Building a Reliable Home Backup System

I’ve been looking into solutions to store our increasingly insane media collection.  With the sheer number of pictures and hd movies we’ve made of Max (and no end in sight) as well as our formerly 1000+ cd and lp collection ripped and various iTunes TV Shows and Movies our need for backup and storage is pretty severe.


  • At least 1 TB of storage.
  • DLNA (and optionally iTunes) streaming
  • RAID1 or some other type of data redundancy
  • Time Machine compatibility to back up our laptops
  • An operating system that will allow the installation of apps, either through a console or graphically.


  • Time Capsule Unfortunately no redundancy.
  • HP MediaSmart Server (too expensive, limited storage options unless you go really expensive- bonus iTunes streaming)
  • Drobo (nice in that it uses as many drives as  you can throw in it, network is an additional cost and slowed down due to USB)
  • Roll my own– yeah I think that’s it.

Roll Your Own NAS

Many advantages here:

  • I can put whatever operating system I want on it- Windows Home Server or some Linux NAS distribution, even XP
  • I can install apps I’d like to include, from backup, bittorrent, itunes, streaming tools, or anything else I can think of.
  • I choose the hard drive size and I know it will be mirrored.
  • I can set up Time Machine backups to it.
  • All things considered, its very reasonably priced.


  • WHS is by all accounts not great, despite its potential.  Roll your own NAS tools can be cumbersome to configure and maintain.
  • Buying barebones pc hardware almost always results in a return or two before everything works.
  • Time Machine is a kludge and certainly not guaranteed by Apple to work.

The Server:

APEX MI-100 Black / Mirror finish Steel Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case 250W Power Supply:
One of the few Mini-ITX computer cases that are compatible with the Atom based NVIDIA ION platform I want to use.  Fits two drives and has enough power to drive my equipment.  $36

ASUS AT3N7A-I Intel Atom 330 (1M Cache, 1.6GHz, Dual-Core) NVIDIA ION Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
I wanted an Atom and ION combo board so I’d have enough power to drive a few apps and maybe even transcode video if necessary while keeping the power draw low.  $150

HITACHI Deskstar HD31000 IDK/7K (0S00163) 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive
Eh, its a hard drive.  I’m buying 2, so that’s $180

CORSAIR 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model VS2GB667D2
It’s RAM. $86

$452 before shipping.  All things considered that is pretty darn competitive.  I’m taking donations.

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