Monday, March 9, 2009

Network Attached Storage NAS

It has been since a while since I sold off my D-Link DNS-323, I have yet to establish my networked storage due to budget and time constraints. Now I am back on track on this storage project. I have been googling around for options available in local market and conclusively found out I am limited to one or two brands than other countries with broader options. Sigh~

Many of the HDTV geeks in my ring doubt the success of my NAS project. All of them are on USB (local) disk setup, I am the only lone ranger to venture into this expensive NAS setup (compare to USB disk). Well, my ideal plan is something like this...

(source: QNAP TS109 Datasheet)

A networked digital home entertainment setup.

Ideally, I can access and play the media files specifically the 1080p HD movie files with at least 5.1 audio setup directly from the LCD or projector using UPnP or DLNA protocol, or via a DMA or a digital media center like Sony VAIO TP series. At the same time, I may also access the files from my laptop, or streaming music files via networked player such as iPod Touch.

While serving as a media file server for the home network, I would expect I could access my files remotely over the internet as well. Not limited to FTP access, but preferably the HTTP web based file access, just like browsing your local hard disk using Windows Explorer. This is one of the reasons I sold off D-Link DNS-323, as sharing files via FTP remotely is a pain, a web based file management that simulates browsing-like experience is much more intuitive when sharing with friends. Of course, scalability is another criteria where I could easily extend the capacity when needed.

Beside the file server function, I also hope the NAS could do further, for instance, as a BT download manager and surveillance system. That is with the anticipation that I would not spend $$ to upgrade my PC or laptop to provide the said functionality. Also, a surveillance feature definitely saves $$ on buying a complete surveillance system like cameras + switcher + DVR + remote access setup.

Privacy is always my concern and even Facebook has privacy issue. How many actually read the Terms of Services when sign up online service? I do. Hehe... So, an online photo album hosting from the NAS is favorable too, I have total control of access and could selectively share photos with friends and family without using any internet photo hosting providers. I don't want my friends or me to be the next Edison Chen and Elizabeth Wong. :P Also, lesson learned from Edison Chen, you don't have to worry about your data i.e. photos when returning your PC or laptop to service center for repair, and unlike laptop, you can easily disemble the hard disk from the NAS if it needs to be repaired.

In brief, my requirements are:
  • Networked digital entertainment for 1080p with minimum 5.1 audio
  • Windows-Explorer-like remote data access with scalable capacity
  • Download manager for BT and eMule
  • Optional photo album hosting


Just like the usual me, perhaps it's an occupational syndrome, I used to built comparison matrix when shopping for gadgets (can I do the same for chicks? LoL), just like the netbook and mobile phone. No exception, I again built a comparison matrix of different models from 2 competing brands, namely Synology and QNAP. They are the brands which receive many good reviews from both professionals and consumers and are the only brands that I could easily get it here in KL. There are other brands like D-Link and LinkSys, but their software features do not meet my requirements above.


I do have a concern. As I gain more knowledge by learning from others' experiences shared in the forums, I found out that the establishment of digital entertainment using UPnP and DLNA is not as mature as I thought. For instance, you may get a DLNA certified LCD TV but it may or may not be able to play the video files from the NAS. Also, in particular on the audio profile where support of 5.1 channel is very limited (or even non-existence). In addition, as far as I know, support for Windows Media Player 11 (Vista's version) and Windows Media Center is also a grey area that I am seriously looking for resolution. This is delaying my investment in this project since digital entertainment is the main criteria to determine the success of this project.

Therefore, it would be wise to put that into consideration, to get a NAS that has better support and regular firmware updates from the maker. For example, users could submit feature request to the maker and new features are added to new firmware from time to time.

Talk cock aside, I am now doing my budget planning and shall make my decision in short period as my "sponsor" will cease the "budget" in April.