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Please advise on my NAS options

Hello everyone,

I have been a long time viewer of the L1 channel (even when it was Wendell on tek syndicate, or are we not allowed to talk about that :slight_smile: ) but I am new to the forums.

I am soon moving to a new house and will be making some improvements to my network and PC setup.

As part of this I will have a spare PC with the following specs,

CPU; Xeon X5670
Mobo; Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
GPU; sapphire radeon hd 5850 2gb
RAM; 12Gb (6x2Gb) DDR3 1600
PSU; Corsair AX860
Case: some cooler master thing
I have a spare 120 Gb SSD and some external hard drives that I use for backup.

I want to centralize my storage for use by the 3 desktops and 2 laptops and stream my films to my TV’s. I have about 5-6 Tb of data split across the current 4 desktops and only 2 of these are backed up.

I am OK at doing the basics of setup of IT things but I often follow guides for the more complex things.

I have been looking at 2 options for my storage either a Synology NAS, something like a DS418 or using freenas on my old system with the above specifications. This will then use the external drives as backup and my some of most important files are on the Google cloud.
I would be expecting to buy 4-5 3-4Tb NAS hard drives.

What would you recommend for my NAS, I have about £600 (which is probably about the same as it would cost in USD due to import and tax etc) to spend?
Also what level of raid would you recommend, I was considering RAID6 or ZFS2?

I think both options are solid. It only depends on how much free time you have and how much you want to learn.

also… ZFS all the things!


Always nice to reuse old hardware. The synologies are expensive capital cost which you would save up front and pay less than it in electricity bills with that hardware over the lifetime.

If you are going to turn that box into a freenas box, use the graphics card for initial setup then remove it for everyday use. You won’t need it.

The CPU is plenty for the task provided you can keep it cool without noise for 24*7 use.

For drives, if reusing old ones then definitely RAIDZ as a minimum, raidz2 if you are really keen on your data. Note you need 6 drives for raidz2, otherwise you are just creating mirrored vdevs.

One point on ram, 12GB is not very much if you are target 16TiB of storage (4*4TiB disks + parity). Consider spending a few pennies on some more ram.

Also agree with @zakpatat… DIY all the things. Buying a Synology just feels like the lazy thing to do.

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Hi guys,

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I would rather use the old hardware and I had factored in replacing the ram with 3x4Gb of ECC stuff.

I have quite a good cooler for the CPU so keeping it cool isn’t a problem.

The cost of the system is quite a bit cheaper if I use my existing stuff. I don’t mind spending a bit of time on the setup but I don’t want to have to constantly baby it.

Do I need 6 drives?
I probably need to do a bit more reading about how the raids split the data and utilise the drives. I was going to only use the chipset sata2 interface for the drives because I have heard that freenas has some issues with marvel controllers.

If I need 6 drives I would probably go for 2tb drives.

Can freenas tell you which drive has failed?

Good stuff. Welcome to the club.

There are plenty of guides on raid and RAIDZ but rule of thumb is you want an even number of drives for 2 disk parity setups (raidz2) and an odd number for everyday else. In theory you can use 3 disks for raidz (I do on my CCTV pool) bit 5 is more normal. Minimum for raidz2 is 4, but that leaves just 2 drives for data so you may as well stripe the pair and mirror the stripe as it will be quicker.

Not sure what dusty old guide you are reading ref Marvell controllers but I’ve never had issues except for Marvell on the boot drive forgetting itself.

If you are worried about data ports spend 10 dollarydoos on a 3gbs sas controller with 8 sata breakout ports and don’t look back. Just make sure it is an IT mode HBA not a raid controller.

For drive failures. Freenas gives you a handy device ID and cryptic error message to figure out what has broken. If you want to see visually which drive has shuffled off this mortal coil you need an enterprise backplane with flashy LEDs. Probably not worth it for half a dozen disks.

Welcome to the forum!

As others pointed out, DIY and ZFS (go with FreeNAS). As far as how many drives and what RAID you need, well, what are you going to use the NAS for, for those 6 devices? Just backup and streaming? With 5 drives, you are better off with a RAID 10 and a hotspare. Keep in mind you can’t expand a ZFS zpool by adding more drives in the future, you will have to create a new pool. RAID Z2 makes sense when you start having a lot of drives, since the more drives you add, the more storage space you save, unlike the 50% split with any kind of mirror (raid1 / 10).

Last I was checking you can pick up R510s for around 100 USD from ebay fairly easily with ~12GB of ram and a serviceable processor, which is what I am using with FreeNAS on barebones.

Proof of purchase:

I’ll see if I can find some links and see if that offers any ideas. Personally, I have a rack, and I love having a homelab, so that factors in for me, plus being more familiar around rackmount hardware and such is a very useful thing, it may not be to you.

I would personally sell the hardware you don’t need (or give it to a friend or community member in need) and then pick up an R510 such as this:

I was originally looking for some quad core, single processor 8-bay R510s but couldn’t find any at a reasonable price ATM. It is a little overkill for your usage, but for the hardware is a very solid deal, with the R510 you don’t have to use their special slot and can pop a card like this for IT HBA mode:

And don’t forget the iDRAC6 Enterprise module (although I believe the R510 I posted include the Enterprise module), as well as the cables to go to the backplane from the H200:

IMO it is a solid deal for good quality older enterprise hardware.

However depending on what you are going for, it may very well be extreme overkill.

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Thanks again to everyone for their replys

The information that will be on the NAS will be family photos and videos which are the most important, personal documents which are the next most important and finally my film collection which is mainly HD and currently there’s no 4k.

Thanks for the suggestion but it feels a bit overkill.


i’m interested in a setup like this, but how would you get drives for it? those alone have a pretty steep price.

Don’t leave out unraid

I’ll add to the voices recommending ZFS / FreeNAS.

I recently built 2 NAS systems- a primary file (& media) server and a backup server, and I’m very happy with them both.

Primary has six 8 TB WD Reds (shucked from EasyStore external drives from BestBuy) in an Antec P101 Silent case, set up as a stripe of 3 vdevs (mirrored pairs).

I’d use freenas. While Synology products are decent, when the warranty is out, you’re out. As well, freenas is pretty easy to set up and your machine is super over kill for a nas. If its not going to do anything anyways, use that.

Over USB or as a drive cage?

Buy some WD Reds.


Just buy the drives you can afford and add more pools later. Use ‘shucked’ external disks to save money.

To start you can go with a single mirrored vdev, so 2 disks, for tens of $currency rather than 6+ disks in RAIDZ2.

The issue, as often states, is freenas does not (yet) allow pool expansion for noobs. My reply to this at home and at work is “just build another pool”. That is when it gets expensive as now you have 2n+1 drives holding n drives worth of data.

My view here is I’d rather spend 2n+1 currency units on more disks than spend another tearful evening with ‘she who gets angry when I delete her cat photos’ explaining that in my efforts to give her more cat photo storage the pictures of Tiddles have been lost.

Remember you always need n+1 disks for storage, with the +1 being your secondary off-site backup.

I can pick up new 4TB Seagate barracudas for ~70-90 USD (Depending on market flow and sales) from either microcenter and amazon, if you have access to cheaper used drives they work great too as long as they are the same size for your pools.

My recommendation is to never pick up all the drives at the same time (as the drives are more likely to fail around the same time, making rebuilding improbable or even impossible), you want to pick them up from time to time to make sure there isn’t any chance of them being from the same batch, being able to check in person at a physical store like microcenter is really nice for that (I live less than 10 minutes from one).

I would grab your first drive and pop it in so it is actually usable and use it for non-critical data, and then later on after you have picked up 2 drives, put them in a mirror for critical data, as you get more drives, you can shuffle the data between pools as you tear down the older smaller pools and build them back up.

Of course you can always spend a significant amount of time building up the drives first and then do it all at once, but the fun about doing it the way I described above is you get to play around with shuffling data from drives and building new pools so you get a fair bit of learning experience and playing around with the system if you like homelab/learning (which is half the fun to me at least).

There are tons of ways to go around it, but I would highly recommend more people build a NAS even if they don’t have a ton of drives available, as you can always get clever and expand it out later.

NOTE: Now to be clear, you can’t expand the pool once you build it, but you can build other pools and then transfer the data between them, and then tear down the old pools and build new ones that are bigger, yes it is a bit of a hassle not being to just dynamically expand the pool, but where is the fun in it if it is too easy? :stuck_out_tongue:

You can expand a pool with another vdev or larger disks in the existing vdev. No need to make another pool each time.

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Depends on if you are using as a NAS or a SAN. I have absolutely no issues running my 20TB’s on 4GB if I want using it as a media NAS. Normally it has more, but sometimes I use the machine as a VM slave pushing ARC to 4GB.

As long as you sufficiently protect all the vdevs, yes. I wouldn’t add a stripe vdew to a pool with raid Z2 vdevs, as one vdev failure will destroy the entire pool.

I’m doing to be the odd one out and say go proxmox with zfs. FreeNAS is nice and all, but BSD is sometimes picky about hardware, loves to eat ram, and proxmox makes a much better box for LXC’s KVM’s, and docker in my experience with both. The only thing you’ll have to do if you need samba or other sharing, is install and configure those yourself. ZFS has native support for NFS exports, so that’s as simple as turning that on at least, and is the only way that I personally share files within my network.

of course, your chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

I also recommend not using FreeNAS personally. Proxmox, Unraid, hell even ubuntu/centos would be great at the job. Certainly FreeNAS is a good way to get your foot in the door, but ultimately I find it to be obtuse in some ways.

That sounds logical. But what i ment was that these servers probably need SAS drives, there are really hard to get.

You can put SATA in a SAS slot, but not the other way around. So SATA driver are still fine.