I have two work computers in my home office—one a desktop PC and one laptop—and I thought it would be nice if both had access to the same set of files.
Late 2016 I looked a little into setting up my own file server, but in the end I went to a store and bought a NAS, a network drive. Just like a printer you connect to the drive through the network, but unlike a printer it doesn’t have it’s own port. Ideally your OS pretends the NAS is just a drive hanging off the computer and ideally the OS deals with the nitty gritty of actually making the drive behave like that.
In the end I bought the Synology DS215j and two hard disks. Installation was straight-forward enough that I don’t remember anything about it. I had found the Synology by looking on tweakers.net at what appeared to be well-regarded brands and models.
A year later I had removed the NAS from my company’s books because things were just not working out.
So what are, from my perspective, the disadvantages of a NAS (specifically the Synology DS-xx) for the use of an office file server?
TL/DR: network abstraction only partially achieved, data loss may occur.
– The NAS tries to connect to the internet by itself and without my permission to do god knows what. I realise this is par for the course in our VC fueled, neo-liberal paradise, but I am an old geezer who remembers the day in which devices worked for him instead of the other way around.
– When you haven’t used the NAS for a while and need data, it takes a few seconds to start up. It is not instantaneous, like a hard disk is.
– On the other hand, sometimes you are not using the NAS but it nevertheless fires up all by itself (maybe the OS needs it for something).
– When you wake the OS, you have lost your connection to the NAS.
– You can easily reconnect, but not all application software remembers these lost connections. For example, if you had a certain folder open on the NAS in Windows Explorer, the latter will not always return there, but instead show the My Computer folder.
This is not a review, nor a critique of Synology, nor is it complete. I jotted down the above notes because I was evaluating the NAS. Specifically I wanted to know if it could be properly used in my business, and what I was particularly interested in were its failure modes.
I have ‘sold’ the NAS to myself (strictly a matter of bookkeeping). As a personal, non-business device it seems to work quite well. I use it to keep photos, movies and TV series on. I stream these to my private laptop when I want to watch something in bed.
Maybe I could have set the NAS up to be always on and maybe I could have convinced Windows to keep the network connection up, but in the end it was too much bother. I simply do not need to transfer files between systems often enough to justify all this bother. YMMV.