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NAS/Simple Print Server Options

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September 21, 2011 9:50:35 PM

Looking to build a NAS/Print Server. I think I've hit all the highlights of the usual outline here - suggestions or comments?

Purpose: NAS server, printer and file sharing. Files will mostly be SD/HD media but may include VMWare images.

Budget: < $700

Timeline: Between now and years end

Components Not Needed: OS (see note), Monitor, Speakers, Optical drive (reusing a Lite-On DVD burner), Keyboard/Mouse

Preferred Source: Newegg, TigerDirect

Country: United States

Tech Level: I've built numerous PCs before for many different purposes, but new to server-ish things.

Components:
1 x ASUS E35M1-I Fusion AMD E-350 APU (1.6GHz, Dual-Core) AMD Hudson M1 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
1 x G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) Desktop Memory Model F3-8500CL7S-
1 x LIAN LI PC-V354B Black Aluminum MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case
1 x Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD1600BEVT 160GB 5400 RPM 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal 99
3 x SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
1 x XIGMATEK NRP-PC Series ACXTNRP-PC402 400W ATX12V Ver.2.3 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

Newegg Wish List

Total: $615

Thoughts:
I'm thinking I'll use Ubuntu or FreeNAS. I've installed Ubuntu on desktop and am pretty familiar with it - I think I can get basically everything I want out of it. I did up the hardware a bit from what it would require (esp the RAM) so that if I want to try Windows Home Server 2011 I can without worry (or even Win7 with most processes stripped out).

I like the Lian Li case, both for cooling purposes and space (it has room for 7 3.5" HDDs plus 2 2.5" HDD/SDD). I've also had good luck with Lian Li cases before (same with ASUS mobos and G.Skill RAM).

Picked a mini ITX board with 6x SATA and the E-350 APU (better performance than the Atom dual cores). 6 TB of storage for the main share(s) - I've thought about going with RAID, but am unsure of what is best (maybe add another HDD and do a 4 TB RAID 10 array? But this isn't critical data, and I'm hesitant to cut my storage in half like that). This setup could also use FreeNAS and run ZFS, but I have 0 experience with that. I usually go SSD on the OS drive, but since this is running 24x7, the boot speed advantage won't be realized, so a cheap laptop HDD should work.

Priorities in build (in order):
- stable
- low power (will be running 24x7)
- quiet
- performance (transfers only)
- expandibility


Any thoughts or suggestions? I was considering waiting for the new Atoms based on SB/IB, but don't know that they are much help in this scenario.

Best solution

September 22, 2011 12:59:45 PM

Maybe consider getting 2x2GB memory instead of a single 4GB.

You could also consider a small SSD as the system drive, not that it makes a huge difference but you can get some close to the $40 after the rebates.

As for the HDD setup. The mobo while it has a good amount of connectors, doesn't seem to have much in the sense of raid support so that would have to be done with the SW. Of course the motherboard raid functionality generally is also a SW based raid so it is not a very big deal. Suitable raid cards would anyway be in the $300-$500 range so you can't really get one of those on this budget. (4 or 8 HDD controllers )

Raid 5 most likely would be ideal for you, with that you 'lose' one HDD's space but gain a good chunk of performance. And can afford to lose one disk from the array.
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October 8, 2011 4:04:36 PM

Is the CPU going to be sufficient for the software based RAID? This would be basically it's only job, of course, but I don't want that to bottleneck the throughput.
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October 8, 2011 4:59:05 PM

You might be interested in looking at my 24TB HTPC build here on Tom's Hardware I just finished. Sounds like you'll be using different hardware, but I think you'll get some good ideas from my concept.
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/322480-31-steelbeast-...
I agree with you completely on not RAIDing your media, but keeping critical data safe and backed up. For backups, its kind of chaotic, but it works really well. I use the windows built in backup utility to backup weekly on most PCs and daily on some. Then i use PureSync for Folder specific backups on each PC to the HTPC, then the HTPC takes that backup folder and syncs it to a different drive, eliminating the need for a wasteful RAID array. I am susceptible to a single drive failure, but it will only be media, not any of the critical data. Why backup media, especially if you didn't pay for it lol?! The only thing you lose is time, and chances are you can get most of it back, or you wont miss any of it at all.
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October 8, 2011 5:07:39 PM

steelbeast said:
You might be interested in looking at my 24TB HTPC build here on Tom's Hardware I just finished. Sounds like you'll be using different hardware, but I think you'll get some good ideas from my concept.
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/322480-31-steelbeast-...
I agree with you completely on not RAIDing your media, but keeping critical data safe and backed up. For backups, its kind of chaotic, but it works really well. I use the windows built in backup utility to backup weekly on most PCs and daily on some. Then i use PureSync for Folder specific backups on each PC to the HTPC, then the HTPC takes that backup folder and syncs it to a different drive, eliminating the need for a wasteful RAID array. I am susceptible to a single drive failure, but it will only be media, not any of the critical data. Why backup media, especially if you didn't pay for it lol?! The only thing you lose is time, and chances are you can get most of it back, or you wont miss any of it at all.


Hmm, that's certainly interesting - and tons of storage. One thing though - do you have any power consumption numbers on it? And what kind of throughput do you see in copying files/streaming HD?
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October 8, 2011 5:38:51 PM

I don't have a kill-a-watt, so I cant give you power consumption, but my best "guess" is that its drawing about 200w idle, 300w normal use, 500w overclocked and doing some encoding. Keep in mind I'm using "green" drives, so they power down when not in use, shaving off atleast 50w in my case. My throughput is great, unless I'm doing a transfer across 2 HDDs on that PCI card, it bottlenecks at about 20mbps (40mbps seems the cap) on each HDD, the PCI-x card does just fine, no bottlenecks. No bottlenecks for streaming at all. Wireless HD streaming may give you issues, but that's the wireless throughput. I would recommend a board with 2x PCI-x slots, I just used a leftover motherboard and CPU to save $$. I just put the least used/100% full HDDs on the PCI card and I'm golden.
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October 8, 2011 5:59:21 PM

Whoa, 200W idle? Left on 24/7, that 4.8kwh per day....per a 30 day month 144kwh in a month. At my area's electric rates that's $10.44 per month to run it...

I was hoping for idle power in the 40w range.

And I have my hexacore desktop for transcoding/encoding...but I don't run that 24x7, I run my laptop 24x7 on my coffee table - uses probably 20-30w idle.
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October 8, 2011 6:15:55 PM

inanition02 said:
Whoa, 200W idle? Left on 24/7, that 4.8kwh per day....per a 30 day month 144kwh in a month. At my area's electric rates that's $10.44 per month to run it...

I was hoping for idle power in the 40w range.

And I have my hexacore desktop for transcoding/encoding...but I don't run that 24x7, I run my laptop 24x7 on my coffee table - uses probably 20-30w idle.

I really have no idea to be honest, it's a total guess at power consumption. Until (if) I get a kill-a-watt, I'll never know. I am probably way overestimating it. BTW, if you're looking at something like my build, $10 a mo. in power usage shouldn't bother you too much. You can have it turn off for a few hours a day too if you're really worried about it.

EDIT: If you really want to save power, get a LED-backlit HDTV for it.
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October 8, 2011 9:44:41 PM

steelbeast said:
I really have no idea to be honest, it's a total guess at power consumption. Until (if) I get a kill-a-watt, I'll never know. I am probably way overestimating it. BTW, if you're looking at something like my build, $10 a mo. in power usage shouldn't bother you too much. You can have it turn off for a few hours a day too if you're really worried about it.

EDIT: If you really want to save power, get a LED-backlit HDTV for it.


It's not so much about the money - it's about the whole impact of the power usage - you know, bad for the environment, creates additional heat which needs to be A/C'd away, etc. And this is just a NAS box, not an HTPC. I already have an HTPC, but it stays off when I'm not using it. And I do have an LED-backlit 55" HDTV for that :) 

This wouldn't have a monitor attached, I'd SSH into it - it would just sit under a printer/router stand and have the printer attached to it.
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October 8, 2011 11:28:02 PM

inanition02 said:
It's not so much about the money - it's about the whole impact of the power usage - you know, bad for the environment, creates additional heat which needs to be A/C'd away, etc. And this is just a NAS box, not an HTPC. I already have an HTPC, but it stays off when I'm not using it. And I do have an LED-backlit 55" HDTV for that :) 

This wouldn't have a monitor attached, I'd SSH into it - it would just sit under a printer/router stand and have the printer attached to it.


Hmm, have you considered getting a USB router and using that as a print server? Way more energy efficient. You can also use ThermalTake BlacX on some higher end routers that use Twonky Media Server and such. The Linksys E4200 comes to mind. DD-WRT also has firmware for it. I'm sure there's other options around too. Good luck on your endeavor for power/cost efficiency. You may also want to consider getting a wireless printer since those can be found for around $100 nowadays. That would solve your printer issue.
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October 8, 2011 11:43:26 PM

steelbeast said:
Hmm, have you considered getting a USB router and using that as a print server? Way more energy efficient. You can also use ThermalTake BlacX on some higher end routers that use Twonky Media Server and such. The Linksys E4200 comes to mind. DD-WRT also has firmware for it. I'm sure there's other options around too. Good luck on your endeavor for power/cost efficiency. You may also want to consider getting a wireless printer since those can be found for around $100 nowadays. That would solve your printer issue.



Eh, I like my color laser - and those cannot be found in that price range. Also, I did think of the USB router, but I thought I'd be limited to what I could get in an external drive (basically 2-3 TB range)?
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October 9, 2011 12:07:50 AM

inanition02 said:
Eh, I like my color laser - and those cannot be found in that price range. Also, I did think of the USB router, but I thought I'd be limited to what I could get in an external drive (basically 2-3 TB range)?

Yes, you would be limited in what you can put on the USB router for storage. Either way you cut it, you're going to spend money on components, or you're going to spend money on power consumption, or you're going to make some hard sacrifices to have both energy and cost savings. Higher-end options just don't equate power savings. If they do, it costs you more money anyways. If you're truly concerned about your carbon footprint with PCs, then spend the $$$ on an efficient NAS box, with parts from a local retailer, not online (shipping). There's no other way around this...that I know of.
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October 9, 2011 1:46:26 PM

steelbeast said:
Yes, you would be limited in what you can put on the USB router for storage. Either way you cut it, you're going to spend money on components, or you're going to spend money on power consumption, or you're going to make some hard sacrifices to have both energy and cost savings. Higher-end options just don't equate power savings. If they do, it costs you more money anyways. If you're truly concerned about your carbon footprint with PCs, then spend the $$$ on an efficient NAS box, with parts from a local retailer, not online (shipping). There's no other way around this...that I know of.


Well, in the original post, I did say I'm okay with spending ~$700, which should be enough for an efficient NAS box. And that's why I provided a prioritized list of what I'm looking for. ~$700 should be enough to accomplish a stable, power efficient, and quiet file server that achieve the minimum level of performance needed to stream 1920x1080 compressed MKV files (over a well built network).

I achieve combined overall efficiency by using only what's needed and have specialized pieces for various things. I use a low power/large screen laptop for my continuous use (90% of the time it's the only PC on in my house - and I close the screen when not actively using), a netbook for travel, an efficient but powerful Core i3-2100k HTPC (gold efficiency PSU, good quality mATX mobo, SSD) which is only on when I'm playing a blu-ray/game/netflix/etc (nominally I'm watching something on cable on my TV), and a powerful hexacore desktop computer which is only on when I'm transcoding (the HTPC does encoding just fine)/intense gaming/printing (at the moment). So the idea behind the NAS server is to be able to greatly expand the storage available to my HTPC and my laptop and provide a print sharing option without cramming more HDDs into the HTPC (won't fit anyways - it's a specialized HTPC case that fits in my entertainment center) and without always leaving the power hungry desktop on. So it's very specifically for use as a server - print and file - nothing else.

I guess it's a similar idea to lighting - you could put in a super efficient single bulb bright enough to light half your house/half the neighborhood and use 200W. Or you could use 10 individual lamps using 20W each. Sure the total power usage is the same, but with the 10 lamps you can use 1, 2, 3, etc at a time and save the rest of that power you don't need. And the 10 lamps is somewhat more expensive, but you get the money back over time.

Also, as to your point on carbon footprint, the "buy local" argument doesn't really hold for computer components and electronics. Buying local produce is great for this - if I buy tomatos grown 100 miles away versus 1000 miles away, it's a big savings in footprint, some 900 miles of transit. But if I buy a motherboard, regardless of brand, they're pretty much all made in Asia (Taiwan, China, SE Asia somewhere) - I don't know of any motherboards made in the Midwest, USA. So if I buy a mobo from a local store, it was shipped from China to the store and then I picked it up, probably making a stop at a distributor along the way (if it's a small local shop). If I buy it from newegg, it comes from the manufacturer to newegg, then is shipped directly to me. It's about the same amount of steps/shipping...and it's certainly the same distance.

Anyhow, most UPS stuff is to me in one hop - I live in their main hub city :) 
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October 9, 2011 2:32:35 PM

Well, it sounds like we have vetted all possible solutions to your problem and the best way is to just spend the $$$ on efficient components from NewEgg. Enjoy your NAS Box.
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October 13, 2011 3:28:40 AM

Best answer selected by Inanition02.
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