MiniPC and a USB drive enclosure as a NAS?

I’m contemplating buying a minipc (Elitemini TH80) and a USB Drive Enclosure to act as my NAS/VMWare/Proxmox setup. Is there any gotcha I should be aware of?

My thoughts/motivations are as follows:

• Downsize my rack to something that can sit on a table (trueNAS/usenet currently in an R410)

• The convenience/versatility of a miniPC / disk enclosure setup (hot swappable bays)

• Swappable controller (upgrades,tinkering)

• ZFS pool I can migrate from system to system (Disk Enclosure / Tiny “Disk Shelf”)

• I’d like to avoid Synlogy/QNAP/ or any other full blown solution, part of my fun is doing things unorthodox, or building my own.

Any advice/stories would be greatly appreciated from people have thought about this as well or have built their own NASs before. Money isn’t a huge issue but I’m always looking to shave a few dollars if the price doesn’t seem worth what I’m getting.

I’m running an 18T and a 20T external unshucked WD Elements (easystore in the US) connected to an Odroid N2+ .(maybe you weren’t planning as ghetto of a setup but it works for me).

IMO the large drives are too noisy to sit on a desk.

A better enclosure might be RaidSonic Icy Box IB-3804-C31 ab € 239,90 (2023) | Preisvergleich Geizhals EU

… where I’d have used drives with longer warranty and higher throughput.

(I don’t need it for my Odroid which does 5G USB-3.0 only and it’s on a gigabit network anyway, bit if I were using something better I’d be going with that enclosure and standard 3.5 drives).

One thing I’ve noticed – software tends to freak out when cabling is wonky, generally requires a reboot (I haven’t had to in about 2 months)

On the topic of software, I’m just using the drives individually formatted as btrfs, on top of LUKS on top of LVM - no raid.

Because of limited ram I’m using containers and just plain old configured by hand samba, and sequential transfers will easily saturate my gigabit lan.

I did have to limit the ram on some containers to prevent the oom killer from activating, and I disabled oom killer on Tailscale and Samba.

After all that, things now work fine.

(I’m using CoreELEC on the Odroid for media playing, whole file serving setup is in containers, so not even 4G ram, not even a dedicated computer, and yet write files/read files at gigabit is fine).

Yeah, the thing I was most worried about was the connection from the drive enclosure back to the PC. I’ve been using thunderbolt for some time and to this day if I bump my desk wrong the entire setup needs to reinitialize. It becomes a real pain during meetings if I happen to move the cord enough to interrupt the signal.

You pointing out that sometimes the USB connection drops out has me worrysome sliightly. I mean if I can detect it and automate a reboot which shouldn’t be that hard, that could be a solution. It would just kick me off if I was streaming something from it.

MiniPCs like Micro PCs(Dell, HP & Lenovo) vary on how much power is split across the built-in USB 3.0 hub and in most cases you’ll be having to buy a powered hub if you plan on mixing bus powered storage. Going by the TH80 specs the power connector is 19V and since its an Intel “H” series processor the power adapter is going to be a 90W power brick. In my opinion if you’re going to build a tiny NAS you’re really better off with a MiniPC which has dual SSD slots and/or a SATA bay–either way the 2nd/3rd drive can max out at 4TB and you still have a decent storage density in that small form factor.

All I can recommend is be extremely careful about the USB 3.0 enclosure chipset may it be a 2.5" or 3.5", JMicron is commonly found in budget enclosures(single and dual drive) and performance on non-Windows is much lower than other chipsets. Typically with a non-JMicron chipset you should be able to push at least 200 MB/s with a HDD, shingled drives tend to be much lower.