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Build Your Own NAS with Compute Module

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is now widely used in both home and enterprise environments. Its primary function is to provide file storage and sharing over a network, making it an essential tool for centralized data management and backup. People rely on NAS to store large amounts of data, including documents, photos, videos, and software backups, as it offers a reliable and secure storage solution. In addition to dedicated NAS devices, individuals can also build their own NAS systems using self-assembled servers or embedded system devices such as SBCs (Single Board Computers), Compute Modules, and more.

 

In a home environment, NAS can be used to centrally store personal files, photos, and videos of family members and support multi-device access. For example, parents can use NAS to store work documents and photos, while children can save study materials and entertainment videos on the same NAS. All family members can access these data through their smartphones, computers, or tablets.

 

In an enterprise environment, NAS can be employed to centrally store business files, databases, and backup data, enhancing the efficiency and security of data management. For instance, a small to medium-sized business can use NAS to store employees' work files and project materials. By setting access permissions, data security can be ensured while backing up crucial data to prevent data loss.

 

Synology NAS

Synology NAS

 

NAS Built with Raspberry Pi CM4

NAS Built with Raspberry Pi CM4

 

Common NAS Hardware Components

Building a NAS system typically involves using various types of hardware, including:

 

Dedicated NAS Devices: Brands like Synology and QNAP offer NAS products known for their high performance, stability, and user-friendliness, though they tend to be more expensive.

 

Self-Assembled PCs or Servers: This option requires users to have some hardware knowledge. They can configure the CPU, memory, and storage according to their needs, offering high flexibility but involving complex assembly and maintenance.

 

Embedded Systems or Microcomputers: Devices such as the Raspberry Pi, LattePanda, and similar options are cost-effective and compact but may have lower performance compared to the first two options. However, many high-performance devices are now becoming available in this category.

 

These hardware setups can achieve NAS functionality by installing specific NAS operating systems, such as FreeNAS or OpenMediaVault.

 

A DIY LattePanda NAS

A DIY LattePanda NAS

 

Advantages of Using a Compute Module to Build a NAS

Compute Modules (such as the Raspberry Pi CM4, LattePanda Mu) are a type of embedded system that integrates computing power and flexible interface design, making them well-suited as the foundational hardware for a NAS.

 

1. Modularity and Flexibility

Modularity and flexibility make hardware configuration and expansion much simpler and more adaptable, allowing users to customize and upgrade as needed to meet ever-changing storage demands.

 

Dedicated NAS devices typically have fixed hardware configurations, limiting upgrades and expansions. For example, if a user purchases an entry-level NAS device from a certain brand and later finds that the hardware performance is insufficient, they might need to replace the entire device. While building a PC from scratch offers more flexibility, it requires users to have a high level of technical knowledge for selecting and configuring components.

 

Compute Modules support modular design, allowing users to choose different compute modules and interface cards as needed for flexible configurations. For example, users can opt for additional USB or SATA interfaces to connect more hard drives or choose TPM modules to enhance data security.

 

This year, the newly released LattePanda Mu x86 compute module features an Intel N100 processor. The currently available version includes 8GB of memory and 64GB of storage, and it is compatible with both Windows and Linux. It allows users to design and integrate custom carrier boards, enabling a rich assortment of interfaces, including 3 HDMI/DisplayPort ports, 8 USB 2.0 ports, up to 4 USB 3.2 ports, and 9 PCIe 3.0 lanes.

 

Flexible Expansion of LattePanda Mu Compte Module

 

2. Miniaturization and Low Power Consumption

Miniaturized and low-power devices are ideal for home and small office spaces, being more environmentally friendly and reducing electricity consumption. The stable low-power characteristics can also lower the risk of overheating, thereby extending hardware lifespan.

 

Traditional PCs or servers are large and consume a lot of power, making them unsuitable for small spaces and leading to increased electricity bills over prolonged usage. For instance, a standard desktop PC might consume several hundred watts of power, whereas a home NAS device might consume between 10 to 50 watts.

 

Compute Modules are small in size and have low power consumption. For example, the Raspberry Pi CM4 measures 55x 40x 4.7 millimeters, and the LattePanda Mu measures 60x 69.9 millimeters. Even with the corresponding carrier board, the size of these modules is much smaller than typical NAS devices. Their power consumption is usually just a few watts. They can be placed in any small space, such as bookshelves, drawers, or corners of rooms. Compute Modules not only achieve miniaturization but also ensure the device can run for long periods without generating excessive heat or noise, making them perfect for home users and small office environments.

 

Small LattePanda Mu Compute Module

Size of LattePanda Mu Compute Module

 

3. High Performance

High performance is crucial for NAS systems because it directly affects data transfer speeds, multitasking capabilities, and the overall user experience. High-performance NAS devices can efficiently handle numerous data read and write requests, provide fast file access and streaming services, and support RAID configurations and data protection features.

 

Currently, an increasing number of high-performance Compute Modules are emerging in the market. They are typically equipped with powerful processors and ample memory. For example, the LattePanda Mu x86 compute module features an Intel N100 processor and 8GB of memory with In-band ECC, giving it a significant advantage in meeting performance demands. It combines efficient data processing capabilities with fast input/output performance, enabling high-speed data transfer and multitasking, making it ideal for constructing high-performance NAS systems.

 

Moreover, enterprise users can leverage these modules' customizable features to meticulously configure both hardware and software, optimally meeting their specific needs.

 

x86 N100 compute module - LattePanda Mu

LattePanda Mu - x86 Compute Module with Intel N100 Processor

 

4. Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-effectiveness is particularly important for home users and small to medium-sized businesses. Low-cost hardware can reduce initial investment and long-term maintenance costs, making NAS systems more affordable for a wider range of users.

 

Although dedicated NAS devices are powerful, they are usually quite expensive. High-end models from brands like Synology or QNAP can cost several hundred dollars. Similarly, building a PC or server on your own also requires significant investment in hardware components, including high-performance CPUs, memory, and enterprise-grade hard drives, leading to considerable cumulative costs.

 

In contrast, Compute Modules are relatively inexpensive. For example, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 is priced below 100, and even the higher-performing LattePanda Mu costs just over $100. when factoring in the necessary interface cards and hard drives, the overall investment remains significantly lower than that of dedicated NAS devices. Additionally, these modules support various peripheral expansions, providing an economical and practical solution that can alleviate the financial burden on users.

 

5. Community Support and Open-Source Ecosystem

Robust community support and an abundance of open-source resources can provide technical assistance and enhanced solutions, improving the functionality and user experience of NAS systems. Community support is particularly crucial for novice users as it can help them quickly get started and solve common issues.

 

Although dedicated NAS devices come with manufacturer support, users are often dependent on the manufacturer's updates and technical assistance, which may suffer from slow response times and short support periods. Self-assembled PCs or servers lack centralized support resources, which can pose challenges during configuration and troubleshooting.

 

Compute Modules, such as those from Raspberry Pi and LattePanda, have active developer communities that offer a wealth of open-source projects and continuously updated documentation. For instance, there are numerous projects and tutorials available on GitHub that assist users in installing NAS operating systems (such as OpenMediaVault and NextCloud), configuring network services, and optimizing performance. Users can access timely technical support and resource sharing, enabling them to quickly resolve issues and continually enhance the functionality and performance of their NAS systems.

 

Summary

By using Compute Modules to build a NAS, users can achieve the advantages of low cost, compact size, low power consumption, and modularity. Additionally, the robust community support and open-source ecosystem provide a flexible, economical, and efficient NAS solution. This makes Compute Modules an ideal choice for home users and small to medium-sized businesses looking to set up NAS systems.

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