Now we get to the core of the NAS system; the hard drives. A lot of people won’t buy used hard drives, and I agree somewhat in that buying a high quality used enterprise grade drive from a server farm is a very bad idea, they have been basically running flat out for 2 or so years, so don’t buy them. What you’re after for this budget system is an older size than the current most popular size, and brand new left over stock from a larger supplier like NewEgg, or a special clearance from the same. So if the current most popular size is 4TB to 6TB, that means you will get better value buying 2TB or 3TB drives.
As for hard drive model, Seagate Barracuda are fantastic, or if you can score them WD Red NAS drives are good too. Others just as good are HGST, Fujitsu, Hitachi and it seems Toshiba have redeemed themselves lately too.
- SATA-II or SATA-III interface (be sure to match RAID card’s capabilities)
- Same brand, model and capacity (important!)
- 7200RPM preferred
- 3.5″ form factor (you can use laptop 2.5″ drives but $$ goes up)
- Older capacity, new/old stock
- Budget $280-300
- Predefined eBay search from SATA Hard Drives
- Other sites for new/old stock are Amazon, NewEgg, TigerDirect, MicroCenter, NCIX
I got a good deal for 4x Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB Terabyte 7200rpm drives for $71.50 each at NewEgg for a total of $286 plus postage which means 8 Terabyte in total, but I will be using a redundant RAID-5 configuration so I lose 1/4 or 2TB for parity making it 6TB in total.
SSD Hard Drive for NAS Operating System
You will also need an SSD hard drive with around 8GB or more of space for the NAS operating system. You can pick these up cheap nowadays for around $20-$40 dollars. Running the NAS OS on an SSD greatly improves speed, performance and stability and is highly advised. What I do not recommend is running your NAS OS on a USB thumb drive, they are simply not stable enough and frequently fail. If you have encrypted your volumes and the thumb drive fails, you could lose the lot which happened to me once, never again!
RAID Controller Card
Although OpenMediaVault and many other NAS operating systems support Linux software RAID or RAID-Z, you can never get the same performance and stability as you do with a dedicated hardware RAID controller card. There are many, many choices because large businesses upgrade their gear regularly and sell off the old hardware cheaply, but a few good models suitable for this project are…
- Dell PERC H310 or PERC H200
- LSI MegaRAID 9211-8i, MegaRAID 9240-8i
- Minimum 4 SAS/SATA 6Gb/s ports (preferably 8 ports)
- Supports RAID-5 or RAID-6
- PCI-Express x4 or x8 (don’t get confused between PCI-X and PCI-E)
- Quality brand LSI MegaRAID, Adaptec (or OEM’s: Dell PERC, IBM ServeRAID, HP SmartArray, Intel)
- You’ll also need Mini-SAS to SATA cable(s) (model SFF-8087 for above cards) but check manufacturers website for compatible leads
- Budget $40-80
- Predefined eBay search for RAID cards
I managed to get a Dell PERC H310 8 ports 6Gb\s SAS SATA RAID card on eBay for only $30 dollars so expect to pay between $30 and $80 for a used RAID card.
NAS Operating System
There are a number of good choices for a NAS operating system and it really depends on your own needs and taste, but I have chosen OpenMediaVault because it’s based on Debian Linux which in my experience is the most stable Linux distro, it is easy to setup and use with elegant minimalist design, and is actively maintained. I will be transferring files via FTP so my needs are pretty basic, but OpenMediaVault supports SMB/CIFS, NFS, Rsync, SNMP, SSH and TFTP along with secure TLS/FTP. The web administration can be setup as secure SSL (https://) which is another important aspect for me.
Other excellent NAS operating systems are…
- EasyNAS (OpenSUSE)
- FreeNAS (FreeBSD)
- NAS4Free (FreeBSD)
- NASLite (Linux x86)
- NexentaStor (OpenSolaris)
- OpenFiler (Linux x86/x64)
- OpenMediaVault (Debian)
- Rockstor (Linux)
- TurnKey File Server (Linux)
- Always choose a x64 64bit version of the OS
- Choose an .ISO file and choose BitTorrent over direct download if available
- Burn onto CD/DVD with a good ISO burner (Free ISO Burner, ISO Recorder, imgburn)
- Generate strong passwords and have them written down or in text file
Once you have decided on a NAS OS distribution, download and burn the ISO to a CD/DVD. Also read the installation documentation page to get an idea of what to expect when installing your NAS OS.