Win­dows server vs. NAS box HARD­WARE SPECS

In the blue cor­ner, Win­dows Server; in the red, an open-source NAS. So which is best for your par­tic­u­lar needs?

APC Australia - - Feature -

We’re rid­ing your eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated machismo as an ex­cuse to look at the pros and cons of us­ing Win­dows as a home server. The demise of the real Win­dows Home Server line in 2011 left a hole in Mi­crosoft’s range, one that Win­dows Server Es­sen­tials could never quite fill with its small busi­ness re­mit, at a time when, an­noy­ingly, a home server is of more use than ever.

We all have so much dig­i­tal ‘stuff’ that we want to keep, ac­cess, stream, share and keep safe that it’s hard to know where to put it. Sure, there are cloud so­lu­tions, but who knows where your data is go­ing to end up be­ing stored. Plus, ac­cess speed is al­ways lim­ited by your up­stream/down­stream speeds. So while throw­ing stuff up to the cloud is use­ful, there are lim­i­ta­tions and con­cerns with third­party ser­vices.

There’s noth­ing bet­ter than hav­ing real bare-metal in your lo­cal­ity, run­ning ser­vices for high-speed ac­cess and backup, from where it can be pushed over slower con­nec­tions to the cloud if you want. The ques­tion is, is it bet­ter to run Win­dows on your home server box, or is an open-source so­lu­tion prefer­able? We’re here to find out, and ex­plain how to set up your own box.

You know we al­ready know the an­swer, but we’re go­ing to do a fair and balanced test. By com­par­ing what an open-source net­work at­tached server OS can ac­com­plish against Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows 10, we can at least play with some­thing in­ter­est­ing and free.

WHAT IS A NAS?

Net­work at­tached stor­age is, in some ways, an out­dated term, be­cause a ‘NAS’ these days does a whole lot more than just store files. That’s the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind this ar­ti­cle — can a modern NAS, even a free open-source im­ple­men­ta­tion, take on the might and flex­i­bil­ity of a full-fat Win­dows box? A huge chunk of that an­swer re­lies on what you want from that box.

When the term NAS was first coined, peo­ple were just happy to eas­ily ac­cess re­motely stored files (and not get nuked by the Rus­sians), nev­er­mind get any spe­cific ad­di­tional ser­vices. To­day, peo­ple ex­pect a NAS to pro­vide re­mote man­age­ment, file shares with full per­mis­sions, print ser­vices, a slew of net­work pro­to­cols, vir­tual ma­chine sup­port, me­dia transcod­ing, me­dia stream­ing to mul­ti­ple de­vices, sup­port­ing tens of stor­age de­vices with multi-ter­abytes of stor­age, with snap­shot and ver­sion­ing fea­tures on top of back­ups, plus a smor­gas­bord of flex­i­ble plug-in op­tions. But why choose a po­ten­tially lim­it­ing NAS so­lu­tion over a Win­dows in­stall? Let’s start by tak­ing time to com­pare and con­trast what both op­tions have to of­fer. We’re go­ing to look at one of the lead­ing open-source NAS dis­tri­bu­tions, called OpenMediaVault (OMV for short), which is avail­able from www.openmediavault.org. This is up to ver­sion 4.0.14 (co­de­name Ar­rakis, for Dune fans) as of the end of 2017, and only sup­ports 64-bit hard­ware — older 32-bit hard­ware needs to fall back to ver­sion 3.036, from mid-2016, which isn’t ideal. It does sup­port ARM pro­ces­sors, and it has builds for the pop­u­lar Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, and ODroid SBPCs. Be­yond that, re­quire­ments are min­i­mal: 256MB of mem­ory and 2GB of drive space. The sys­tem is de­signed to run ‘head­less’, so there’s no re­quire­ment for video hard­ware, and it can run from a USB stick. It’s based on the Linux dis­tri­bu­tion De­bian, which is one of the best sup­ported and longer run­ning dis­tros out there.

Win­dows 10 still sup­ports both 32-bit and 64-bit pro­ces­sors, with a min­i­mum speed of 1GHz. 2GB of mem­ory is the min­i­mum for a 64-bit sys­tem, while 1GB is re­quired for 32-bit sys­tems. The min­i­mum drive space is 16GB for 32-bit and 20GB for 64-bit sys­tems. Mi­crosoft states a DirectX 9.0 video card is re­quired.

We’d ques­tion both of these min­i­mum re­quire­ments in a real-world set­ting, though. Win­dows is likely go­ing to need at least a 64GB drive,

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