Squeezebox has two components, software and hardware. The server software can run on a squeezebox touch, any computer you have around, or something like vortexbox. You hook up a hard drive to the device running the server software. If you don't have a computer, you can hook the HD up to a squeezebox touch directly, but I hear it doesn't work as well that way.
I'm going to run the server on an imac I have in another room that is connected to my wifi network, using an external HD. The touch will hook up directly to my audio system. ipeng is used to control it or you can use the touch screen or the remote that comes with it.
Squeezebox also has apps such as Mog, spotify, sirius/XM, internet radio, etc. Some require subscriptions.
You can set up multiple zones by adding additional squeezeboxes, touch, SB radio, etc.
The software finds the music on the drives on your system and indexes them. You can browse with the ipad app and see the associated artwork.
Vortexbox is not a storage device, it's a small computer that can run the server software and has a port to hook up a hardrive and to connect to your network. There are other similar devices out there.