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What to build/buy: Server or NAS?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I want to either buy a NAS or build a server. Not sure which is best for my needs/wants. Hoping you guys can help me decide.

If I go the route of a NAS I am likely to get a Synology NAS as those seem best. Correct me if I am wrong.

My budget is around $500-600, maybe a little more.

What do I want to do? I will list that below.

  • Serve as a backup for my 3-4 computers and their documents/media.
  • Ability to stream media to PS3, etc.
  • Ability for remote desktop.
  • Accessible via the internet and thus from anywhere.
  • Ability for VPN and cloud like features (my own FTP, drop box, etc.)
  • Set restrictions to content per user/computer (my backup not accessible to my wife)
  • Guest area maybe for some general files for my LAN Party buddies.
  • Maybe the ability to mess around and learn with server side stuff.
  • Ability to host internal websites so I can test them.
  • Hosting a public website would just be gravy, but a potential security risk so unsure on that one unless I had a physical firewall.

As far as parts go I have some parts already like the SSD for the OS, RAM, fans, and some other stuff. I am thinking small form factor Lian Li or Silverstone case (akin to minimal elegant aesthetics). Not sure if a Mini ATX or ITX board is favorable for a server like the one a I want, but hopefully something nice exists if I go the server route.

Also, if I go with a server do people really think I need to run a RAID 1, 5, or 6? And of course that would mean a Perc 5i card. Granted I will have all this data probably on the end user machines as well.
post #2 of 19
Check out FreeNAS, been a while since I last used it but I seem to remember it being pretty versatile. It should handle everything (with very low performance requirements) on your list apart form webserver, I think that requires a plugin of some sort.

Or if you buy a NAS then I would recommend a Meebox, does everything on your list AFAIK, plus a bit more, but can only handle upto 4TB internal storage (more via USB).
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post #3 of 19
Seems like you want more functionality than just a NAS, I'd go with a full server if you can.
RAID is for redundancy. If a drive fails RAID can keep the system going, or get the system back up quicker when the drive is replaced. If you want data security it's convenient but probably not the best. Sean will talk forever about this tongue.gif
I don't think you need to run RAID 1/5/6/10 since you already have the data in 2 places, the local machines and the server. I'd buy fewer better quality drives for RAID 0 than more drives for other RAID modes.
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post #4 of 19
You could always go unRAID or something like that so you have redundancy but still get most of the original capacity of the drives you use.
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post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MME1122 View Post

Seems like you want more functionality than just a NAS, I'd go with a full server if you can.
RAID is for redundancy. If a drive fails RAID can keep the system going, or get the system back up quicker when the drive is replaced. If you want data security it's convenient but probably not the best. Sean will talk forever about this tongue.gif
I don't think you need to run RAID 1/5/6/10 since you already have the data in 2 places, the local machines and the server. I'd buy fewer better quality drives for RAID 0 than more drives for other RAID modes.

What drives in specific would you get? Curious what Sean would say.
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoddimusPrime View Post


  • Serve as a backup for my 3-4 computers and their documents/media.
  • Ability to stream media to PS3, etc.
  • Ability for remote desktop.
  • Accessible via the internet and thus from anywhere.
  • Ability for VPN and cloud like features (my own FTP, drop box, etc.)
  • Set restrictions to content per user/computer (my backup not accessible to my wife)
  • Guest area maybe for some general files for my LAN Party buddies.
  • Maybe the ability to mess around and learn with server side stuff.
  • Ability to host internal websites so I can test them.
  • Hosting a public website would just be gravy, but a potential security risk so unsure on that one unless I had a physical firewall.

Those three things mean NAS. Plus, NASes are SOOO pricey for what you get. Terrible terrible value for the money.

I would spec yourself out a low power server, one based around an LGA 1155 board with plenty of SATA and PCIe ports and a Pentium processor. They're plenty for being a simple file server. I could link you an entire build, but I'm sure you could figure it out. thumb.gif If I am mistaken in assuming that you know all about building a system, please just say so and I'll spec you out a server. smile.gif
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post #7 of 19
If you go for a custom server, prepare to spend a TON of time setting it up and getting everything just right. Permissions, for instance, suck. You should take whatever OS you are considering for a DIY and install it into a VM to make sure it'll do what you want before you buy anything.

FreeNAS used to be really limited in what it will do, though I haven't looked at it since 2010. It also wasn't designed to be expanded when I looked at it.

I just replaced my Adam-based DIY NAS with a Synology and boy am I glad I did: I spent only few minutes getting everything just right, when I had spent days and days on the DIY NAS and never got it quite right!

With a dedicated NAS product, what you're paying for is software and support, not the hardware. A synology NAS will do everything on your list. If you want to deploy web sites for testing, though, you MUST have the server you're deploying to as close of a clone of your production server as possible, and a NAS is no good for that regardless of vendor or even DIY (your production server isn't going to be FreeNAS).

The Synology servers have out-of-the-box MySQL and PHP support on their webserver, full remote access, and support for streaming to devices. They are also WIDE OPEN, just log in with putty and have at it! They also have a package management system that makes installing 3rd party software easy.


Regardless of your approach, you should have some sort of redundant RAID... RAID1 is what I use. DO NOT BUY A HARDWARE RAID CARD. Use the software raid built into the Linux or your NAS. Hardware RAID cards suck unless you spend like $300+ for one and even then they are usually not worth it.

In the end, if you don't mind spending hours fiddling with it, by all means go DIY. Otherwise, a NAS will serve you well with no fuss and Synology has the best software in the business.
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post #8 of 19
Just to argue semantics, NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. A NAS is defined as an appliance that provide file level access to storage, utilizing CIFS, NFS, SMB, etc. If you have a storage box that also hosts a website, or is a VPN server, or something else makes it a server and not a NAS.

On a side note, a SAN is similar to a NAS, except that it provides block level storage using iSCSI, FC, etc. DAS is Direct Attached Storage, such as an external eSATA chassis or something. Lastly, there is a hybrid called NUS (Network Unified Storage) which combines the features of a SAN and a NAS, which is what most storage boxes are anymore.
post #9 of 19
I recently purchased a Synology DS412+ which is a 4 disk unit and I am very pleased with it. I'd recommend anyone looking to purchase a NAS to certainly give Synology a look.
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
So, I am looking more and more on nixing the ability to host something internally given it is a nice feature I will most likely not use. After all, why not get some cheap space online? I still would like to be able to host up to 3 drives. An SSD if necessary (which seems less likely for a NAS if I am not mistaken) for the OS, programs, etc. and a mirrored set of drives for storage/streaming, etc.

But, I would ideally budget ~ $500 for this. Some of these Synology devices seems so expensive though.

I leave it to you people to drive me one way or the other and suggest some links for a NAS if that is your inclination.
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