My goal is to build a high capacity NAS server with RAID, and I want to have several terabytes of available storage (preferably at least 12 TB, but the higher the better). The problem I am running into is that I'm somewhat inexperienced in this and I'm not sure what is the best way to set up a system that can support multiple drives. My plan was to use FreeNAS, and I was trying to find a reliable motherboard with a large number of SATA ports, so that I could directly connect between half a dozen and a dozen SATA drives. But, I have been frustrated trying to find a board with those specs, especially anything that comes highly recommended.
I'm guessing some of you must have built the type of system I'm wanting to build and I would love to know what hardware you may have used that would allow you to support a large number of 2 to 3 TB SATA drives. Any recommendations (or pointers to an online resource that might have this information) would be highly appreciated. If you've successfully accomplished something like this, please at least just say what motherboard and other hardware you may have used, and whether you've found it to be reliable and trouble-free (would you make the same choice again if you had it to do over?).
One other question, my original plan was to use RAID 5 as supported by the FreeNAS software, but now I'm reading some things that suggest that's not the best approach. So if you've done something like this, what RAID level do you recommend, and do you feel there's a significant advantage to using a hardware RAID controller?