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NAS for backup and streaming

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August 6, 2013 7:56:40 PM

I'm looking to setup a NAS to use as a backup but I also want to be able to use it to stream movies and music to my ps3, xbox360 or Roku with Plex. Without dumping a grand into a NAS server what's a reasonable place to start? Is there a better alternative to Plex? I'm assuming I can't get away with one of the WD MyBook Live type devices.

More about : nas backup streaming

a b G Storage
August 6, 2013 9:21:40 PM

Your MyBook Live type devices will be a poor solution. Since you will be streaming video to a variety of devices, you'll need something that can transcode. Your best bet is to build your own since it will be tough to get a commercial NAS solution with a CPU that has enough juice to take care of transcoding on the fly. You didn't say what your budget is or how much you were willing to spend. Something with integrated graphics on the motherboard or an AMD APU would be a great, cheap solution. Throw in 4GB of memory and a couple of 2TB HDDs. Set it up with Windows Home Server 2011 for about $50 and add Plex. Any cheap case will do.

AMD A8-5500 Trinity 3.2GHz - $105
ASRock FM2A75M-DGS R2.0 - $55
G-Skill F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT 2x2GB - $37
Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB (Data) - 2 x 2TB $170
HGST HDS721050CLA362 500GB (OS) - $60
Corsair CX430W PSU - $40
Pick a case - $40
WHS 2011 - $50

Total cost - ~550

Just a budget guideline. Feel free to mix and match as you please. I just wouldn't go any lower on the CPU if I was planning on transcoding on the fly. If you don't need 4TB of storage, cut out one of the HDDs. You could even swap the OS drive around for something you may have lying around since the OS drive will have little or no effect on the performance of your NAS. Most likely, you have a case that will fit the bill, too.

If you have a lot of stuff lying around, try this:

www.lime-technology.com

Resource light and you could probably build it with spare parts if you have been doing any kind of upgrades in the past 10 years. There's a Plex plugin for it, too.
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August 7, 2013 9:13:06 PM

smitbret said:
Your MyBook Live type devices will be a poor solution. Since you will be streaming video to a variety of devices, you'll need something that can transcode. Your best bet is to build your own since it will be tough to get a commercial NAS solution with a CPU that has enough juice to take care of transcoding on the fly. You didn't say what your budget is or how much you were willing to spend. Something with integrated graphics on the motherboard or an AMD APU would be a great, cheap solution. Throw in 4GB of memory and a couple of 2TB HDDs. Set it up with Windows Home Server 2011 for about $50 and add Plex. Any cheap case will do.

AMD A8-5500 Trinity 3.2GHz - $105
ASRock FM2A75M-DGS R2.0 - $55
G-Skill F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT 2x2GB - $37
Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB (Data) - 2 x 2TB $170
HGST HDS721050CLA362 500GB (OS) - $60
Corsair CX430W PSU - $40
Pick a case - $40
WHS 2011 - $50

Total cost - ~550

Just a budget guideline. Feel free to mix and match as you please. I just wouldn't go any lower on the CPU if I was planning on transcoding on the fly. If you don't need 4TB of storage, cut out one of the HDDs. You could even swap the OS drive around for something you may have lying around since the OS drive will have little or no effect on the performance of your NAS. Most likely, you have a case that will fit the bill, too.

If you have a lot of stuff lying around, try this:

www.lime-technology.com

Resource light and you could probably build it with spare parts if you have been doing any kind of upgrades in the past 10 years. There's a Plex plugin for it, too.



Would a Synology DiskStation, ZyXel or Netgear ReadyNAS have the power to do it? The more I think about it I think the best bet is your suggestion of just building my own. I've read some people say a 2 hdd system is the way to go in case one fails you have a backup but it seems unnecessary considering I have everything backed up with CrashPlan online.
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a b G Storage
August 8, 2013 6:32:58 AM

Unfortunately, no. A thread just finished wrapped up a thread in a different forum with a guy that bought a and then discovered that it didn't have enough CPU power to run the Plex transcoder and looks like he's going to end up building another HTPC that can do it:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2328550&pa...

A NAS won't take much CPU power and neither will the media serving functions the commercially available boxes you mentioned are spec'd out with CPUs to match that. They don't consider what it would take to transcode video.

You may be able to get by on a less expensive Dual Core, especially if the bulk of your transcoding is DVD and/or SD quality broadcasts. But if you wanna transcode BR Rips in real time at any kind of quality, then you'll want the CPU horsepower.

You'll wanna look at the media types you have now. If they are all .mp4 or .m4v files with 2 channel .aac audio tracks then transcoding may not be necessary since your listed devices all support and play that back. If you have a mix of .mkv, .avi, .mp4, .flv then I see remuxing and transcoding in your future since the PS3 and Xbox don't support .mkv and the Xbox won't playback multichannel audio. The Roku will refuse anything but .mp4 and .mkv and requires certain audio codecs, too. It would probably be worth the extra $30 or so to make sure you have the ability to do what you want. Trust me, waiting for a file to transcode so you can play it back is frustrating.

If you have a backup system in place, then a 2 HDD RAID 1 is a convenient luxury but certainly not necessary. It'll make sure your NAS stays up and running but don't confuse RAID and backup. They aren't the same. If you have the budget, a software RAID 5 is an even more efficient option.
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August 8, 2013 6:57:07 AM

smitbret said:
Unfortunately, no. A thread just finished wrapped up a thread in a different forum with a guy that bought a and then discovered that it didn't have enough CPU power to run the Plex transcoder and looks like he's going to end up building another HTPC that can do it:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2328550&pa...

A NAS won't take much CPU power and neither will the media serving functions the commercially available boxes you mentioned are spec'd out with CPUs to match that. They don't consider what it would take to transcode video.

You may be able to get by on a less expensive Dual Core, especially if the bulk of your transcoding is DVD and/or SD quality broadcasts. But if you wanna transcode BR Rips in real time at any kind of quality, then you'll want the CPU horsepower.

You'll wanna look at the media types you have now. If they are all .mp4 or .m4v files with 2 channel .aac audio tracks then transcoding may not be necessary since your listed devices all support and play that back. If you have a mix of .mkv, .avi, .mp4, .flv then I see remuxing and transcoding in your future since the PS3 and Xbox don't support .mkv and the Xbox won't playback multichannel audio. The Roku will refuse anything but .mp4 and .mkv and requires certain audio codecs, too. It would probably be worth the extra $30 or so to make sure you have the ability to do what you want. Trust me, waiting for a file to transcode so you can play it back is frustrating.

If you have a backup system in place, then a 2 HDD RAID 1 is a convenient luxury but certainly not necessary. It'll make sure your NAS stays up and running but don't confuse RAID and backup. They aren't the same. If you have the budget, a software RAID 5 is an even more efficient option.



My video files are definitely in a variety of formats. Thank god I came here and didn't listen to the guy at Best Buy. Would a setup like you suggested be able to be used as a dvd? I guess if I'm gonna build it myself I may as well build a solid machine.
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a b G Storage
August 8, 2013 7:30:00 AM

Did you mean as a DVD player or to rip DVDs or are you asking if the streamed media files will work like DVDs?

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August 8, 2013 7:50:31 AM

smitbret said:
Did you mean as a DVD player or to rip DVDs or are you asking if the streamed media files will work like DVDs?




Sorry, I meant DVR. Gotta love autocorrect. I have a 750gb hdd laying around collecting dust so I could use as one of the drives for now to lower the initial cost.

I really appreciate the help, I have very limited knowledge of htpc's and nas.
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a b G Storage
August 8, 2013 8:20:55 AM

It could be set up that way. I don't have a lot of knowledge for setting up an HTPC for DVR service. At the very least, you'll need to get a tuner card and set that up. There are people in here that are a lot more knowledgable about that stuff than I am, though.
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August 8, 2013 10:07:32 AM

smitbret said:
It could be set up that way. I don't have a lot of knowledge for setting up an HTPC for DVR service. At the very least, you'll need to get a tuner card and set that up. There are people in here that are a lot more knowledgable about that stuff than I am, though.



What kind of cost am I looking at for a RAID 5 machine? I'm not gonna worry about the DVR setup and focus on the NAS. Do you know of anywhere I can read up on and learn about these RAID differences?
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a b G Storage
August 8, 2013 4:31:10 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID

For home use you'll see 0,1,5,6 & very rarely 10 (0+1). The other implementations just aren't practical and really RAID 10 isn't either for home use. Note that RAID 0 is just there for a speed boost and not secure at all. In fact, it's more risky than just 1 drive. You wouldn't want it for your NAS/HTPC. That leaves 1,5,6 as the most practical and most used solutions for NAS builders.

RAID 1 - 2 HDDs that contain a bit for bit copy of each other. That way of one crashes, all of the information is still contained on the other disk. If you have 2 x 2TB HDDs then your storage space is 2TB since there are 2 copies of everything. If you have 2 HDDs of different sizes then your space will be limited to the smallest drive. If you have 1 x 500GB and 1 x 1TB, you would have 500GB of storage.

RAID 5 - Parity solution that uses checksums to backup the loss of one drive in an array. The array can be as big as you want it and there are different ways that data can be spread across the array but ultimately, there is 1 parity drive that calculates the 1s and 0s across the array and uses that information to rebuild the array if 1 drive crashes. If 2 drives crash before the array is rebuilt, you will get some or all data loss. Your storage space will be your number of drives times their size minus the size of the parity drive. If you have 5 x 2TB drives you'll have 8TB of storage space. If you have 11 x 2TB drives then you'll have 20TB of space. No matter how big your array, you'll still have just 1 parity drive.

RAID 6 - Like RAID 5 except there are 2 parity drives and can sustain the loss of 2 HDDs before data loss occurs. The calculation of storage space is the same as it is for RAID 5, except that you will subtract the size of the 2 parity drives. If you have 5 x 2TB, then you'll have 6TB of storage. You'll need 12 x 2TB HDDs for 20TBs of storage instead of 11 HDDs like RAID 5.

RAID 1 is the easiest and most secure. It's usually done in the OS (Software RAID) and is light on resources. Easy to maintain and the most secure since there is 2 of everything. It's the cheapest to start out with, too, since you only need 2 drives to set it up.

RAID 5 requires at least 3 drives. 2 of them store data and the remaining drive is the parity drive.

RAID 6 will require at least 4.

RAID 5 & 6 take more system resources to run since every time the data changes on the array, calculations have to be done to update the parity drive(s). They are usually set up with a RAID controller that take the parity calculations away from the CPU,lightening the load for the rest of the system. RAID controller cards aren't cheap though and start at about $100. Anything less is probably a software RAID. There's a lot of motherboard out there and lower cost add-in cards saying they support RAID 5 (and even 6) but they are off loading the calculations to the CPU. This may not be a bad thing, though. The load's not enough to hinder the general use of a NAS and while a Software RAID 5/6 is slower than just a standalone drive it will be more than quick enough to serve multiple HD video streams to multiple devices. Keep in mind that if you use an add-in card (hardware or not) or the motherboard's RAID setup, you will lose your array, too. Odds are that you'll also lose all of your data unless you replace the failed part with the same model. This can make upgrading a bit of a headache.

Then there's the newest breed of software RAID that really is software and/or OS based. You just boot to your OS from a flash drive or OS drive and then set up your RAID 5/6 in the OS. No special hardware needed. If you have a motherboard that has 6 SATA ports, you can have a RAID array that can be as big as 6 drives, depending on the solution you choose. The nice thing about a couple of these solutions is that they let you mix and match drives of different sizes and a couple even let you add or remove drives from the array without actually breaking down the array and starting over from scratch. When you consider that rebuilding an array can take hours to days, depending on the size, this is a huge advantage. Not to mention you have to decide where to store the data while you build the array that will ultimately serve up the data. FreeNAS, NAS4Free, unRAID, FlexRAID and SnapRAID are the most popular. Each one has its benefits and drawbacks.

I'm fairly new to this board, but it seems to be a lot of bias for true Hardware RAID 5/6 setups. From a performance standpoint Hardware RAID is unbeatable. However, NAS4Free and FreeNAS are using the newer ZFS file system and are extremely quick in their own right. RAID solutions that use ZFS also have the best data protection out there since it has built in systems that detect and often correct things like data rot and bit flopping. For security, ZFS software RAID is better than Hardware RAID and if set up right, they can be VERY fast. ZFS RAID systems still have the drawback of not being able to add or subtract drives without breaking down the array and if you lose more drives than you have parity, you will get total data loss for the whole array. These will run from a flash drive, so no OS drive is necessary.

unRAID, FlexRAID and SnapRAID are what I recommend for general home use. They are relatively inexpensive (SnapRAID is free).

FlexRAID does true drive pooling where all the drives in your array show up in the OS as just one big drive but you retain the ability to monitor each individual drive's health and performance at any time. It also runs from normal file systems so you can just add a drive at any time, recalculate the parity and go on your way. You can also mix and match sizes and be able to use the entire HDD for data storage as long as the parity drive is at least equal to the largest drive in the array. You can set up FlexRAID as RAID 5 or RAID 6. In fact, you can use an infinite number of parity drives, but it's really not practical after 2 (RAID 6). You also have the option of SnapShot RAID or RealTime RAID. FlexRAID is about $60. It runs as driver under whatever operating system you choose. If you choose a Windows OS then you can use whatever Windows software you choose on the system. If you choose a Linux OS then you can use anything that's set up for Linux. The other advantage of FlexRAID is that data files are not striped across the array. This gives you slower read time than a ZFS RAID solution but if you add a drive with data, the data simply gets added to the array. If you pull a data drive from the array, the data remains on that disk and disappears from the array. If you get huge crash and lose more drives than you have parity, you only lose the data on the crashed drives. Any data that resides on an intact disc an just be popped into another computer be ready for use. FlexRAID also has scanning tools that allow bit level checks for bit rot and bit flopping, too.

SnapRAID is a lot like FlexRAID except there's no drive pooling and it is free. A lot of people running SnapRAID will add StableBit Drive Pool for about $20 to get the drive pooling feature. It is a Linux based system and has to be run from CLI. There is front end GUI called Elucidate that is supposed to help set up SnapRAID but I could never really get it to function well.

unRAID is the oldest, most mature and lightest on resources. You don't even need a HDD for the OS, you just install it to a 1GB flash drive that stays in the PC and it runs from there. It is free up to 3 drives (1 parity & 2 data) and then the licenses start at $60. You can literally build an unRAID server out of spare parts lying around the garage if the motherboard supports booting from a flash drive. Any old single core CPU greater than 1GHz will be fine and you don't need anymore memory than about 1GB. The support community is pretty active and there are a lot of plugins (including Plex) available. If you have the parts lying around, you could literally just spring for the cost of the drives and be up and running in an hour. Like SnapRAID and FlexRAID, unRAID can mix and match HDD sizes (whip out the old HDDs collecting dust) as long as the parity drive is at least as big as the largest drive in the array. Each drive has to be cleared before you can add it to the array but the array doesn't have to be broken to add the drive in there. If you have a catastrophic failure, the data can still be recovered from individual drives that still work but special Linux tools are necessary for recovery so it's a little harder than with FlexRAID or SnapRAID.

Check this link for some software RAID comparisons:

http://snapraid.sourceforge.net/compare.html

unRAID - www.lime-technology.com
FlexRAID - www.flexraid.com
NAS4free - www.nas4free.org
FreeNas - www.freenas.org

I have installed and used unRAID, FlexRAID, FreeNAS and SnapRAID at different times and each one has its place but I am very biased towards a couple of them. Take a look at this info. Decide exactly what you want to accomplish and I'd love to make a recommendation at that point. If you want to use your NAS/HTPC as a DVR, then you're probably gonna have to choose between a motherboard/card based RAID setup, Hardware RAID, FlexRAID or SnapRAID.
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August 8, 2013 6:37:37 PM

I'm gonna go with a raid 1 setup, I think that solution is sufficient for my needs. I'm very eager to hear your build ideas.
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a b G Storage
August 8, 2013 7:30:00 PM

Yeah, I hear you. RAID 1 will definitely be the least expensive to setup.

Do you have any components that you can bring over to the NAS? Case, PSU, etc.? Or will the whole thing be built from scratch? How much storage space will you require for the NAS?
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August 9, 2013 1:42:13 AM

smitbret said:
Yeah, I hear you. RAID 1 will definitely be the least expensive to setup.

Do you have any components that you can bring over to the NAS? Case, PSU, etc.? Or will the whole thing be built from scratch? How much storage space will you require for the NAS?



The only thing I have lying around is a 750gb hd that from what I'm learning here won't be useful for any of these setups. I have no idea what I could even use it for now other than maybe a storage drive to use along side an ssd in a future desktop build. It looks like I'm building from scratch. I have no experience with AMD chips, always used Intel. Are there any big performance differences between the two? (I only ask because you mentioned it in an earlier post)
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a b G Storage
August 9, 2013 7:41:38 AM

The 750GB is a nice piece to use here. As a general rule, you'll want to have a drive for the OS that is separate from the data drives. If it's just lying around collecting dust, use it for the OS install and then just pick up a couple of drives for the Data storage. This way, if something happens with the OS (crash, corruption, can't boot, etc.) then you can simply format and restore or reinstall and your data stays secure and untouched.

I was browsing through some DIY kits last night at NewEgg cuz I think they're a great place to start. Like I said, you don't need a lot resources wise except a CPU that is capable of doing the Plex transcoding in real time. That means that you'll probably wanna start with an i3 or Quad Core AMD. You may even be able to get by with one of the new Richland Dual Core APUs, especially if the bulk of your video is not HD, but if it struggles to transcode then you may need to invest in a more powerful CPU to drop in there later on. The Intel will use a little less power but tends to give you a little less bang for your buck and browsing through the DIY kits the less expensive i3 options include a 1TB drive that I don't think will be of any use to you. This would be a good starting point:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?I...

I'm not crazy about the case but it will work and has a 120mm fan drawing air right across the front of the HDD cage. The PSU is a little suspect but plenty powerful. You may want to just keep the idea of a good replacement in the back of your mind. It's a Quad Core CPU that will be able to transcode in real time and I really like the motherboard. It has 6 SATA ports for future expansion, supports USB 3.0 and also supports drives larger than 3TB so you won't be limited in the sizes you can choose. There's also na HDMI port if you want it to pull double duty as an HTPC. 4GB is plenty of memory. Install the OS to your 750GB HDD and then just add a pair of HDDs for storage and you should be up and running. I would probably add a pair of 2TB HDDs. You can get these for $85 a piece with a promo code through the 12th:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I am using 3 of them in my NAS and they are quieter, cooler and MUCH, MUCH faster than my WD Green drives. $422 gives you 2TB of RAID 1 storage. Add the cost of the OS and you're good to go.

As far as setup, you can just set up the RAID 1 after you boot into the BIOS. Each motherboard is a little bit different so consult your manual that comes with the MB. Keep in mind that settin up RAID like this can make future expansion a little difficult. You cannot add drives (increase size) without breaking up the array and rebuilding it. That means that you'll need someplace to store the data while you recreate since breaking up the RAID array means starting over from scratch. You could, though, add more drives in pairs as add'l RAID 1 arrays but they won't be pooled and each add'l RAID 1 array will show up as its own HDD in the OS.

An interesting solution to this is with Windows 8 and its Storage Spaces feature. If you have to invest in an OS, this may be the way to go. Basically, you don't set up the RAID in the motherboard BIOS but you'd set it up in Windows. It's not gonna be a true RAID 1 but offers the same 1:1 protection, it distributes the mirrored data across any drives in the array. It then allows you to add empty drives in the future without having to break up the array to make it bigger. The mirrored data is then redistributed across all of the drives. So, if you start out with 2 drives now, fill them up and want to add a 3rd one next year, just add the HDD to the system and boot up. Go into Storage Spaces and import it into the array. Your data stays intact and you can mix and match drive sizes and add them as your budget and needs allow. There are some reports that the overhead is a little more with this setup than other RAID setups but I doubt it would be enough to have any real world penalty for NAS/Media Server duties. If I were building a NAS from scratch right now and had to invest in an OS this would be the direction I would go. Others may be able to chime in with their experiences on Storage Spaces.

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