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I've had this up and running for about 3 months now. Very reliable and problem free, after initial configuration that is.

The case:
Fractal Design Array R2 Black Mini ITX Storage Computer Case. This is a very plain mini-ITX case that supports 6x3.5" drives and 1x2.5" drive. The drive management could be much better but it is a very small case for the functionality. It's also made of lightweight aluminum.

Similar case options include:
Lian Li PC-Q08 ITX Cube Case
Lian Li PC-V354 Aluminum Mini Computer Case
Note: These cases have much better drive management. They are also cheaper but lack power supplies.

The motherboard:
Supermicro MBD-X7SPA-HF-O Intel Atom D510 Motherboard. To put it plainly, this is the perfect mini-ITX server motherboard. It has 6 internal SATA II ports and supports a USB flash drive directly on the motherboard. (More on that later.) A 2GB Kingston ValueRAM SODIMM was installed.

The drives:
6xWestern Digital WD20EARS Caviar Green 2TB SATA2. I highly recommend fully configuring the drive bays using the Fractal case. Other cases have better drive access so it may not be necessary.

The operating system:
CentOS 5.5 (now updated to 5.6.) OK, its Linux. I know you probably hate Linux. But Redhat RHEL 5 is the best server OS out there, bar none and CentOS is the free version of RHEL 5. Yes, it takes some Linux knowledge to configure and maintain. Sorry about that. I looked at other solutions. They all had problems. Even some other popular Linux distros have problems. CentOS/RHEL 5 just works perfectly out of the box and is rock solid.

The boot drive:
Patriot Xporter XT Rage Quad Channel 25MB/S 8GB USB2.0 Flash Memory Drive. Reasonable price, fast enough for this application and it plugs directly into the motherboard. Another nice thing about CentOS/RHEL 5 is that it can boot and install from a USB drive (flash or ROM disc) and install directly to a flash drive. It boots from the flash drive and emulates a standard hard drive. You won't find many Linux distros that do all that and Windows certainly won't. An SSD drive would be better but then you either need to forfeit a hard drive or figure out how to add an extra SATA II port.

Configuration:
Partitioning and drive alignment was performed using fdisk. A 6 drive software RAID 5 array was configured using mdadm. An EXT3 file system was then created using mkfs. VNC also needs to be configured if remote management using the GUI is desired. That takes some studying of the appropriate man pages. (You didn't think I was going to make it too easy did you. ;)) SSH or PuTTy can also be used for command line system maintenance.

Total cost was about $430 for the base system and $480 for the drives for a grand total of $930. That can be reduced, especially with today's drive prices. There is a slightly cheaper version of the motherboard (MBD-X7SPA-H-O) and a slightly cheaper case could be used. If being tiny is not a requirement, a cheaper mATX motherboard and case could be used.
 

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I'm a big fan of ZFS for this setup myself. I run OpenSolaris for this at home and have for many years. I believe it's also available under BSD for those who find Solaris a little too unixy. :)
I've transitioned through many failed disks without losing data over the years.
 

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I'm running Linux Mint on a old Thinkpad and it runs flawlessly...

I would be interested in converting one of my unused desktop to a file server, even if I would have to purchase a new motherboard. However my Linux knowledge is limited.

Do you know of any good step by step instructions on setting up a file server using CentOS?

Thanks,

Stef...
 

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what kind of temps are you seeing on the hard drives in that little case?


I purposely went with a monster antec p180 case for my fileserver, just for the cooling, and noise reduction properties of it
 

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Discussion Starter #6
How many MB/sec is the transfer rate?
Copying a 1TB video file from NAS to SSD drive on local PC: >60MB/s
Copying a 1TB video file to NAS to from SSD drive on local PC: >80MB/s
It's possible the speeds were limited by the local PC since the PC has one NIC and the NAS has two.

what kind of temps are you seeing on the hard drives in that little case?
As idle, I'm seeing 38c to 44c. The lifetime max is between 42c and 49c. Ambient room temperature is typically between 18c and 24c. The measured drive values are within normal operating values for these drives. Sitting in a shelf cubbyhole, the case is not in the best location for ventilation so you may see slightly better. OTOH, it's typically not heavily loaded so extremely heavy loads might make the values higher. I also would not use drives that consume more power than the WD Green series. Many other makes and models of drives would probably run too hot.

This case is extremely quiet. OTOH, case ventilation could be better. The choice was a tradeoff between form factor, features and availability. I wanted something that was very small and quiet. Case choices have significantly improved recently for SOHO servers so I might now make a different choice. Since the unit was being built from scratch, I had complete control over component specs. If I were using different components (such as recycled drives) the choice of case would be different.

Do you know of any good step by step instructions on setting up a file server using CentOS?
Unfortunately, I do not. Unless you are very familiar with Linux, it takes a fair amount of time and research. There are posts and articles that provide pieces of the puzzle. For much of it, I used the Linux man pages. The most difficult part to figure out was sector alignment for 4K drives. It does not appear to be handled correctly on many distros. It looks to be almost impossible for FreeNAS, which was originally one of my top choices. OpenFiler was also ruled out due to limits on the free version and its proprietary nature. I tried several major distros, both on this and a previous build. While they are all usable, stable and fairly bug free (most of the bugs were with installation), they all had shortcomings. CentOS is the only distro that provides all the features and very high stability desired.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Addendum

Configuration:
Configure Samba for network access from Windows systems.
 

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Can you copy a 40~50gb file from PC to server. All my ubuntu builds failed when trying to do this (I copy my bluRay rips)

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've copied a 40GB file with no problem.
 

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Interesting that you've had good luck with the WD Green drives for this. After some latency issues I switched to running Blacks for the most active file systems (active recordings, databases, temporary or non-keeper stuff) and Greens for the more static ones (keeper movies, etc.). The total cost of the machine and the heat/power supply load sure went up though so the $1,000 limit would probably be blown. :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
If I were to build this for a high load application, the specs would be quite different. The main goals were small size, future proofing (high capacity) and low power consumption. It's highly unlikely that more than two PCs would access it at the same time so high disk performance and multitasking are not big concerns. The other goals were good networking speed, stability, reliability and low maintenance. The Atom based motherboard solution with no add-on cards and dual NICs make that possible.

Another consideration was remote administration. The motherboard's IPMI interface along with SSH and VNC allow that.
 

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The main goals were small size, future proofing (high capacity) and low power consumption.
I wanted something similar last year. I ended up buying the DLink DNS-323 ($150), actually two of them, and recently upgraded both with 2x2TB HDDs for 8TB internal storage and each also has a 1TB USB HDD attached, so 10TB. Small, quiet, low power. There any many great NAS solutions about there these days. What I like about these units is that they run Linux, and with a couple of scripts you can have full control and/or run a different version.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I also wanted Linux RAID5 using MDADM. It's saved my @$$, I mean data on more than one occasion.
 

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I've been collecting disks for a while and now have 8x Seagate 1.5TB that sit in a pair of San Digital TR4M 4 bay enclosers and run of a small Raid esate port multipler card.

I also started with 4 and then added 2 more WD20EARS that span across 3x 2 bay Vantec Nexstar MX raid enclosure and run from a 4 port esata card.

So each grouping is 12 TB raw.

At the moment, the WD are in an old WHS V1 running with DE.

The 2 4 bays of Seagates are in a SBS2K11 server and each drive is shared and mapped.

The WHS data is backed over the Gig-E lan tot he SBS box using Second Copy.

I'm wanting to consolidate the servers and as I don't need the domain exchange server since I moved mail over to Google apps.
I'll likely take WHS 2011 out for a spin on this, or is some variant of SBS preferred?
I have Technet, so can do whatever.

I can use either hardware or software raid.

I'm thinking of just burning a drive in each for raid 5 and have 10 TB and 10.5 TB, so I can have 1 drive fail in each and the 2 storage arrays are backed against the other.

I recently reduced the amount of data stored, but was bumping the 9 TB shortly after moving from 8 to 12 TB of disk.

I need the solution to be easily shared to both MS clients and MCE as well as some streamers like a Patriot box.

I'd prefer to deal with a single large volume rather than a bunch of isolated drives as that's inefficient when dealing with audio, video and picture data that varies in size and easily spans a single disk.

Does anyone see a better way?
 
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