If you are someone that records TV off of Antenna or Cable or maybe you are someone that takes a lot of video on your phone and you need a central place to store it so all of your devices can access the content and offload for storage then you should consider setting up a media server in your home.
In our home we have the ability to access our NAS server from each of our TVs from Android TV Boxes and we are able to watch lots of shows and movies that we have recorded over the years. Its like our own little Netflix and there isn’t a subscription cost.
The content on the server doesn’t have to be restricted to video and pictures. You can give everyone in your home a place to backup or store their data either in a private or public way.
In this how to we will look at your options for a home media server and what the costs vs benefits are of each method. If your needs are light then the cost might not be more than $100 but if you are storing large amounts of data you may end up spending 10 times that or more. It all depends on your needs and what is best for your home.
Home Media Servers And Security
One of the first things you should consider when designing your home media server is that it may not be the best place to store both private and open content if security is your most important factor. This is also true of Online storage such as public cloud services that might come free with an email account. If you need to keep your information secure you should place it in an encrypted file that is stored on a device or drive that is in your physical control.
Like a cloud storage solution once you connect your local media server to a wifi router that may also be connected to the internet you open yourself to security risks. You should take all the steps that you can to secure your devices and your content to minimize your risk.
Always use the most secure method of authentication, Never give out your passwords to friends or visitors, Do Not consider your home storage devices as online storage that you can access while you are on the road or at work or school.
Hardware Required For A Media Server
The hardware for a media server doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as easy as connecting a USB Drive to your Router which is then shared with your local network. As we covered above you want to keep security in mind when choosing this method to keep your files private but this method can be as inexpensive as a 4TB External Drive hooked to your Routers Port which all of your devices can access either over wired or wifi.
The next step up is to buy a dedicated NAS Server that is a small device used to hold hard drives which also has a simple operating system and network card installed in it. I have seen a variety of these devices but they all basically work the same. You will have the option of adding from one to four drives and maybe more if you have the money. Each drive that you install in your NAS should be the exact same Model and Size and it should be formatted by the NAS as RAID storage.
RAID Storage is (Reliable Array of Inexpensive Drives) meaning you do not necessarily need to purchase the most expensive NAS Drives when you are formatting them as RAID because if you choose a redundant format of RAID such as Raid 5 there will be automatic file security built in and you should never lose any of your data even if one drive fails.
That is pretty complex to understand but lets just go over it in real words.. With your NAS you will install say 4 hard drives. If the hard drives were formatted normally you might have four 5tb drives that would give you close to 20TB of space. With normal formatting if you lose a drive you lose everything on it. If you choose to format your NAS Drives as RAID 5 then your 20TB of space will end up being about 14TB but that lost space will be used to create a backup of all of your files. If you lose one drive to a crash then you just put another drive in your NAS and it will automatically restore all of your files. Its a great option and I think you should always pick a RAID format that has this backup option even if it costs you about one drive worth of space to provide that backup.
If you really don’t care about the files on your NAS then you can format the drives in another method but eventually if you lose that data you will be disappointed and it will cost you time to restore it manually if you even can.
Building Vs Buying Your NAS Server
Many people that have an extra computer around their home might wonder if they can use it to build a NAS Media Server. Yes You Can. That is the simple answer that yes you can build your own server out of old parts and it will only cost you the parts that you don’t have right now. You might want to install drives or buy a RAID controller so you can format the drives in RAID5 or you might need to add a Gigabit Ethernet Card to increase the speed that files can be read over the network.
All of the options, Configuration Time and Management Time of your home built server have to be evaluated before you decide to use that old computer for your storage.
However if you just need something quick and dirty yes you can even just connect that old computer and throw an extra drive in it and use it as you see fit. You can use Linux as a Server or maybe you can get away with using the Desktop OS that you have on it now like Windows or Mac OS.
Price and Features overall and when you start coming close to the price of a dedicated NAS you should really consider buying one because they are very small about 1/3rd the size of a small tower computer and they are full featured for what they do.
On the other hand if you have a monitor to go with your home built NAS in an emergency if your primary computer goes down you can still go do some work on your NAS as a full computer backup. If you choose to use an Operating System that supports that.. Obviously some forms of Linux are only for NAS and won’t allow you to use them as a backup Desktop.
The first thing we went over is the security behind your install and with so many options out there in how people set up their home networks and their knowledge about securing their network its important that Security is the number one aspect when you are building a NAS storage Media Server.
You will have a lot of files available on your server and some will be Media and Pictures but if you are like most people you will probably choose to use it for backup of your personal files. When doing this Security is important.
I strongly suggest that you shy away from allowing remote access over the internet to your NAS unless it is extremely important. If you do require access over the internet and you open ports on your router to enable that then you must have a multi level authentication method and your files should be encrypted by software encryption. Most file compression tools like 7zip can provide basic file encryption. But you choose the method best for you.
Once your system is up you should have lots of fun accessing your media from your computers, phones and televisions.