Advice for building first NAS

bleejean

Junior Member
Feb 18, 2014
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Hello
I have built a few desktop PCs before but now I would like to try building a NAS to hold all of my media files for easy network access. I would appreciate any advice for what os to run and what would best meet my needs.

My primary need is to have about 16-20TB of network storage.

As a bonus it would be nice to be able to run utorrent on it as well.
Another bonus would be the ability to run xmbc on it and use it as a htpc.

Right now I am thinking of using 4TB WD red drives (6?), an i3 cpu (or do I need i5?), ~16GB of ram, a small case (Fractal node 304), mini itx motherboard (Asus H87I-Plus), 600 watt power supply, and a thumb drive for boot drive. I am expecting to pay around $2000.

I have been reading a bit about FreeNAS and it seems pretty good but I think it would only allow fileserver functions and not htpc or bittorrent functions. Would I be better off just using Windows? Or is something else better?

I would appreciate any advice, suggestions, or even links to forums or tutorials for beginners at building a NAS. Thanks a lot!
http://redirect.anandtech.com/r?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.newegg.ca%2FProduct%2FProduct.aspx%3FItem%3DN82E16813132032&user=u00000687
 

velis

Senior member
Jul 28, 2005
600
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I'm using windows to achieve what you list there with MediaPortal (XBMC is pretty much the same). This setup is now several years old with periodic updates as well as some hiccups (explained later).

FreeNAS will allow transmission to run (as a plugin - transmission is a torrent client).
Your PSU is too much. Find a 200 - 400W one with gold or platinum certification.
i3 is enough. In my case, I'm running 4GB RAM with no ill side-effects that I know of.

I'm assuming you want to be running some parity based RAID (6*4 = 24 - 1 parity = 20).

My experience running on-board RAID-5:
If board goes, so does the RAID. Back up often. Even if board doesn't go, RAID will occasionally.
Edit: BIOS flash WILL destroy your RAID. If you like to flash, backup even more often :)

FreeNAS's ZFS is said to be more robust in this regard, but it requires those 16GB RAM if not more for your array size.

Finally, I woud advise against booting from a thumb drive. Better use a 64GB SSD or something. Since your MB only has 6 SATA connectors, buy an expansion card, you can get one for $20 with 2 6Gbit ports. Should still fit into your $2000 budget.
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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+1 for FreeNAS. Mine's been running for years without a single hiccup.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,387
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#1 - It's generally not a great solution to combine server and HTPC duties into one box. Can it be done? Certainly. Can it be done well? Yes. From a data integrity and noise standpoint, though........

#2 - If you just want a server, FreeNAS is a great option. Make sure you follow the guidelines of 1GB memory for each TB of storage. ZFS can use a TON of memory.

#3 - If you want HTPC duties, you'll probably want to run Windows 7 and add on one of these solutions:

FlexRAID
SnapRAID + StableBit DrivePool
Use onboard (MB based) RAID 5, but this also the least desirable option as mentioned above
Hardware RAID controller

Keep in mind, too, that depending on whether you go with ZFS, Hardware RAID controller or a software RAID solution like FlexRAID you may or may not be able to expand your array as needs arise. You'll probably want to future proof with FreeNAS or a RAID controller since adding more storage space later would involve backing up the data and rebuilding a new array or creating add'l pools of multiple arrays. Software solutions like FlexRAID and SnapRAID will be slower since data isn't striped, but you can add more drives later and keep the data intact. You won't be limited to drives of the exact same size, either, you can swap different drives and upgrade the array on a regular basis much more easily.
 

bleejean

Junior Member
Feb 18, 2014
3
0
0
Thanks so much for the responses!

For me, the file server functions and data integrity are most important so I can live without having it function as a htpc as well. FreeNAS sounds pretty good since I can also do torrenting with that plugin.

I was thinking of doing raidz2 with 6 4TB drives as my understanding is that two could fail and the storage could still be rebuilt.
The thing is that I can't afford to build two of these things so I wasn't planning on doing back ups. I know that everyone says you still need to do backups with raid but where do you do a back up to (unless you make two identical nas boxes)?

Is raidz2 robust enough to run like this or am I better off with another option? Just raid 1 mirroring and only have 12TB from the 6 drives? Or build two boxes with 3 drives each (JBOD) and then have one do regular backups of the other?

I am pretty much just using this box for TV, Movies, and Music but it would still suck to have something fail and lose everything.
 

SheHateMe

Diamond Member
Jul 21, 2012
7,251
20
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I use Unraid. Specs in my sig. Been running for 6 months now. I have transmission, Sickbeard TPB edition, SABNZBD, CouchPotato, Plex, and my XBMC shared library (mysql database)
 

Fallen Kell

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,338
74
91
ZFS will use ever GB of memory you give it. Seriously, I am not joking. We have a system at work with 512 GB of RAM and ZFS will use utilize all of it, because it is designed to do so. It uses RAM to cache reads and writes to the storage. This provides a MASSIVE performance gain on many types of operations. The drawback is that if your RAM is suspect, all the data you are writing is going to be corrupted. That is why they really only recommend using ECC RAM.
 

Fallen Kell

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,338
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I am really unsure if it makes sense to combine HTPC with a NAS, as they are really very different requirements. HTPC's really need to be silent, which is not something that a bunch of hard drives will ever be. As stated, you really also want to use ECC RAM on almost all NAS systems if you value your data. This typically means you need to purchase server boards/cpus which support ECC. Almost all the major motherboard manufacturers have server/workstation motherboards, and some are really not that much more expensive.

For a smaller NAS system like this, I would highly recommend the following:
Motherboard: Supermicro X10SL7-F-O (~$260) M-ATX
CPU: Intel Xeon I3-1220 V3 (~$200)
RAM: 2x8GB Crucial DDR3 PC3-12800 CT2KIT102472BD160B (~$200)

The above is all compatible with FreeNAS as well as OpenIndiana/Solaris, OpenBSD, linux, and Windows. It has a built in SAS controller supporting 8 SAS/SATA hard drives, plus 6 more SATA drives from the Intel chipset. The I3-1220 V3 CPU has integrated video, so no need for an additional graphics card (unless you want to do more than store data), and it has a fully accessible network management port (IPMI 2.0, with KVM), meaning you can completely manage this system over your network without even needing to hook up a keyboard/mouse/monitor to it (this includes even being able to turn it on and off, go into the BIOS, etc.).

Add a case ($100-150), power supply ($100-150), and hard drives ($170 each) and you should still be in your $2000 price with 6 hard drives.
 

Skillz

Member
Feb 14, 2014
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I would probably go the AMD route if I was to build a NAS with that much storage. You can get up to 8 SATA ports on AMD FM2/FM2+ motherboards for a lot cheaper than Intel motherboards. Also the CPU itself could be a good bit cheaper and while Intel's CPUs are faster clock for clock, the extra cores for a cheaper price will be better utilized in a file storage/server environment.
 

bleejean

Junior Member
Feb 18, 2014
3
0
0
@Fallen Kell: Do you still think that a set up like that (FreeNAS with the hardware you recommended) is a good idea if I don't have anything for backup? Might it also be overkill for a home media server that just needs to store media and serve it up to one or two devices at a time?

I was just looking into Unraid as SheHateMe recommended and it seems like it might be the best choice for a NAS without a backup. If something happens to one drive it can still be rebuilt and if two drives go, I only lose the data on those drives but not the rest. Also, if there is another hardware problem like the motherboard, boot drive, etc. I don't lose everything like I think a raidZ setup would. There is also the benefit of lower power and cheaper hardware. I don't think the decreased speed compared to FreeNAS would be too much of an issue for me.

Also, what do people think about future proofing versus upgrading as necessary? Right now my 4TB external hard drive is about to fill up and since that is the largest size available I need to look at going to a NAS (or just continuing to buy separate drives but that is a bit of a hassle for sharing). I was thinking of building a NAS with around 16TB so it would be fairly future proof. Maybe it is better to just build a machine with, say 4 4TB drives (for 8TB after parity and cache) and then I can add more drives as necessary. By that time prices could drop or larger drives could become available.

Lastly, what do you guys think about WD Red vs. WD Green drives for NAS applications?

Thanks again for your responses and continued guidance!
 

Evadman

Administrator Emeritus<br>Elite Member
Feb 18, 2001
30,990
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I have used a ton of different systems and options and 'best' is dependent upon a whole load of factors. For me though, the 'best' means decently fast and absolutely no work to administer because I am lazy.

I used to use FreeNAS years ago, but I had some issues with adminitration and functionality. (before the ZFS days) It appears much better now, but I have not tried it yet. I really want to so I can use ZFS. I also had a small 5 bay box that used a SATA expander with the OS on a flash drive, which worked well until I wanted to increase the size of the array. It was also slow. I then built a windows server with a highpoint raid card and a few dozen drives, but the raid card and admin (mostly anti-virus) on a windows box was no fun.

I then got a Netgear NV+ (back then it wasn't netgear, was infrant IIRC) which had 4 bays. It was slow, but administration was nonexistant. I liked it so much I got 3 more for backups and such. But it couldn't expand beyond 2TB drives (6TB total) and I passed that pretty quick.

Then I went back to Windows and decided I may as well do it right. I got an Adaptec 52445 with 28 SAS ports, a 20 bay hot swap server case and started testing consumer SATA drives on it. Found that the 3TB Hitachi GST Deskstar 0S03230 drive worked great so I bought a few dozen of them and set them up as RAID 60. That was at least 2 years ago and haven't had any issues with it so far. I back up the data to a dell 124T lto6 autoloader and to the 2 NV's I still have in case something explodes.
 

Fallen Kell

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,338
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I would probably go the AMD route if I was to build a NAS with that much storage. You can get up to 8 SATA ports on AMD FM2/FM2+ motherboards for a lot cheaper than Intel motherboards. Also the CPU itself could be a good bit cheaper and while Intel's CPUs are faster clock for clock, the extra cores for a cheaper price will be better utilized in a file storage/server environment.
Except that I do not know of any FM2/FM2+ motherboards that support ECC (because the none of the CPUs that use that socket support it). The cheapest AMD CPU that supports ECC is the Opteron 4334, which costs about the same as the Intel I posted above. Yes, it has 6 cores vs 4 cores from the Intel, however, it also produces about 20% more heat and uses almost 15% more power.

A comparable motherboard is the Supermicro H8SCM-F, but it is lacking the LSI SAS controller of the one I mentioned above, and thus only supports 6 SATA hard drives total without adding an additional controller card which will cost you around $160 for similar controller as what is integrated in the Intel board.


bleejean said:
Also, if there is another hardware problem like the motherboard, boot drive, etc. I don't lose everything like I think a raidZ setup would. There is also the benefit of lower power and cheaper hardware. I don't think the decreased speed compared to FreeNAS would be too much of an issue for me.
You don't lose the data in raidZ if you lose a motherboard or boot drive as there is no dependence on hardware based RAID controllers. You simply put the disks on the replacement motherboard and import the zpool or rebuild your OS on a new boot drive and import the zpool. You separate your OS boot drive from your data drives. FreeNAS can even be booted off a USB stick, no need for a drive at all. The number of failed drives depends on how much redundancy you want in your setup. A zpool is made up of one or more zdevs. A zdev is made up of 1 or more disks configured as a group. The groups can be simple concatenation, mirror, stripped, raidz (think RAID 5), and raidz2 (think RAID 6). So if you want to support multiple drive failures, you can do a raidz2 (but realize that need 2 extra disks more than the total space that you want available, so say you want 20TB of usable storage, you would need to get 7x4TB drives in raidz2). You could also simply setup a hot spare if you don't think you will check very often for failing drives, but you can have the system email you if you have a drive failure if you want.

And for power consumption, the I3-1220V3 only uses 65W at full usage. That is less than just about anything available on the desktop, let alone server class.
 
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TSDible

Golden Member
Nov 4, 1999
1,696
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If you want to get by with lower ram requirements, you might consider open media vault. I was using FreeNAS, but find OMV much easier to administer and expand.

http://www.openmediavault.org

I'm running it with an Plex server plugin... then I can access all my media through much lower end hardware (i.e., Roku).
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,387
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Except that I do not know of any FM2/FM2+ motherboards that support ECC (because the none of the CPUs that use that socket support it). The cheapest AMD CPU that supports ECC is the Opteron 4334, which costs about the same as the Intel I posted above. Yes, it has 6 cores vs 4 cores from the Intel, however, it also produces about 20% more heat and uses almost 15% more power.
That's not true at all. Just about any AM3/AM3+ CPU in most Asus motherboards support ECC memory. I can't find one that has more than 6 SATA ports, though, but you can get into an FX-6300 and an ECC motherboard for less than $200 and truth be told, for NAS purposes you would probably be just as well off with a 4300 for $20 less but for the price difference I would go with the 6300. Add a PCI Express SATA adapter with 4 ports and you'll still come in under $200 easily, with 10 ports. Still gonna use more energy than an Intel setup, though the difference isn't THAT extreme. My 95W Fx-6100 with 6 drives in it pulls about 70W day to day but will cross 100 when I encode video with it.
 

Fallen Kell

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,338
74
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That's not true at all. Just about any AM3/AM3+ CPU in most Asus motherboards support ECC memory. I can't find one that has more than 6 SATA ports, though, but you can get into an FX-6300 and an ECC motherboard for less than $200 and truth be told, for NAS purposes you would probably be just as well off with a 4300 for $20 less but for the price difference I would go with the 6300. Add a PCI Express SATA adapter with 4 ports and you'll still come in under $200 easily, with 10 ports. Still gonna use more energy than an Intel setup, though the difference isn't THAT extreme. My 95W Fx-6100 with 6 drives in it pulls about 70W day to day but will cross 100 when I encode video with it.
I never noticed the ECC before, so I will stand corrected (they only show that when you go into the details, not on the product description).

You would need to do some research into what SATA adapter you use, since many are not properly supported under linux, BSD, OpenBSD, FreeNAS, etc... The more popular ones are the LSI 2008 chipset (and derivatives) because it is fully supported, and is one of the cheapest, but it is still in the 120-160 range (160 if buying retail, 120 if you get off ebay).

I also HIGHLY suggest a motherboard that has remote management capabilities. This is a NAS, not a gaming system. You want to simply hook it up to power and network in a closet, basement, or garage. With something that has IPMI 2.0 and remote KVM capabilities, you can administer the system as if you are sitting on it from anywhere on your network, not just physically at the system. This is something that is a MAJOR long term benefit, when say your movie stops playing because the NAS hung and needs a reboot. Just whip out your smartphone and login to the service port and reboot the system from your home theater couch...
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
314
126
Another vote for Unraid. Sure its not as fast as some other options, but it is a great budget option (despite the price) because of the fact you can mix and match drives and casually upgrade your capacity.

I have two Unraid servers with regular Core 2 parts running since 2010 that are rock solid.
 

funboy6942

Lifer
Nov 13, 2001
14,569
85
91
How about I just sell you my Netgear ReadyNas NV+ unit with 7tb of storage you just turn on and plug it into your network for $550 shipped :D No hassles, upgraded it from 256 memory to 512, needs nothing but you to plug it in and go to town. LMK with a PM, I havent posted it yet, but about to.
 

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