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Building a Server / Network Storage

I need to sort out my home network storage but need a little help with making some choices. Just so you know my level of expertise (or lack there of) In the past I have worked building 15 desktop PCs a day for 6months so I can put them together easily enough. Now don't get me wrong, I know that a trained monkey could put a pile of parts together so I'm not pretending I'm an expert or anything.

I don't know if it's just pure bad luck or a normal thing but during my life a lot have hard drives have died on me and therefore iv'e lost data. So Ii want everything backed up. What I want is a server with 8 bays 4 drives mirroring the other 4 (is this possible or is there a better option for back up?). I plan to use it mainly for films, photos and general file storage. It obviously needs to be accesable from both the wired and the wireless network.

I've never built or set up a server before so this is where i need help.

I don't want to use SAS drives due to the expense. The hard drives I'm planning on using are: WD RED 2TB 3.5" SATA 6GB/s 64MB (unless anyone has a better option) 8 of these will set me back about £675 I already have a SSD drive for the OS if it doesn't get used it can go back into one of the desktops.

Now the rest of the system I'm wanting to set up for as cheap as possible as long as it will stream the large 1080p films flawlessly I'm happy.

So what are my options? do I build a server and if so what components do you recommend? eBay or new?


Do I just get a pre-built NAS unit like:
Infortrend EonNAS Pro 800 8 Bay Desktop NAS
Qnap Ts-869l 8 Bay Desktop Nas
Synology DS1813+ 8 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure

If you think this option is better what make/model is the best to go for at a reasonable price.

Also I have seen the Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ V2 (4 Bay) NAS Server Serial ATA-300 going on ebay for £150 do I just get two of these and slap those Red WD drives in them? Will they do what I want? And will they stream flawlessly? It's a lot cheaper than my other options but pointless if it doesnt work well enough.

I have a budget of around £900 (not including the hard drives) but if you can save me some money it would be appreciated :) I will spend more if I have to though.

Also I should mention it doesn't matter what it looks like, it will be hidden in a cupboard so even rack mount is ok.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings I hope you can help, Sam.
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3 Solutions
None of the above.   Look into one of the variations of Open Solaris so you can use the zfs file system.    Specifically, go to nappit.org

Then just use a decent PC w/ECC memory. You'll come in well under budget.
Hi SamGarner,
You have a lot of choices. It depends a lot on how much hands on you want to get. But before we get to different options, you need to keep one very important thing in mind:
NONE OF THE SOLUTIONS BELOW ARE BACKUP options. They are all storage options that you can use for backup.

If you are paranoid like me about losing your data, then this is what I do. You do not have to do everything like me. My data gets backed up as follows:

1. Critical data (family pictures, home videos, financial docs) - get backed up to unRAID device which then backs it up to CrashPlan and Carbonite unlimited backup plans. I also use CrashPlan to backup my data to an off-site location using CrashPlan's free feature (to my brother's house)

2. Non-critical data (movies, music, etc) - stored on my unRAID server. I can replace it but it will be time consuming.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are my thoughts on some options.

Go with Synology. I have a Synology DS-412+ and I absolutely love it. But it does get very expensive.
Pros - prebuilt, single vendor (besides hard drives) for support, Gorgeous interface, tons of apps to add, can do multiple RAID 1 volumes.
Cons - Expensive

DIY ("Do It Yourself")
If you like to get your hands dirty and like to learn new things, then you can build your own box and run FreeNAS, unRAID, Windows 2012 etc.

I am personally running an unRAID box for storage with XBMC as my Media Server. My unRAID server is a rack mount case (currently placed on a Baker's rack) with 20 drive bays. That gives me the ability to go up to 57 TB using 3TB drives. I have been using it for over a year now and it has been extremely stable.

My build (mine is Norco-4220 case): Goliath

Other builds:
MicroServer N54L
Pre-Built unraid boxes

To address your concern about hard drive failure:
* If you lose 1 HD using unRAID, pull it out, pop a new one in and start data rebuild.
* If you love multiple drives, then you ONLY lose data that is on those drives. Other drives stay safe.

If losing multiple drives is too painful, then I would stick with Synology

unRAID, freeNAS...
Pros: very inexpensive, very flexible in that it can grow as your needs grow, very stable
Cons: multiple support points (hardware and software), software support is mainly done via forums though they both have very active communities.

I personally have not used Windows 2012 storage spaces a lot. If you want more info, then check this article out: Windows 2012 Storage

Hope that helps. Cheers!
We need to back up a little bit and first define your actual needs and goals, BEFORE defining the hardware you should get. Clarify first:

1) Total capacity of storage that you require (how many terabytes?) Your comments so far suggest you want 8TB of storage. Do you actually require THAT much?

2) Do you need high throughput? High IO per second? Both? From the sounds of it, you need neither - this is a light-use home environment on a gigabit network, so the level of performance you would get from a single disk is probably sufficient for your needs and it's actually the redundancy and high capacity that are your real goals here.

Your NAS / Server WILL be connected via ethernet cable, NOT wifi. Your other laptops/desktops and device can certainly connect wirelessly to the network if you want, but your NAS itself should be hardwired. Realize that wireless speeds are awful, though, less than a fifth of what you'll get with a cable. Don't expect stellar performance on wireless devices.

3) Backup plan - you have indicated you want a RAID10 array - a striped mirror. It is clear that you want redundancy, so the disk mirroring is important, so a RAID1 array is important to you, but realize that this provides you with redundancy - it is NOT a backup. It simply reduces the probability of failure.  A backup is a separate copy of the data on separate hardware in a separate location (e.g. another computer, offsite location etc.)

4) Access method - how do you plan to access the data? There are many options:

   - NFS / iSCSI (suitable for Linux servers or a VMWare server to use as a datastore for VMs)
   - SAMBA/CIFS/Windows Folder Shares (suitable for a Windows PCs to map a network drive)
   - AFP (suitable for an Apple computer to make backups to it via Time Machine)  ?
   - FTP (suitable for remote access)?

To me, it sounds like you probably want to use Windows Folder Sharing ...

5) Turn-key requirements - how "turn-key" do you want it to be? Are you willing to spend more money on a turn-key device that requires no special knowledge whatsoever, or are you willing to dive into a Linux server, configure it, spec out your own hardware etc. for the sake of enjoyment, or saving money?
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SamGarnerAuthor Commented:
Hi dlethe
I haven't looked into anything like this before it does sound like a good soloution but I'm going to have to do a little research to understand how it all would work (which I don't mind at all). The supermicro boards look reasonably priced and http://www.lsi.com/channel/products/storagecomponents/Pages/LSISAS9211-8i.aspx looks  perfect for what I need.
I will have to understand Open Solaris and Napp-it better before I commit to anything.

Hi TalShyar
I really Dont mind getting hands on, actually I'd prefer building something myself rather than buying a prebuilt. I enjoy learning new things so thats not a problem.
How does running FreeNAS, unRAID or Windows 2012 compare to what dlethe mentioned about the Solaris and Napp-it option?

Hi Frosty555
At the moment I have 6TB of Films etc (total geek I know) and all the hard drives are full. I have been having to delete something before adding anything else. I would like a system that I can expand on in the future.
Sorry I wasn't clear in what I wrote previously, like you said it will be connected via ethernet cable. I was just saying that it needs to be accesable via wifi but this is just for mobile devices and I think all the soloutions mentioned so far can do this anyway so thats all fine :)
I'll be honest with you I have never setup RAID drives before and I have never even used Linux but I am definitly willing to learn, especially if its the best opption and hell it'll be fun right? ...right :/

Like TalShyar mentioned above all my really important data is backed up to a off site cloud. But this isn't possible for me to do with 6TB all I want is if a drive fails have a way of slapping a new drive in and not losing any data (or very litle data)

Thank you all for your answers so far
Get some of these while they last as Lenovo is blowing these out as old stock.


I bought 4 and it's a complete no brainer.

Iscsi,nfs,cloud storage.jbod.raid 0 or 1
SamGarnerAuthor Commented:
Just checked out TalShyar Goliath thread (link above). I think something like this would be right for me... I know nothing about unRAID though.
Here is the big deal with using zfs/solaris as a filesystem
* profoundly better data integrity, regardless of the RAID level.
* realtime, file-system & directory based automatic compression and/or de-duplication, turn on or off any time.
* HOT snapshots, backups/restores.  If you want 17 copies automatic of certain files, you can do that if you want, assign as many copies of files it automatically maintains as well.
* Expand RAID groups hot.  (Add a drive and it will expand the sizes of everything while you use the system).
* If you want, add a small SSD or two and configure as a read or write cache to improve overall performance of a pool.
* More ram=more performance as 100% of extra ram gets used for filesystem READ caching.  Other o/s won't do that.
* Built-in apple time-machine support (with napp-it. flavor).
* Works with both cheaper desktop drives and enterprise storage, but if you use the cheap drives, go RAIDZ2 for sure (but always buy enterprise drives if you can)
* Checksums and additional error bytes automatically written so you are protected against all sorts of corruption, even if you do a non-RAID config.  So have it keep 2 copies of all files on non-RAID disks until you run out of space.   It will insure files are at different parts of the disk so bad blocks in one area won't likely affect the other.

Lots more benefits, but the more you read up on ZFS, the easier the decision.

ZFS is the reason a heck of a lot of ISPs who have large number of petabytes in storage farms use Solaris.
Yeah Dlethe is right - ZFS is really awesome especially if you are planning to roll-your-own hardware. ZFS gives you enterprise grade RAID capabilities on commodity hardware, there's no need for a fancy (expensive) RAID controller, and you have a lot of flexibility in how you define the way your disks are striping / mirroring.

That being said... I played with Napp-it quite a bit and it's nice, but FreeNAS is a very turn-key, feature rich distro which works exceedingly well for the home enthusiast. I agree that a ZFS implementation on native Solaris is probably "better", since it is the native operating system ZFS was designed for, but FreeNAS works pretty good, has good community support, and is, in my opinion, a good way to get your feet wet in a non-enterprise environment.

If you want an example of a good working hardware configuration you could build now and the performance it gets, check my other question here:

SamGarnerAuthor Commented:
Ok thats a bit clearer now. So if I was to build a system along the lines of a supermicro board, xeon cpu, EEC Memory and WD Red drives a system like that should be able to run Napp-it or FreeNAS? So I could give FreeNAS a go as it sounds like an easier set up and if I wanted to try Napp-it I could?

Except if I had anything on the drives would they have to be wiped when changing from one to the other with it being a differnt OS?

Components wise though it would be fine?
Both are relatively painless, but FreeNAS is hardly as resilient and robust.  I suggest since the level of comfort isn't there with napp-it, then you just try napp-it for yourself, and if it is beyond you, then load FreeNAS.  It isn't as if you can't just reload another O/S.
Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Hi Sam,
I cannot address most of the issues in your question, but on one item I can...the WD Red 2TB 3.5" SATA. My experience so far...excellent! I have them in a 2-bay D-Link NAS running mirrored (RAID 1). I also have the 3TB Red drives in an Iomega NAS, running mirrored (RAID 1), too. I previously suffered failures with WD Green drives, but none with the Red units so far. Another data point on this is garycase's comment, "I've had zero failures with Red's, but a nearly 20% failure rate with the Green series." Gary's entire comment is a worthwhile read...I especially like his regimen on testing all new drives, thereby weeding out the bad ones before deploying them in production.

When you mentioned going with the WD Red 2TB, you said, "unless anyone has a better option". Well, I don't know if it's better, but 8 of the WD Red 3TB will cost you an additional £288:



I think it's well worth the extra money for 50% more capacity... as long as it doesn't blow the budget! :)

Cheers, Joe
SamGarnerAuthor Commented:
That makes sense, that's what I'll do.

Thank you all, the answers have been excellent and im pointed in the right direction now. I'll do some research and probably post another question on the subject once I have a better understanding and a clear plan. Just to double check before making any purchases.

I'm on my mobile atm and its running slow so I'll award points tomorrow evening.

Again thank you, Sam
SamGarnerAuthor Commented:
Hi Joe, thanks for that. Adds a bit of confidence to my decision.

The only reason iv stayed away from the 3tb drives and stuck with the 2tbs is because I'd read ages ago that the 2's were a lot more stable and reliable. I don't know if that's still true as its one of those things you know about and stick to and never notice when things change... Which by now they probably have. I'll certainly look into it before buying anything. Thanks :)
The red drives are really no better than the others.  It is marketing.  Look at the specs, particularly the one related to ECC bits.  Red drives have same ECC as all the other cheap desktop drives.  You need to get enterprise class before you get that extra order of magnitude.

NOw if you went zfs and enabled the automatic data compression and/or de-duplication, then you'd probably come out ahead in usable space for the same amount of money by going with 2TB enterprise class drives.
Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
> The red drives are really no better than the others.

Disagree. I think the WD Red drives are better than the WD Green drives in a 24x7 NAS environment.

> You need to get enterprise class before you get that extra order of magnitude.

Agree, but that's a different statement from saying the Red drives are no better than the Green ones.
Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
>  I'll certainly look into it before buying anything. Thanks :)

Sam, you're welcome. Definitely worth looking into. The customer feedback at Amazon UK and Amazon US does not distinguish between the 2TB and 3TB units, but there may be some good data out there comparing them...certainly worth some research. My sample space is too small to be meaningful, but so far the 3TB drives have been great. Regards, Joe
Regardless of whether you go with Napp-It / unRAID / FreeNAS, unless you are very familiar with linux/Unix, I would strongly recommend that you lurk around the community forums, maybe even post couple of questions. Most of the people there have used number of other solutions before ending up with their current choices.

Napp-It, and unRAID both have free options with limited number of drives while freeNAS is free. I would further suggest that you download and try running these 3 solution in a virtual environment like VirtualBox or VMWare. That way, you will get some hands on experience with each of the 3 solutions and make a more educated decision.

Just to clarify about unRAID since that's what I have most experience with: the Goliath build that I mentioned is running a Xeon CPU mainly because I am running a virtualized unRAID. That server also contains my domain controller, couple of linux distros, Windows 7 with PLEX on it etc. unRAID does not require a XEON or ECC memory.

That being said, I absolutely love SuperMicro boards. Whichever SuperMicro board you pick, make sure that it has IPMI (usually models ending with -F-O). IPMI allows you to connect to your machine even when it is turned off, allows you to power it on, gives you virtual keyboard, mouse, CD-ROM, etc.

Article on IPMI

@dlethe: Thanks for mentioning Napp-It. I had never heard of it before. I will have to definitely take a look at it
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