Whether you have a home with several computers or a business with several computers one piece of equipment you want to consider is a nas. It is like a computerized file cabinet for files and copies of files. You might keep your music, pictures, word processing, database, spreadsheets and other files there. A nas makes it easy to centralize everything you have created on the computer to one place. If you have several people who work together, this can be really important, just like it would in an office to ahve a centralized file cabinet. There are quite a few on the market and they very in price. Most of the better ones sell from three to five hundred dollars or more. The only thing I do not like about the commercial nas is it locks into one company for theiir equipment and usually there is only a minimum about of services their equipment can provide. File sharing and multimedia streaming are usually the most you can get. If the equipment has an issue you have to go back to them and only them. That fives rise to the question well how dependable are they. One way to determin that is if the nas supports raid (redundant array independent disks) or using multiple hard drives to make your data safer. Sometimes how safe your data can be is determined by the raid level. most single drive nas boxes have no raid level at all. Nas boxes can have a rating of none, 0, 1, 2, 5, or more.  For the home anything up to two is usually fine. The higher the number it is generally better. For a bueiness or where the dependability of the data is important, I would choose at least raid five. The reason why I say that is is that with raid 5 the systems is self healing if no more than one drive fails at a time. It is unusual, but if more than one drive goes down. it is not good news. But the cost goes up dramatically as the raid level goes up.
Besides purchasing a off the shelf nas at the local retail store, you can actually make your own. There are several advantages. One of the most important is that it can act as a regular computer if need be. You can use off the shelf parts to either repair, upgrade, and or expand the system as needed. Most home built nas boxes are quite a bit faster than the off the shelf nas models. You can get support if you need it anywhere not just one vendor. Another important feature is that because it is a real computer you can run a variety of software on it at your whims. you can have sort of your own in how internet such as a web server (what the equipment does that lests you see the page on your monitor now. You can even get into cloud computers where the server will run software for you as if you were sitting at the keyboard of the server such as a office desktop (i.e. word processing, speadsheet, database, and presentations), accounting software, Customer relations management. Enterprise resource planning and management, Email server, Blogging programs, and many other programs. The list gets bigger every day.. The ironic part to all this is that it can be no more expensive that a commerical of off the shelf nas box. The only limitation could be that you would have to do a bit more system management. it is not really any more than what you do for your own computer now. The nas can be managed remotely. That is you do not have to go to the keyboard of the nas to do any work except rarely.
What would you need for a system like this: You can get a barebones computer with everything but the drives for one hundred dollars. you the the disk drives and hot swappable trays. (the shelf in a file cabinet). Hot swappable allows each disk drive to be removed while the computer is on. Normally to remove a drive you must shut the system down, or risk destroying the drives and possibly your system. You also need software or instructions to control the machine known as an operating system. You probably will need someone to help you set it up. Usually there is always some computer science student around who would love to help you. I laid some steps out for finding someone in an eariier blog. One of the easiest and quickest is FreeNas. It is free or no cost to you to use it. You can also use Suse, Redhat, Ubuntu or other linux to set up the nas box and much much mire.Both are freely downloadable from the internet or you can purchase a disk on-line.  If you do have some computer experience, You can go to http://www.howtoforge.com com to get details instructions to set up a nas. Alocal user group if not swamped will be glad to help you too.

The raid has I am building would probably have something like this:
Pentium 4 used barebones computer free or at most $50 (a lot faster than most nases) FREE with a little scrounging.
KINGWIN 3.5″ SERIAL ATA HOT SWAP DOCK – KF-1000-BK (fry’s) $25 x 3 to start
Three drives (depends what you can get for 50 dollars (newegg or fry’s) $50 x 3 (to start with)
$150 + $75 + 100 = $325 .
I dare you to get a good nas for that price. Anyway that is just a minimal start for doing your own. Hope that helps for people who are thinking about getting a nas..
Happy Holidays