Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Novice Successfully Deploys a Shared Storage Device for About 100 Bucks

 My Experience Installing a Raspberry Pi Network Shared Storage Device

7 Jan 2020
By Denis Sweeney

Over the holiday break I built a shared Network Attached Storage (NAS) device costing about $100.

What is this and why should I consider doing it too? 
The What: A NAS is cheap way to add storage to your network that you can access from most devices.
The Why. A NAS:
  • Allows you to keep older files off your laptop but still at your fingertips.
    • I recommend using this as an opportunity to do some file organization and clear space on your laptop.
  • Is a low energy solution that costs very little to keep running all the time. You can even set up a redundant server so your data is backed up automatically.
  • Is cost-effective! Unlike cloud storage offerings, this is a one-time cost, that you physically control. When dropbox is hacked you’re SOL; with this your data will still be safe!
  • Provides storage or file access to anyone on your network (with credentials). You can reach your files, from PC, Mac, Android, IOS, and more!
  • Can give you access to files evcn when traveling. I haven’t tried it but I understand you can remotely log in to gain access to your files.
I bought a raspberry pi 4B (a bare-bones desktop PC that is about the size of an deck of cards), and some old hard drives that I had hanging around. This YouTube tutorial (How To Install OpenMediaVault 5 on a Raspberry Pi) provided me with step by step directions on how to set it up and get it working on my home network.

Time: about a day total, spread out over a few days. (probably less if you have experience)
Level of Difficulty: Medium
View of the installed hardware
 Issues I Ran Into:
  • The first video tutorial I watched before Christmas was already outdated by the time I purchased the parts I needed, just after Christmas, so I had to find a more recent video tutorial. It definitely pays to watch the video and read the comments before you start!
  • This tutorial is intended for PC users, and I’m on a Mac, so there were some differences, but few. One was that I used a (free) Putty alternative, called Cyberduck. This meant going off script a bit with no exact visual to follow, but it was pretty similar to the Putty instructions, especially when i found the menu item "Open in Terminal” in Cyberduck.
  • Once I had the OpenMediaVault installed, I reached the storage step, and there was some trial and error. I wasn’t sure whether to follow the Windows type of server demonstrated, or one of the others. Windows server type worked fine.
  • Hardware:
    • The Raspberry Pi 4B has a micro HDMI connector. It is a much smaller connection than the HDMI that I was used to. I spent Jan 2 looking for a store that was open that had an adapter. The first one I bought had a weird 90 degree turn. I thought it would work, but it interfered with the power connection on the Pi. I had to find one that came straight out to get it to work. The part cost about $15, and, I later discovered that I didn't even need it because this Pi NAS device is meant to be remotely connected to, with no monitor, keyboard or mouse needed.
      Learn from my mistake and don't bother with the micro-HDMI cable or adapter!
    • Power cord. The USB-C power connection is unique. I had to find one that had a power toggle built into the wire, designed for Pi. I paid $5 for mine.
    • The price of this project can vary.
      • The Pi itself can cost around $35 if you opt for 1GB of RAM, a bit more for 2GB, or a max of 4GB RAM costing about $60 - $80. I paid $62 for mine.
      • Optionally, you can purchase an enclosure for the Pi. The enclosure I chose cost about $10, and came with a fan and a few tiny self-adhesive heat sinks that I installed.
      • A power cable is not included with the Pi. Mine cost about $8.
      • Storage. If you’re like me, you have hard drives kicking around… either external drives or internal drives that were upgraded, or pulled from older computers. For internal SD drives you can get a $8 adapter cable (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07S9CKV7X/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_M4qfEb239B43F) to cost effectively use the internal drive as an external drive. Even large thumb drives would work here, but more likely you’ll want something with a terabyte or 2, to make it worth your while. 
Final Thoughts
Would I do it again/ recommend it to a friend? -Yes! Just know up front that there will be obstacles that you’ll need to overcome.
Have you tried this too? How was your experience? Let me know down in the comments.

About the Author
It seems relevant to include a little info on my experience level. Denis has built a few PCs (with help) and swapped out a hard drive / battery or 2 on my own over the years but this seemed more complex and involved. YouTube tutorials are your friend, and I didn’t run into anything that wasn’t discussed/ solved by someone in a video. 
Raspberry Pi by Ben Davis from the Noun Project
MacBook by Valeriy from the Noun Project
Router by Atif Arshad from the Noun Project
Google Pixel 3 xl by Stepan Voevodin from the Noun Project
Desktop Computer by Tom Tom from the Noun Project

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