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Low Power NAS for the RV Traveller with Raspberry Pi

April 10, 2018
Raspberry Pi Open Media Vault

Now days there are so many people who are recording large amounts of video footage and taking large amounts of photos when they travel.  With people taking extended trips, spending time boondocking, YouTubers and the ever-growing quality of photos creeping past 20 megapixel raw files and video creeping up to 4K at 60fps the need for additional storage is growing.

This presents a number of problems when deciding.  Using the Raspberry Pi with Open Media Vault and a number of small Western Digital Passport keeps the costs low (under a few hundred dollars), gives multiple Terabyte storage capability, with network access by multiple users/devices, as well as redundancy all in a small package not much bigger than a few packages of playing cards that runs off a single standard micro USB charger used for an Android phone or most other mobile devices drawing only a few watts.

Power Consumption:  for may RV’rs or sailors power is the most important factor in travelling for long periods of time.  What most people who boondock or blue water sail don’t aways realize is that almost all of their electronic devices run on DC power and use an AC to DC power converter.  So to power these devices you would need to plug into an AC power source like an inverter.  Inverting power from DC on your battery bank to AC is very wasteful (up to 50%), and then the power cord for the device will then reconvert the power back to DC, thus adding additional waste.  With the ease of adding cigarette lighter style 12V DC power plugs into an RV or boat allows you to use the standard car charger plugs used to charge your phone in the car, which means the device is drawing DC directly off the battery bank to power the DC device.  The great thing about Raspberry Pi is that they us the same standard phone charging cable used to charge your phone in the car to power them and even with a few WD Passport drives plugged in, only draw a few watts of power.  When you look at the alternative like a bigger WD drive enclosure with multiple drives, or a higher end NAS like a Synology NAS that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, require desktop computer drives and draw many hundreds of watts, most people do not need the performance these systems give for their RV, especially at the cost of having to run their generator, get to shore power sooner or add additional batteries and solar panels to keep it running.

Cost: this is one of the biggest advantages of this solution.  A Raspberry Pi, even with a case will cost about $40, the software Open Media Vault is free and adding WD Passport drives only cost about $70 for 1TB per drive.

Storage Space: Although you can put a half-dozen 8TB drives in a higher end Synology drive enclosure that comes at a cost of thousands of dollars.  A Raspberry Pi 3 will come with 4 USB port and with the cost of a WD Passport 2TB, you could add 4 2TB drives for about $500 and since USB drives are hot swap, you are not limited to the number of bays/drives your enclosure will hold, you can just swap drives as they fill.

Network Access for multiple users:  Open Media Vault will allow you to create network shares and allow multiple users to access the stored files.  Although Raspberry Pi will not allow for high performance network access, a Raspberry Pi running at 100mbps will always run at 100mbps, however the multi thousand dollar Synology with 1gbps networking will run at an absolute max of 700mbps and in most cases 300-500mbps is more realistic so the cost vs performance or power consumption vs performance will still make this a solid option for those off the grid.

Adequate redundancy/backup: There is a saying that in order to ensure you have a guarantee against loosing your data, you need to follow the “3-2-1 rule”.  That is 3 copies, saved on 2 different media types, one copy offsite.  Having a Synology NAS only allows for a very limited amount of redundancy in case of failure but only if you enable mirroring or RAID5.  However this only protects you from a single drive failure.  It does not protect you from a multi drive failure, a catastrophic failure of the NAS itself (fire), theft of the NAS, RV or boat, fire in the RV/boat or virus/ransomware on the drive.  All your files are still stored in one location. With the Raspberry Pi solution, since the WD Passport drives (or similar drives) are so cheap and easy to get around the world it is easy to set up the drives in pairs and configure Rsync to keep them in sync and keep adding new drives when you run out of space.  With Rsync and easy hot swap, it allows you to make a duplicate copy to store in your Safebox, Tow Vehicle or to mail home to family to store for you.

From → RV Tech

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