Computers & Electronics

Nas/Server/Synology/WorkStation/Plex setup recommendations

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  • Dec 29th, 2022 12:33 am
[OP]
Sr. Member
Dec 3, 2018
665 posts
754 upvotes
Laval, QC

Nas/Server/Synology/WorkStation/Plex setup recommendations

Probably going to be a long post but here is something I’m trying to do

Must have:
1. Setup a home network and sharing across devices
2. Storage spaces to keep movies/videos/etc.
3. Plex server and sharing
4. Keep a backup of all storage. RAID 5 I guess?

Great to have
1. Phone and other laptop/PC backups
2. Setup other OS like Ubuntu or VMware whatever
3. User/sharing management
4. Low cost setup

So I started using Plex (premium 1 month) version on my gaming PC which I wasn’t using at all (i5+16gb+5700xt) and I liked it. I just want to do more like the points above.

I thought of keeping a server which is up all the time but couldn’t find a video explaining my needs. Can I buy a used PC/server and do all this? I think there exists freeNas OS and probably other freewares to do all these things?

I want to invest max $250 maybe to buy a server and use existing HDDs for now. I’m not planning to buy a Synology OR NAS HDDs yet.

This is what I have found on Facebook:

↓100$↓
IBM System x3550 M2 1U / Cisco x3650 M2 2U / Intel OPNet Server Xpert 3700 2U / Cisco UCS C210 M2 2U / HP ProLiant DL360 G6 G7 1U / DL380 G6 G7 2U Rackmount High-Quality Server-Serveur Haute Performance-Powerful Business Class System-x64 Virtualization; VMWare; Data Center; NAS; WEB etc.; 2xIntel Xeon Quad Core HT E5530 2.4GHz/2.66GHz 8M LGA1366 Processor (16xvirtual cores) (16xcœurs logiques); 24GB DDR3 RAM; 2x139GB 15k HDD RAID Controller; Power Supply
-------------------------------------------

↓140$↓
IBM System x3550 M2 1U / Cisco x3650 M2 2U / Intel OPNet Server Xpert 3700 2U / Cisco UCS C210 M2 2U / HP ProLiant DL360 G6 G7 1U / DL380 G6 G7 2U Rackmount High-Quality Server-Serveur Haute Performance-Powerful Business Class System-x64 Virtualization; VMWare; Data Center; NAS; WEB; Computing; Mining etc.; 2xIntel Xeon Quad Core HT E5530 2.4GHz/2.66GHz 8M LGA1366 Processor (16xvirtual cores) (16xcœurs logiques); 32GB DDR3 RAM; 3x139GB 15k HDD RAID Controller; Power Supply
-------------------------------------------

↓160$↓
Intel 2U S3420GP MB / Dell PowerEdge R310 / HP ProLiant DL120 G6 Rackmount High-Quality Server-Serveur Haute Performance-Powerful Business Class System-x64 Virtualization; VMWare etc.; Intel Core i7 Xeon X3460 2.80GHz/3.46GHz 8M LGA1156 Processor (8xi7 virtual cores) (8xi7 cœurs logiques); 32GB DDR3 RAM; 1TB HDD RAID; Power Supply
-------------------------------------------
IBM System x3550 M2 1U / Cisco x3650 M2 2U / Intel OPNet Server Xpert 3700 2U / Cisco UCS C210 M2 2U / HP ProLiant DL360 G6 G7 1U / DL380 G6 G7 2U Rackmount High-Quality Server-Serveur Haute Performance-Powerful Business Class System-x64 Virtualization; VMWare; Data Center; NAS; WEB; Computing; Mining etc.; 2xIntel Xeon Quad Core HT E5540 2.53GHz/2.8GHz 8M 2×5.86GT/s LGA1366 Processor (16xvirtual cores) (16xcœurs logiques); 48GB DDR3 RAM; 2x300GB 10k SAS HDD RAID Controller; Power Supply
-------------------------------------------

↓200$↓
HP ProLiant ML150 G6 Tower High-Quality Server-Serveur Haute Performance-Powerful Business Class System-x64 Virtualization; VMWare; Data Center; NAS; WEB etc.; 2xIntel Xeon Quad Core HT E5540 2.53GHz/2.8GHz 8M LGA1366 Processor (16xvirtual cores) (16xcœurs logiques); 48GB DDR3 RAM; 1TB HDD Hot Plug; P410 6Gbps RAID Controller; Power Supply


Is it possible to do on these servers?
What’s your suggestion/opinions?
What else should I be looking for?

Thanks all!

PS I have tech background so I understand things but setting up something like this would be first time.
12 replies
Deal Addict
Jul 21, 2005
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Alberta
As someone who works with server hardware all the time, I would highly recommend NOT buying a branded server for the following reasons:

1. Power hungry. Power efficiency is the last thing these things care about. They chew through so much electricity.
2. Very loud. 1U systems use the tiniest fans running at 100000000 RPMs, so they are very loud
3. Proprietary hardware. Most servers will use SAS hard drives, which are different than SATA, and therefore you would have to get SAS drives to populate them. SAS drives in large sizes are prohibitively expensive because they are designed for enterprises who don't really care about spending 3k on a hard drive, you will.

My recommendation it to just find some low-cost small form factor PC and a NAS of some kind for data storage. The PC can act as a low-power plex server and the NAS just for storage. You can get an all-in-one NAS as well that will have Plex decoding on it, but they will be above your current budget for sure. Some basic NAS will be able to run Plex as well but won't be able to decode very well, so if you use any device that doesn't natively support the format you are trying to play, decoding is required.

Regarding vmware for example, they are getting more and more strict with supported hardware and hardware requirements, so some of these old servers won't be able to function with latest version of ESXi anyways.

RAID5 isn't really a backup, but yah, run some kind of disk redundancy to prevent a single disk failure from taking out all your data.

I have ran it all at home. My previous system was like a 12 Core Xeon with 512 GB of ram that I got from work after the server was retired. It could do all I wanted but also consumed a good amount of electricity and I wasn't using it to full extent. I downsized big time to prep for moving out to a new house out in the country, and didn't want to run a massive server, so right now I got some old 5 bay Synology NAS with 6TB drives and a Lenovo SFF PC running Windows. Plenty powerful for 1080p encoding for example, but wouldn't work well for 4K content, but I don't download 4K for movies/shows so not really an issue. If you want to do 4K decoding would need a more modern system with CPU features that support CPU assisted decoding, or get a graphics card to do the processing.

If you want to use freenas or any of those free linux based NAS solutions you can basically use any old PC for that. i heard good things about Unraid, but never used it. It might be well suited if you have disks of different sizes ect, but research yourself. I was never really a fan of Linux based file systems as I mostly work with Windows Servers, and trusting my data to a server platform that I don't fully understand makes me feel uncomfortable. I have setup various Linux based NAS before, but I always worry of what will happen when a disk dies, and since I don't know the details of a Linux file systems and all that it always scared me away.

I
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Feb 10, 2007
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Don't buy a prebuild rackmount server, you'll be limited on what you can do.

If you are looking for "server grade" system then buy a server tower or just buy a supermicro 3U chassis (you can put 8 drives in) and put in your motherboard and cpu

Then just grab a unraid license
[self promotion rule violation, removed twice already][self promotion rule violation, removed twice already]Trolling or Threadcrapping Trolling - woooooooo 3k on a laptop woooooooo 3k on a laptop woooooooo 3k on a laptop woooooooo 3k on a laptop
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Apr 29, 2018
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I am just here to recommend against RAID5/6. Buy cheaper disks and put them in Mirror RAID, instead of over-paying for "NAS" disks and then cheapening out by using RAID5/6. My NAS is based on the Asrock J4105 board and it has more than enough power to do anything. Costs around $100 and runs very efficient. Almost no heat and barely a 15W power draw. Even transcodes 4K video in realtime

On the software front, there is nothing better than Synology imo. They do a lot of work bringing useful packages to their OS. As an example, they have a custom made package that can backup my Google Workspace account, and view everything locally.
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Aug 2, 2004
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TrueNAS core will do everything on your "Must Have" and "Great To Have" list

The only argument is low cost. You should add 1 gig of RAM for each terabyte of storage you have.

Ideally you should use good quality NAS drives and they should all be the same. I don't agree with using desktop or cheaper drives. I have been down that road before.

Run ZFS, there is a learning curve, but it is definitely the best file system (In My Opinion) out there.

You will need a decent CPU if you plan to run jails (Virtual Machines)
Member
Oct 12, 2005
362 posts
155 upvotes
Markham, ON
Yes. RAID is not backup. Buy an external drive for backups or use services like Backblaze for backing up in the cloud.

Not completely off-topic, but if my motherboard doesn't have enough SATA ports, which host bus controller would you recommend? I have an old PC with an Intel 6th Gen Core i5 CPU in it that I want to turn into a TrueNAS server. I'm looking to connect at least four SATA drives to start, maybe more in the future. Thanks.
Last edited by chrishch on Dec 21st, 2022 1:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Feb 10, 2007
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chrishch wrote: Yes. RAID is not backup. Buy an external drive for backups or use services like Backblaze for backing up in the cloud.

Not completely off-topic, but if my motherboard doesn't have enough SATA ports, which host bus controller would you recommend? I have an old PC with an Intel 6th Gen Core i5 CPU in it that I want to turn into a TrueNAS server. I'm looking to connect least four SATA drives. Thanks.
https://www.ebay.ca/itm/124810473979?ep ... BMqPmm3qZh
[self promotion rule violation, removed twice already][self promotion rule violation, removed twice already]Trolling or Threadcrapping Trolling - woooooooo 3k on a laptop woooooooo 3k on a laptop woooooooo 3k on a laptop woooooooo 3k on a laptop
Deal Addict
Dec 11, 2008
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I've had my QNAP as my media server for ages but I've always had problems with accessing Plex remotely.

A few months ago, I picked up a Bee Link Mini S PC (from one of the RFD deals). I've set it up as my Pihole (in Windows docker) and I also set it up as my Plex server.
No problems whatever.

One suggestion, I would go with either a network mirrored drive or a USB mirrored drive to access the content instead of a NAS (much cheaper).
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Aug 22, 2006
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eblend wrote: As someone who works with server hardware all the time, I would highly recommend NOT buying a branded server for the following reasons:
As someone who also works with server hardware all the time, I'm on the fence. It's really up to the end user to determine if it fits their use case.
1. Power hungry. Power efficiency is the last thing these things care about. They chew through so much electricity.
That all depends on the hardware. You can get lower powered CPUs.
Not everyone needs quad CPU Xeons.
2. Very loud. 1U systems use the tiniest fans running at 100000000 RPMs, so they are very loud
This one I can't argue especially because 1U uses 40mm fans because that's all that can fit. Quiet and small don't really go together.
But this isn't an issue if you can stick it in a basement. It is an issue if it's in your living room.
3. Proprietary hardware. Most servers will use SAS hard drives, which are different than SATA, and therefore you would have to get SAS drives to populate them. SAS drives in large sizes are prohibitively expensive because they are designed for enterprises who don't really care about spending 3k on a hard drive, you will.
SAS hardware will take SATA drives no problem. Just not the other way around.
As for proprietary, I'm the first to admit that the server market has a TON of proprietary things but generally speaking a lot of it is still cross compatible.
It's really no different than buying a prebuilt computer vs building your own. You won't be able to swap much in a prebuilt except common things like CPU/RAM/HDD.
This is the same in the server world, except maybe add PSU into the mix.
My recommendation it to just find some low-cost small form factor PC
Again, it depends on what the end user is doing.
OP mentioned installing things like VMWare and other OSes which means a low powered SFF PC might not cut it.
Also if you want to talk proprietary, SFF is proprietary city.

and a NAS of some kind for data storage.
That's another argument. Standalone NASes are kinda terrible.
Regarding vmware for example, they are getting more and more strict with supported hardware and hardware requirements, so some of these old servers won't be able to function with latest version of ESXi anyways.

Again, you're definitely not wrong, but OP could easily use something like Proxmox VE which would work on anything.
I have ran it all at home. My previous system was like a 12 Core Xeon with 512 GB of ram that I got from work after the server was retired. It could do all I wanted but also consumed a good amount of electricity and I wasn't using it to full extent.
Funny thing is... I just speced a new (to me) dual node 2U dual CPU with 16 cores each. Gonna settle on 256GB RAM for each node.
I'm probably gonna build 2 of them and ship one off to Seattle for colocation.
It'll suck power for sure (it's like a 1200W PSU) but it'll do everything I need processing wise.
My 1230v1 is getting long in the tooth.
If you want to use freenas or any of those free linux based NAS solutions you can basically use any old PC for that.

There's arguments there too. I exclusively run ZFS for active data integrity protection.
If your data isn't that important? Sure. Any old PC will do. But every major storage system I build for myself has server grade components because ECC RAM is important to me. Plus out of band management.
i heard good things about Unraid, but never used it.

For small scale and lack of data integrity checking? It's probably okay.
But the fact that they outright lie on the number of drives it supports? I'm out.
It might be well suited if you have disks of different sizes ect, but research yourself. I was never really a fan of Linux based file systems as I mostly work with Windows Servers, and trusting my data to a server platform that I don't fully understand makes me feel uncomfortable. I have setup various Linux based NAS before, but I always worry of what will happen when a disk dies, and since I don't know the details of a Linux file systems and all that it always scared me away.
Ew NTFS.
There's not too many entries below that on a list of what file systems I would trust.
Do you not have anything else to do rather than argue with strangers on the internet
Nope. That's why I'm on the internet arguing with strangers. If I had anything better to do I'd probably be doing it.
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Aug 22, 2006
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Gee wrote: The only argument is low cost. You should add 1 gig of RAM for each terabyte of storage you have.
Eh. This is only really true if you enable all the neat features of ZFS like dedup and even then it should be more than 1GB per TB.
For a barebones ZFS install (especially at home) you really shouldn't need more than like 8GB.
Do you not have anything else to do rather than argue with strangers on the internet
Nope. That's why I'm on the internet arguing with strangers. If I had anything better to do I'd probably be doing it.
Deal Addict
Mar 13, 2008
1867 posts
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To be honest, OP sounds like a noob. For someone like him, if he wants something all-in-one, I would just recommend a standard tower with enough drive bays for future expansion and throwing on Unraid. Preferably an Intel CPU with Quick Sync incase he wants hardware transcoding with Plex. If he can't figure it out, he can just Google his way.

Only problem is he's on a $250 budget and I don't think he'll find anything that'll last. He'll probably upgrade it within a year once he goes down the rabbit hole.

Alternatively, he can probably buy an older NAS for around $250 and use that to host his storage and Plex media, then mount the share to his computer which will host Plex.
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Jul 21, 2005
2045 posts
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Alberta
death_hawk wrote: As someone who also works with server hardware all the time, I'm on the fence. It's really up to the end user to determine if it fits their use case.


That all depends on the hardware. You can get lower powered CPUs.
Not everyone needs quad CPU Xeons.


This one I can't argue especially because 1U uses 40mm fans because that's all that can fit. Quiet and small don't really go together.
But this isn't an issue if you can stick it in a basement. It is an issue if it's in your living room.


SAS hardware will take SATA drives no problem. Just not the other way around.
As for proprietary, I'm the first to admit that the server market has a TON of proprietary things but generally speaking a lot of it is still cross compatible.
It's really no different than buying a prebuilt computer vs building your own. You won't be able to swap much in a prebuilt except common things like CPU/RAM/HDD.
This is the same in the server world, except maybe add PSU into the mix.


Again, it depends on what the end user is doing.
OP mentioned installing things like VMWare and other OSes which means a low powered SFF PC might not cut it.
Also if you want to talk proprietary, SFF is proprietary city.



That's another argument. Standalone NASes are kinda terrible.


Again, you're definitely not wrong, but OP could easily use something like Proxmox VE which would work on anything.


Funny thing is... I just speced a new (to me) dual node 2U dual CPU with 16 cores each. Gonna settle on 256GB RAM for each node.
I'm probably gonna build 2 of them and ship one off to Seattle for colocation.
It'll suck power for sure (it's like a 1200W PSU) but it'll do everything I need processing wise.
My 1230v1 is getting long in the tooth.


There's arguments there too. I exclusively run ZFS for active data integrity protection.
If your data isn't that important? Sure. Any old PC will do. But every major storage system I build for myself has server grade components because ECC RAM is important to me. Plus out of band management.


For small scale and lack of data integrity checking? It's probably okay.
But the fact that they outright lie on the number of drives it supports? I'm out.

Ew NTFS.
There's not too many entries below that on a list of what file systems I would trust.
You remind me of me like 5 years ago, when I used to run redundant servers and played with all that crap, now I just need bare minimum to keep things running. My suggestions were for the OPs request, as others have mentioned, is pretty new to this server stuff, so suggesting to him anything more than a most basic setup is overkill. He is talking about running a Plex server full of pirated movies, I don't think he needs georedundancy and rock solid hardware here. The SFF suggestion was just something that's small and quiet, there isn't too much you would be changing in those anyways, maybe an extra stick of ram and a bigger HDD, so proprietary nature of it doesn't matter. Also, not all SAS controllers support SATA. I have worked with a few that definitely don't.

With the guys pretty much non-existent budget, I just wanted to sway him away from enterprise server hardware, as it is overkill and would cost him more long term than it's worth. I have mostly worked with Dell/Legacy IBM/HP and most recently Cisco UCS stuff, and I wouldn't recommend any of it to run at home. Most of our servers are pretty powerful esxi hosts, so I am sure there are less power hungry configurations you can find, but it seems like most things out there are decommissioned ESXi hosts, or very old junk from when people still ran physical servers. I hear good things about ZFS and used it myself shortly, but as I mentioned, Linux not my thing really unless I have to, so I don't feel comfortable dicking around with it. For the most part I deal with Enterprise SANs (mostly EMC, HP (and 3PAR before they got bought), and most recently NetApp and block storage, so don't really get too exposed to DAS systems and configurations, I bet most of those systems probably run ZFS in the back end themselves..

Regarding the NTFS comment, again, this guy is running a home pirate server....it doesn't need to be super duper redundant. If he wants something a bit more solid ReFS would probably work just fine. I have used Windows Storage Spaces before and kind of like the concept for a home environment. After I switched from my multi-host ESXi environment with a FC SAN (using ZFS and Nexenta) and dumbed things down, I actually ran for about 5 years of Hyper-V and Storage Spaces instead on a home made server, and it worked just fine. Went for an all-in-one approach in a 24 Bay Norco case on an old Areca 24-Port card, dual Xeons and only like 32gb of ram I think, was enough to run plex, couple of DCs ect...and now I am on SFF with a Synology nas...I keep downgrading because I'm past the years where I wanted to play with this crap at home, I have enough of it at work. Life is also a lot less stressful now, since I don't have to panic and have my wife hovering over me asking me when our internet will be back because my DCs died and DNS was down or my pfSense was blocking crap she needed....back to ISP modem/router even :D

Unless you are new and learning this stuff, or are still very much into geeking out, simple is best. Took me 20 years to figure that out :D. To be honest, I would probably be still doing all those things if I didn't buy an acreage and decided to build my new home by myself....that shifter priorities and made me want to get everything back to basics, so that it's a lot easier to move when the time comes.
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Jun 29, 2004
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I successfully got Plex working in a container on Proxmox today. GPU and storage passthrough successfully work. I confirmed that HW transcoding and tone mapping also work. The benefit of using a VM or container is being able to snapshot/backup the current install. If something fails then you have a restore point. You can also install other things on the same box if you use containers or a VM.

A few years ago I was using a NAS to store all of my content, then one day a firmware update failed and I lost everything stored on the drives. Fortunately it wasn't anything super important. only music and videos. Anything of importance was saved on my Google Drive or local hard drives. Ever since that day, I've had very little interest in building another RAID solution. I had a four bay NAS setup in a RAID 5. Back then there were only consumer drives for computers. Nothing specific for NASes. The poster above sounds like me a few years ago. Now I'm all about keeping things cheap and simple. You don't need a data centre in your home.

My tips:
- RAID is not a backup solution. It's only a storage solution. Don't keep anything important on the drives.
- All hard drives fail. (I was replacing hard drives every year two years after the initial setup).
- Only put stuff you're okay with losing on the NAS/server.
- Unraid, TrueNAS, and Proxmox are all great solutions for setting up Plex. (TrueNAS and Proxmox are free)
- If the data is important, then follow the 3-2-1 backup strategy. It means having at least three copies of your data, two local (on-site) but on different media (read: devices), and at least one copy off-site.
- I discovered that a Celeron J3455 processor with iGPU can transcode two Plex 4K streams with tone mapping at 720p. More than that and the streams get a bit laggy. In theory a newer Intel CPU and iGPU should be able to do better with Intel Quick Sync Video.
- Plex direct play is preferable to transcoding, so use direct play as much as you can. You need a Plex subscription to use transcoding. Many people keep separate folders/shares for 4K and HD content.
- Linux (Ubuntu/Debian) is best for Plex Media Server.
- Keep things simple. A computer or raspberry pi and hard drives is all you really need. Add more drives as you fill them, unless the prices are dirt cheap.
- Only build for you and your family. Don't try to become Netflix 2.0.

My current setup is an Intel NUC (Celeron J3455 with 8GB RAM) with 8TB USB 3.0 external hard drive. Everything works flawlessly without issue and the performance is quite good. I'll add another drive when current drive fills up. I bought everything about five years ago, and the total cost for the NUC and external drive was about $400 brand new. I used an SSD and memory that I was able to salvage from older systems in the NUC. In 2017 an 8TB external drive cost me nearly $250.

I'm planning to expand things a bit. I found a couple 14TB enterprise class HDDs for $208 each and I bought a refurb ThinkCentre Tiny to replace my current setup. I'll install Proxmox on that and setup Plex on there along with a few other things. I'll setup the drives as JBOD, instead of RAID. It'll be one big volume full of content with transitory data.

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