. In addition to using iPhoto, I keep raw photographs in raw "year-month-day" folders. Maybe one day the CS-406 could automate a process similar to the one I use to back up my raw photographs.
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