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Building a Home Server / NAS

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March 24, 2014 6:29:54 AM

Hello!

I am planning on building a Nas / Server for my house.
I do a lot of video editing, do lots of Project Work [ Word, Excel etc.] ,Love to create content and have a lot of media.

The thing is that lots of my data gets mixed up around the house, in the laptops, my PCs and finding them is quite hard when there are deadlines and lots of work to be done.
So I thought of the Idea of having a Nas / Server in my house to centralise all of that.

The Computers in my house:

1. Acer Laptop [Win xp]
2. Toshiba Laptop [Win 8]
3. Custom Built Home PC [win xp]
4. Compaq PC [Win 7] [ultimate]
5. MY GAMING RIG!!!! [Win 7] [ Home Premium ]

Other Handheld devices:
1. The usual IPhone, Ipod, Ipad
2. Samsung Tab, S4

Clearly Lots of devices at home 5 computers, and 5 Handheld devices.

I do have experience with PCs but not with servers, I hear they are somewhat the same when building with consumer hardware.
Thats why I need your help. I did have a plan of how much storage like 2 TB just to get things going then later upgrade.
I dont know whether to go with a Atx board or a Mini Itx board.
If it was Itx i did see the Cooler Master Elite 120, i thought it had some potential as a server case.
The processor and the Mobo is where Im stuck. For Ram i think 4 GB would be enough, and a 400w PSU.
For the OS Windows Home Server 2011 seems quite nice.

My budget would be around 150$, but its best to get it as cheap as possible.
Nothing Fancy just a normal home server.

I would like to know more about switches and add-in cards for Gigabit bit second [2 and 4]
I also would like to know more about Nas' and servers, and what can be acheived besides network storage.
If possible setup remote desktop control over the network.

Pls Follow up as soon as possible.
Thnx !
Blaze
March 24, 2014 7:01:47 AM

I think 500$ is kind of overkill, and i changed it to 150$.
What would you suggest now that the budget is changed, and recommendations for parts?
I live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. [Currecncy: AED]
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a b G Storage
March 24, 2014 9:08:05 AM

Last I heard Windows Home Server 2011 has been discontinued. And, if you can get a copy, it will eat $50-$70 your $150 budget, last I checked prices and availability.

What other OS would you be willing to use aside from Windows? Ever check out the various linux distros like Ubuntu or openSUSE? There is also an excellent NAS OS called FreeNAS that has minimal hardware requirements and is very flexible and powerful.

Do you have any spare/extra parts that you can re-purpose for the build or are you buying everything? I mean, a $150 NAS is possible, but it will also depends on what OS you choose; as mentioned, a retail copy of Windows will kill your $150 budget.

Also, what OS you choose will partially determine your hardware requirements. A windows based NAS would require 4GB ram and at least a dual core cpu to deal with all the overhead. Whereas a linux distro or FreeNAS can get away with an old P4 dual core and 2GB ram. Also, Windows would require a hard drive for the OS install let alone other drives for storage. Whereas a linux distro or FreeNAS can, literally, be run off a CF card or USB thumb drive. Whether the mobo is miniITX, mATX, really depends on the OS hardware requirements. The size of the mobo isn't as important as the case, how many hard drives it's going hold, and having proper airflow. Home servers and NAS's are like furniture, the just exist and work, once properly configured should require minimal attention and maintenance, and most likely be running 24/7/365.

Are you planning on using a RAID array of any kind? If so, consider the pros and cons of software RAID compared to a dedicated hardware RAID controller.

All things considered, I would recommend giving the NAS idea some more thought and research linux distros and FreeNAS as possible OS's and reply back.
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March 25, 2014 7:33:38 AM

I need data to be accessible in my home network by all the PCs and latops and other devices, as common storage and media box.

If possible i need this to work like a "Cloud". I do use dropbox.com but i am limited to it's servers and space.
For eg: Just finished making an IMP PPT for school and i left it @ home in a rush..... Can use the school network or internet to access my data at home??

Basically these are my needs.

1) Common Storage for all of the computers @ home
2) If possible use it as a Cloud as mentioned

I have read reviews and watched videos on Linus and FreeBSDs- FreeNAS
But not sure whether to go with it. not the brightest bulb in Linux or FreeNAS.
What would be the optimum thing to do, now that i have stated my Basic needs.

Also Dont think i will go with a RAID array, If I choose to go with RAID I might go with RAID 5.
Question: Is it possible to run the machine without RAID at first, for a few months and then when i have say 5 drives then can i go with RAID? Or is it from the beginning itself?
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Best solution

March 25, 2014 11:25:38 AM

I am unclear whether it is possible to upgrade one of your existing computers to function as the server for your network or whether you are trying to build from scratch. At your budget, I think you need to upgrade an existing computer.

I would try Ubuntu or FreeNAS simply because at your budget Windows will take up $100 of your budget.

I would recommend upgrading the XP machine since XP is no longer going to be supported in a few days. Add a couple of HDDs, maybe a new PSU, and a decent WiFi router if you don't already have one, and you should be good to go. If that is a good plan, then I can make specific recommendations.
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a b G Storage
March 26, 2014 8:17:51 AM

BlazeMike said:
I need data to be accessible in my home network by all the PCs and latops and other devices, as common storage and media box.

If possible i need this to work like a "Cloud". I do use dropbox.com but i am limited to it's servers and space.
For eg: Just finished making an IMP PPT for school and i left it @ home in a rush..... Can use the school network or internet to access my data at home??

Basically these are my needs.

1) Common Storage for all of the computers @ home
2) If possible use it as a Cloud as mentioned

1) Easily done with a NAS. Both Ubuntu and FreeNAS have a built in sharing service, CIFS/SAMBA for Windows based machines. Just enable the sharing service and map the drive from your laptops, PC's, and other various devices.
2) Most, if not all NAS OS's have FTP capability built into them.


BlazeMike said:
I have read reviews and watched videos on Linus and FreeBSDs- FreeNAS
But not sure whether to go with it. not the brightest bulb in Linux or FreeNAS.
What would be the optimum thing to do, now that i have stated my Basic needs.

IMO, FreeNAS or Ubuntu are your best choices. Both are far less command prompt driven that they used to be. I have extensive expereince with FreeNAS and cannot recommend it enough. The fact is, both are free to download and try out. If you have the ability, install both and try them out, you will ultimately educate yourself and be better able to decide which one would work best for your situation. That's what I did, built my basic NAS box, installed Ubuntu, played with it, then installed FreeNAS, and checked it out. I liked FreeNAS better and stuck with it.

BlazeMike said:
Also Dont think i will go with a RAID array, If I choose to go with RAID I might go with RAID 5.
Question: Is it possible to run the machine without RAID at first, for a few months and then when i have say 5 drives then can i go with RAID? Or is it from the beginning itself?
RAID 5 is my favorite next to RAID1 but I DO NOT recommend using more than 4 drives in a RAID5 array as the possibility of losing the parity data increases as more drives are added to the array. And yes, it is possible to start out with no RAID and then add RAID5 later. It jsut requires that you migrate (i.e.; copy/paste more or less) the data from the single drive to the array. The actual question would be, software or hardware RAID? Both have the ups and downs. I prefer a dedicated hardware RAID card for RAID5 because the overhead can be a bit much for lower end machines like a NAS. But the safest way to go, IMO, is get large TB drives and RAID1 them (which can be done with software RAID without taxing a low end machine with parity calculations) plus maintain a stand alone drive as a back-up for all important files and data.

As Aristotelian asked, are you upgrading an existing machine or building this from scratch. Building a complete NAS box from scratch for $150 is close to impossible. So, if you can reclaim any parts and state what you have, we can fill in the blanks about what to get.

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March 28, 2014 12:20:24 AM

Thnx for the suggestion @Aristotelian , I think that upgrading ve old Windows XP PC is the ideal solution for this budget.

Also thank you @chunkymonster for that detailed response to my needs for a Storage unit

The PC is running

an Intel Motherboard (Quite an old one don't know which one it is)
It has a Pentium Processor.
A 120gb HDD (Boot for XP and has its storage)
A very very old PSU (Doesn't have a brand that is easliy visible, but I think its a Seagate)

These are things in the XP Home PC, What can be changed and can be done?

I think this should make things a bit easier with the budget.

I am willing to squeeze in a bit more a up the budget to $220. Hope it helps :) 
Blaze
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March 28, 2014 1:27:43 PM

OK, so if I understand correctly you are going to use an old Windows XP PC and upgrade with Ubuntu or FreeNAS to serve as a home server, and you need 2 TB storage.

At your budget I would invest in a new PSU, a HDD with the capacity you need, upgrade RAM to max capacity (if you have not already) and adapters to connect the HDD (if necessary).

I would keep the motherboard and CPU, otherwise if you upgrade one you will have to upgrade the other.

Things you will want to check:
-You will probably need an adapter to connect a SATA HDD to the ports on your old motherboard (most likely they are IDE).
-Look up the model of the current PSU. You will need to make sure the replacement is the correct size. Ideally it is ATX and you can look for an ATX PSU (the most common size).
-Look up your motherboard specs to find its max RAM capacity and upgrade to that amount.

Depending on specs, I would estimate $40 for new PSU, $20 for RAM, and here is a 2 TB HDD for $90 with promo code from Newegg:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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a b G Storage
April 1, 2014 10:50:52 AM

Aristotelian said:
OK, so if I understand correctly you are going to use an old Windows XP PC and upgrade with Ubuntu or FreeNAS to serve as a home server, and you need 2 TB storage.

At your budget I would invest in a new PSU, a HDD with the capacity you need, upgrade RAM to max capacity (if you have not already) and adapters to connect the HDD (if necessary).

I would keep the motherboard and CPU, otherwise if you upgrade one you will have to upgrade the other.

Things you will want to check:
-You will probably need an adapter to connect a SATA HDD to the ports on your old motherboard (most likely they are IDE).
-Look up the model of the current PSU. You will need to make sure the replacement is the correct size. Ideally it is ATX and you can look for an ATX PSU (the most common size).
-Look up your motherboard specs to find its max RAM capacity and upgrade to that amount.

Depending on specs, I would estimate $40 for new PSU, $20 for RAM, and here is a 2 TB HDD for $90 with promo code from Newegg:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
+1! Good advice.

And, to add to it...

If using FreeNAS, there is a 2GB RAM minimum, and then the rule of thumb of 1GB RAM for every 1TB of storage when going over 2TB of storage. FreeNAS can use a variety of x86 or x86-64 processors, supports Intel hyper threading and has native multi-core support. FreeNAS is very light and does not require a high end cpu, a 1.5GHz (at least) single core will work just fine. Where FreeNAS would require more RAM (8GB+) or a higher end cpu (quad core) is when using software RAID or the ZFS file system. Which is something to consider/research if plan on using FreeNAS is whether you want to use the UFS or ZFS file system to store your data. ZFS is more hardware intensive than UFS when storing data. For example, a single core 1.5GHz Pentium with 2GB RAM would run FreeNAS and the UFS file system without issue; whereas you would want at least a 2GHz dual core and 8GB RAM if using the ZFS file system.

Linux/Ubuntu has similar hardware requirements to a Windows based machine. They say you can run Ubuntu with a 700MHz cpu and 512MB RAM, and you can, if you want it to run like crap that is. Ubuntu, much like Windows performs better when running on higher end the hardware is. If opting for Ubuntu, you would want the same minimum specs for a decent Windows machine.

From what you described, you could run either FreeNAS or Ubuntu with the hardware that you have and would only need to add drives for storage. Keep in mind that you can always upgrade your NAS hardware, so maybe think about starting out a little lower end and then swapping out cpu, adding RAM, adding storage drives as your needs grow.

As mentioned, I've been running a FreeNAS based NAS with the UFS file system for several years and here are the specs;
FreeNAS with UFS file system
Pentium D @ 1.6GHz
4GB RAM
Supermicro PDSME+ motherboard
4GB compact flash as OS drive via a CF/IDE adapter
3Ware 9500S-12 Hardware RAID card
2-320GB drives in RAID1 just for MP3's
2-320GB drives in RAID1 just for photos and misc
2-3TB drives in RAID1 just for movies/dvd's/videos

It's not super powerful hardware, ancient by today's standards, but very stable and reliable, the NAS is like furniture, it just sits there running 24/7/365 with a weekly reboot. My biggest concern is drives dying which is the reason for running RAID1.

Hope all this info gives you some ideas...good luck!
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April 11, 2014 8:37:17 AM

Thanks for the really well though out answers, I am not sure which OS to go with there is FreeNas, Ubuntu, Debian just not sure.
Help!

Also I will be checking the Old Xp PC's specs soon
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April 12, 2014 6:22:54 AM

All I can say is it can't hurt to try different things. I have never tried FreeNAS but it appears it would work for your needs.

If you go with Ubuntu for a more complete OS, I would recommend LUbuntu (the most lightweight Ubuntu distribution). Install the Samba package with LUbuntu and you will be good to go.

If you get stuck, come back here and tell us what's going on.
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April 13, 2014 9:12:07 AM

Okay so i got together some hardware on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/JVB3M9AR29JN/re...

I will be re-using the old motherboard and Processor (2.66 Ghz Pentium) from my old PC and thats it from the old box

Other stuff i will be getting from Amazon like the PSU, a new case and an Intel nic. I'll try my best to get these locally especially the Hard Drive which will be a 2TB Seagate Drive.

Comment back on these parts, thnx. Also for the OS I might be going with FreeNas
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a c 93 G Storage
April 13, 2014 11:35:17 AM

Seems you have all of your hardware and OS questions resolved (or at least under discussion). Please don't start a new thread elsewhere with the same basic question. This is a systems question as much as it is a storage question. No move necessary.

FreeNAS is a great choice. WHS 2011 would be good as well if you can find it. Depending on your home network router/switch, the motherboard's bulti-in NIC (assuming it works) should meet your basic needs and minimize your costs.

Are you planning to use an old 32-bit Pentium (hard to tell from above)? If so, WHS 2011 is not even an option (64-bit OS).
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April 13, 2014 12:03:31 PM

Sorry wasn't aware of that @COLGeek. That is quite a debatable topic, I started of the thread hoping for WHS 2011 but I was suggested FreeNas which I found really amaaing, but WHS is also something to consider as all off the Pcs and Laptops at my home Windows.
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a c 93 G Storage
April 13, 2014 12:21:39 PM

I have a WHS 2011 server running right behind me. Once configured it is "fire and forget". Like any other Windows platform, it updates itself, and it also performs backups of all systems daily (assuming they are powered on), allows me to share files, stream video, and pretty much all else you would want a server to do.

WHS 2011 never really took off in the market, so MS has pretty much abandoned it. It can still be found, and since based on Server 2008, it still gets updated.

It is easy to install and there are forums available dedicated to WHS to help with more advanced capabilities. If you can find it (maybe Newegg), it is a solid product. However, you need a 64-bit CPU for it.
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April 13, 2014 12:25:45 PM

Do you have specs for the MB? You should verify that it has inputs for SATA drives, otherwise you will need a SATA>IDE adapter to connect the new HDD to the motherboard.
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a c 93 G Storage
April 28, 2014 7:28:06 AM

What model of CPU are you using? Looks like only 32-bit for you and FreeNAS (or another Linux based distro) is your best bet. Also, those are SATA I ports, so newer SATA II and III drives will run slower than they are capable of. You may also have issues with 2TB+ drives.
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April 28, 2014 10:38:26 AM

COLGeek said:
What model of CPU are you using? Looks like only 32-bit for you and FreeNAS (or another Linux based distro) is your best bet. Also, those are SATA I ports, so newer SATA II and III drives will run slower than they are capable of. You may also have issues with 2TB+ drives.


I'm not planning on going with drives above 2TB as i heard of many issues..
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June 7, 2014 2:58:29 AM

I'm back, sorry for the long absence, lot of stuff been going on.
Anyway, Question: Is there absolutly no way to install WHS 2011 on the old Xp PC?

The hardware: 1TB Seagate Drive, and 2GB Kit of ram, should reach me today or few days.

I'm really banking on WHS, Sorry Guys (Who suggested Freenas and fought for it and convinced me for it).

I feel the WHS will be my best bet, and will suit my needs.

But my main question is will this PC be able to run WHS 2011???

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June 7, 2014 3:09:57 AM

My bad,

I forgot the requirements, so guess i can't run whs. :( 

But great for running FreeNas right guys?
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a c 93 G Storage
June 7, 2014 6:31:53 AM

Correct, WHS 2011 requires a 64-bit CPU (as it is a 64-bit OS).
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June 7, 2014 10:36:49 AM

Alright, thnx @COLGeek I've updated the amazon list as to what I'm getting, somethings have been dropped or downgraded, due to some "reasons" and budget degradation.

List: http://amzn.com/w/JVB3M9AR29JN

1TB HDD will do for now.

Also, I'm getting this stuff in a few days, along with a suite new router (cuz our old 5 year one, is acting too crazy).
I would like to now if there is any specific features I need on the router for the network setup.

Also I need help on how to setup OwnCloud or BT SYnc with FreeNas to access data on the go.
I would also like to know how to tell FreeNas to do back-ups of PCs, if that's even possible?

Thnx,
Blaze
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June 7, 2014 10:40:02 AM

Also the old PC I will be using FreeNas on has an optical drive connected via IDE (Strip Connector) : http://bit.ly/1hqDc8r

Do you recommend me using Freenas with a CD on the Optical drive or do you still say that the USB option is best.
I'm open to either suggestion. Thnx again,
Blaze
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a c 93 G Storage
June 7, 2014 11:00:47 AM

Using the CD to install FreeNAS is just fine. No worries there.

If you want to allow external access to your server, you'll need to open a port on your router. Not a big deal, Get everything setup internally and then configure the router for external access.

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!