Jul 152013
 
DIY NAS - FreeNASDIY NAS Build – An Affordable Solution Featuring FreeNAS

I have previously written an article on a great DIY NAS build and wanted to see what I could do with a lower budget while still maintaining performance. The initial cost of a Synology DiskStation DS412+ without any disks comes in around $625. In my mind this is not affordable, with a little DIY sweat equity, one could easily match or best the performance of this box. The money saved on hardware can be put toward the purchase of disks for the array and you can actually configure a useable storage pool for less than the cost of the DS412+ alone.  This build is geared toward using FreeNAS to handle OS duties and I can highly recommend it for ease of use and great community. So let’s recap the key features one needs to consider when building their own DIY NAS.

 

 

 

Key features of a DIY NAS – Putting it all Together…
  • Low power consumption - electricity can be costly on a 24/7 appliance and will not get any cheaper. Some preconfigured solutions pull way too many watts and that will show on your monthly bill.
  • Choice of hardware components – you can look for the best deals to give your NAS the power that you need through careful planning for immediate and future storage needs.
  • Choice of OS – there are many different free and paid options out there to manage your NAS and each has their strengths and weaknesses. I recommend the use of FreeNAS for it’s feature set, reliability, ease of use, and great support community.
  • Expandability - being able to easily upgrade your storage when the time calls for it is definitely a plus.
  • Reliability - your data is obviously important and redundancy is key to making sure you can survive a hard drive failure and recover and rebuild.
All of the above features are important, however at the end of the day cost is usually the biggest concern. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and start choosing our basic hardware, while keeping cost in mind for the average user, and options to expand performance.

ECS NM70-I

Motherboard/CPU – ECS NM70-I Mini ITX Celeron 847 Motherboard

The ECS NM70-I is a great board sporting an Intel NM70 Express Chipset and an Intel Celeron 847 1.1Ghz dual core processor. The Celeron 847 is an underclocked Sandy Bridge cpu with Intel HD 2000 graphics that has an unbelievable 17w TDP. The processor is more powerful than an AMD C-60 on the computing side but takes a backseat to graphics performance. The ECS NM70-I has 4 SATA ports, HDMI,  gigabit LAN, 4 USB 2.0 ports (two extra headers onboard), a PCI Express 2.0 X16 slot running at X8, and a single channel DDR3 1333 SO-DIMM memory slot that supports up to 8GB. The onboard Realtek RTL8111E gigabit LAN should work great for the budget we are working with and the PCI Express slot allows you to easily upgrade if desired. The ECS NM70-I easily fulfills the requirements for our affordable DIY NAS build and is a great bang for the buck.

Crucial 8GB SODIMMMemory - Crucial 8GB Single DDR3 1333  SO-DIMM

The board requires the use of SO-DIMM memory and this stick fits the bill. According to FreeNAS hardware recommendations using the ZFS filesystem, as much memory as you can throw at it will increase performance and reliability. For our 4-bay NAS we will max out our motherboard’s RAM potential with an 8 GB module. I choose the Crucial stick for its cheap price and quality reputation. Just slap it in the slot and be done.

 

Chenbro Compact Server Chassis - hotswapCase/Power Supply - Chenbro Compact Server Chassis

The case for our DIY NAS project is the Chenbro Compact Server Chassis.  This is a nice stylish server case that has a built-in 4-port 6Gb/s SATA  SAS backplane for the 4 bay hotswap cage. This is a very nice feature to have at this budget level and makes maintaining your NAS and installing drives a breeze. With an included 250 watt power supply it is ready for our components right out of the box. Chenbro has been in the server enclosure market for quite some time and make quality cases. This one is perfect for our budget DIY NAS.

 

SanDisk Cruzer FitFreeNAS Drive - SanDisk Cruzer Fit 8 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive

FreeNAS requires a minimum of a 2 GB flash drive for installation as the system is a running image (runs directly from drive), 1 GB is partitioned for the operating system and the other 1 GB is reserved for upgrades. I opted to go with a $8 SanDisk Cruzer Fit 8 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive to use for my FreeNAS installation. Here is the official guide for installation.

 

Seagat NAS HDD

Storage

This is where the little NAS box will get expensive. Storage isn’t cheap and reliable drives are even more expensive. I would suggest starting with a RAIDZ1 configuration and using the 4 available hot swap bays. Using RAIDZ1 will mean that if one disk fails you can replace it and “resilver” or rebuild the drive and maintain the array. There is always a certain amount of risk when using any type of raid and if you want more of a safety net check out the other RAIDZ versions here. The use of purpose built NAS hard drives can save you a lot of headache in the future and I recommend either the WD RED line or the Seagate NAS line. Check this article for why you need a purpose built hard drive

COMPONENTSDESCRIPTIONPRICE
CPU/MOTHERBOARDECS Elitegroup Mini ITX DDR3 1333 BGA 1023 Motherboard NM70-I $    67.00
MEMORYCrucial 8GB Single DDR3 1333 MT/s $    62.00
CASE/POWER SUPPLYChenbro SR30169T2-250 250W Compact Server Chassis $  138.00
USB DriveSanDisk Cruzer Fit 8 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive $      9.00
OSFreeNAS $           -
TOTAL $  276.00

Check the link for prices as they can change daily

Conclusion

Well I hope I have shed some light on the hardware needed to get an affordable DIY NAS up and running. By building our own FreeNAS box we have saved over $325 compared to the Synology system at the beginning of the article if we use the same disks.  The hardware chosen will give you a NAS that will serve almost any home users needs. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Update: I am giving away the ECS NM70-I!

Enter to Win A Free ECS NM70-I Celeron 847 Mini ITX Motherboard|CPU Combo!

So what do you think of this build?

Comment!

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 Posted by on July 15, 2013  Add comments
  • neo

    I wish i can build one… thanks for your sharing..

    • http://www.technutz.com/ Gary the TechNut

      Your welcome neo! Check back soon as I will be having a contest to give away the ECS NM70-I (http://amzn.to/120md2B)!

  • staknhalo

    I gotta throw my hat in the ring for the WD Reds as well. Have used them in a couple of builds.

  • IamSparta

    Is it important to have ECC ram for FreeNAS?

    • http://www.technutz.com/ Gary the TechNut

      If you are in a production environment then ECC ram is highly recommended and can help catch single bit errors. Of course, this means an upgrade to costly server hardware to support the ECC ram. You will be fine in a home environment and a good backup plan is always the best option.

      • IamSparta

        Roger that. Thanks!

      • Two Bits

        For those of us who really prefer to have ECC can you do a build with that?

  • Eric

    If you plan on using encryption on your NAS, it would be worth looking at a CPU that supports the AES instruction set. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AES_instruction_set#Supporting_CPUs

  • Nomad

    What kind of speeds did you get with this? Is this build enough to have the 1gb be the bottle neck?

  • masterbassie

    now that the motherboard is no longer available – do you recommend another board to use? thx for the info

  • Yang Ji

    My previous comment is gone somehow, so I am reposting.

    Updated information:
    Price has changed quite a bit since July 2013. As of Jan 2014:
    Motherboard discontinued, replaced with
    ECS Elitegroup NM70-I Celeron 1037 Dual Core Processor mini ITX DDR3 1333 BGA 1023 Motherboard
    at the same price.
    Memory went up to $75.
    Case went up to $165.
    Total cost will be $315 + TAX depending on where you live.

    Questions:
    1. So FreeNAS create raid with 1 SATA 6 gbps + 3 SATA 3 gbps ports?
    2. If I want to build a NAS/HTPC combination, how does this solution compare to HP Microserver Gen7 or Gen8? HP Microservers need a low profile graphic card (It can be usually picked up for $10 to $15.) to get HDMI output, first of all, but it might have a better RAID configuration.

  • Yang Ji

    I picked up an HP Microserver N54L from Newegg for $249 after MIR, and a Powercolor HD5450 low profile graphic card for $9.99 after MIR. I installed Windows Server 2012 R2, and setup Storage Spaces. It is more like a software RAID I guess. I have 2x3TB and 1x2TB Seagate drives and they are now divided into 3 volumes: 1 parity, 1 mirror, 1 simple. I use it as a home file sharing, media library and HTPC combination. So far, it works fine. Performance of Storage Spaces is very good. Thermal performance side, N54L is ok level. CPU maxed at 55c, GPU maxed at 65c, room is about 22c. Noise level is ok so far. I have it right next to my TV, and I can’t hear it when watch movies. In fact, I can’t heart it as long as my central heater is blowing.
    BTW, I use Plex Media Server, and Plex Home Theatre. I am planning to get a wireless keyboard+trackpad so I don’t have to go to my TV stand to operate anything.