Question: What hard drive storage build method do you recommend for a 20+ 3.5" hard drive archival storage environment?

Question: What hard drive storage build method (case) do you recommend for a 20+ 3.5" hard drive archival storage environment?

I’m looking to get at least 20 (twenty) hard drives that are 20-22tb+ each drive, for a total of 400tb+, and possibly more over time (if space permits). My anticipated primary use case is for archival storage that will probably fill up most of the terabytes with data and to be read accessible as needed.

  • Fractal Define 7 XL fractal-design[dot]com/products/cases/define/define-7-xl/black-tg-dark-tint/

This case supports up to 18 3.5" drives (20-21 according to Linus Tech Tips

  • JBOD such as supermicro[dot]com/en/products/chassis?pro=filter%3Dfeature%26feature%3DJBOD
    • 24-bay SuperMicro CSE-826SE1C-R1K02JBOD
    • 44-bay SuperMicro CSE-847E1C-R1K23JBOD

These server rack cases are a bit more difficult to find to purchase without also configuring with overpriced drives at time of purchase, but also seem to be about 10-20x the cost of the Fractal Define 7 XL case

I’m also considering ease of swappability and physically locating any failing drives to replace, comparing a JBOD rack compared to, for example, the Fractal Define 7 XL case, but also not limited to only those products, and also considering electricity costs to operate 24/7, and I’m not too concerned about noise decibel volume, but of course quieter is better in a personal home environment.

Note: The JBOD or Fractal case are merely examples I considered, and are not intended to be my only options to consider. Any other suggestions are also welcome.

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You didn’t state a budget, so your alternatives include the Nimbus Data Exadrive range, with capacities up to 100TB (yes, you read that right!) in a 3.5" enclosure. These are SATA SSD and exactly meant for your use case. It also means that:

  1. you can put way more capacity in a simple enclosure, even/especially rack mounted. Also, saves on power → heat → cooling!
  2. you have deep, very, very, very deep pockets: a 100TB SSD will set you back 40k USD :exploding_head: (it used to be mentioned in the price list, now it’s request only)

For redundancy, make sure you have at least a RAID5, preferably RAID6, to reduce chances of data loss. But also implement the 3-2-1 rule: 3 copies on at least 2 different media and one off-site backup.

Should you choose HDD’s over Flash storage (given the pricing mentioned, not unreasonable to assume :stuck_out_tongue: ) you can use SMR disks if the data is typically written once, read infinitely. But for often (over)written data, a traditional CMR disk type is way, way better for performance.

haha, I’m still juggling in my mind how much money I will spend, but otherwise my current job pays me about $1200 every 2 weeks, so if I spend $40,000 on one 100tb ssd, then I should be able to afford it in maybe 90-100 weeks from now, but that’s only for one of the disks, lol

I think I will be looking at 3.5" mechanical hard drive disks because the cost of storage is cheapest that way, and 400tb worth of 2.5" disks is too expensive, and m.2 nvme pcie disks are even more expensive.

I’ve read a few things learning about SMR (shingled magnetic recording) compared to CMR (conventional magnetic recording) and I think sticking to CMR drives will be better from what I understand so far.

Have you looked at the ever stoopid and hysterical Storinator drive racks?

I don’t think so, but my web browser history shows 1 result:

Also noting these similar posts I found:

I’ve been looking for something similar.

The advice I got was to use either a disk shelve, a 45drives case or a SM CSE-847.
I want something not rack mounted and quiet so none fit my needs, but maybe a disk shelf connected up to a more normal computer could work for you?

4U Rack case is probably the most straight forward. Lots of products that have 24bays incl. backplanes.

Why use a tower and a JBOD if you can merge everything in one 4U case?

They make really cheap cases. I’m about to pull the trigger on a 4U as well. Time to consolidate my zoo of cases into proper uniform form factor. Didn’t fully make my decision yet. I tend to get the 4416 with 16 bays and 5.25" options for Icy Dock shenanigans and NVMe.

I’ve seen some JBOD tower, but 99% of all JBODs are 19". So for 16+ drives, there aren’t much options outside 19" rack form factor. There are a lot of modern 4U cases with 120mm fans, the benefit of having space. I don’t want 10k rpm datacenter fans either.

Alternatively you can build a cluster and use commodity cases. But that’s a lot of work and bad performance.

Yeah SMR is a no-go. And you probably want to check out Seagate Exos or Toshiba MG for best $/TB.


Cases are cheap, drives are expensive

Where are you located, do you have an insulated attic or basement (noise and aesthetics be damned), or do you at least have space for a rack?

Mining case

28 slots, 130 euro in Germany :

But, you’ll need a power supply (for cheap enterprise drives 25-30W per drive on spin up , typically around 8-10W when under heavy load, google “staggered spin up”).

You’ll need some SFF-8087 or SFF-8643 SATA breakout cables (20-25 bucks for 1xSAS->4xSATA, and an expander card (there’s 9x SAS / 36 SATA expanders , HP or IBM Lenovo, floating on ebay for 120 a piece)

Napkin math tells me this adds up to 400-500 + the server board CPU and RAM

10-15 per port (depending on what expanders and controllers you use) + server

Disk shelves

You can try finding old NetApp ds4486 this will give you good expandability down the road to grow from 400TB - 1PB, and you can attach it to any server/PC using a SAS adapter with external ports.

4246/4486 and all these disk shelves (there are some cheap dell shelves on the market, have expanders built in, just need to make sure you get all the parts)

Costs about 10 per port or under.

Oh, and drives can be noisy.


An honorable mention: there’s 4-5 bay and 8-10bay usb3 enclosures by fantec aka mediasonic and raidsonic aka icybox .

These are really pretty looking and compact, and e.g. 3805-c31 you can daisy chain, they’re perfect to use with a cheap second hand 1L mini pc.

But they turn out to be expensive per port.


On ,, … you can see that the current prices are around 15/TB for new 18/20T drives, and you can sometimes get stuff cheaper. MG09ACA and Seagate Exos SATA are hugely popular and always cheap. Sometimes WD shows up discounted. Don’t shuck the drives, it’s usually not worth the hassle, and drives used usually aren’t the same grade as ones that have been classed as enterprise 5y warranty. MG10ACA is tempting but too new IMO.

Performance wise, it’s all about the workload and firmware, basically it just doesn’t matter what enterprise drives you get. The cynic in me thinks all drive firmwares are hopeless and will never be able to guess what I’m doing with drives.

400TB you’re looking at 6000 bucks in drives.

I wouldn’t bother with 5400/5900 drives due to cost/selection/densities. They usually top out at 8T and you need to be careful with SMR etc …

If I were looking for 20+ drives / 400TB to start with, I’d go looking for a decent DS4486 and cheap short friendly looking rack to keep it around and start filling it with MG09ACA and see how far that goes.

But maybe I’d go with USB enclosures and 1L thin clients, get 5x i5-7500T/16G ram mini PCs clustered with proxmox and ceph and 5 drive USB enclosure on each, for that sweet sweet high availability and flexible redundancy for archival storage in an apartment. (Sure it’s more expensive but it’s just so easy too).