For a while, I’ve had the family photos and a bunch of other files stored on an external hard drive and plugged into the USB port of our router, so that they could be accessed from any of the computers in the house. Once in a while I’d manually back up the drive to another external drive, which was a tedious process.
Then shopping one day I noticed that there were a number of consumer grade network attached storage devices (NAS). I couldn’t resist picking up the D-Link DNS-320 for $99. I have two drives in it set up in a RAID 1 configuration, which means that one drive is a mirror image of the other. So the DNS-320 works very well as a replacement for what I had before, allowing me to connect to shared files via the home network, with the added feature of saving me from doing the manual backup.
I even have the remote access figured out, so later on, I may start to set up shares to allow me to access certain folders remotely. (Important tip for selecting folders below the top level: When you click on Add, you should see a small folder icon, a checkbox and Volume_1. Click on Volume_1 and it will expand the subtree of the folders below it. That was NOT obvious to me!)
I also have a media library on the DNS-320, consisting of my about 150 CDs ripped as MP3 files using about 11 GB of storage, as well as 240 GB of MP3 files I inherited elsewhere. I keep a copy of a subset of that collection on my computer hard drive and synchronized to the iPhone using iTunes.
I figured I’d try to run a music server on the DNS-320, so I could play music anywhere in the house. Theres two ways to do this on the DNS-320: running a UPnP server (listed at DLNA compatible) or running an iTunes server.
I got an Apple TV as a Christmas gift. After doing some research, I found out it would work with an iTunes server, but not a DLNA server. Access through the iTunes server would require leaving a computer turned on to run iTunes, which (IMHO) defeats the purpose of running a server on a NAS. So I returned the Apple TV and picked up a Sony SMP-N200 network media player, which is DLNA compatible.
I started up the uPnP server on the DNS-320, and it took about 24 hours (ugh!) to build up the media library. When that was done, I was able to see the music library on the NAS using the SMP-N200, but I would hardly consider it usable. Sure, I could browse to a folder and play a single MP3, but that’s about all I could do. I couldn’t create playlists, not even with the associated iPhone app which could be used as a remote.
On to Plan B: back to the Apple TV and the iTunes server and leaving the computer on. But before heading out to get the Apple TV, I started the iTunes server and then tried connecting to it from my computer. After waiting about ten minutes while it communicated with the DNS-320, I gave up on trying to use it to stream media.
I’m still happy with the DNS-320 because it does most of what I want to do: a network hard drive with backup. Functioning streaming media functionality would have been a bonus, but not a deal breaker for me at this price point. For the next few years, I’ll continue to pull out the Christmas CDs during the holidays. 🙂