Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Everyone uses cloud storage these days, but I still find local storage useful, especially for large files like photos, videos, music and such. For local storage, I use network attached storage (NAS): a black box with redundant hard drives that is connected to my network. Anyone on the network can access the storage (assuming they have the appropriate permissions).

The NAS box should have at least 2 drives configured as RAID1 or RAID5 so that there is redundancy: if a hard drive fails (and it will), the information is mirrored on the other drive(s); this allows you to replace the failed drive with no loss of data. The NAS is always online making it a convenient place to backup the drives of desktops/laptops.

Note: it’s important to use hard drives designed for NAS storage (always on) such as the Western Digital Red NAS series.

Although you can make any Linux computer a NAS, I’ve found dedicated NAS boxes to be very useful; they typically use little power, take little space, are quiet, and are meant to operate continuously for years. I’ve had quite a few NAS boxes made by D-Link starting with their DNS-321.

I currently use a DNS-320L which was released in 2012 but is still perfectly usable in 2023 (thanks to Alt-F firmware…see below). I’ve installed two WD Red 4TB drives and still have loads of storage left over. It’s getting a little long-in-the-tooth, and the performance is a bit lacking (36MB/s read vs. theoretical 100MB/s maximum on GbE) but for most of my purposes it is still fine.

Alt-F Firmware
The DNS-320L is ancient and the software that it comes with is hopelessly out of date for a range of reasons. Fortunately, you can replace the stock firmware with the open-source Linux-based Alt-F firmware. This completely replaces the D-Link firmware and provides the core functionality you need (web interface, modern SAMBA file shares, etc.). The project is available from Sourceforge and offers good performance on a variety of older DLink NAS platforms (see performance comparison)

Future Hardware Upgrade
I’ll probably upgrade to a newer NAS at some point for improved performance at some point including:

  • Faster: with GbE, I should be able to get closer to 100MB/s in theory
  • Backup: USB 3.2, backup to an external USB drive should be much faster
    Ideally, the NAS should support push-button backup: connect the drive and push a button
  • Options include: QNAP TS-233, Synology DS223j, DNS-327L (probably too old)


  • Marvell 88F6707 @ 1.2GHz, 512 MB DDR3, 128MB NAND flash, Ext4, GbE, USB 3.0, RAID1
  • Read: 50MB/s, Write: 41MB/s
  • Review:
  • Debian:

Other NAS Resources