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Thread: NAS - self build or buy premade?

  1. #33
    Senior Member AGTDenton's Avatar
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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    Set and forget is kind of what I'd default to atm as lots of other things need my time. I need ability to stream music files, to alexa and enabled hifis, store house admin and photos so any other permitted user (mrs ik9000) can log in and access stuff without having to displace me from my machine, and bascially act as a big file store that maintains itself. I'm not too fussed about VPN access, though would prefer to have the option if possible. What I don't want though is an experience like people have mentioned with constantly jittery systems that are forever RMA cases etc, or worse data loss as a result.
    Our QNAP was a 2015 model - it's possible that things have improved, but the fact the original thread I posted in over at QNAP is now some 40 pages long and still active leads me to think otherwise.
    However, one thing is certain, we paid something in the region of £550 for a 6bay unit, now they're looking for £800+ with less hardware features...

    The problem with QNAP and other pre-made devices is that you really need a secondary backup option in case that device fails. In a worst case scenario you have to RMA it, your data is unavailable during that time, and also any RAID array will be broken destroying all your data.
    You can't read the disks individually because they use a propriatary disk format.

    So you need some sort of secondary device to store your data, and that just leads me back to thinking, well I may as well just build a custom machine where I have control over the individual parts and I'm more likely to be able to diagnose & repair that individual part vs a pre made where the whole unit has to be dealt with.
    It's definitely a bit of a conundrum. Looking at the QNAP site again makes me want to get one, but with the increased pricing and bad experience it just won't be happening.

    Something to ponder on the Windows side is Windows Server Essentials. This would be the closest set & forget with a Windows OS. Just its a bit expensive at around £250 mark.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    yeah i was reading an article last night that said it makes a big difference to writes, but not so much to reads, and you get better performance using SSDs instead of HDD, but then bulk storage is much more expensive.
    There is a middle ground. RAID HDD + SATA SSD cache. I struggle to see the additional performance of NVME making much difference to one or two users on a home network.

    Trying to find a good NAS option is a pain. The prebuilt ones get mixed reviews (QNAP, Synology etc) but trying to find parts for a self-build is not easy either.
    NAS reviews often irritate me as the reviewers make sweeping statements based on using the device for a few hours and comparing benchmarks of dubious value.

    You can't tell a good NAS from a mediocre or poor NAS in a few hours. To differentiate the devices you need real-world problems to solve and to live with the devices for a while. When Windows Small Business Server 2003 went out of support I started migrating customers to NAS devices. QNAP tend to win out in hardware reviews but after living with both I prefer to live with Synology.

    We recently put an Open Media Vault self build NAS into production for imaging disks in the workshop. I couldn't really justify the cash for a 6+ bay Synology just for SMB/CIFS file sharing. The hardware for the OMV box cost peanuts. A used ITX mobo combo with Gen 3 Core i3 and 4GB RAM. And a used SAS card, as the cheapy 6 port SATA adapter I initially fitted is incapable of supporting more than 4 drives. My time to get it working dependably though...

    Based on the experience I would say:
    If you want an asset, buy a NAS.
    If you want a hobby, build a NAS.

    It surprises me how low spec the CPUs are in the prebuilt. They all seem to be atom / similar. Are they really good enough?
    I started on Netware and remember being shocked by the minimum hardware requirement for Windows NT 3.1 Advanced Server. Once you go headless you start to realise how much you are paying in runtime and electricity for that natty Windows GUI.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by AGTDenton View Post
    You can't read the disks individually because they use a propriatary disk format.
    this is what puts me off them and similar brands

    Quote Originally Posted by AGTDenton View Post
    well I may as well just build a custom machine where I have control over the individual parts and I'm more likely to be able to diagnose & repair that individual part vs a pre made where the whole unit has to be dealt with.
    my thoughts exactly


    Quote Originally Posted by AGTDenton View Post
    Something to ponder on the Windows side is Windows Server Essentials. This would be the closest set & forget with a Windows OS. Just its a bit expensive at around £250 mark.
    Thanks I will take a look. I was thinking about FreeNAS (apparently now rebranded to TrueNAS core but sounding suspiciously like "premium" features won't get added going forwards) but if paid stuff is worth it then taking a whole-life view £250 might be justifiable - though I'd rather not if possible. To avoid the borked MS updates if nothing else

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    It surprises me how low spec the CPUs are in the prebuilt. They all seem to be atom / similar. Are they really good enough?
    There as an old rule of thumb in the early days of Ethernet that you needed 1Hz of CPU for every bps of network speed. That mapped from 10MHz CPU with 10Mbps networking at the time, but seems to have roughly stayed with us. So with 1GbE as still the standard, a 1GHz ARM or Atom core can usually keep up with one direction of transfer (some 1GHz chips are better than others). So a low end 1.5GHz quad core is quite workable.

    I did some tests once with my AMD E350 18W APU with dual Bobcat cores, and one core at 1.6GHz could just about saturate both transmit and receive on the low end Realtek network chip the machine used (cheap chip about than 1.8Gbps total) as long as I used tcp test programs to generate simple test data. Actually serving real data, I needed the other core.

    The jump to 10GbE, and you need something way more beefy and/or some hardware acceleration. Once you hit 100GbE, you probably want an FPGA driving it not a CPU. Just like they use in big network switches.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by DanceswithUnix View Post
    There as an old rule of thumb in the early days of Ethernet that you needed 1Hz of CPU for every bps of network speed. That mapped from 10MHz CPU with 10Mbps networking at the time, but seems to have roughly stayed with us. So with 1GbE as still the standard, a 1GHz ARM or Atom core can usually keep up with one direction of transfer (some 1GHz chips are better than others). So a low end 1.5GHz quad core is quite workable.

    I did some tests once with my AMD E350 18W APU with dual Bobcat cores, and one core at 1.6GHz could just about saturate both transmit and receive on the low end Realtek network chip the machine used (cheap chip about than 1.8Gbps total) as long as I used tcp test programs to generate simple test data. Actually serving real data, I needed the other core.

    The jump to 10GbE, and you need something way more beefy and/or some hardware acceleration. Once you hit 100GbE, you probably want an FPGA driving it not a CPU. Just like they use in big network switches.
    I have a 10GbE / 1GBE home network (every socket has one of each - it was cheaper to buy the cat6a than the cat6 for the 2nd reel, and the connectors weren't too much extra!) but the current switches are all 1GbE with 2GbE aggregation between the two switches. I'm planning to get a small unmanaged 10GbE switch to link my main PC, the NAS and the upstairs switch. My main mobo only does 2.5GbE anyway so I guess for now the NAS just needs to do the same. I can't see us upgrading the switches until such time as we get much better internet given we can't even hit 1Gb/s on our connection for the present and immediate future.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    I have a 10GbE / 1GBE home network (every socket has one of each - it was cheaper to buy the cat6a than the cat6 for the 2nd reel, and the connectors weren't too much extra!) but the current switches are all 1GbE with 2GbE aggregation between the two switches. I'm planning to get a small unmanaged 10GbE switch to link my main PC, the NAS and the upstairs switch. My main mobo only does 2.5GbE anyway so I guess for now the NAS just needs to do the same. I can't see us upgrading the switches until such time as we get much better internet given we can't even hit 1Gb/s on our connection for the present and immediate future.
    The other way to look at it, if you are serving spinning rust then you spend most of your time waiting for the heads to move.

    OTOH, I run my storage on a Linux box using a Ryzen 3600, but that means I can have VMs for things like Jira running on it without it breaking a sweat. So file serving is very much secondary at that point, and it is a compute server.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by AGTDenton View Post
    Our QNAP was a 2015 model - it's possible that things have improved, but the fact the original thread I posted in over at QNAP is now some 40 pages long and still active leads me to think otherwise.
    I think you may have been unlucky with your earlier QNAP. I can't really comment on QNAP as we only ever bought 2 of them and had no issues with hardware. I've got a TS419 running that has hardly been powered down since we bought it. Other than that, a couple dozen Synology boxes and exactly one chassis failure 5 years after we installed it.

    The problem with QNAP and other pre-made devices is that you really need a secondary backup option in case that device fails. In a worst case scenario you have to RMA it, your data is unavailable during that time, and also any RAID array will be broken destroying all your data.
    You can't read the disks individually because they use a propriatary disk format.
    The majority of pre-built NAS use a Linux kernel built with dmraid. If the device fails the disks can (often) be connected to another vanilla Linux box, the virtual volumes mounted as degraded with mdadm and copy off the data. We recovered a couple TBs from a failed Buffalo NAS just last month. Never tried to recover a hydrid RAID but I suspect it's gonna be LVM on top of dmraid.

    As others have said, if you are using RAID for redundancy, in a pre-build or self-build you still need a separate backup.

    Something to ponder on the Windows side is Windows Server Essentials. This would be the closest set & forget with a Windows OS. Just its a bit expensive at around £250 mark.
    You only need Windows Server when there are 10 or more concurrent *authenticated* users. For home networks Windows Pro works just as well for most purposes.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    ..... It surprises me how low spec the CPUs are in the prebuilt. They all seem to be atom / similar. Are they really good enough?
    They won't be Atom unless you're either looking at a slightly older generation, or lookng at the very base models of current generation.

    For instance, Synology go xxxj, to xxxPlay, to xxxPlus. That applies even to domestic-aimed 2-bay models, but get to 4 or above and even more so. Like the DS-920+ (4-bay) that's on my shortlist. Sure, price goes up too, but so does CPU, and much of the supporting hardware. In that case, a Quad Core Celeron @2.2GHz, bursting to 2.7GHz. Also, embedded graphics acceleration. It may not be up for state-of-art gaming but does bring quite a wallop to Plex transcoding (if you have a Plex Pass).

    That particulr device comes with 4GB DDR4, officially only expandable to 8GB (about £80 for Synology official sticks, but more like £33 if you take a chance on Crucial, etc). And it comes with a couple of NVMe M.2 slots for SSD caching.

    But note - caching. Not storage.

    QNAp's equivalent, when released, had similar M.2 slots for SSD caching but a firmware upgrade made them available as cache or direct SSD storage. But not both.

    The QNAP has two 2.5GBe ports, while the Synology has two 1GBe ports. Both can be link-aggregated. Both have the same Quad-core Celeron, and the same 8GB RAM limit, if you go by official limits. As I understand it, that 8GB is a hard Celeron limit in what the CPU will directly used BUT larger memory can (at your risk) be used for VMs, containers, etc.

    It seems to me that on the main pre-built NAS units, if you want a hardware emphasis, go QNAP. There are more options available and very similar spec, but with better network speeds. Synology are generally regarded as spending more of their budget on getting software right, in more options, better polished, and a higher proportion of 1st-party software as opposed to 3rd-party. Asustor are somewhere in-between.

    What I'm finding in picking a route is the need to think carefully about what you want to do with a NAS, and how much you want to spend future-proofing. It's not just about the cost ad spec of the NAS, but about cost and size, and therefore cost/TB of the drives, and how easy and quick it might be to expand.

    Which means considering what you want now, but also what you might want in two, three, five years time. How much will your data needs have grown? Can you just add another drive and expand the pool? Can you add another and bigger drive, and how you you scale up? If you get four bays now, do you get 4x4GB and have no pare slots, or 1 x 16GB, and no redundancy. Eirher way, don't forget to back up the NAS. If you have spare slots, you could buy, say, 3x 8TB drives, use two in RAID and the third as a separate volume for backup, taking it out when not backing up, giving you 8TB storage, one drive of redundancy, and 8TB of backup. Then, a year or two dwn the line, buy a 12TB drive to use as backup, and repurpose the third 8TB drive to the array, now giving 2x8TB of storage and 1x8TB of redundancy, plus the 12TB for backup. Ad you still have a spare slot to use, in a 4-bay NAS.

    And if you go up to a 6-bay NAS, which will cost you up-front (about £300 more than the 4-bay, for Synology) then you're options for adding drives and capacity (or extra redundancy) go up a LOT.

    An awful lot of this comes down to :-

    - what do you want to do wirth it (file server, media server, a host of other things too)?
    - small or large number of users (small, in my case)?
    - how much storage do you need now?
    - how organically do you want to grow it?
    - how much do you want to spend, on the unit plus drives?
    - how much can you spend right now to reduce what you have to spend in a year or three?

    It gets to be a complex matrix of options.
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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen999 View Post
    They won't be Atom unless you're either looking at a slightly older generation, or lookng at the very base models of current generation.
    DS920+ uses a J4125 SoC, which has 4 cores of:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldmont_Plus

    So can be labelled Atom, Celeron or Pentium depending on the whim of Intel's marketing types.

    These modern Atoms are passable out of order cores so not the train wreak that early Atoms were, but they aren't full fat Intel cores. I for one am guilty of passing off any non mainline Intel CPU as "Atom" because the labelling is just so damned confusing that I can't bother investing effort in "that's not an atom it's a Pentium Silver" when all I really care about is whether it is one of the small cores or a big full fat one; I suspect others around here will be the same.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    NAS - why?

    central file store for the home, especially photos
    music streaming
    probably video streaming in the fullness of time but not immediate essential
    extra storage for our Humax box
    central place to back-up from

    backup from cloud to NAS for office stuff
    vpn access for office stuff
    backup from NAS to HDD for office stuff

    I'd like a way to have VPN access to some parts (office) but not private home stuff.
    I don't mind if they share physical NAS discs so long as the data is encrypted and readily backed-up to different external drives.

    Having been watching threads of VM stuff I might dabble in that, but not an immediate must-have feature if it breaks the bank.

    I'm looking at either this https://www.asustor.com/en-gb/product?p_id=69 or this https://www.synology.com/en-uk/products/DS1621+ with the synology looking the better of the two given previous comments re the brand reliability.

    I don't really want to spend that much, but the synology has ECC Ram and memory which can be expanded to a decent level. The 4-bay ones seem more limited but maybe I'm being naive. I don't really know exactly what I need.

    It has NVMe slots for caching but from what I've read nvme not really worth it and msata probably more cost effective when paired with HDD.

    For the disc array Is it feasible to pair big HDD and smaller SSD or is there no point in doing that?

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Me too, DwU, me too. It's not what they call it that matters, but what it does.

    It's worth bearing in mind, though, that especially for a consumer-type NAS (as opposed to a rack-mounted datacentre type) that both heat and noise can be issues, and that too much CPU power also implies more heat, more cooling and therefore probably more noise. Or bigger cases, or both.

    At least a part of the point of pre-built NAS is that the whole thing is designed to work as a unit, not as a bunch of miscellaneous bits bunged in a spare PC chassis. Whatever the CPU, does it have enough grunt? Which will depend on the intended use(s), number of users, etc. And of course, if a NAS aimed at domestic, SOHO and maybe SMB doesn't, then maybe what's needed (at a price) is a more grown-up and possibly (though not necessarily) rack-mounted Athlon, or a Xeon behemoth.
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen999 View Post
    And of course, if a NAS aimed at domestic, SOHO and maybe SMB doesn't, then maybe what's needed (at a price) is a more grown-up and possibly (though not necessarily) rack-mounted Athlon, or a Xeon behemoth.
    My home server is in an old Antec Fusion home theatre PC case, designed to look nice in a living room and be quiet. Latest incarnation is a Ryzen 3600 which sips power at idle, but has the grunt to run stuff like Jira and Joomla if I want to play with those (which happens). The hardware downside of that is my hard drives are not hot swap, but changing them has been mercifully rare (couple of times because they got scary old and wanted more space, plus one actual drive failure).

    But the software downside, well those consumer NAS boxes are just so easy to drive.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Quote Originally Posted by matts-uk View Post
    I think you may have been unlucky with your earlier QNAP. I can't really comment on QNAP as we only ever bought 2 of them and had no issues with hardware. I've got a TS419 running that has hardly been powered down since we bought it. Other than that, a couple dozen Synology boxes and exactly one chassis failure 5 years after we installed it.
    Agreed. All experiences good or bad have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Our experience is probably low when you look at a total % and obviously the company wouldn't exist if our problem was a high number.
    However, the experience highlighted the risks involved with just owning 1 pre-built NAS device of this nature regardless of brand. And when a failure costs you time & money you have to consider alternate solutions & procedures for failure.

    You can see how complicated the issue we had below, people are finding ways to correct it at board level. The community is definitely strong at QNAP which is a big plus point. I'm happy to find ways around a problem but this just didn't have any that were practical and were costing far too much time & money.
    https://forum.qnap.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=134212
    Quote Originally Posted by matts-uk View Post
    The majority of pre-built NAS use a Linux kernel built with dmraid. If the device fails the disks can (often) be connected to another vanilla Linux box, the virtual volumes mounted as degraded with mdadm and copy off the data. We recovered a couple TBs from a failed Buffalo NAS just last month. Never tried to recover a hydrid RAID but I suspect it's gonna be LVM on top of dmraid.
    This highlights my lack of Linux knowledge and wish I knew more. Given the time I would have hopefully come across such a resolution but when you're under pressure for getting people up & running again wasting time on trying to fix something is too costly.
    Having learned from this experience our backup device now allows a non technical member of staff to be able to move a disk from one computer to another and they'd have data access in no time.

    Quote Originally Posted by matts-uk View Post
    You only need Windows Server when there are 10 or more concurrent *authenticated* users. For home networks Windows Pro works just as well for most purposes.
    A couple of reasons to recommend Windows Server Essentials over Pro, my reasoning is not user access based
    • A vanilla install has less features and services pre-installed, thus will use less system resources OOBE
    • Without messing with the registry the Server OS is correctly configured for file access, whereas Pro is not, and because of the way W10 does updates a lot of these Registry alterations can be reversed without you knowing
    • Disabling/Controlling Updates in a Server OS is a feature, not a load of registry hacks. You don't want a NAS rebooting adhoc
    • Windows server is fixed to a kernal version of Windows so you won't receive new OS features i.e. that could break, or kill the OS or Apps that run on it
    Last edited by AGTDenton; 26-02-2021 at 05:24 PM.

  16. #46
    RIP Peterb ik9000's Avatar
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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    @saracen, not sure if this will affect either of us but if this the trajectory I'm not sure I want to buy into synology as a long-term prospect:

    https://www.theregister.com/2021/02/...se_nas_drives/
    Synology to enforce use of validated disks in enterprise NAS boxes. And guess what? Only its own disks exceed 4TB...

    The new policy applies as of the release of three new Synology NAS appliances intended for enterprise use and will be applied to other models over time.
    It doesn't specify which models and how far this will trickle down

    Edit, quite a few Amazon reviews complaining of fan noise (both in terms of fans themselves, and no PWM etc, fans always on), no ability to hibernate HDD, etc. Basic things that I would expect of a £500+ box as standard, and not something I'm willing to pay for.
    Last edited by ik9000; 28-02-2021 at 06:14 PM.

  17. #47
    RIP Peterb ik9000's Avatar
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    • ik9000's system
      • Motherboard:
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      • CPU:
      • i7-870, Prolimatech Megahalems, 2x Akasa Apache 120mm
      • Memory:
      • 4x4GB Corsair Vengeance 2133 11-11-11-27
      • Storage:
      • 2x256GB Samsung 840-Pro, 1TB Seagate 7200.12, 1TB Seagate ES.2
      • Graphics card(s):
      • Gigabyte GTX 460 1GB SuperOverClocked
      • PSU:
      • NZXT Hale 90 750w
      • Case:
      • BitFenix Survivor + Bitfenix spectre LED fans, LG BluRay R/W optical drive
      • Operating System:
      • Windows 7 Professional
      • Monitor(s):
      • Dell U2414h, U2311h 1920x1080
      • Internet:
      • 200Mb/s Fibre and 4G wifi

    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    Another thing i found today is that the Asustor models only do image and music transcoding, according to their user guide and website they do not do movie/video transcoding.

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    Re: NAS - self build or buy premade?

    I'm using a HP Microserver Gen8 personally, bought new for about £120 a few years ago, added some 4TB WD RED, working a treat ever since.

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