USB NAS/Printer Adapter

Dear Lazyweb,

I just went and bought a 1.5TB USB hard disk for backups, but now I realise it would have been smarter to buy a NAS device, so that all the computers on my home network could access it. Come to think of it, I’d also rather like to share my printer across the network even when my main PC isn’t there.

Can anyone recommend a USB to NAS/Printer adapter widget? Criteria:

  • Must be connectable-to by multiple computers at once (you’d think this was a given, but apparently not)
  • Must be configurable and fully usable using only Linux
  • Must support both NAS and printer-sharing
  • Must either have 2 USB ports, or support use of a hub. 3 or 4 ports would be a bonus.

There seems to be a lot of dodgy or Windows-only stuff out there, so recommendations would be much appreciated. I’m in the US soon, so if something is only available there, that’s not a deal-breaker.

19 thoughts on “USB NAS/Printer Adapter

  1. QNap 119 is a great device. Not sure if it works with multiple USB devices but works well with Linux and Windows (it is in fact a full Linux server in a box – not too fast or powerful, but good enough for most basic tasks).

    The 119 is a fanless device with relatively modest power consumption (

  2. The QNap 117 seems to already have a hard disk in, and so costs £170. I’m looking for something without a hard disk, costing more like £20-£40…

    Gerv

  3. I’ve been mostly happy with the “Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station”. Press release: http://www.iomega.com/about/prreleases/2010/010510_iconnect.html (Much of their web site is down now, or maybe it’s Comcast again, so I can’t point to a product page.)

    • Multiple computers work. I ran backups from two computers to the iConnect simultaneously last night.
    • Web interface, no need for Windows.
    • Support for NAS and printer sharing. Unfortunately the printer support doesn’t work correctly for my printer (a Brother laser printer) — I only get the first page of printouts — but it does work for many people.
    • Four USB ports.

    The device supports batch jobs to copy files. I use the feature to replicate my backups.

  4. If you don’t mind just building a system to do this job, try the D945GSEJT mini-ITX Atom board with 12V DC power supply, and the M350 fanless case from mini-box.

    Alternatively, try an NSLU2.

    I really like the HP JetDirect for printer sharing, but it doesn’t do storage.

  5. Q-NAP TS 210 is pretty good for its price (you have to add 2 sata disks though), only drawback is that I’ve been unable to make it share a pretty old HP laserjet 1000. But that is an old printer.

  6. There are a lot of companies selling NAS for Home/SoHo :

    http://www.qnap.com –> Qnap has a wide variety of models, from the single disk drive + eSata to the box for 8 drives ! Under Linux, with loads of options, I have an TS-439 Pro II

    http://www.thecus.com, another ompany with Linux NAS
    http://www.synology.com, again a Linux NAS

    Also, Drobo.com, but I can’t see on which OS it is based (probably Linux).

  7. Sounds like a Pogoplug, assuming your printer is supported. If not, perhaps with a 3rd party mod (it’s linux based, so lots of options like CUPS) you can get it running). It’s also very low powered.

  8. Can people please read the requirements? :-)

    I appreciate everyone’s helpfulness, but I’m not looking for a NAS box with built-in drives or to which bare drives have to be added (like the Q-NAP ones). And I don’t want to build my own system – I want something that just works. And it needs to support printer sharing, unlike the NSLU2 (which is discontinued anyway).

    The Tonido Plug looks interesting (thanks, Chris :-), although I was hoping to pay a little less…

  9. I gave up on my NAS. None of my windows machines could see it. None of my windows machines could see each other in fact. For some reason my macbook sees everything.

    I’m getting a mac mini instead. If I absolutely need access from windows to a file on a drive hooked up to the mac mini I can use the macbook to vnc into it, then have the mini connect to the windows machine and copy the file over.

  10. Except for the Linux bit and the pricing I’d recommend an airport express… But there’s no way to do setup/configuration under Linux, apparently, and it seems to retail for £80 (which is ridiculous; the US pricing is $99).

    Stuart’s suggestion is probably the way to go; similar idea at lower cost and without the configuration issues.

  11. Ah is nslu2 discontinued, a shame … Im suprised printer sharing from it is not possible, surely it’s the usual Linux printing stuff on there, maybe just need to update the distro ?

  12. I read your requirements. For an idea that matches 1 out of 4 of them, you could try AoE (ATA over Ethernet).

    • You can only connect to it with a single computer at a time.
    • The functionality is built into Linux 2.6.11+
    • NAS only. No printer sharing.
    • Zero USB ports. You’d probably want eSATA anyway.

    For printer sharing, get a new printer. I’m very happy with sharing my printer via built-in wireless.

  13. You could always spend ten bucks (err, sorry, five quid in UK parlance) on an eight-year-old used small-form-factor PC and run Debian and Samba on it headless. Inelegant, perhaps, but it works. Of your four criteria the only one it doesn’t support is allowing computers to connect via USB, but plain old 100BaseT ethernet is in many ways easier to deal with anyhow.

    (I’m assuming that you, being someone who does a lot of stuff with computers, would presumably already have a LAN in place, so you wouldn’t have to add in the cost of a switch like people with only one PC and dialup internet might need to make this work. I can’t imagine having multiple computers in the house and *not* having them networked, as cheap and convenient as it is.)

    > And I don’t want to build my own system
    > – I want something that just works.

    Oh. Well, perhaps not then. That’s kind of an unusual requirement, coming from a major advocate of free software, but I can’t say I entirely disagree with the sentiment.

    > None of my windows machines
    > could see each other in fact.

    They don’t try to, by default, in modern versions of Windows (anything more recent than XP, I think). Apparently the traditional security wisdom (don’t run unnecessary services, be secure by default, etc) got through to at least one Windows developer. Personally I find it a little ironic that this is the thing they picked to lock down by default, rather than something more dangerous like AutoPlay, but hey, that’s the kind of schizophrenia you get when you subdivide the developers into small teams and allow very little interaction between them.

  14. I too would love to have something to stick my printer and USB flash/hard drives into that I can leave powered on without feeling guilty.

    * The first comment seems the best: NS-K330, install SnakeOS, $40. Only two USB ports.

    * The Iomega iConnect is “more professional” with more ports for only $60 on Amazon, but has terrible reviews. BUT selling a general-purpose server with dozens of uses to n00bs dooms you to lots of unhappy customers. It’s hackable from a USB serial port. Amazon offers similar Cirago NUS1000, Verbatim Mediashare, and Pogoplug Media Sharing devices.

    * The Guruplug Server -Standard from Globalscale is a general-purpose computer that presumably with the right Linux install will meet your needs, IonicsPlug.com sells similar units also using the Marvell Sheeva chip. Both for ~$100.

    All these hardware manufacturers should band together to form a Mozilla-like “Home Linux Server Foundation” that builds, tests, updates, and forms a community around a server distribution for all these devices, one that’s focused on average users. I have a dream…

  15. I too would love to have something to stick my printer and USB flash/hard drives into that I can leave powered on without feeling guilty.

    * The first comment seems the best: NS-K330, install SnakeOS, $40. Only two USB ports.

    * The Iomega iConnect is “more professional” with more ports for only $60 on Amazon, but has terrible reviews. BUT selling a general-purpose server with dozens of uses to n00bs dooms you to lots of unhappy customers. It’s hackable from a USB serial port. Amazon offers similar Cirago NUS1000, Verbatim Mediashare, and Pogoplug Media Sharing devices.

    * The Guruplug Server -Standard from Globalscale is a general-purpose computer that presumably with the right Linux install will meet your needs, IonicsPlug.com sells similar units also using the Marvell Sheeva chip. Both for ~$100.

    All these hardware manufacturers should band together to form a Mozilla-like “Home Linux Server Foundation” that builds, tests, updates, and forms a community around a server distribution for all these devices, one that’s focused on average users. I have a dream…