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Network Storage almost in the palm of my hand…

I’ve started on my 2006 computer upgrade process. The first thing I wanted to get done was to set up network storage for backup and file sharing on my home network. I’m forever rebuilding computers, so anything that looks like a full-blooded computer ends up disconnected or “changed” too often. So I decided some months ago that I’d get a dedicated “network storage” device.

What I settled on is the Linksys Network Storage Link (NSLU2) [1]. Like most of these devices, it has a processor, a network interface, and a couple of USB 2.0 ports on the back to hook up USB- based hard drives. It doesn’t have any storage of its own- some of the others do [2].

The NSL intrigued me for several reasons, not the least of which is that inside this little box is a Linux based computer. This means there are all sorts of people playing with the innards of the box and hacking it [3]to do different things. Its also tiny and kind of cute:

photo- Cisco NSL

Yep, that’s my hand beside it there. The drives I attached to it are each about the same physical size: I stacked them under the NSL- they connect up with a standard USB cable, so there is some flexibility there. Configuring the NSL is a breeze and, contrary to the included documentation, you can attach and access FAT/NTFS formatted drives, but only if you upgrade to the latest firmware. With the old firmware, any drive you attached had to be formatted with a Linux file system, EXT3: you still need a drive formatted this way if you want access to some of the NSL’s features like users, groups, and dedicated shares/mount points.

The NSL basically looks like a Windows based computer on your network with some file shares available. Performance is about what you’d expect for a network based drive: somewhat under 10 MBps (megabytes per second) which, if you do the math, means its pumping data about as fast as you conceivably can on a 100 Mbps (megabit per second) Ethernet LAN. I haven’t experimented much with security, but you can create users and private shares on the device, assuming you have at least one EXT3 formatted hard drive.

The two drives I attached are pretty ordinary: one is a “no-name” 250 GB USB 2.0 drive I picked up at Best Buy for $249, the other is a 300 GB HP drive Irene bought for me at London Drugs for $349. The HP drive is somewhat better built- cast aluminum chassis instead of pressed aluminum, and it has a tiny 1 cm fan in the back for cooling. Its a bit amazing to realize I have over half a terabyte of storage attached to this configuration. That translates into 275,000,000 written pages of text, about 600 hours of DVD quality video, or two copies of the latest EverQuest 2 update… 😉

Technorati Tags: Linksys [4], Network Storage [5], NSLU2 [6]