Linux is more popular choice for network attached storage (NAS). The operating system is free and there are now distributions that are turnkey for rapid deployment.
Consumer NAS units range from 2 to 4 disks. Corporate servers now use 60 disk chassis that have 4 rows stacked inside a standard 4U chassis,
FreeNAS is based on BSD. Using a USB boot stick makes it independent of the hard disk(s) completely.
- 16GB USB for boot
- 8GB RAM (16GB recommended)
- RAID strongly discouraged
Recent USB sticks have been seen with 100MB/s performance. Addition RAM can be used as a disk cache to reduce disk thrashing. RAID cards are obsolete, now JBOD can be grouped easily,
Samba is the open source alternative for Windows shops. The most recent versions even support active directory for corporate use. Home needs are much simpler.
If you are using Azure you need to open port 10000 which is the default port for WEBMIN.
In the early days PCs often used a a server for storage,. Disks were expensive so shared disks were common. DOS floppies could boot the client and then the server disk would be used for COMMAND.COM and other DOS commands. Applications could also be shared. A shared Word Perfect setup was commonplace.