I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do as far as my storage/home computing needs. Right now, I have a decent workstation/desktop, as well as a laptop. My wife also owns a laptop, and we have a couple of smart phones, as well as a few external hard drives. I’m finding that juggling multiple external hard drives is just getting messy, unsightly, and unorganized.
I must admit, that in the past year I’ve neglected to follow my backup routine because of this. So far, everything is ok, but I know from experience that’s not always the case. This is why I think I need to have some sort of centralized storage device for our home. A NAS fits the bill perfectly here, but figuring out exactly which solution to use is taking time.
I originally thought I could just buy one of those small 4 bay NAS boxes from a variety of retailers, but at the end of the day, I like to build things. Sure, it might cost me a little more, but I know that for the money I’ll be getting a much better end product than I would have bought off the shelf. I then calculated the theoretical max space of all of our computers and external drives in the house. It comes to around 17TB. Now, all of this isn’t being used at the moment, but I am finding that I’m using exponentially more data each year. So for this reason, I feel like it definitely doesn’t make sense to opt for a 4 bay NAS, whether I build it or not. Even an 8 bay could be pushing it in the future, so now I’m leaning towards something that will provide much more expandability in the long run, like a 24 bay rack mount chassis.
The issue with this it needs wife approval. If I’m ever going to run something like this, it needs to be quiet, and as out of sight as possible. Now, I know that servers are not designed to run quiet. Obviously they’re intended for data centers where sound isn’t an issue. If I went down this route, I would definitely be doing anything and everything I can to make this machine as quiet as possible. Primarily, replacing all fans and heat sinks with Noctua variants, and replacing power supplies with SuperMicro’s quiet alternatives.
The next issue is location. As of now, we have limited space and we’re renting. For this reason, we’re unable to make any modifications to our living space.
I had originally wanted to put the server next to our router. The coax into the apartment is located in a small closet, which has a routing board which I have attached a switch to, so that we can now take advantage of the 5x RJ45 wall connectors around the house. I was hoping to plug the server into this switch so that it could easily be accessed from our network, whether wired or WiFi. The main issue here is space. The closet itself is only about 2’ by 4’, and there are no AC vents inside. Right now, with just the modem, router and switch, the room doesn’t get hot, but I imagine that would change pretty significantly if I added a 24 bay server on the floor, even if I was only using 8 drives to begin with.
After this, the less ideal solution would be to build some sort of small rack cabinet that could sit next to my desk in the second bedroom. My issue with this is noise. Even if I make the modifications mentioned above, it will still have at least 8 spinning drives which will create noise and vibrations, although this might just be something I have to live with. One benefit of this solution though, is that it would be closer to my desktop, meaning I could actually get a 10gb connection to that machine. My desktop’s motherboard has a built in 10gbe port, so I could just buy a single port 10gbe PCIe card for the server, for a hard wired connection to my desktop. If I ended up going this route, and had to build a cabinet for my server to go next to my desk, I feel like I may as well just transplant my desktop into a rack mount case (maybe something by Rosewill?) and have them next to each other in the rack. I could also buy a UPS or 2, and have them placed at the bottom of the rack. I was thinking 12u total, 2x 4u computers and 2x 2u UPS’s. If I’m building the cabinet from scratch, I could easily add casters to the bottom too, for portability.
My main worry with this is noise. If I’m sitting next to it while trying to work, I don’t want to go nuts with the sound of the server. I’m also concerned that if we ever have guests, I like to take my desktop out of that room temporarily, and into my bedroom, just so that I can continue to use it without invading on anyone’s space. Would this cause issues, powering down the server, taking it offline, moving to a new location, and doing all of this again a week later? This would probably happen a handful of times per year.
Sorry for the very long post, I’m just trying to get all of my ideas out. I’d love some insight into how much heat a 24 bay, 4u server with 8-12 drives installed will put out, as well as expected noise levels of this many drives (and cooling fans, I suppose). Maybe there isn’t an ideal solution for me right now, and I should just buy something smaller with the intention of upgrading a few years from now, if and when we live in a different space.
Any help or guidance is much appreciated!