Media Streaming To The World

Recently I bought a Netgear ReadyNAS Drive; i.e. Network Attached Storage. It’s a piece of kit containing hard drives that you connect to your home router, giving you a separate place to store all of your media and documents.

My NAS contains four 3TB drives; a total of 12’288GB of space! To complicate things further I have the NAS set up in a RAID configuration. RAID is a ‘first-level redundancy’ safety mechanism. In layman’s terms, hard drive two is a direct copy of hard drive one, hard drive four is a direct copy of hard drive three. If one hard drive fails, the data is still safely stored on the other drive. The downside to this is that it cuts the storage capacity in half because of the duplication.

Slight overkill, I hear you say, but my NAS serves a clear purpose…

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(UPDATE: Just to clarify the above numbers; although in computer terms 1TB is 1024GB, in manufacturing terms 1TB is 1000GB. So 12TB of space is actually 12’000GB, and not 12’228GB. In addition, due to the way restriping occurs and the redundancy effect of RAID, my 12TB of space actually accumulates to 8.2TB. Somehow.)

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The beauty of my NAS system is that it’s a self-contained unit with its own operating system, memory and processor. This means I can install add-on software and the box will do it’s own thing, without needing a computer. It’s possible to run torrent software to automatically read RSS feeds and download the latest TV episodes I’ve missed, or install software which runs a website directly off the NAS without having to pay for hosting, etc.

Today I discovered a piece of software called Plex Media Server. And I have to say, it’s utter genius. Plex is an add-on that will database all your files and play any media file you throw at it. Secondly, it will transcode and stream these files across your network to your TV, laptop, games console or smart phone.

I can store my entire music and video collection on the NAS, and it will stream the audio or video to anywhere in the world. My NAS is a place for me to archive and keep every piece of footage I shoot with my DSLR’s. I keep all my original files as back-up, even after transcoding, editing and final publication. Some of these files are huge. But with Plex, I can watch the footage back without having to copy the files across the network. Technically, I can show the footage to an editor using my iPhone whilst on the go.

Like I say, it’s brilliant. Now I have access to my entire media catalogue from anywhere in the world. It’s like YouTube for all my media stored at home! I’m currently in the process of going through my entire movie collection and archiving it onto my NAS system, which I then have access to from absolutely anywhere.

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UPDATE: I should make is quite clear that transcoding and streaming via Plex depends on your internet connection and what hardware you are operating with. Although my ReadyNAS NVX will stream video via Plex to my MacBook Pro with no problems, the ReadyNAS struggles to transcode video and stream it to my Samsung TV via the Plex smart app on the telly. I currently can’t work out why that is, considering it’s the same hardware in the NAS on both occasions, but I have run into complications there. The Plex FAQ suggests hardware for transcoding should be at least a 2GHz dual core processor. The ReadyNAS NVX uses a single 1GHz Intel processor and 1GB of RAM.

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