jfredson

First NAS Build Advice

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I’m working on putting together an Unraid NAS server for storing photos and videos in my small photography studio. We currently have 5TB of photos and video on a single drive and we’re growing at about 2-3TB per year. I would really like to upgrade to a NAS RAID system for some drive redundancy and  to make it easier to scale our storage needs and keep it organized in a single array. 
 
We would only be using this system as an archive of photos and videos after we are done working on them, so we don’t need high speed read/write access. 
 
I’m trying to see what the cheapest build would be that meets our basic requirements:
 
  • Small form factor that I can tuck away under a desk. 
  • Double drive redundancy. 
  • Hot-swappable drives for easy replacement in the event of drive failure. 
  • Silent operation so that it’s not noticeable in our studio. 
  • 6-8 drive bays so that we can grow from 5TB to 16-20TB in the next couple of years. 
  • Ability to run system checks and send status emails.
  • Ability to backup to Backblaze or Amazon.
  • Under $1k for the whole system. 

 

Case
$150 - Silverstone DS380B
I’m really liking this case for this system, although I have been reading that it does have problems keeping the drives cool. I’ve read about a few fixes that sound doable (drilling extra holes in the case) but maybe there is a better case out there that fits our needs?
 
Motherboard
$210 - ASRock - C236 WSI Mini-ITX LGA1151
Only motherboard I could find that has 8 drive slots and fits in this case. 
 
CPU
$70 - Intel Pentium G4500
I’m thinking we don’t need a super fast CPU for this build but low wattage is a priority. Is this Pentium good enough? Could we save even more by going with a cheaper Celeron?
 
Memory
$110 - Kingston ValueRAM 2x4GB DDR4-2133 ECC
Data integrity is super important to us (more so than speed), so I would like to get ECC RAM. Am I better off going with a single 4GB stick to save money or is 8GB a better start these days? Is ECC overkill for our needs? If not ECC is there anything else I should pay attention to when selecting RAM?
 
PSU
$90 - Silverstone - Strider Gold 450W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular SFX Power Supply
 
Storage
$540 - 4x WD 4TB Red Drives ($135 each)
Need four drives for double parity starting at 8TB of usable space. 
 
Total
$1170 - This is a bit more than we want to spend on this build. My partner would rather keep buying external hard drives for now to save money so I’m struggling to justify the cost for this system.
 
Any tips for how I could bring the cost of this system down?
 
And generally speaking, any advice for convincing my partner why a $1k system like this is better than buying a series of external hard drives and trying to manually mirror them for redundancy? We would still need to pay for a cloud backup system like Backblaze and with a NAS the cost goes up from $5/month unlimited to $5/TB/month for B2. Not insignificant unfortunately. 
Edited by jfredson

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You also need to factor in the cost of the unRAID license but that is not that much. As your partner to value the photos you store on external drives. What would it mean to your business if the drive failed and you didn't have a backup? With only four drives you can start out with just one parity drives and add a second one later when you add more drives. You could look for a less expensive motherboard with fewer onboard SATA ports and add an SATA card later on when you need to add more drives and you could start out with just three drives for 8TB of useable space to begin with instead of 12TB of useable space with four drives, and add drives later as you need them.

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8TB WD Easystore drives from Bestbuy have been seen as low as $169 and can be shucked to use in a server.  Start with single parity so you only need two drives.

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You also need to factor in the cost of the unRAID license but that is not that much. As your partner to value the photos you store on external drives. What would it mean to your business if the drive failed and you didn't have a backup?

 

That’s exactly what I’ve been saying, only problem is that I have been doing backups manually on a second external drive and in the cloud with Backblaze, so this system is more about making the process easier for me to manage. It’s a tough expense to justify for a non-technical partner who would rather spend this budget on other things

 

 

With only four drives you can start out with just one parity drives and add a second one later when you add more drives.

 

Ahh interesting, I didn’t realize that was an option. How hard is it to add double parity after the raid is already loaded with data?

 

 

You could look for a less expensive motherboard with fewer onboard SATA ports and add an SATA card later on when you need to add more drives and you could start out with just three drives for 8TB of useable space to begin with instead of 12TB of useable space with four drives, and add drives later as you need them.

  

 

Very cool, I didn’t realize that was an option either. Are there any downsides to using a a SATA card down the road vs. a more expensive motherboard with more onboard ports?

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8TB WD Easystore drives from Bestbuy have been seen as low as $169 and can be shucked to use in a server.  Start with single parity so you only need two drives.


Holy moly that is amazing. Thanks for the tip! How hard is it to add double parity down the road?


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Adding second parity drive later is very easy, just understand that the parity drives must be as large or larger then your biggest drive.

 

I have a server built with the exact case you are thinking of buying, I used a micro ATX motherboard with only four SATA ports on board and then bought a four port SATA card for the rest. The only downside, it's a bit tight in that case so hooking everything up isn't a wonderful experience but it's doable.

 

I guess you can figure out how much time it takes you to manually back everything up and tell your partner that with a server that time would be cut down dramatically, that is about the only angle I can think of. It's all about manageability really, right now you are using a manual process, you don't know the integrity of your external drives, you could have pending sectors already which could lead to lost or corrupt data. unRAID can make that process easier by showing drive health and alerting you when a drive has a problem so you can be proactive rather then reactive and replace it.

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Adding second parity drive later is very easy, just understand that the parity drives must be as large or larger then your biggest drive.
 
I have a server built with the exact case you are thinking of buying, I used a micro ATX motherboard with only four SATA ports on board and then bought a four port SATA card for the rest. The only downside, it's a bit tight in that case so hooking everything up isn't a wonderful experience but it's doable.


That’s amazing. Just the advice I was looking for. Thank you!
 

I guess you can figure out how much time it takes you to manually back everything up and tell your partner that with a server that time would be cut down dramatically, that is about the only angle I can think of. It's all about manageability really, right now you are using a manual process, you don't know the integrity of your external drives, you could have pending sectors already which could lead to lost or corrupt data. unRAID can make that process easier by showing drive health and alerting you when a drive has a problem so you can be proactive rather then reactive and replace it.


That is great information thank you. I think I should be able to get the price into a range that is more palatable with all this great advice and this information should help too. Can’t wait to get started on this build!



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29 minutes ago, ashman70 said:

I have a server built with the exact case you are thinking of buying, I used a micro ATX motherboard with only four SATA ports on board and then bought a four port SATA card for the rest. The only downside, it's a bit tight in that case so hooking everything up isn't a wonderful experience but it's doable.

 

Do you remember what the motherboard was? I can't seem to find any cheaper ones on PC Part Picker that fit this case and support ECC RAM. Or should I consider going with non-ECC RAM too?

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58 minutes ago, ashman70 said:

Adding second parity drive later is very easy, just understand that the parity drives must be as large or larger then your biggest drive.

 

Adding a second parity has marginal value, especially in smaller arrays (<15 or 20 drives). If you don't have backups, I'd recommend using the drive you would have used for second parity for a backup of your critical data.

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Adding a second parity has marginal value, especially in smaller arrays (


The problem though is that all of the photos and videos we will be storing on the array are considered critical data. We don’t always need access to old shoots but it is my job to make sure that we don’t lose anything. I plan to backup the whole system on Backblaze B2 but I’d really like to avoid having to recover from the cloud of possible.


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I think 'marginal value' is something that is up to the end user to determine, if they feel their data is important enough to warranty dual parity, who are we to disagree?

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Your current data storage needs are actually pretty small.  While I certainly would encourage you to have the usual 3-2-1 backup strategy with one of the copies in the cloud, have you considered starting with simple offsite cold storage?  I.e., setup your new server.  Then, backup to an external USB enclosure periodically and take it home.  With 1 or 2 8TB WD Easystores or Seagate Expansions you've got offsite backup for several years at your current rate.  Please don't get me wrong, I encourage cloud backup - but it does cost $ and a simple offsite strategy is an easier way to get started.

 

FYI, I have a simple Robocopy script that copies only new and changed files from my server to an external HD.  I run it once or twice a month and it runs for a few hours, syncing around 100GB of new/changed files.

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The cheapest I could get a similar build down to is $1018.

 

Pluses:

Better mobo name (Supermicro) with 3 PCI-E slots and 4 dimm support and IPMI ,

more powerful PSU,

slightly larger case (but still small), that can hold up to 10 3.5" drives.

 

"Negatives":

Not hot swap-able,

semi modular PSU.

 

Personally, for your use case, hot swap doesn't seem to be a priority. Sounds like you're looking for set and forget. If ever a drive fails, opening the case and pulling it takes 5 minutes more then hot swap. Keep in mind you need to shut the server down either way.

 

PSU: Only cables that are not modular are the cables you need anyways (ATX and Main).

 

The extra PCI-e slots are nice for down the road, and 2 extra dimm slots mean if you decide you need more ram, you don't need to replace the existing sticks. Finally, IPMI is AWESOME :). basically allows you to administer the server without any monitor/keyboard hooked up (over the network).

 

I don't have any familiarity with these parts in UnRaid, so you might want to research first to make sure there are no gotchas, but it would make a more versatile build, and save you a few bucks, assuming the parts are suitable...

 

https://pcpartpicker.com/list/2Rxdyf

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3 hours ago, ashman70 said:

I think 'marginal value' is something that is up to the end user to determine, if they feel their data is important enough to warranty dual parity, who are we to disagree?

 

Dual parity is not what you need for important data. Backups is what you need. He has that covered sounds like. Single parity protects about 94.5%. Dual parity might protect another 0.4%. I'd call that marginal.

 

And I'd definitely recommend a hot swap cage.(like CSE-M35T-1B). Avoids absolutely most common problem people have with unRaid, touching another drives cabling when swapping a disk!  With hot swap bays you never have to risk knocking a wire loose. For a commercial enterprise I'd call it required. And much more important for important data than dual parity.

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One of the reasons for a parity drive is redundancy, is it not? So having double redundancy offers twice the protection, does it not? If a drive fails while another one is rebuilding he is covered with dual parity. Sure the probability of that happening is astronomical but if it does he is protected.

 

There is no argument about backup, everyone should know that any form of RAID is not a backup in and of itself.

 

If someone feels their data, no matter how much they have, is important enough to them to warranty double parity, then hats off to them.

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7 minutes ago, ashman70 said:

One of the reasons for a parity drive is redundancy, is it not? So having double redundancy offers twice the protection, does it not? If a drive fails while another one is rebuilding he is covered with dual parity. Sure the probability of that happening is astronomical but if it does he is protected.

 

There is no argument about backup, everyone should know that any form of RAID is not a backup in and of itself.

 

If someone feels their data, no matter how much they have, is important enough to them to warranty double parity, then hats off to them.

 

"So having double redundancy offers twice the protection, does it not?"

 

It absolute does not!

 

Read this.

 

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So if I have a server with dual parity, and two data drives fail at the same time, and parity is not corrupted, won't my dual parity drives reconstruct the data from my two failed data drives?

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1 hour ago, ashman70 said:

So if I have a server with dual parity, and two data drives fail at the same time, and parity is not corrupted, won't my dual parity drives reconstruct the data from my two failed data drives?

 

The answer is no as you've asked it. 

 

Hopefully the OP and other readers understand better what the second parity protects you from and what it doesn't. It provides a tiny bit more protection, but still leaves you exposed to a non-trivial degree (e.g., fire, vandalism, theft, virus, corrupted parity). So you still need a backup. And the chances of having to use that backup are not very different with or without dual parity.

 

Adding to suggestions about tools you should use - something that maintains checksums of your files. If corruption should ever occur (which is more likely than failing disks) you'd be able to pinpoint which file(s) are corrupted to restore from backup. Otherwise you might have to restore everything when only one or a few files are affected.

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you please explain why, as I've asked it, a dual parity setup won't reconstruct the data from the two failed drives in my scenario?

 

The BTRFS file system can offer alerts to failed checksums pointing to the corrupted file, as I understand it.

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Dual parity drives cannot reconstruct the two failed disks. It takes all the other drives plus the parties to do so.

 

BTRFS is not my first choice for array drives, I use xfs, but this is a nice feature. I have a homegrown tool that maintains and checks my checksums, but believe there is a community app that does the same or similar on any unRaid data drives regardless of file system.

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16 hours ago, ashman70 said:

So if I have a server with dual parity, and two data drives fail at the same time, and parity is not corrupted, won't my dual parity drives reconstruct the data from my two failed data drives?

 

14 hours ago, SSD said:

The answer is no as you've asked it. 

 

Sorry SSD I have to disagree or your interpretation is different, but with dual parity a rebuild of two simultanous failed data drives is possible.

 

I have done several disk upgrades with two at the same time, making use of the dual parity feature to do the rebuild.

 

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He answered 'as I've asked it' so perhaps there is something in the semantics of my question, however it is my understanding also Bonienl that two failed disks could be simultaneously rebuilt with dual parity also.

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Already answered this in first two sentences of prior post.

 

Cheers!

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I think the delta is that SSD is highlighting is the need for all other disks in the array to be healthy to recover from a failure, not just the two parity drives.

 

That said I think we need to differentiate value and probability.  Yes, the probability of taking advantage of dual parity in a dual data drive failure scenario is low.  To SSD that implies the feature has marginal value.  But value is in the eye of the beholder.  I derive value from offsetting complexity in my environment.  Some people might derive value from increased speed of recovery from a dual failure.  Others might simply be superstitious.  Value pops up in many strange ways.

 

It's important that people understand that dual parity (or single parity for that matter) isn't a substitute for a backup strategy.  To be fair, they should also understand that the probability of taking advantage of dual parity to address dual data drive failure is pretty low.  But hey, some people derive value from LED lit case fans and cases with windows.  Dual parity would help me sleep better than some of the other things that people spend money on... 

 

To the OP - my opinion that that implementing dual parity with 4 or less data drives would place you in the highly conservative category.  6-10 drives, conservative.  12-14 or more is the more common use case.  Personally I am conservative and would implement dual parity by the time I hit 10 drives.  But my focus would absolutely be on a solid offsite backup strategy before dual parity.

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Totally agree with you Tdallen, that is what I was trying to day, if the OP values his data enough to want dual parity, so be it! If he sees value in it, that is his choice.

 

No amount of redundancy replaces the need for a backup, absolutely follow the 3-2-1 backup rule whenever possible.

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