We put a Linksys NSLU2 in place about 4 months ago with two 500GB drives attached. One drive is meant to mirror the other for backup purposes. (See Small Business – Server & Backup)
Things have not been perfect. At least a few times in the last month I’ve had to reboot the NSLU2 because it could not be seen on the network. In most cases pulling out the power cord, plugging it back in, and powering on the device solves things, but really, should we have to do that? Shouldn’t the thing just work?
We’ve also had some weird permission problems. We’re a Mac-shop, and most of the files don’t really rely on having their unixy-permissions correct, but some do, like the files that go onto the web sites. A file on my Mac set to -rw-r–r– gets copied to the NSLU2 and is then set to -rwx——. This is bad bad bad! If we try to upload files directly to a web site, or even to our Macs, and then to a web site, they can’t be viewed, as the permissions are hosed.
I’m also not happy about the fact that we can’t plug the NSLU2’s drives into a Mac and get to the files. I’ve tried using Mac OS X Ext2 Filesystem but it didn’t work. This means if the NSLU2 dies, we would have to get another one to get to the files.
I think the NSLU2 is a nice little device for the hacker to play with, or maybe for a home network of Windows machines, or even Macs, where file permissions don’t matter, but I’m just not sure it can cut it for a small business.
I know other companies make NAS devices that may fit our needs, but looking at the Apple AirPort Extreme, it just might fit the bill. It probably doesn’t have some of the nice features of the NSLU2, but we could easily add a USB hub and our external drives and be up and running. I trust Apple hardware to be reliable, easy to use, and work seamlessly with our Macs. The price is about double the NSLU2, but it may be worth it.
We have two other options right now. We could install Linux on the NSLU2 and see if that fixes the problems. My reservation there is that NSLU2-Linux is a hacker project and I’m not sure what we’d lose/gain by switching what is running on the NSLU2.
The second option would be to take an old iMac running Mac OS X and attach the drives to it. This should take care of our permission problems, and also make it easy to attach the drives to any other Mac as needed. The downside here is that the iMac is older and since it would have to be running all the time it could fail. It also does not have some of the features of the NSLU2, but I can probably add them with a few cron jobs and Perl-fu.
So right now we may stick it out with the NSLU2 as is, but I’m always looking for better solutions.