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Thread: Old super cheap PC NAS vs purpose-built NAS?

  1. #1
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    Old super cheap PC NAS vs purpose-built NAS?

    Hey all! I'm looking to get a NAS so I can start properly backing up my photos, documents and stuff. I was wondering if it would be worth getting some old parts together and build a low power PC from that and install something like FreeNAS, or whether to just buy a premade enclosure? I'd much rather build one, but at the same time I don't want to potentially risk the safety of my data. What would you recommend? There's a few places that sell second hand computers and stuff near me that I know of, and more here: [link removed by admin]. But will it end up any "better" than a normal NAS? I've seen a few use cases like having it run as a PLEX server too, which would be pretty cool as I've been wanting to digitise my DVD/BR collection. What do you guys think?

  2. #2
    Moderator YeOldeStonecat's Avatar
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    It's all up to your, your budget, and what you feel your skills are.
    There are plenty of open source NAS operating systems, just to name a couple...a very popular one is FreeNAS, also NAS4Free, and more media center focused ones like OMV, and Amahi.

    As for reusing old parts (computers)...the thing that counts for a NAS is reliable hard drives in good condition. Although many distros support mixing up hard drives, I prefer matching them if I can. Keep firmware on the hard drives up to date.
    Spindle or SSD...up to you and your budget.

    Some people prefer the "boxed ready to go" NAS units, we prefer Synology for our clients, we usually put the Western Digital RED drives in them.
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    Administrator Philip's Avatar
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    I have a Linux-based NAS, the considerations being:

    1. Fast Ethernet connection, i.e. Gigabit LAN ports
    2. Enough SATA ports to pair drives, i.e. 4+ SATA ports. I prefer to set drives in RAID-1 for redundancy.
    3. Standby - you want to have the drives spin-down, as home-based NAS is usually only active for a couple of hours per day, the PC should ideally be low-noise/power.

    It also takes a bit more tinkering/knowledge to set it up properly if you don't use one of the pre-made NAS OSes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jecobe View Post
    There's a few places that sell second hand computers and stuff near me that I know of, and more here. But will it end up any "better" than a normal NAS? I've seen a few use cases like having it run as a PLEX server too, which would be pretty cool as I've been wanting to digitise my DVD/BR collection. What do you guys think?
    Quote Originally Posted by YeOldeStonecat View Post
    It's all up to your, your budget, and what you feel your skills are.
    There are plenty of open source NAS operating systems, just to name a couple...a very popular one is FreeNAS, also NAS4Free, and more media center focused ones like OMV, and Amahi.

    As for reusing old parts (computers)...the thing that counts for a NAS is reliable hard drives in good condition. Although many distros support mixing up hard drives, I prefer matching them if I can. Keep firmware on the hard drives up to date.
    Spindle or SSD...up to you and your budget.

    Some people prefer the "boxed ready to go" NAS units, we prefer Synology for our clients, we usually put the Western Digital RED drives in them.
    I've been thinking about it and I'm just going to have it as a storage server - nothing fancy for now. I'd be buying new drives and doing my own stress test before they go in the NAS, so hopefully anything almost DOA will have failed before any data gets on them. I'm thinking of 3-4 4TB HDDs (not decided a brand/model yet) and using RAID 5. This might end up pushing me to just buying something premade like a Synology box, but that takes all the fun out of it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    I have a Linux-based NAS, the considerations being:

    1. Fast Ethernet connection, i.e. Gigabit LAN ports
    2. Enough SATA ports to pair drives, i.e. 4+ SATA ports. I prefer to set drives in RAID-1 for redundancy.
    3. Standby - you want to have the drives spin-down, as home-based NAS is usually only active for a couple of hours per day, the PC should ideally be low-noise/power.

    It also takes a bit more tinkering/knowledge to set it up properly if you don't use one of the pre-made NAS OSes.
    I've been looking at 3rd-4th gen i3s to power the system, basically all of which have gigabit LAN, but ECC support seems quite hit or miss with anything before 4th gen from what I've read so far. I want to make it into more of a project rather than a 'buy these things and plug it in' thing to get something fun and some satisfaction out of it, especially now that I've wanted one for so long!

    What kind of hardware is in your NAS, might I ask?

  5. #5
    Administrator Philip's Avatar
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    Jetway NF99-FL motherboard (Mini ITX, Intel Atom 525). Low-noise, low-power, 6 SATA ports + Gigabit LAN.
    Small SSD for the OS, 4GB RAM
    Pairs of HGST HDDs for storage+redundancy, daily/weekly cron job to sync the files in the first drive to a second one of the same capacity (rather than RAID1 on this box)

    LAN transfer speeds are ~80Mbytes/sec (~700 Mbits), it's been working without any issues for 3-4 years.

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