Wow! What a response. I really appreciate all of the feedback.
@Wetware Not sure how many files total, but they are all 2TB HDD's. My collection is actually pretty well-organized and is very easy to navigate when browsing for files without a fancy media interface. If I want to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, I'd browse my "TV G to R" HDD. If I want to watch The Big Lebowski, I'd browse my "Film A to K" HDD. In both cases, that's only 3 or 4 taps of a remote control button and would only take 20-seconds to navigate to. Unfortunately, adding a new drive to this setup while maintaining an organizational pattern is difficult.
From the sounds of it, Plex looks like the first piece software I'll be looking at exploring. Thank you all for the solutions. I do have some concerns that haven't been addressed in what I've read about it.
Does Plex transcode all files when they are accessed from a networked media device? eg. My Western Digital TV can play a 720p MKV file attached to WDTV by USB without trouble. If I access that same file located on my home server through Plex on my WDTV, will it automatically be transcoded?
In the past, I've been disappointed by transcoded media experiences, but that was TVersity and a lot of years ago.
My documentary collection and *.VOB files were historically a headache when using any kind of media cataloguing software. In general my collection is properly tagged, but I'm sure there are thousands of files that will pose a problem to any kind of cataloguing. I really need some advice on tagging and folder name conventions, but that's for a different thread...
@ExDilbert Excellent suggestions, much appreciated. I'd love to use big internal drives, but financially, it's a distant priority behind other stuff in life right now. I'd need 30TB worth of drives just to get to get me started.
Ideally, I would use internal PCI-E to USB cards for all of my drives, but based on my need for 15 open USB slots right now, and more in the future, I'm not having a lot of luck finding suitable cards. The ones I've found so far are 2 or 3 external ports only. I recall once having an 8-port PCI-E hub, but that was for USB 2.0.
@dgm That's the first I've heard of "Everything", I'll have to check it out.
@Danno10000 A Mac Mini would probably be what I'd want most, but I'm concerned that I'll break the bank having to buy Mac compliant hubs (which appear to have only 2 or 4 slots). That said, the hubs I'm currently using seem to work fine with my Macbook Pro. Have you experienced any problems with digital media devices like WDTV reading media stored on USB attached drives connected to your Mac Mini?