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NAS box or linux tower?

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December 2, 2011 12:29:53 PM

I've currently got a desktop computer which is connected to my TV and it's the machine that currently holds all of our media. We use Boxee PC software as our GUI to access the media.

I'm going to be upgrading the storage capabilities and I want to use this desktop machine for gaming as that is what I originally built it for (it has pretty meaty graphics cards and processor). So, I am going to either (a) Purchase some sort of NAS box and load it with multiple 2 TB drives OR (b) build a simple, low power tower and load it with multiple drives and linux to serve the media to all the machines in the house.

Does anyone have any input on this decision? I don't know much about NAS diskless boxes so my natural inclination is to build a linux tower with a bunch of drives so that if there is an issue with any of them, I would be more familiar with troubleshooting, etc... with a NAS box, does it have an OS? how do you troubleshoot issues? Format the drives/maintain?


Thanks in advance!

More about : nas box linux tower

a c 101 G Storage
December 2, 2011 2:07:50 PM

If you had a NAS, you would need disks in it for storage of your media. I would recommend the Linux solution or you use Windows Home Server. You don't need a massive system and drives are cheap.
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a b G Storage
December 2, 2011 2:11:39 PM

NAS boxes are setup to be very easy to work with now. The majority of them are pretty plug and play, and have web interfaces for controlling most if not all functions. They are usually designed to support hot swapping drives with is nice as well. They are priced quite high though for what you could build into a desktop as you mentioned. A lot of the lower end ones don't offer great network performance either. Troubleshooting wise they are setup so that pretty much any home use can replace a dead drive etc. They usually ship with custom versions of some kind of linux on them.

If money wasn't being considered I would definitely go with a prebuilt NAS case like a QNAP, and just add drives, but you could get the same for much less if you wanted to build things yourself it just wouldn't have as nice a case and would be more work to get setup.
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a b G Storage
December 2, 2011 2:26:03 PM

Having bought and used a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo for about 2 years it was brilliant for what I needed it to do. I only built a DIY NAS for upgradability.

If you've got less than 2TB of data then just pick up a prebuilt NAS with the features you need and have it run as mirror raid. Don't expect mad transfer performance but for streaming media they will be fine.

If in a while you want something bigger and more performant then perhaps consider a DIY solution. The two bay entry level NAS boxes are pretty cheap these days.
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December 2, 2011 2:55:06 PM

Have you looked at building your own and using Freenas or Unraid?
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a b G Storage
December 2, 2011 3:15:51 PM

I was in the same situation. I used my gaming PC for most of my duties, like a media center,etc. I have since split the roles and built 3 machines: a gaming PC, a media center PC that runs a media GUI like boxee and has a lot of onboard DVR storage and a windows 2008 R2 server that acts as a glorified NAS.

I'd recommend against a plug n play NAS. If you do any high-end MKV converts and are working on building a movie library and extensive DVR\file backups, your NAS is going to die within the first few years. It's also not going to have the performance flexibility that you're going to get with an upgradable server.

I'm running a RAID 5 with a hot spare through a SAS card and expander. The server itself it just a small ITX ASUS motherboard running a 2500k processor in a lianli Q25 case. It looks beautiful, holds 7 drives (you can fit 10 in there) and can host all of your media libraries over a gigabit network with no problem. My server reaches out to my laptop, media center and 2 desktops every night and pulls all of their data to a backup on the server. It also creates a backup of the DVR each night so i can delete shows from the media center without losing them for good.

I would highly recommend creating your own storage unit and not being tempted by the cheap stand alone NAS boxes. When running in a server 2008 environment, you're going to have a lot more options with your data than you will even creating your own FreeNAS.
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December 2, 2011 3:36:11 PM

A NAS box is essentially a specialized linux computer built to hold HDDs. The good ones have an easy web interface and can be used just like any other linux PC.

You can build your own NAS for significantly cheaper and get almost identical results using Webmin for easy web configuration. I built my file server with Ubuntu server and you can see the specs in my signature. About the only downside of my NAS box is there is no hardware RAID 5 support but it can be added via PCIe if I actually wanted it. It consumes ~30W at idle with an old inefficient PSU.

I don't use my server for converting media, since it has no way of generating the media in the first place and the processor is slow. I just convert from my main PC when ripping the DVD. However, my server backs up my parents and brothers PCs over the internet and does a few other things like hosting a personal website.
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a c 125 G Storage
December 2, 2011 5:58:55 PM

I have been running NAS home / media / business server for about 5 years. Couldn't be happier. It sits in my SOHO (Small Office / Home) and is used for:

a) Holds all my office files, financial records, CAD Drawings , Construction photographs, workstation image and file backups...essentially my entire business records accumulated since 1985. No data is stored locally on the 7 office machines, all office file access is over the network with individual volumes on the NAS mapped as "local drives"

b) Holds all my personal / family records for me, wifie and three kids (22, 21, 15) including personal records, homework, whatever, as well as image backups of all their PC's.

c) iTunes / media server

The attraction for me is that ownership, operation and maintenance is completely effortless. When need to expand, slide in a new HD and walk away.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...|22-122-062^22-122-062-TS%2C22-122-081^22-122-081-TS

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December 5, 2011 9:23:57 AM

Thank you all for your input! Since I'm more than capable of piecing together a machine, I guess it does make sense to just build my own. There's something comforting about knowing exactly what is in your machine and that you put it there. Plus, cost is a major concern.

I found a decent article on overclock's website written by a guy who put a machine together using most of the guts from a dimension 2400. it had a Celeron 400 CPU which was nice because it didn't require a cooling fan, and he threw in a 4 port PCI SATA card and a nice hard drive. Pretty sure he was into it for less than $200 bucks.

So do you all agree that a machine such as this requires basically NO CPU power or RAM and that the only components that really need to be on board would be large hard drives and Gbit Ethernet capabilities? That's the general idea that this guy was pointing out however when I checked out the FreeNAS hardware requirements, it all but spelled out that you would greatly benefit from a powerful machine.

Opinions?
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December 5, 2011 1:59:02 PM

For file serving you don't need a lot of CPU or RAM to get adequate performance. I Have an Atom D525 and 1GB of DDR3. I'm running Ubuntu server and using ext4 for my filesystem. I mostly use it to store documents and stream HD videos to a single device. It really doesn't take a lot of power to do that at all.

I use rsync and SSH for external backups (so compressions and encryption) to a server at my parents house, so a faster processor would speed up my backups IF I had an internet connection faster than 5Mbps upload. For my internal daily backups (going from sda to sdb) there is no compressions and encryption so the processor really isn't that important. Both of those backups are scheduled for when no one is using the house network, so even if the processor was a bottleneck it wouldn't matter.

As for RAM, I just checked my system and it is currently using 350MB of RAM which is high. It rarely uses virtual memory and when it does it is only a few MB. I actually have my system e-mail me when it does use virtual memory and that typically only happens if I'm messing with the system trying to add a new feature. For example, I was trying to have VLC play to a remote host so I could play my media to anywhere over the internet. I've only achieved playing my movies in ASCII over the terminal and it will cause my system to use virtual memory.

It seems that the RAM requirement of FreeNAS stems from the ZFS file system, which needs 4GB of useable RAM (not installed RAM) to enable prefetching. So, if you need every ounce of speed then you'll need more RAM (and possibly a faster processor to support software RAID 5). For the processor they left it as "depends on use"
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a b G Storage
December 6, 2011 1:13:52 PM

Yeah you don't need a beastly CPU here like others have said.

Nordlead has already pointed out the RAID concerns. But one feature you could opt for is using this machine to do video encoding. I don't know if this would be something you'd care for. Obviously this would be pretty easy to set up if you're building your own.

If I remember rightly expanding ZFS is far harder than RAID.

Personally I just went for the desktop version of Ubuntu (10.10) for my NAS. Means I can use VNC to remote into it with ease. It also gives me the flexibility of running whatever I like on the machine and can add whatever services I see fit. I don't think FreeNAS or the other NAS distros give you this ability?
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a c 101 G Storage
December 6, 2011 1:19:55 PM

Rusting In Peace said:
Yeah you don't need a beastly CPU here like others have said.

Nordlead has already pointed out the RAID concerns. But one feature you could opt for is using this machine to do video encoding. I don't know if this would be something you'd care for. Obviously this would be pretty easy to set up if you're building your own.

If I remember rightly expanding ZFS is far harder than RAID.

Personally I just went for the desktop version of Ubuntu (10.10) for my NAS. Means I can use VNC to remote into it with ease. It also gives me the flexibility of running whatever I like on the machine and can add whatever services I see fit. I don't think FreeNAS or the other NAS distros give you this ability?

You can do these things with Windows Home Server, as well. WHS is an excellent option for those not comfortable with Linux or FreeNAS.
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