Recently I realized how ridiculous cloud storage prices are given that physical storage is dirt cheap. That realization was brought from our company’s Dropbox annual cost at 432€ for 3 people that need to share 250GB of files.
A good quality 4TB HDD disk with 3 years of warranty costs about 100€ and I cannot accept that the management cost for maintaining them is that high. There must be a program or a appliance that can perform Dropbox like operations on a local drive.
Enter the NAS space.
Photographers and video people who are the outmost practical tech experts on YouTube say that these devices has gotten very far from when I tried to hack together a FreeNAS instance on a Raspberry Pi.
At the cost of a very cheap computer you get a 4 bay unit (pictured above) with all the safety, collaboration and sharing features one could need. It handles syncing to remote units and even backing up cheaply on Amazon Glacier.
So I put it to the test.
I recently moved houses and I have a big photo collection sharded between drives and backing up to Amazon Glacier. Also I wouldn’t mind a media server and a replacement to my personal 20GB Dropbox.
I decided to go for a single drive unit cause this is an experiment and it costed less than 200€ with a drive.
I am astounded by the performance of this cheap thing that I can use from anywhere in the world using Sinology’s relay service or Tailscale. With few clients and not many tasks a cheap device performs faster than any Dropbox app.
More expensive models run on x86 hardware Support Docker and VMs. The VMs can be windows flavored which is good as we could retire the accounting software server and use this instead.
There are a lot more things you can do like running webpages, CI/CD, ruby, python and other packages on these. They are basically easy servers preconfigured for own usage. You could probably use bigger models as production application or database servers as they have redundant reworking and power supplies but I suppose there are better suited machines for that.
For small office use though they seem great on first contact.
You need to study a bit to know what RAID configuration to use and there is no collaboration editing unless you are using Synology’s suite. Frankly this is better than Dropbox and is a drawback only if you were used to Google Docs which I am not.
There are also a lot of bottlenecks to take care of.
Latency and throughput on a residential/small office connection has been a thing for me after months of use.
Also I got the cheap model which is admittedly slow on high demand.
Both those problems can be solved by throwing a bit more money at the problem for a better machine and a better connection plan from the ISP.
The expensive Dropbox will stay for now but I am keeping an eye out on a good Synology deal.