Help me Plan my From-Scratch Home Network & NAS! (Long)

Hey everyone! Long time; no post.

I’ve been putting off a networking upgrade & NAS deployment in my new-construction house for a while now… I guess this isn’t an upgrade; is it just a ‘grade’ since I’m starting from scratch? I’m not a network engineer but I work in IT and I’ve gotten my hands dirty plenty of times. I welcome any and all constructive feedback; I’ve put a lot of thought and research into this but I’ve only got one brain and I’m hoping to dump its contents and bounce this off a great community.

I guess my thesis statement is that I’m not trying to build the world’s next great HomeLab™️ or chase nine ‘9’s… I just want my network to be pretty: go pretty fast, be pretty easy to use (once it’s set up), work pretty much most of the time, and be a pretty great value as I don’t want to spend a pretty penny…

Anyways, I’ve got symmetrical gigabit fiber with AT&T, coming to me live from the BGW320-500… which has honestly been doing great carrying the whole house on its back off in a corner, but it’s time to put it out of its misery.

So I’ll explain this in phases. TLDR I’m building up to a 2.5g backbone with frugality in mind, notably in the form of a router and nas built from office surplus.

Phase 1 - Getting our heads above water

  • Right now, Im wifi-only in my 1850 sqft single story home built with stud & drywall. The gateway and office are on opposite sides of the house, and it works, but not well. Phase 1 begins with moving my ATT BGW320-500 into the office closet… Just drilling a hole in the closet’s ceiling and replacing the 4’ fiber patch from the PON to the Router with this 30m SC/APC fiber patch cable.
  • Along with that, I’ll finally get off my butt and get cabling tools, cat6 spool, keystones, conduits, and a wire fisher. The heaviest clients are my computer, my wife’s work iMac, and the Sony smart oled, so they all get a line. I’ll run one to the corner of the living room ceiling for a future wap…
  • So for the cost of a weekend of sweat (South Louisiana) and less than $300, I’ll have my 3 biggest clients wired and have better wifi, with the location enabling the scaling I need for…

Phase 2 - Now this is Pod Racing

  • Phase 2 can happen at any time, and will most likely be quickly after 1, if not alongside.
  • In phase 1, we go from drowning to treading. Now it’s swimming. The backbone will be the NETGEAR MS108EUP with 8x 2.5g PoE ports and simple web management. Then, in almost the center of the house, I’ll ceiling mount an EnGenius EWS377 FIT (thanks @wendell for turning me on to this!). Last but not least, we have… whichever 2 port 2.5g PCIe Nics I can get with the i225 for the least amount of money… that will go into an Optiplex 7020 with an i5-4590 (or i7-4770 if it’s worth the power), 16 GB of DDR3, and a 250 GB HDD running OPNsense. I’ll get my hands on some more smaller SSDs soon.
  • I’m really, really not trying to do anything fancy with this router. I’m looking more for the satisfaction that I replaced AT&T’s hardware with a E-waste that is more performant & configurable. I’m thinking 2 or 3 vlans for trusted & IoT devices, DNS, intrusion detection, network printing via USB into the router (USB-B & wifi only), guest networks, and optimizing the wifi channels… I don’t know shit about setting up firewalls (or whole network VPN which seems power neat) but I’m going to do my best…!
  • In order to facilitate this, I will put the ATT router into IP passthrough mode, which is the most I can exclude it from the network short of wacky, unsanctioned bypassing, which I’m not interested in at the moment since there’s currently no way to bypass the $10 equipment rental fee.
  • Worth noting I’m upgrading my rig to Ryzen X3D and my wife to M2 pro this year with 2.5g at both.

Phase 3 - Naster of my domain

  • Sorry, been watching too many Seinfield reruns… My plan for phase 3 (the NAS!) is to throw together a bunch of my/work’s old parts at the wall and see what sticks. I anticipate i7-8700, 32 GB DDR4, 500 GB NVMe, and at least 2.5g networking, maybe in LAGG. I have a Fractal Define C case which can support many 3.5 bays with some 120mm-mounting aftermarket brackets.
  • AFAI can tell, that should be plenty for maximizing throughput in a modest DIY NAS. Im going to go with a ZFS filesystem… not sure which one. I have no experience with linux outside of running ubuntu 16 for a while just for fun. I don’t mind an arduous setup as long as I’m getting ease of use once it’s running. It will start out doing SMB fileshare for simple desktop backup & file storage. I would be interested in home media servering later but that’s not a priority. Right now, I just want a place to put our system backups, vacation photos, tax documents, etc. with some sort of cloud backup for the really important stuff…
  • As far as storage, I’ll probably chuck a few old 2TB HDDs in raidz1 or 2 initially just to get my hands dirty, then pick up 3 or 4 of the most discounted NAS/Enterprise HDDs on black friday with per-drive storage in the low teens.
  • I’m excited about this but also I’m completely new to the game so any advice is appreciated, especially on my approach with the hardware/software and what I’m planning to do with it.
  • Also if I haven’t done it already at this point, I’m going to get a line-interactive APC 13xx/1500 VA UPS with a good sine wave to power all this and get clean shutdowns, or in the event of a hurricane (remember, South LA), further clean up generator power (which will be from an inverter so not bad to begin with).

If you were paying attention then you know I’ve got a desktop-turned-router, desktop-turned-nas, switch, UPS, and glorified ONT sitting on the top shelf of a double-door closet… should I worry about thermals? I will have plenty of chassis fans and it’s not airtight by any means but I will still have it closed most of the time for noise so… lemme know what you think.

Yeah that’s about it. If I can spend less for the same, or spend a little more to maximize value, I’d love to hear it. If you made it this far I appreciate the consideration and your thoughts!

Here’s a diagram:


I am also planning to build a NAS in the short future and I would like to share with you a few rabbit holes to go down into in case you haven’t heard of them before (always good to see someone planning things before diving in!)

One of the things that came to me when I started thinking of making a NAS is ECC ram. It is by no means a requirement, but is a nice to have if you can manage to fit it into your budget, as it pairs extremely well with ZFS to keep your data extremely safe (ZFS is still great without ECC, so don’t worry too much if you can’t get it).

Something I’ve heard quite a few times is that a NAS doesn’t need a really good processor if you don’t wish to use it for VMs or to host other services. Although a i7-8700 might be a bit overkill, it is not a bad idea by any means if you already have it (better use what you have than buy new for the sake of it in my opinion).

I think you might have heard of it before, but if not it is always good to point you to the 3-2-1 backup rule! You can find hundreds of videos and internet pages that will explain it better than I could, but a TL:DR is that you should have 3 copies of any important data, where 2 of them are in different media and one is off site, otherwise you can loose it thanks to accidents and unforeseen circumstances. The step of backing up important files to the cloud is a good way to fulfill the 1 of that rule!

Finally, consider what OS you plan on putting into your NAS. You could run it with base Linux and try to set up everything yourself, but I would recommend a free but more complete solution, like OpenMediaVault or TrueNAS. Both seem to be great and will help you out a lot in setting up the more boring parts of the system. You can try and mess around with them in a VM or see videos on both to see if any of them are nicer to your use case. (Although both are great, so if both have what you need, let preference take the wheel here!) (both have great tutorials in youtube and other places, so setting up should be done reasonably quickly!)

I know most of what I said has most likely been considered by you, but I thought it would be nice to confirm and leave it here for those who want to go the same route.

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If you can deal with the idea of it being a home network not some kind of enterprise setup you can get away with quite a bit in terms of cost.

It makes little sense to pull CAT6, either CAT5E or CAT6A while one in general would consider CAT6A be more “future proof”.

Ditch the OPNSense box, run FreeBSD bare metal use “NAS box” as both gateway and NAS. It’s not that hard IF you’re willing to read documentation a bit. Getting pf and a dhcp server up and running isn’t that hard, IPv6 is a bit trickier than IPv4 but it’s doable. Samba is pretty much one time setup thing, anything else is something you can add on later on.

A bit more DIY but cheaper and likely better long term support is to get a Mediatek Filogic based device and run OpenWrt on it or get several if needed. MERCUSYS MR90X v1 are very nice devices and around 120 EUR in Europe (Quad Core SoC so plenty of power) and 2.5Gbit. That also gets rid of the PoE requirement on the switch.

In general I’ve found Eaton to be a pretty good deal compared to APC and feel a bit more robust, Eaton 5SC UPS 1000 VA 700W might be an option.

i7-8700 will do fine, you might want to invest in i225/i226 NICs if you want 2.5Gbit otherwise I don’t see much you’ll need to get initially.

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Platform change for ECC is possible but not likely. I don’t mind too much as, to your later point, I will be practicing offsite backups, especially during hurricane & rainy season. For the NAS OS, it seems that Truenas is likely. I can bash my head against some dense documentation, as long as the UI is worth it


Are you infact, the real Santa Clause by any chance?

Always been a fan.

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Guess not.
Anyway, it’s really easy, just remember it in a jingle…

Switch to switch is okay, we always go straight through
And router to router, it is the same (there is seriously nothing that rhymes with router)

But when you plug the host…
Into the connection it needs most,

Just don’t forget, to crossover.

As far as fiber goes you’re going to have to wait a couple weeks because I haven’t leant that shit yet.

I should have mentioned that I’ll be doing inte nics whenever possible, NAS included.
So you think cat 6 is an awkward middle ground? AT&T currently offers 5gig service so I don’t see myself upgrading past a 5gbe backend.
I’ll definitely check out the Eaton units. I doubt I’ll get fancy with 1 box solutions at this stage. Much easier to wrap my head around each box doing different things…

CAT6 makes no sense when CAT6A is available (termination is crucial on 6/6A and you cant do sharp bends etc btw). Getting a separate box isn’t very cost effective in your case but that’s your choice. I don’t see how handling a firewall ruleset is going to be any different on separate boxes but oh well.

So what are your plans with the NAS? You could always virtuialize your router and eliminate the extra PC depending on the plans for your NAS.

Also as dizzy pointed out for the cost you’d be better off pulling 6A and be sure to pull two runs to each location because I’m sure you know from working in IT that two is one and one is none when it comes to redundancy.

If you plan to go 2.5 you really may be better off just spending the money to go to 10G (you can buy the PCIE cards used) and buy a smaller Mikrotik switch and transceivers that’ll do 1/2.5/5/10. Those AP’s are great and I just recently upgraded to the FIT models myself but I wish Id held out for the newer WIFi7 ECW536. If you don’t care about WIFI7 or don’t want to wait then amazon has those 377-FIT’s for $149 which is the lowest price Ive seen them for.

Also I forgot to mention that if your home has coax in the locations that you want physical drops you may be better off using MoCA adapters. Ive used them in rentals so i didnt have to go cutting holes in the walls to get line speeds and they’re great

Yeah I probably will do 6A. I did some more digging and the price difference is smaller now than I would have guessed.
As far as 10Gb, as much as I’m weak to the ‘might as well just…’ argument, 2.5 is already overkill and will be underutilized probably 99% of the time. I know going to 10Gb isn’t that much more, but the diminishing returns are too great in this case, I think. Same with the wifi 7 AP, not nearly enough density & throughput needs to justify passing up on the $150 377. When this is all done I’ll have like 8 concurrent clients max…

As far as the NAS, my initial plans are to just set it up and use it like a synology i.e. a portable hard drive. As much as I want it for storing my own things, I really want it for my wife (graphic designer) whose data housekeeping practices are… lacking, and I want to encourage her to practice better habits since her work is important.
I’m sure however that once I’ve got my feet wet, I’ll start to really pick up on areas where I can expand the scope. I don’t have any ideas on the horizon besides further automating backups, plex, or VPN for off-prem access.

I’m not philosophically opposed but the router PC is free and I’m very green so :man_shrugging: I don’t mind a couple extra kWh (12.5 cents per) or dB… for now at least.

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