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tallywhacker 06-29-2013 06:45 PM

NAS (and more) build
Hi, i am planning to build an encrypted NAS server (with other uses) with a minimal debian installation. Sorry for the wall of text however i have a lot to consider, even if you can only contribute to a part of this it would be most helpful.

It must be low power usage, reliable, and flexible.

I was planning to use this hardware:
Intended use (to assess if hardware list is sufficient) :
  • Encryption - all data
  • HTTP / SFTP server - I intend to access uni work and books outside of my home, on occasion photographs or music streaming.
  • Print server - The machine also needs to handle any print jobs sent within the home network
  • NFS server - will be over either 10 Gb lan or dual 1 Gb lan for clients (not decided yet), single 1 Gb lan for tv's/media devices, 1.3 Gb/s wireless for mobile devices and guests.
  • Two clients will have their home directories run from this machine whenever they are in use, the clients will also 'hopefully' run games/software/vm from /mnt/data on the nas machine on occasion.
  • I intend to have a silly amount of data stored, up to 4-6 TB
  • I would also like to be able to upload a visitors music/film collection to the NAS at a reasonable rate, and allow for them to get a copy of my music etc in return.

Potential use:
  • Torrents - I may want to run a torrent client almost constantly (currently undecided)
  • I may use this as a router/modem and do away with my external router as it would give me cheap 10 Gb LAN and save clutter, possibly power. I may even consider building a seperate router based on a c60/ARM just to get the cheap 10 Gb LAN. Pro's / cons?

As you can see it wont just be a NAS although streaming media and dealing with data encryption will likely be the main use for this system.

  • Would 'home' grade hardware such as listed withstand 24/7 use?
  • Which CPU / Board is best to go for? (power consumption is important to me)
  • Are mATX boards more reliable than mITX boards? (e450 has an option of form factor)
  • Can any better quality parts be suggested?
  • Would it be worth considering 10 GB lan and ssd storage?
  • Any other suggetions/criticisms/opinions?

My needs are in this order:
Intended function > Reliabilty > Power > Potential function (routing, modem and torrents at most)

Cheers, Tally.

jefro 06-30-2013 04:55 PM

Any number of ways to do this. Almost every disto could be used directly for both nas and for router functions. A dedicated firewall app could also be used.

Unless you have a modem add in card and linux support, you'd have to retain the modem. This is the very first step you need to check on and then go from there.

Not knowing what data plan you have and how much internal data you need, I can't say but I'd guess you could overload this system pretty fast.

Those hardware based devices such as a nas or even a firewall router or even modem are single use systems designed from the ground up to do a single task. They tend to be hard to beat in speed using software.

tallywhacker 06-30-2013 05:35 PM



Unless you have a modem add in card and linux support, you'd have to retain the modem
I was thinking this if i go down the router/modem route as it is one of the few i could find:

I am starting to see other pro's to dedicated router (on top of as you suggest likely better performance):
  • Can power on server online if it is off by some chance.
  • If i have to take the server offline or it breaks, goodbye internet.

Any pro's for integration aside from learning something new?

I hope you don't mind but i heavily revised my first post to include sufficient information of usage and focus a bit more on the build as a whole opposed to just the router/modem part of my problem :)

Thanks for the reply


ajohn 07-02-2013 05:34 AM

I've been using a d-link nas for some time. Ok but I'm not happy with just 2 get very hot discs in the box. I've looked at all sorts of things but the cheapest option in the UK at the moment on ebay are these

HP ProLiant G7 MicroServer Turion II Neo N54L

HP had a 100 cash back offer on them which meant that they could be bought for just over 100. Annoyed that I noticed it too late. Lot's appeared on ebay brand new and in box etc plus profit margin. Some seem to be getting out now so just bought one for 158 with free next day. By the time a board, processor, p/s and box is bought costs work out higher than that. ECC memory but Mr Memory isn't too bad on that. They come with a useless 2gb and 2 slots so 8gb needs 2 new sticks but I suspect 6 could be tried. Some one is selling a couple with 8gb new. Might be cheaper in the end. 4 might be ok. Have to pass.

People seem to be running a NAS and streaming on less powerful kit than this but I have to pass on if it will do all at once well. One thing for sure is that these are more likely to really have a 1 g bit route out than many motherboard as the come. 4x PCI-e can match the bandwith of old 64bit PCI-X on a true 64bit motherboard. People do put raid cards in them but hp warns about not using one of the slots as the unit may shut down due to over heating.

There are several software options. Linux servers, freenas, nas4free maybe even xmbcunbunto (or what ever it is called).

I would be careful on modem/routing. My son is back from university. Before he went I had problems with torrent downloads using reasonable modem routers at the dearer end. Wouldn't load share properly and obviously over worked. I changed to a d-link office ppoe over ethernet box with wifi and 8 ports driven with a single output and cheap single port d-link box switched to ppoe pass through. If you want good bandwidth off the nas it might pay to use a single port modem and some sort or switch box with wifi that really does meet the speed specs. Not sure how that sort of thing is set up or if it's possible. Could be that the modem makers wont let them work that way.

As far as my current NAS goes if I run a video off it using VLC it's quicker loading than running of the machine locally. Disks on the are lsi raid 5 10k ultra 320's. The NAS uses 2 500gig sata 3's just mirrored. The nas box run a cifs servers only and I run cifs directly off my opensuse machine. The mount.cifs file sometimes needs editing and re compiling to allow that. I have windoze users about and the nas docs mention running cifs and nfs will slow it down.

Be interested if anyone has any direct experience with the hp microserver at home.:p Too late in some ways as it's ordered. Fit's in with the topic too.


tallywhacker 07-02-2013 11:56 AM

See here is the thing, as you say yourself many are using far lower powered units already, for example:

The c60 i listed in post #1 is very common place, i just can't find any clarification of whether it will also encrypt well and offer http/sftp function for external access.
The higher powered e450 obviously thus also performs well for a basic nas and is documented as such, it is likely the safer bet if i can't clarify the c60's ability for http/sftp/encryption. However once more i can get no clarification other than it can nas and play 1080p video.

Both above options should suffice, the posts i read where also using raid5, which needs cpu, i will be using either raid0 or raid10 with offsite backups at my folks house, so no parity calculations. Whether this balances out my extra needs i do not know for sure, i suspect yes but need to be sure as i am not made of 's.

It is not going to be used for anything other than i stated in post #1 at most, i have a pc and laptop for desktop activities.

Therefore i suspect the hp unit you listed is complete overkill for my needs, which usually in a build would not matter except:

It must be low power usage, reliable, and flexible.
Low power is important to me, the turion in that hp has a tdp of 25 W, which is really good, and it's performance per watt is excellent. However compared to the 19 W of the e450 and 9 W of the c60 it no longer really competes unless these are too weak, i need to rule these out or confirm them before committing.

It is good to have the option, and thank you for pointing it out, should the e450 even be too small to cope with my needs then it becomes a real option, or rather it's turion chip on a custom build does. I am really looking to clarify if the equipment i listed will cope with it's intended use, or if other equipment can do a better job at a competetive or lower tdp. I was not entirely clear on that, i am sorry. I admit i am getting a bit lost in the planning of this, much more 'new information' to consider than a desktop build.

My needs are in this order:
Basic function > Reliabilty > Power > Additional function (routing, modem and torrents at most)

I have updated my original post to make this a bit more clear for new readers.

With regards to the router:
I am concerned a basic router wont be good enough, for starters i cant find a sensible price on a 10 Gb lan router which would remove NAS bottleneck, or rather redirect it to my disks (i think), so commercial router means gigabit LAN.

I am concerned too that an off the shelf unit may not cope running my NAS and ~whatever else~ i am doing on other pc's, unless i spend 's, which simply put i won't as i think i could build a dedicated c60 router for less in addition to the NAS, or circumvent my concerns below for less money.

I would love for the nas to deal with broadband connection and routing instead (purely as i love to muck around with things), however if it powers down when i am out i am in a pickle if i need files, it restricts me to an mATX motherboard (possibly a good thing, not sure), i also can't commit to the extra function until i know a low tdp chip can cope with my basic function intentions. However it would be fun to toy around with :)

What model d-link did you go for? I will consider using an external modem and a seperate switch too.

I had a look at freeNAS, i don't think it has enough appeal to pull me from a minimal debian installation though, unless it has function i ~need~ or should ~want~.

Cheers, Tally

tallywhacker 07-02-2013 01:13 PM

I am also surprised to hear you want more than 2 GB RAM for your usage, i was going to use 1 GB in dual channel at most (2x500 MB), i thought that would be overkill. The only bit i would change is the obviously small HDD for your intended use, but then i suspect you are going to slap your mirrored array in it I am curious as to why video was loading quicker on your NAS directly though, gigabit LAN should exceed your disk speed in this usage surely? Or am i missing something? (latency for example)

ajohn 07-02-2013 04:15 PM

The d-link is a dsr-250n. I wouldn't worry too much about that aspect though. I was thinking routing, firewall etc may be too much extra work. The too busy router I switched from was a - pass it's disappeared. A more usual thing at the low dearer end of things.

Yes I think it is latency and bus capacity on the motherboard and I assume the eth connection gets to the processor with little else in the way.

I'm not sure if I will be running a server or a nas on it yet. I'm inclined to go for Nas4free. :-) The thought of a mere 2gb gives me the shudders. I have also read comments that ZFS improves with more ram - their forum suggest 2 should be ok. Also I know that 8gb will run a full blown desktop. Pass I am out of my experience zone in this sort of area. A remote desktop as a method of control might be an interesting option.

I read an article pointing out that the amd set up doesn't consume all that much more than the intel in practice. The arguments was based on power peak durations when the processor is actually doing something. NAS type disks are needed as well as some green types tend to break when raided especially wd. Another reason was PCI-E in case I find I need it. That applies to either processor. When I looked at atom boards with PCI-E the price rocketed. The usual amd boards have good graphics on them so are pricey. The HP just has normal graphics on the board. I tend to run what ever I buy for a long time so more power is better than too little - providing it's cheap. Price is part of the challenge.

From memory a number of Turions in a small tower with p/s on ebay uk at the moment for around 99. Probably one PCI slot. That aspect was a big deciding factor for me easily pushing me towards the micro server. As to better graphics a silent nvidia could be added if I finish up with some form of media server.


tallywhacker 07-02-2013 05:07 PM

Cool, i won't worry about router then :)

What i was getting at with power: i agree the amd's run with less power than intel (i read a similar article), hence why my list is amd too :) What i was getting at is that the c60, e450 and the turion (n45l) are all top dog's for performance per watt; however, in my case, turion may be utter overkill, so may be the e450, thus for me a likely waste of power. However you have a good point in that more performance may be needed in the future. There is little difference between the e450 and turion in performance per watt and total wattage so it is a very competative option here should the c60 be too weak.

My usage for this machine will be static, i guess i need to consider programs using more resources in future however.

With regard to ram, if your board can handle it and you want to be safe have you considered dual channel ram (set to run as such in bios)? Even for resource hungry games above 4 GB RAM is overkill imho, 2 x 2GB sticks in dual channel could well be superior to 4 GB total for your usage unless you want to run virtual machines and the likes. I'm am no expert on ram though, so suggest having a read up on this :)

Have you looked at the WD red drives? they are designed for NAS and raid, nearly as efficient as the greens anyhow, plus they have the 'head parking' feature disable thus are not prone to the breakage the greens are subjected too! I looked at quite a lot of benchmarks and they perform very well, in many cases they outperformed 7.5k rpm drives for this use!! Excellent for a 5k rpm HDD. Only about 10 more than greens too!

What made you lean away from ext4 toward zfs? I glanced over zfs and kind of dissmised it without proper consideration..

I think you made a good choice for your potential use tbh, especially over an atom, as you say the atoms use more power than they state and perform poorly compared to the comparative amd's, even with twice the threads, lol. The boards that house the atoms are indeed short of features and i am not impressed with the build quality on the intel boards i have.

Would be nice to hear how much cpu and memory your setup uses when you get it up and running!

Thanks again :)

ajohn 07-02-2013 07:06 PM

Red wd's seem to be what lots of people use. I think I will too. It's also seems to be possible to get velociraptors intended for raid use but the warrantee is reduced to 12 months. On the greens wd mention a dos program that can alter the 6 secs of no activity to parking which is what causes the problem. I assume it's some where on their site. I recently wrote about 250gb of largish files onto red wd via a decent usb 2 self powered hub. Out of interest after about 5 mins or so the disc couldn't keep up and the red light flickered for waits there after. The disc was formatted ext4.

It seems ZFS is better in terms of data integrity even in redundant raid set ups. I haven't fully looked through the information available on it so I'm stating that parrot fashion. Makes some sense from little info I have read. Also many major users run their servers on FreeBSD. A per Linux it's Unix like. There is a list of some BIG users here. I've read in the past that it's very secure.

I like the look of Nas4free it seems to be the continuation of the FreeNas project. The web interface seems decent but little help with convolute user set ups which is a bit tedious. I might just load a server not sure but will probably try the nas software and ditch it if the install is too long winded. I'm also still reading the forum to see what problems people have with it. It offers all sorts of things including iSCSI and I never know where my interests might wonder.

Looking at the HP specs it comes with 1 2gb stick by the look of it. Maybe a bit naught with a dual core processor but haven't really looked at the memory types used. The Turion II 2.2gh is 15w by the way. I suspect the HP doesn't use a cpu fan only a case fan but one of the more recent ideas is to just use a cpu fan and the draught from that exhausts the case.


ajohn 07-03-2013 08:47 AM

Well it arrived this morning. Was a bit annoyed as no cd drive but I just assumed there would be. It's the usual HP neat strong set up in a small space. One small fan on the PS and one rear case fan. The cpu heating cooling fins are widely spaced so dust might even pass through them. I noticed that front door which is the air intake looks like it was made in a way to take a dust filter. Web search didn't bring one up but a page about some one using 2 layers of net curtain. I might try stainless double layered mesh. Filters can be cleaned for a long time by just using the vac from their front. No need to even open the case.

Ist time I have ever taken a PC out of it's box and failed to fully open up the case. Top hinges off and the front door opens - that's as far as I have got.

ZFS for my needs looks attractive. Reliable safe storage. Have a read

Seems it can be installed into Linux but not sure about kernel level. 1gb ram per tb of storage is suggested.

I have usually had at least one scsii disc around to avoid what I call disc head crashes for a long time. It removed odd happenings. Later I used 10k enterprise raptors for system discs -scsi reboxed. Same again. My current set up is using one and of late I have had a couple of oddities after running the disc for 7 years. Hence an upgrade but I am installing a flash system disc - must be mad but will give it a go but no writes to it except for system updates. Basically I feel anything that can improve storage reliability is a good idea.


grahamb314 07-04-2013 03:56 AM

Another vote for freenas:

With ZFS you will want plenty of RAM, I bought the same microserver and dropped in 8GB of RAM quite reasonably

ajohn 07-04-2013 04:45 AM

I've bought 8gb for it too. Advice is one gb per tb of storage so with 3 1tb raided 2 may be ok. When I looked at prices of 4gb ram another 30 increased to to 8gb so I went for 8.

As it turns out by swapping discs around I can put 4 1tb wd red's after buying 3 in it and use the 250gb in the microserver for all system writes in my new desktop. :cool: That's a 3.6ghz xeon. I have always wanted to try a xeon. HP again. These ex demo workstations with a couple of years left on the on site guarantee are a decent buy against building something similar from scratch including a decent power supply and case especially with a xeon in it.

FreeNAS seems to have gone commercial but continues in the normal way as Nas4free.


grahamb314 07-04-2013 05:09 AM


Originally Posted by ajohn (Post 4984020)
I've bought 8gb for it too. Advice is one gb per tb of storage so with 3 1tb raided 2 may be ok. When I looked at prices of 4gb ram another 30 increased to to 8gb so I went for 8.

As it turns out by swapping discs around I can put 4 1tb wd red's after buying 3 in it and use the 250gb in the microserver for all system writes in my new desktop. :cool: That's a 3.6ghz xeon. I have always wanted to try a xeon. HP again. These ex demo workstations with a couple of years left on the on site guarantee are a decent buy against building something similar from scratch including a decent power supply and case especially with a xeon in it.

FreeNAS seems to have gone commercial but continues in the normal way as Nas4free.


Yeah there is a commercial side to it (support etc), but still freely available as before.
Regarding installation, make use of that internal USB port instead of using up disk space, it effectively runs from memory anyway and they encourage this setup.

Also, I made use of the CD bay for another HDD (Installed the OS via USB key instead of a CD)

You could also virtualise the box and make use of that but certain visualization software limits the virtual disks to 2TB at the moment do if you want to use 3TB of spac eon frenas you would need to give the freenas VM 2 disks (You might be able to software RAID 0 then on freenas but not tried this)

ajohn 07-07-2013 04:05 PM

After much looking about at NAS set up's I've decided to go the other way and build up a Linux based server. It's far more flexible than what can be easily achieved with nas software.

My aim is to install as an opensuse desktop using either LXDE or Xfce and set things up remotely with vlc. That way I get a modern editor for working on files etc and the convenience of gui's. I also get access to the microservers various connections - dumping to usb discs for backups etc, hdmi via a vga to hdmi converter ( I hope). I was concerned about using mdadm for raid 5 etc but it turns out that the drives can be "scrubbed" periodically to correct errors making it more or less the equivalent of ZFS.

I'm assuming I can control it's desktop from KDE on another machine or maybe even a windoze netbook.

If some one likes console bashing or even if they don't there is a good set of 5 or so video's on youtube on setting up an Ubuntu server. As well as how it gives some ideas on what can easily be done.

I don't suppose mdadm devs read this but I wish there was another raid mode for 2 discs. That's what I will be using on my desktop. Basically mirrored with parity in a separate partition on the same disc. That way when one goes down there is a much better chance of rebuilding the other correctly with some degree of certainty. Novel Netware used to offer this arrangement for critical data. Personally I feel it's an ideal option for today's large discs and needn't take up all that much space. There arrangement was very quick too but not sure how they achieved that but the disks were mirrored.


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