DIY 8Tb NAS for under 360 pounds

DIY 8Tb NAS for under 360 pounds An 8Tb storage system for under £360? Is that even possible, and if so – how? That was the task I set out for myself during as storage space in our home was running low and a suitable tower case was donated to me. We run a media server for storing our photos, home movies, licensed content as well as video captured from our home security system. On top of that, I needed a place to put the nightly backups of my production servers and figured where better than my own front room? In order to do all of that, enter my DIY NAS. Its been an interesting journey to achieve the goal, one that used recyled parts where appropriate ans some patience in waiting for the right hard drive deals to come along. Believe me, as an impulsive buyer, the tempation to pay a handful of pounds more and get hardware sooner was very intense – however Im also not known for giving in on a challenge so im glad i stuck to my goal. I think this project taught me above all that if one is patient enough the right deals and prices come along eventually – the ‘buy it now’ culture just lost another instant gratification consumer The NAS has 8Tb of physical storage space, however due to my nature the NAS runs in a fully redundant RAID mode – meaning it has a useable 4Tb RAID5 array and a useable 1Tb RAID1 array. I could just run the drives a one 8Tb JBOD array, however thats not exactly a clever move. I wont go into the depths of what the benefits/risks are when chosing between RAID or JBOD as there is plent of information out there on this and im going to assume that if you are reading this then you are reasonably tech savvy and get the difference. As someone who has his fair share of hard drives fail over the years I am the kind of guy who is willing to sacrifice a few Tb of space for the peace of mind that a drive can fail and my data is safe. The NAS caseThe person that started this was my father in law. He was throwing out some old tower cases that he no longer had any use for. I got dibs on one of them and began plotting what to do. With its 6x 5.25″ bays and 3x internal 3.5″ bays this case was a perfect candiate for a NAS. It was just an empty shell so it needed all the components so I set about building that up. The PSUI wanted a PSU with enough power to cope with the amount of drives and still have room to be able to fart. I opted for a 700w model that i saw on ‘end of line’ sale while browsing my local Maplin Electornics store. I also picked up a Molex to 4xSATA Power connecter while there, as the PSU only had 6 SATA power outputs – total price £34.99 for both items. The Board, CPU and RAMI dug around in my box of computer junk to supply these. Every techie worth his weight in salt has one, or more, of these boxes cluttering up his home and no doubt gets moaned at by his other half on a regular basis about the “old computer crap that we dont need cluttering up the place”. In there I located an old motherboard, RAM and CPU from a system I had some time ago – A dual core 2.6ghz Celeron D 805, the motherboard, heatsink, fan and 1Gb of DDR2 Ram. Nothing to write home about by todays standards, but frankly the point isnt to play the latest shoot-em-up. This kind of spec will do me just fine. Additional SATA2 portsOne slight issue, the motherboard only had 4x SATA2 ports which was is not enough to host the 5 drives + 1 SSD drive that I needed. A quick purchase on Ebay later and for the princely sum of £9.99 I have procured a 2 port PCI-E SATAII raid card. normally these are sold as SATA ‘RAID’ cards – though you will find they are whats called ‘fakeraid’ normally. However, these cards can usually be used as just a simple SATAII interface, which is exactly what i wanted. Locakable Hot Swap bays and SATA cablingMy best friend for these purchases was the brilliant website ‘dealextreme. com’. The prices are bargain basement and some products are pretty good quality. Yes, the devliery seems to be on the slow boat from China, but im patient and for the price I’m not going to argue. I bought 6x 5.25″ SATA lockable hot swap bays for $15 USD each and these have done the job fantasticly. While I was on the site, I picked up 4x 45 cm SATA cables and 2x 60cm SATA cables the two longer cables being for the simple reason that the top two hot swap bays are quite far away for mthe SATA ports. One SATA bay remains free at the moment, awaiting the day Isee another 2Tb drive at a bargain price and procure another SATAII PCI-E card. The Storage DrivesEvery so often, cheap disk drives do show up on ebay. People have old stock they need to clear out, or perhaps they are closing down or just need to liquidate some cash, but these deals do happen. I would check ebay sometimes twice a day for hard drives showing up cheap with a few minutes left to run or wait for the rare ‘buy it now fire sale’ to show up. In August, I managed to snipe bids for a new 1Tb Maxtor 7200 drive and a new 1Tb WD 7200 RPM. Then, in October 2011, I got very very lucky – right before the floods in thailand pushed up prices – a Uk seller had a fire sale of 2Tb 7200 RPM IBM server hard drives – Ipicked up 3 of them for the bargain basement price of £120 for all three inc P&P. This did involve luck of the draw and a lot of patience searching ebay regularly, but it did pay off. The cheapest I can find 2Tb drives for currently is around the £64 mark so, if you dont have the patience to wait for bargains, the price for the overall system wont be that far off what I paid. The OS driveI also purchased a 16Gb SSD drive from the ‘dealextreme. com’ site – this is perfect for my O/s partition, helps the system boot quicker and does the job fantasticly. Its not as good as your main top brand SSD’s, but frankly its not far off and for under £20 delivered, who the heck am i to argue. I suppose one day i may buy a second unit and run the two in RAID-1 for redundancy at the OS layer, but frankly if it dies re-installing linux is something I actually enjoy so im not too bothered. I keep a backup of all important system files on the 1Tb RAID-1 array for peace of mind. Throwing it all togetherI assembled everything, loaded the drives into the hot swap bays, plugged in the UPS, used a USB stick Ubuntu 11.04 server installer and off I went. Once the OS was installed and operational, I used the mdadm tool to create my RAID arrays from the drives. Yes its software raid, but for the price of the overall system it performs well and this suits me. I created a 1Tb RAID-1 arrary from the 2x1Tb drives and a 4Tb RAID-5 array from the 3x2Tb drives did contemplate doing a howto on creating RAID arrays on this blog, but frankly there are lots of sites out there that already detail how to do that so im going to save my typing fingers and be lazy. I then exported both arrays as NAS and Samba mounts for use across the devices on my household LAN, as well as installed the Mediatomb UPNP media server so we can watch media on any DLNA-UPNP device in the house.

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