Need advice on hardware/software for custom NAS

djlenoir

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
365
I am looking to build a custom NAS solution primarily to host my PLEX library. I have about 35TB spread across six WD 8TB Red drives using StableBit DrivePool. It works, but if I lose a drive I lose a lot of data. I am also down to about 10TB of free space, so I would like to start planning the next solution. I was thinking of getting a Synology system, but I feel like I can get more for my money doing it myself.

I do not have a server rack, so I would prefer a tower chassis if a decent one exists that I can stash away in the closet. If there are no good ones, then I can look into a small server cage to rack the chassis. Thinking minimum of 12 bays, but more is better, for SATA drives. I want to create a RAID (not sure which type yet so open to recommendations here as well) and be able to add disks over time (as I can afford them). I figure I can start with four or five 10TB drives, and add more over time.

What OS and software should I run? I know Windows with DrivePool, but I feel like there are better solutions available. Just want something that is reliable and works as a NAS for Windows.
 

Grimham

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jul 20, 2004
Messages
1,488
You’ll get many different opinions on the case, OS and file systems.
But a Factal Design R7 says it holds 14 3.5” drives. Buy that and the guts, throw Windows Server on it with an appropriate RAID card and call it a day. There are other options of course, but if you’re more comfortable with Windows it would do the trick at a relatively low cost.
 

djlenoir

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
365
Thanks for the information Grimham. I looked into that case and saw that they have a 7 XL that holds 18 3.5" drives and 2 2.5" drives. Something like that could work out perfectly. I have had other advice given to me as well, and I am still trying to figure out the best path forward. I think it will come down to cost vs convenience in the end.
 

Ready4Dis

[H]ard|Gawd
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Depends on what you're really trying to achieve. You can also look into a rack mount type case with a backplane (SAS) with an external connection. This would really reduce the # of sata/power cables you have running all around and allow you to do hot swapping depending on your RAID. I currently have a small server with "only" 8 (internal) bays (2.5") that I run my SATA drives in and was looking at expanding to an external setup but I'll probably replace my server before I make that leap. I have a hardware RAID card with a small cache and battery backup; Ubuntu Server for my host OS, then run SAMBA under docker to serve up for my network (all my clients PC's run Windows). I run Plex in another docker container and map a folder on the RAID into that container so it has direct access to the files, while I can still use the RAID array on my local network for storage. I was running proxmox prior but ended up switching over to the ubuntu/docker setup since it fit my needs better. You could always run Windows Server with the appropriate driver and set it up that way as well, since it's hardware RAID you don't have much to configure, but it does restrict you doing much else (upgrades or changes to the array).

If you wanted to run software RAID like freenas/unraid/windows drivepool or similar, you can get an HBA card (typically LSI cards are good/inexpensive for this, something like the 9207-8i internal if you're using a server with a drive bay rack or 9207-8e external) instead of a RAID card and still be able to serve up a drive array/rack. Just throwing you some other options to explore, just depends on what you're goals are.

ps. When I say client, I am talking about my families computers, so it's simple enough for my wife and kids to use. I have 3 kids and my wife, all of which have their own desktops on the network where we can share/transfer files, play on our local minecraft servers, watch plex on all our tv's/phones/tablets, and anything else I get bored and decide to install :).
 

Keljian

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
1,124
Software wise it depends on how important expansion is to you. There are many options, but openmediavault or Freenas would be my recommendation.

Freenas is ok if you have a fair chunk of memory, OMV works for everything else. Both have plex server addons

As someone who has gone down this road for 12 or so years I recommend you use as few actual disks as possible and look for the most power efficient solution, as running disks 24/7 can get very expensive, very quickly.

I currently have a server based around an undervolted i7-4790 with 32 gig of ram, and 8 drives, it consumes about 60-70w at idle. May not seem like much but over the course of a year it adds up. About 30-40w of that is disks. I run an lsi 9201-8i in there too.

1680W/day is about 40c where I live. Or $146/year.

Off the shelf NAS options look expensive, until you realise they come with software (and updates) and low power hardware.

I am considering replacing the whole thing with a 2 (Much bigger) drive nas, and am looking at diy options as well as off the shelf stuff.
 
Last edited:

kirbyrj

Fully [H]
Joined
Feb 1, 2005
Messages
26,183
I had a standalone computer with an i5 8400 running Windows 10 with Stablebit Drivepool and Plex using the quicksync hardware transcode, etc. with about 100TB of drives. I used Drivepool to duplicate folders.

I recently dumped that in favor of a Synology 1019+ and it works great. Instead of complete duplicated folders with drivepool, I have 1 drive fault tolerance in the Synology, and I got a couple cheap Samsung OEM 256GB NVMe drive pulls for caching.

What I would look at though is one of the QNAP or others that allows the use of a NVMe drive as a disk instead of just as caching. Ideally, I would want the Plex database on the NVMe drive to facilitate faster searching and less lag with the cover art, etc. Synology only allows for caching, and in theory, most used files will be cached to the NVMe drive, so the Plex database would be there anyway. But I think I would rather have manual control.
 

djlenoir

Limp Gawd
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
365
Depends on what you're really trying to achieve. You can also look into a rack mount type case with a backplane (SAS) with an external connection. This would really reduce the # of sata/power cables you have running all around and allow you to do hot swapping depending on your RAID. I currently have a small server with "only" 8 (internal) bays (2.5") that I run my SATA drives in and was looking at expanding to an external setup but I'll probably replace my server before I make that leap. I have a hardware RAID card with a small cache and battery backup; Ubuntu Server for my host OS, then run SAMBA under docker to serve up for my network (all my clients PC's run Windows). I run Plex in another docker container and map a folder on the RAID into that container so it has direct access to the files, while I can still use the RAID array on my local network for storage. I was running proxmox prior but ended up switching over to the ubuntu/docker setup since it fit my needs better. You could always run Windows Server with the appropriate driver and set it up that way as well, since it's hardware RAID you don't have much to configure, but it does restrict you doing much else (upgrades or changes to the array).

If you wanted to run software RAID like freenas/unraid/windows drivepool or similar, you can get an HBA card (typically LSI cards are good/inexpensive for this, something like the 9207-8i internal if you're using a server with a drive bay rack or 9207-8e external) instead of a RAID card and still be able to serve up a drive array/rack. Just throwing you some other options to explore, just depends on what you're goals are.

ps. When I say client, I am talking about my families computers, so it's simple enough for my wife and kids to use. I have 3 kids and my wife, all of which have their own desktops on the network where we can share/transfer files, play on our local minecraft servers, watch plex on all our tv's/phones/tablets, and anything else I get bored and decide to install :).
Great question Ready4Dis about what I am trying to achieve. I could have better described my current setup and original intentions. I say 'original' because the more I am learning, the more I am considering a complete change in how I manage my Plex server than what I had originally intended.

My thought at the start of this was to create a large storage array (100TB+) primarily to host all of my Plex media while keeping my actual Plex server on the existing i7700K based system with NVEC. I currently have about 35TB of media spread across six 8TB WD Reds using StableBit DrivePool, which I crammed into a modified Dell PowerEdge T30 case. Actually, on a side note, that was a fun project modifying the BIOS to work with the Core i7 7700K and adding a Dell H310 with IT firmware to manage the six WD Red drives. It works great but I am not duplicating anything so I run the risk of data loss and I am running out of space.

I thought I would just look into a QNAP or Synology device and call it a day, but they seemed quite expensive for what you get hardware wise. Of course, it comes with updates and simple, friendly interface, plus takes up relatively small space and in some cases is expandable with upgrade modules. The cost is what made me think about building a custom NAS solution using FreeNAS/Unraid/etc. and then I would also get hardware to meet my needs, that is upgradeable and uses standard off-the-shelf components compared to the proprietary, and I assume difficult to impossible to fix and/or upgrade on your own, NAS solutions from QNAP or Synology.

You and I have very similar life experiences. I also have a wife and three children (all daughters under 12) who all have their own gaming PCs and we like to play Minecraft (and other games) together. I share my Plex server with my immediate and extended family and a few friends, but I have had as many as six simultaneous 1080p transcodes on my current server and it worked well.


Software wise it depends on how important expansion is to you. There are many options, but openmediavault or Freenas would be my recommendation.

Freenas is ok if you have a fair chunk of memory, OMV works for everything else. Both have plex server addons

As someone who has gone down this road for 12 or so years, I recommend you use as few actual disks as possible, and look for the most power efficient solution, as running disks 24/7 can get very expensive, very quickly.

I currently have a server based around an undervolted i7-4790 with 32 gig of ram, and 8 drives, it consumes about 60-70w at idle. May not seem like much but over the course of a year it adds up. About 30-40w of that is disks. I run an lsi 9201-8i in there too.

1680W/day is about 40c where I live. Or $146/year.

Off the shelf NAS options look expensive, until you realise they come with software (and updates) and low power hardware.

I am considering replacing the whole thing with a 2 (Much bigger) drive nas, and am looking at diy options as well as off the shelf stuff.
I have not looked at OpenMediaVault, but I will check it out, thanks. I was looking at both FreeNAS and Unraid, as they seem to be popular options in the Plex community. The hidden costs (of electricity use) is an important factor, but the price for the 18GB drive from WD looks to be about $650, but two 8TB can be had for around $300, so it is a choice of cost now versus cost over time. Great point though, I appreciate you bringing that up. I am sure the QNAP or Synology solutions are considerably cheaper to operate as they are designed to be lower power solutions. Something they have going for them that I previously had not really considered.


I had a standalone computer with an i5 8400 running Windows 10 with Stablebit Drivepool and Plex using the quicksync hardware transcode, etc. with about 100TB of drives. I used Drivepool to duplicate folders.

I recently dumped that in favor of a Synology 1019+ and it works great. Instead of complete duplicated folders with drivepool, I have 1 drive fault tolerance in the Synology, and I got a couple cheap Samsung OEM 256GB NVMe drive pulls for caching.

What I would look at though is one of the QNAP or others that allows the use of a NVMe drive as a disk instead of just as caching. Ideally, I would want the Plex database on the NVMe drive to facilitate faster searching and less lag with the cover art, etc. Synology only allows for caching, and in theory, most used files will be cached to the NVMe drive, so the Plex database would be there anyway. But I think I would rather have manual control.
Thank you for this information kirbyrj. I was not aware of this, but it helps explain why people have been recommending QNAP based systems. I thought it was because they seemed to have 'better' hardware for the same (or less) cost than Synology. Do you regret your Synology purchase?
 

Ready4Dis

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 4, 2015
Messages
1,415
I had a standalone computer with an i5 8400 running Windows 10 with Stablebit Drivepool and Plex using the quicksync hardware transcode, etc. with about 100TB of drives. I used Drivepool to duplicate folders.

I recently dumped that in favor of a Synology 1019+ and it works great. Instead of complete duplicated folders with drivepool, I have 1 drive fault tolerance in the Synology, and I got a couple cheap Samsung OEM 256GB NVMe drive pulls for caching.

What I would look at though is one of the QNAP or others that allows the use of a NVMe drive as a disk instead of just as caching. Ideally, I would want the Plex database on the NVMe drive to facilitate faster searching and less lag with the cover art, etc. Synology only allows for caching, and in theory, most used files will be cached to the NVMe drive, so the Plex database would be there anyway. But I think I would rather have manual control.
Good suggestions, I use an SSD for my transcode directory, but still use my slow storage for the database/media files (media as in pictures for movies and TV shows, mostly because I added the SSD afterwards and transcode was just a matter of pointing to a new folder). I also live TV stream and use my Plex server as a DVR for over ths air (ota) TV. There are so many ways to accomplish something and they all will work. I'm running RAID 1+0 so I lose 1/2 my space, but have great performance and good fault tolerance. Honestly though, if I lost my RAID array, I wouldn't be that upset. My network is only 1gbps so no matter what RAID I run, that's pretty much my limitation anyways unless. I get about 950MB/s on sequential reads, so I can just about saturate a 10gbe if I ever upgrade.
 

Ready4Dis

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
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Messages
1,415
Great question Ready4Dis about what I am trying to achieve. I could have better described my current setup and original intentions. I say 'original' because the more I am learning, the more I am considering a complete change in how I manage my Plex server than what I had originally intended.

My thought at the start of this was to create a large storage array (100TB+) primarily to host all of my Plex media while keeping my actual Plex server on the existing i7700K based system with NVEC. I currently have about 35TB of media spread across six 8TB WD Reds using StableBit DrivePool, which I crammed into a modified Dell PowerEdge T30 case. Actually, on a side note, that was a fun project modifying the BIOS to work with the Core i7 7700K and adding a Dell H310 with IT firmware to manage the six WD Red drives. It works great but I am not duplicating anything so I run the risk of data loss and I am running out of space.

I thought I would just look into a QNAP or Synology device and call it a day, but they seemed quite expensive for what you get hardware wise. Of course, it comes with updates and simple, friendly interface, plus takes up relatively small space and in some cases is expandable with upgrade modules. The cost is what made me think about building a custom NAS solution using FreeNAS/Unraid/etc. and then I would also get hardware to meet my needs, that is upgradeable and uses standard off-the-shelf components compared to the proprietary, and I assume difficult to impossible to fix and/or upgrade on your own, NAS solutions from QNAP or Synology.

You and I have very similar life experiences. I also have a wife and three children (all daughters under 12) who all have their own gaming PCs and we like to play Minecraft (and other games) together. I share my Plex server with my immediate and extended family and a few friends, but I have had as many as six simultaneous 1080p transcodes on my current server and it worked well.
Yeah, ease of use does have some merit! So, 100+TB is a lot, what kind of tolerance to losing data do you have? Are you using anything to backup the important bits? I have my raid array, an internal SSD scratch drive, and an external USB drive plugged in for things I want backups of. Even with raid 1+0 I still have a backup drive. Honestly my array is very "humble", only 6 500gb disks, mostly just for me to do a bunch of testing and learning. I had it in raid 5 previously, again it was more for learning/testing for me than being the best/biggest. When I check my server stats, I average about 150w of power. That's with dual xeon L5640s (6/12 each). I don't normally transcode except to one TV that can't direct play (mpeg2 from ota). So not horrible, but most of the times it's idling so.... Not great either, lol.
 

Keljian

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
1,124
Just an addon, I am currently looking at this: Helios64 as it seems like it can do 5 disks with OMV, I'd start with 2-3..
 
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