DIY NAS recommendations

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DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:12 pm

I've been considering putting together a NAS/media server recently, namely for backups and streaming movies and music across the network, but I'm not sure what I should use for most of the components. I was thinking that I would like to use at least three or four Western Digital Red drives (1 TB or 2 TB) in a RAID array (RAID1? 5? 6?). Ideally, I would like the form factor to be Mini-ITX, but would consider using MicroATX if absolutely necessary. A few cases have caught my eye so far, namely this Lian Li and this Fractal Design.

With that being said, I will need recommendations on a PSU, RAID controller, processor, and memory.
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Dizik
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:17 pm

Well, I use an AMD Trinity A4 APU, 8 GiB of RAM and a Gigabyte FM2 µATX motherboard with lots of SATA ports on it with FreeNAS, and I use mine for pretty much the same thing as you plan on using yours (backups are run to there through Win 7's backup utility, movies and music stored on there, HTPC records to there, etc.).
After the initial setup (RAID-Z since I only have 3 disks to use), things have been smooth sailing. FreeNAS runs all the ZFS RAID stuff in software, so no need for a RAID controller.

I've got it housed in an old Antec NSK4480B with the associated 380W Earthwatts PSU, but I plan on migrating to a Fractal Design R4 or something similar as it has lots of drive sleds and looks good.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:21 pm

As far as form factor goes, ITX versus mATX comes down to how many drives you'll use initially and how many you might want to expand to in the future. The best SFF ITX NAS case is the Fractal Node 304 with up to 6 3.5" drives. If you want more drives you may as well go mATX in a compact tower just because the drives themselves, rather than the motherboard, will determine the case size.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:26 pm

My reason for wanting a RAID controller is because I've been unable to find a Mini-ITX motherboard with more than 2 SATA ports. I've been able to find a few Micro ATX motherboards with 4 ports, but they're split between SATA 3 Gbps and SATA 6 Gbps. I know that the chances of saturating the 6 Gbps are slim-to-none, but I might as well put the WD Red drives to use as much as possible. ;)

As far as needing to expand past 4 drives (up to 6 if I use the Fractal case, up to 7 if I use the Lian-Li) are pretty much non-existent. I currently don't have enough data to fill 2TB, so I think shooting for 2 TB to 6 TB should be good enough for a long time.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:02 pm

I have a nas based around a z68 mini itx board which has 6 sata ports (3.0gbps but you simply won't saturate that with a mechanical drive)

I was originally going to go mini-itx, but the cost was significantly higher for the case, and it necessitated a sata card.

I am currently running an i5-2330 (3.0ghz 4 core) but would recommend going for something that doesn't have even that much grunt.

If I was to put together a new nas it would probably use an asrock z77m-pro4 (a motherboard that I have quite a bit of experience with) and an i3 of some description in a fractal arc mini case.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:12 pm

Dizik wrote:My reason for wanting a RAID controller is because I've been unable to find a Mini-ITX motherboard with more than 2 SATA ports. I've been able to find a few Micro ATX motherboards with 4 ports, but they're split between SATA 3 Gbps and SATA 6 Gbps. I know that the chances of saturating the 6 Gbps are slim-to-none, but I might as well put the WD Red drives to use as much as possible. ;)

As far as needing to expand past 4 drives (up to 6 if I use the Fractal case, up to 7 if I use the Lian-Li) are pretty much non-existent. I currently don't have enough data to fill 2TB, so I think shooting for 2 TB to 6 TB should be good enough for a long time.


It's not slim-to-none, it's just none with mechanical drives. Even the burst speed reading from drive cache tops out at around 200MB/s for the fastest mechanical drives and they only have 64MB of cache. SATA III versus SATA II is an absolute non-issue for mechanical drives so that ought to open up your options for motherboards quite a bit. If it's going to really be a NAS with no other direct uses you can also think about what other options you might want on a regular PC that you won't use on a NAS - do you need multiple digital video outputs, USB 3.0, a fancy onboard audio chip, overclocking options, etc.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:31 pm

I would go Micro-ATX unless you're really space constrained, since it'll keep your options open.

This motherboard has six 6 Gb/sec SATA ports; put a cheap Athlon II in it. TBH there's really no reason to worry about SATA bandwidth since even 3 Gb/sec is 3x as fast as your NIC... so you could save some $ by going with something like this instead (still six SATA ports, but only 3 Gb/sec).

Something else you may want to consider is going with laptop drives. Yeah you'll lose some performance, but as already noted the network is going to be your bottleneck anyway. Laptop drives will keep the power, heat, and noise to an absolute minimum. FWIW here's an interesting looking 6-drive hot swap bay for laptop form factor drives (fits in a single 5-1/4" drive bay).

Don't do RAID-5. Go with either RAID-1 or RAID-6.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:33 pm

If you just want a NAS for backups and streaming media, why would you bother buying new parts to build your own when you can buy a complete NAS for less?

The newer models with the ARM processors are relatively inexpensive and have decent transfer speeds. Plus they'll take less power than a computer you assemble from traditional components. If you had the parts lying around or want to do something that a pre-built NAS can't then fine. Otherwise, why build one?

For example, I picked up a Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ v2 last June for about $200 after rebate. It's 4-bay and with the recent firmware versions, it's been pretty solid. Perfectly capable to serve as a backup machine and to stream media over my home network (and there are a few add-on programs that allow it to act as a bittorrent or news reader client, etc, if that is your thing). Depending on the RAID configuration, you get network speeds between about 25 and 90+ MBytes/s. The transfer speed with 3-drives in RAID 5 are the reason for the slower 25 MB/s writes, but an array with 2 disks in RAID 1 or 0 will give you 90 MB/s read and close to 50 MBytes/s writes. Anyway, 25 MBytes/sec is plenty fast enough, even for streaming Blurays (which should max out at around 7 MBytes/s)
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:39 pm

For what it's worth, the motherboard I used (Gigabyte GA-F2A85XM-D3H) has 8 SATA 6 ports on it at the µATX form factor. I bought it, an A4 5300 and 8 GiB of Corsair RAM for $163 (plus a bit of shipping, the whole order was twice that size for $10). 8 ports gives you tons of expansion room for later on. Sadly, I don't have anything like a Kill-A-Watt to measure power draw, so I don't know how much power it's drawing at idle but I can't imagine it's much.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:42 pm

I use my mac pro for media streaming/backup, and for what it's worth I find a scheduled backup is a better option than RAID for data recovery. RAID1 replicates user errors immediately ("I deleted that 1080p transcode instead of moving it!"), whereas a weekly/biweekly backup gives you wiggle room in case you brain fart. Dedicated backup programs (e.g. Carbon Copy Cloner for anyone familiar with OSX) will even do checksums on the backup data to account for bit rot/bit flipping and other such stuff.

As such, I'd recommend just getting two of the largest drives you can afford, have one back up to the other, and set the backup drive to sleep after an hour's inactivity (keeps power levels low and minimally affects drive life, unless you're in the "spin-down/spin-up is what kills disks!" camp). If you outgrow the main drive, you could always put a symlink/alias to a folder on a new drive, and keep going like normal. This has the added benefit of allowing you to move drives to other PCs easily, for testing/transport.

Performance-wise, if you're primarily doing media serving you'd have to have several high-bitrate (blu ray-level) streams going to different devices before the hard drive would really start thrashing. I've run several 720p/1080p h.264 streams concurrently as a test, and barely stressed my network (a hodge-podge of gigabit and 100mbit).

[edit]
but I guess the question is whether you're going to have feature-creep with this project. If you're *just* doing fileserving, an off-the-shelf NAS will do the job just as well, and likely be more reliable (especially when it comes to itunes/DLNA/other forms of streaming). Buying a CPU/motherboard/case invites setting it up as an HTPC, and other random tasks which will change recommendations considerably, haha
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 8:34 pm

Like I said, I would like this thing to be my NAS/media server/htpc/whatever. I don't really have spare parts laying around to piece something together, so I don't mind spending money on new stuff. I would also like the server to be as dynamic and/or future-proof as possible, thus the SATA 6 Gbps, extra drive bays, somewhat beefy motherboard, CPU, and memory. I really want to make this build to have something to play around with, and it would be great to to re-purpose the server as a new desktop, should something go awry with my current PCs. Buying new stuff would give me the flexibility that I'm looking for.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:23 pm

CampinCarl wrote: I use an AMD Trinity A4 APU and a µATX motherboard... I use mine for pretty much the same thing as you plan on using yours...
And you did it with new parts for a song. :)

CampinCarl wrote: Sadly, I don't have anything like a Kill-A-Watt to measure power draw.
That's an easy problem to solve.
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Re: DIY NAS recommendations

Postposted on Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:49 pm

cynan wrote:If you just want a NAS for backups and streaming media, why would you bother buying new parts to build your own when you can buy a complete NAS for less?

The newer models with the ARM processors are relatively inexpensive and have decent transfer speeds. Plus they'll take less power than a computer you assemble from traditional components. If you had the parts lying around or want to do something that a pre-built NAS can't then fine. Otherwise, why build one?


Pretty much my opinion. I bought a Synology DS2411+ for not all that much; it's doing a fine job (would be better if I hadn't lost the keys and could swap in the new HDDs I bought to upgrade its capacity, but that issue should be resolved soon - either by buying replacement keys, or getting a locksmith to pick the lock, or just by drilling the lock out. My own fault, it must be admitted.)

Life's too short to be faffing around with tweaking hardware like this, in my book. Granted, I'm a crusty old Unix/storage sysadmin in his mid to late thirties, but ...
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