Question Converting mini-ITX to NAS

Feb 20, 2020
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Hello all,

New to the forum and looking for some help with a conversion. Two years ago, my son and I built a mini-ITX for just the usual home uses (internet and word processing). We are preparing to build a gaming PC and I would like to convert this prior build to an NAS with RAID 5 while using as much of the prior components as possible. I am hoping that I can just replace the one WD Blue 1TB HDD with three WD Red 2TB HDDs, but I have some questions about a hardware RAID controller with the current motherboard. Also, if anyone sees any other issues that I don't see, please feel free to point them out.

Current build as it is:
CPU: AMD A8-7600 Radeon R7
MB: Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI (mini-ITX, FM2+, PCIe x16 slot, support for RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD, 4 x SATA 6 Gb/s connectors, USB3.0 x 4, USB2.0 x 2, HDMI x 2)
RAM: Crucial Ballistic Sport XT 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600
SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB
HDD: WD Blue 3.5" 1TB
ODD: Cheap LG DVD-RW
PSU: Corsair CX500
Case: Cooler Master Elite 130 (120mm fan + 80mm fan, USB3.0 x2, USB2.0 x 1)

Plan: Remove the optical drive and the WD Blue in order to fit 3 x WD Red 2TB 3.5" HDDs. Add a RAID controller to run the three WD Reds.

Concerns:
1. From what I've read, the hardware RAID setup is the way to go. I don't need an expensive 16x RAID controller. Will a less expensive PCIe 8x work fine in the 16x slot? Any suggestions?
2. I've run the calculators and I think I'm fine with the CX500 PSU. Am I wrong?
3. Once the gaming PC is up and running, what is the most seamless way to have this server connected so that I can access/manage it on the same monitor(s), keyboard, mouse?
4. How easy will it be to have it on the local (home) network so that files can be accessed via phone, laptop, etc.? Can it be setup so that I can access files from out of town while still remaining secure? How?
 

Oussebon

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Feb 17, 2020
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Versioned backups to a different device e.g. external storage would be safer, as if one version of the file e.g. becomes corrupted or is accidentally deleted, you have the older versions.

Perhaps a single, smaller drive for the ITX box, and a nice basic all-in-one NAS like a WD My Cloud for versioned backups. Probably less hassle than occasionally plugging in an external drive for backups and you could arrange for versioned backups in real time/ almost real time.
 
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Oussebon

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Feb 17, 2020
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Why a complex RAID setup versus just getting a single 6TB HDD? Which also keeps more bays open for expansion as (e.g. media) collections grow?

And have a look at something like FreeBSD or FreeNAS.
 
Feb 20, 2020
4
0
10
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I have years worth of photos and important documents that I cannot stand to lose. I need the redundancy that RAID provides and I'd like to keep it local versus on a cloud.
 
Hello all,

New to the forum and looking for some help with a conversion. Two years ago, my son and I built a mini-ITX for just the usual home uses (internet and word processing). We are preparing to build a gaming PC and I would like to convert this prior build to an NAS with RAID 5 while using as much of the prior components as possible. I am hoping that I can just replace the one WD Blue 1TB HDD with three WD Red 2TB HDDs, but I have some questions about a hardware RAID controller with the current motherboard. Also, if anyone sees any other issues that I don't see, please feel free to point them out.

Current build as it is:
CPU: AMD A8-7600 Radeon R7
MB: Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI (mini-ITX, FM2+, PCIe x16 slot, support for RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD, 4 x SATA 6 Gb/s connectors, USB3.0 x 4, USB2.0 x 2, HDMI x 2)
RAM: Crucial Ballistic Sport XT 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600
SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB
HDD: WD Blue 3.5" 1TB
ODD: Cheap LG DVD-RW
PSU: Corsair CX500
Case: Cooler Master Elite 130 (120mm fan + 80mm fan, USB3.0 x2, USB2.0 x 1)

Plan: Remove the optical drive and the WD Blue in order to fit 3 x WD Red 2TB 3.5" HDDs. Add a RAID controller to run the three WD Reds.

Concerns:
1. From what I've read, the hardware RAID setup is the way to go. I don't need an expensive 16x RAID controller. Will a less expensive PCIe 8x work fine in the 16x slot? Any suggestions?
2. I've run the calculators and I think I'm fine with the CX500 PSU. Am I wrong?
3. Once the gaming PC is up and running, what is the most seamless way to have this server connected so that I can access/manage it on the same monitor(s), keyboard, mouse?
4. How easy will it be to have it on the local (home) network so that files can be accessed via phone, laptop, etc.? Can it be setup so that I can access files from out of town while still remaining secure? How?
You have several options:
FreeNAS & XigmaNAS
Unraid
Windows

Windows would be the easiest to setup. And you can do a software simulated RAID approach without the expensive hardware.

With any Linux kernel approach, (FreeBSD based solutions) you have to be careful with your component selection and make sure the hardware you are choosing supports FreeBSD. FreeNAS and Unraid run off a FreeBSD base. But each page has a compatible hardware listing.

FreeNas and XigmaNAS and Unraid run off FreeBSD. They support plug ins like Plex Server which allow for you to stream movies from you collection to smart TVs without a computer on.

I ran FreeNas for a while.

I have since switched over to Unraid. Unraid is very simple to use and has a bit more flexibility. I can mix and match drives and select 1, or 2 parity drives. So I could have an array of 2GB, 4GB, and 6GB, 3GB. I could then use a 5th drive as my parity drive (As long as it's 6GB), I will get a total of 2+4+6+3 = 15GB of storage. You can dynamically swap in and out drives for a larger drive with Unraid and it will rebuild your storage. This is a flexibility that FreeNAS doesn't allow for. If you put a 2GB drive in a Raid array, then you get 2GB * 4 or 8GB max. It doesn't matter of the rest of the drives are larger. It's wasted space.

The downside of Unraid is, you have to pay a small license fee for it. It's also closed source, but with a large community. And finally the file system for unraid is a little slower than traditional RAID because it doesn't engage in striping. But this typically isn't an issue unless you have a 10GBps network. Even then you can add a NVMe SSD as a caching drive for frequently pulled files.
 
Last edited:

86zx

Upstanding
Nov 1, 2019
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Versioned backups to a different device e.g. external storage would be safer, as if one version of the file e.g. becomes corrupted or is accidentally deleted, you have the older versions.

Perhaps a single, smaller drive for the ITX box, and a nice basic all-in-one NAS like a WD My Cloud for versioned backups. Probably less hassle than occasionally plugging in an external drive for backups and you could arrange for versioned backups in real time/ almost real time.
I agree with this I’d put a back up on a flash drive of sorts or a dvd and keep it in a dark place like a cabinet. It would be safer as there is no moving parts to go bad over time.
 
Feb 20, 2020
4
0
10
0
Versioned backups to a different device e.g. external storage would be safer, as if one version of the file e.g. becomes corrupted or is accidentally deleted, you have the older versions.

Perhaps a single, smaller drive for the ITX box, and a nice basic all-in-one NAS like a WD My Cloud for versioned backups. Probably less hassle than occasionally plugging in an external drive for backups and you could arrange for versioned backups in real time/ almost real time.
Isn't the benefit of a RAID setup that I don't have to backup. If a drive fails in a RAID 5 configuration, I just swap in a new drive and it will rebuild?

You have several options:
FreeNAS & XigmaNAS
Unraid
Windows

Windows would be the easiest to setup. And you can do a software simulated RAID approach without the expensive hardware.

With any Linux kernel approach, (FreeBSD based solutions) you have to be careful with your component selection and make sure the hardware you are choosing supports FreeBSD. FreeNAS and Unraid run off a FreeBSD base. But each page has a compatible hardware listing.

FreeNas and XigmaNAS and Unraid run off FreeBSD. They support plug ins like Plex Server which allow for you to stream movies from you collection to smart TVs without a computer on.

I ran FreeNas for a while.

I have since switched over to Unraid. Unraid is very simple to use and has a bit more flexibility. I can mix and match drives and select 1, or 2 parity drives. So I could have an array of 2GB, 4GB, and 6GB, 3GB. I could then use a 5th drive as my parity drive (As long as it's 6GB), I will get a total of 2+4+6+3 = 15GB of storage. You can dynamically swap in and out drives for a larger drive with Unraid and it will rebuild your storage. This is a flexibility that FreeNAS doesn't allow for. If you put a 2GB drive in a Raid array, then you get 2GB * 4 or 8GB max. It doesn't matter of the rest of the drives are larger. It's wasted space.

The downside of Unraid is, you have to pay a small license fee for it. It's also closed source, but with a large community. And finally the file system for unraid is a little slower than traditional RAID because it doesn't engage in striping. But this typically isn't an issue unless you have a 10GBps network. Even then you can add a NVMe SSD as a caching drive for frequently pulled files.
Thanks! Great info. I'll definitely look at the Unraid option. And I wouldn't have to worry about the hardware.
 

Oussebon

Upstanding
Feb 17, 2020
269
50
290
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Isn't the benefit of a RAID setup that I don't have to backup. If a drive fails in a RAID 5 configuration, I just swap in a new drive and it will rebuild?
Those are 2 separate issues, so No and Yes. :)

RAID isn't a backup or a substitute for backups.

If a drive fails, you of course have the other drive(s) in play.

But if something happens to an individual file (or files) - i.e. corruption, deletion, malware, you'll want older (versioned) copies of that file that haven't been affected. Cloud storage often offers that, but since you want to keep it local you should make your own backup arrangements with versioning and not rely on RAID (alone).

https://www.backupassist.com/blog/raid-or-backup-is-raid-a-good-backup-substitute

If you go with a complex RAID arrangement like RAID 5, you'll still want something else to keep a separate backup of the data, otherwise your data is vulnerable.
 
Feb 20, 2020
4
0
10
0
Those are 2 separate issues, so No and Yes. :)

RAID isn't a backup or a substitute for backups.

If a drive fails, you of course have the other drive(s) in play.

But if something happens to an individual file (or files) - i.e. corruption, deletion, malware, you'll want older (versioned) copies of that file that haven't been affected. Cloud storage often offers that, but since you want to keep it local you should make your own backup arrangements with versioning and not rely on RAID (alone).

https://www.backupassist.com/blog/raid-or-backup-is-raid-a-good-backup-substitute

If you go with a complex RAID arrangement like RAID 5, you'll still want something else to keep a separate backup of the data, otherwise your data is vulnerable.
Thanks. Yes, makes total sense.
 

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