1st NAS build questions!

Hello all, :)

I'm building my first dedicated NAS that I will be hooking up via gigabit ethernet to my home's central router. It will be used basically for a couple of HTPC's that are in the house which are tied in via wireless access or gigabit ethernet to the router. However, I would like this rig to function as a personal "dropbox" as well, that I can access outside of my LAN, if that's easily doable. If not, it's no big deal. The NAS will be mostly used to hold important files and movies for the HTPC's.

What I'm looking for:
- Budget system (I'm willing to spend what I need to get these action items done, but I don't want to fly off the handle and spend more than going out and buying a pre-built model on the market)
- Data integrity/reliability
- Low power usage
- Near silent operation
- Secure
- OS reliability and integrity (and secure)
- Some sort of "wake on activity" would be nice, if there is a robust sleep-mode. It would be nice if it could go into some sort of sleep mode automatically and just wake up when it is being accessed. I'm not sure if this is a feasible goal or not.

My questions:
- Should I be using the "NAS" labeled drives on the market? I'm interested in the 3TB WD RED models but it sounds like they have a HIGH failure rate, as well as most of the other "NAS" drives on the market. Or should I just use a good reliable regular drive and just sink the cost of continuous operation of a regular drive vs. an NAS drive?

- I also want to be able to take out a failed drive and send it back to the manufacturer for a replacement or purchase another without having to shut down the NAS. Do I need 3 or 4 drives for this? What type of RAID or array do I need for this? Also, whichever it is (3 or 4) is it complete redundancy to where I would only have 3 TB of space or does the array spread a little farther to give more space? Sorry if this doesn't make any sense. This will be my first attempt at a RAID, and I figured it would be best to do it in a non-Windows environment with all of my work files and stuff.

- It sounds like from other posts that FreeNAS will be best for my needs. Is this true? It seems like a very simple OS that I can modify, fix, etc. without too much frustration. It also is very reliable from what I hear and I can setup a hardware or software RAID that will run plenty fast for what I need.

- Should I use software or onboard hardware RAID? Or should I install a separate controller for my needs, or will the software RAID be more than enough speed/reliability?

Current parts (does this fit my goals?):
- I believe I've selected the case that best suits my needs, which I think is a very common one:
- I haven't selected any hard drives yet.
- The case power supply that comes with it doesn't sound very reliable from reviews. I might as well just purchase one I know will be more reliable. Does this one fit the case and my needs?:
- The motherboard I've picked is not really on the market anymore but I'm sure I can find one. It's fanless which bodes well for the silent operation aspect, but will this be okay for my needs? Or should I just buy another mini-ITX board with LGA 1155 socket and a cheap processor and a low profile heatsink/fan? It sounds like the case has a hard time just fitting a stock LGA1155 cooler inside... so that poses a problem. Are there any good low profile and silent heatsinks/fans for an LGA1155 socket? Also, I don't believe this one selected below has onboard RAID capabilities...:
- I haven't picked any RAM but I feel it's negligible at this stage of the build now

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm trying to get my homework done :) I will be sure to post how the build is going with pictures and such, as well as my trials and tribulations which I'm sure to run into. Any advice would be very much appreciated!

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  1. 1. Do not get the WD Red. These drives are just marketing ploy by WD to sell regular consumer drives for a higher price. Save the money and get regular consumer drives. Or if you want added reliability (mostly increase MTF and better error handling) look to enterprise drives. I am running 6x3TB Seagate drives which I removed from the Seagate Goflex External Storage. Picked these up for $99 each last year. They perform perfectly, running 24x7 (all sleep function disabled) for about a year now. You may not have my luck, but this is to show that Red/NAS drives are not necessary.

    2. Most SATA ports are hot swappable with AHCI enabled. Choose a case with easy access to drive and robust drive trays. While you may not be removing drives often, I have seem case with very cheap drive trays where the locks snapped after a few uses. The number of drives will depend on RAID level you choose. Base on your requirement, RAID5 (RAIDZ in FreeNAS) should suffice as it provide ample storage and performance. You need a minimum of 3 drives for RAID5. RAID5 allows for 1 disk failure without data lost (read the RAID FAQ). I would personally recommend a minimum of 5 disk case as you can never have to much storage. Go a lot higher if you can (say 7 or 8), but that will require better cooling which may not meet your quiet requirement. Ensure the drive trays have lights for each drive (at least power and activity). This will help identifying failed drive. If there are no hard drive lights, you can always label each tray. I can't comment on the case you mentioned because I've never used/seen one and I'm not a fan of compact cases. If space is not an issue, use a regular PC tower. You might even have one laying around that is not in use. My issue with compact cases is it's usually difficult to get replacement parts when they fail (and they will fail, usually at the most inconvenient time). If you can't find the products at your local PC store, then it is not readily available. You can also use larger fans in a PC tower at lower RPM, thus satisfying your quiet requirement.

    3. FreeNAS is a very good option. If you are familiar with any of the BSD derivatives, then you'd be right at home. If not, there is always a lot of support for the FreeNAS large user base. FreeNAS zfs requires lots for RAM. If you are planning on using RAIDZ, then you should have at least 4gig of RAM. There are also tons of addons available which should satisfy your cloud needs.

    4. Go with software RAID. Software RAID will keep your build cost down and offer the flexibility to easily move all your disks to new hardware without the need to rebuild your RAID array. Hardware RAID locks you in to the RAID card type and or manufacturer (ie, when the card fails you have to get the identical card or one from the same manufacturer). For hardware RAID get a true Hardware-RAID card. These do all RAID processing on the card (does not use system CPU as fake-RIAD card does) and will cost upwards for $500 for a decent 8 port card. Avoid consumer motherboard RAID as these are fake-RAID with very bad support under BSD/Linux.
  2. For the OP reference, I am running a similar build as FireWire2 using NORCO RPC-4224 4U with 30TB for storage. This is having never seen FireWire2 setup until now.
  3. I built this with these features:

    _ Low cost - built in mid 2010
    _ Expandable
    _ Lower power consumption - about 183W when it runs
    _ Decent transfer speed for streaming several BD.ISO at the same time
    _ Short time of RAID rebuilt, due to RAID50.
    When a drive failed it rebuilt a portion of my NAS volume, so it's faster to go back to normal state
    _ Go to Hibernate state to save energy. if there is NO DATA access in one hour (programmable timing)
    _ Operating over 2yrs with 2 HDD failed/replaced
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