Using an external hard drive as you mentioned is really no different. You must connect it to a file server that exposes the disk as a file system resource. It is just attached externally.
Probably the simplest solution, however, is to use a NAS system that is a prepackaged appliance that can be quickly connected to your network , does not require server type administration and has fewer opportunities for other software to cause instability. Using a NAS system has significant advantages over trying to use another disk in a server as a file server resource.
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