How to Setup a Home File Server or NAS

Home File Servers are the consumer electronics solution to the massive storage we all have now without having a dedicated PC. If you recently bought a home file server or are planning on getting one soon this article will help you understand how to set it up. Home file servers usually also come as DLNA media servers. We’ll cover that in another article. You should also consider backing up your NAS to a cloud storage provider like Amazon AWS.

Naming the Home File Server

The name you choose is not so important. Thanks to UPNP (Universal Plug ‘n Play) the server will announce itself on your home network and you will easily find it. So even if you can’t remember the name, you’ll see it pop up in your devices list (Control Panel, Hardware and Sound, Devices and Printers).

Network Setup

The network setup for a home file server is not much more than specifying which IP addressing method the NAS should use. The options are Dynamic Host Configuration (DHCP) or a static IP address. Generally, letting your router assign the IP address with DHCP is a good idea. Since Most devices today, including your NAS (Network Attached Storage), support UPnP the NAS will be found automatically by your devices and you will never need to specify it’s IP address. Unless you have a good reason not to use DHCP, then that is the option you should use.

Multiple Disk Drive Options

Disk-Arrays
This option only applies if you have a home file server enclosure with one or more hard drives. Depending on the vendor, you may be able to configure them as:

  1. Mirrored drives: both drives are kept as exact copies of each other. In this arrangement you only get half the storage capacity of both drives but you get complete automatic backups of your NAS all the time
  2. Striped Drives: Also known as RAID. Where parts of each file are stored on each drive. This gives you higher speed and more storage capacity. But if one drive fails then you can’t access ANY of your files. If you use this option, make sure that you back up your NAS regularly.
  3. Spanned Drives let you use both drives as one large drive as well. Files are not striped over both disks. So you don’t gain on speed. But if one drive fails, you only lose half your data. There is no telling which half. So you had better still backup your NAS. If your going to use this option then you might as well use the striped option and make use of the higher speeds.
  4. JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks): Lets you access each disk separately. So you can decide which drive will store your data. Then you can backup only the important data and have less important data on the other drive.

User and Folder Permissions

This is likely the most challenging part for most people because they are nor professional system administrators. To Keep it simple, I believe this is the right way to get started with a home file server.

  1. Create a user account and folder for each member of your family and give them complete Read-Write rights to it.
  2. Create a Family folder and give everyone Read-Write rights to it. This is a general area where everyone can share files
  3. Create a Parent area and a Parent group where you can store sensitive files and share them only with members of the Parents group. Add the appropriate users to the Parent group.
  4. Create a Media area where you can store family pictures and videos. Give everyone Read access to it but Read-Write access should only be given to Parents. This way you avoid accidental deletion of files that can’t be replaced.
  5. Create an administrator account that has Read-Write access to all folders. This account is used for backups.

Disk-Arrays2

Mapping of Drives

Once the user accounts have been set up, each user’s computer or login account if they share a computer needs to be mapped as a network drive. In Windows, this can be done from File Explorer and going to Computer, Map Network Drive, and then specifying “\\your-Home-File-Server-Name\name-of-the-folder. you will then be prompted for a user name and password.

Map-Network-Drive1

Conclusion

Setting up a NAS is not a daunting task. If done correctly from the start, very little maintenance is needed over time. Hopefully you have found this article useful. Please leave a comment below and don’t forget to give us a Google+.

There’s a great article on getting files from your WD NAS when you are away from home.

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