High Definition video files, even h.264 compressed video from HD-DSLRs, take up quite a bit of space. My Canon 7D records video at about 300MB/minute. Every time I come home from a shoot I copy the audio and video files onto my editing laptop and back them up to the NAS. I like having a storage space on the network because I don't want to keep plugging and unplugging cables from my laptop. The freedom of a laptop is important to me so a network drive is the best choice.
I've had a D-Link DNS-323 NAS for a couple years now. When I bought it I decided to go with two 1.5TB drives because the price point was right at the time. The NAS and drives came to $360. It's a simple two drive cabinate in a RAID 1 configuration which means 1.5TB of storage. Unfortunately, the DNS-323 is slow, sluggish, and annoying. Logging into the configuration page takes about 15 seconds. I'm tired of the sluggishness and I want to move on. Besides it's completely full and I can't backup my latest project. Gulp.
Building My Own NAS
I've heard of FreeNAS over the years but I haven't seriously looked into building my own NAS until now. I have a list of features that I'm looking for:
- Quiet. I need something quiet because I record audio in the same room as the NAS will live.
- Space. I need room to grow so I can add drive space later as drives become cheaper and I run out of space.
- Size. I don't want another tower computer taking up precious space in my home office.
- Speed. The NAS doesn't HAVE to be faster than my current solution, I just WANT it to be faster. It's a backup drive. I don't run my OS from it, but c'mon, I want modern speeds.
So what parts did I choose?
For the enclosure I went with the Lian-Li PC-Q25 because it has 5 hot swap bays and space for two internal 3.5" drives. I also found one second hand on Amazon Marketplace for almost half the price. They normall sell for about $150 and I got one used for $84. It can accomodate a full sized ATX power supply. One thing hard drives need is strong and steady power so I went with a 500w Cooler Master eXtreme Power Plus for $39.99.
Since there are five hot swap bays in the case I wanted a motherboard with at least five onboard SATA connectors. That cut down the number of available mini-ITX motherboards considerably. I also needed something that could take 8GB of ram for ZFS. All of the Intel Atom boards max out at 4GB. I was initially considering the ASUS P8H77-I which has an Intel chipset and could accomodate a dual core processor with an LGA1155 socket. With that I could have gotten a heafty Core i7 for $300 although I was considering something more like the $40 dual core Celeron instead. But that also meant that I would need a $40 processor heatsink/fan as well. I wouldn't have gotten the cheapest fan because I need something quiet. I did a lot of searching and staring at web pages and eventually decided to go with something that made more sense for the application. The Asus C60M1-I is a dual-core AMD based mini-ITX motherboard with the low-power processor already installed and a fanless heatsink for $80. That sure beats The $180 solution of separate motherboard, processor, fan/heatsink and makes more sense for an appliance that will be running all the time. I chose 8GB of Corsair RAM to give my NAS some breathing room. The last change to this configuration is the Ethernet adapter. I've read that the Realtek adapter on this motherboard can be sluggish with FreeNAS so I bought an Intel NIC to make my data flow smoothly.
Since I'm looking for a good trade off between space and cost I went with the 3TB Seagate Barracuda. I had considered the Western Digital Green 3TB drives, but I've read too many accounts of people having problems with those drives in a FreeNAS system. So I went with the slightly more expensive Seagates. At $137.67 each I opted for three drives. I wanted to more than double my current NAS so I went with three drives in a RAIDZ1 which is similar to a RAID5 but using ZFS which I've been anxious to try. This should give me about 5.5TB of usable space and the comfort of knowing that if one drive fails I still have all my video files. And since the motherboard and the drives both support SATA III (6 Gb/s) I bought some SATA cables that were also made for SATA III speeds.
How much did I spend on my home made NAS solution?
- $408 for 3x 3TB hard drives
- $84 for the Lian-Li enclosure
- $40 for the power supply
- $80 for the motherboard
- $47 for RAM
- $32 for the Intel NIC
- $15 for SATA III cables
For a grand total of $706. For a couple bucks more I could have gotten a Drobo with less storage and fewer drive bays. At work we have Buffalo and Seagate NAS boxes and from using them I have easily made the decision that I do NOT want either for home use. This solution should hold me for a couple years and I always have the option of adding more drives so this NAS can grow with my needs. A big thanks to all those developers who have contributed to the FreeNAS project and all those people who put their example home built NAS ingredients online.