Good Questions: NAS? WHS? RAID? What's the Best Option for Expandable Storage?

Hey Unplggd,

Over the years as a media-holic, I've accumulated tons of media onto my computer. Up till now I was thinking of simply adding drives to my main PC to keep costs down. I could be persuaded to try to talk the wife into letting me build one, but to be honest I really don't understand the subtle differences between a NAS, WHS, and simply adding extra drives in a RAID to my existing desktop (aside from obvious increased resource demand). I've thought about playing with Linux and FreeNAS, but to be honest I'm a total linux noob, and outside of playing around with (and breaking) ubuntu for a few weeks I suspect I'd be fairly lost. What's a simple solution that will allow me to easily expand my HDD space without having to "rebuild" every single time?


Hey Karas,

These days, the number of storage options available to you (assuming you are the average consumer) are staggering and it is not surprising that you are confused on many of the new terms out there that didn't really exist in the mainstream consumer bracket a few years back.

NAS simply stands for Network Attached Storage. Whether or not it is using a RAID controller does not determine if it is a NAS. Windows Home Server (or WHS) is just software that turns a computer in to a NAS but tries to make it easy.

But It sounds to us like you're merely looking for some redundancy (backups of your data) and the ability to expand on the fly without having to rebuild an entire array each time. This is a very reasonable approach to people who collect a large amount of data on their home computers. In that case, we believe your best and easiest option by far, is Windows Home Server.

WHS does not need a RAID controller, actually you would be better off without one, as it doesn't always play nice with them. The amount of storage is up to you. All the drives are added to a storage "pool" and what you decide to have duplicated would double the size needed to store it. We have our photos, music, and videos duplicated. Our incremental OS back-ups are not.

For instance, if you have two 1.5TB drives with it showing as 2TB's free. But we know it's more like 1TB because 99% of what we use to house it for are videos which are going to be backed up. Adding storage is a breeze as well; Simply format it and add to the pool, the OS take care of the rest. No rebuilding of arrays or other mess to deal with, simple and quick. Including physical install the whole process to less the 15 minutes.

If you a recommendation, feel free to let him know below. Cheers and best of luck to your data expansion project, Karas!

[Image: Danny Choo]