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Old 09-29-2012, 04:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

Right now, my network storage consists of only a D-Link DNS-323, and I LOVE this thing. It has two WD20EARS drives installed totaling 4TB of capacity. Where it is lacking is in ability to add more drives, and in the horsepower dept. It is running a single core Marvell 500 Mhz ARM CPU, with 64 meg of RAM. I have about 1 TB of space used up so far between the disks, and it is rapidly shrinking. I recently ripped our CD collection to OGG vorbis, but that is under 15 gigs for right now, until I find the rest of the missing CD's. The killer is that I am looking to at some point rip our DVD library. Essentially trying to build a DIY on-demand system for the house. This is my inspiration but it is WELL out of my price range:
Kaleidescape - Kaleidescape - Servers - 1U Server - Capacity for 225 Blu-ray or 1,350 DVD movies

As for the software, I have been testing out PLEX Media Server, and it works great, but I need a system to run it on, as my desktop and laptop aren't on 24/7 anymore.


I have been looking at possibly a Dell R210, which I have been seeing on Ebay between $600-900. Haven't really looked at any other pre-builts, as this model was recommended because it can be powerful, but is also small, and quite, and doesn't consume much power.

The other possibility would be to build by own server. This would HAVE to be a rackmount server, because I don't want anything else sitting in my office. The Dell 27" monitor makes it hot enough in there. So I would be thinking either a 1U or 2U Super Micro chassis, and honestly, haven't looked at motherboards, CPU's, RAM or any of that yet.


Has anyone here ever built a server? Speak up if you've built a tower server too. That's just not for me, I have a rack, so I want to so with something rackmount, just not something that requires a 4 post rack. Although, I cut my 2 post rack in half, so I suppose if I HAVE to, I can hack something together.

At this point, this is still very much in the research stage, don't even have the funding yet. I'm thinking, err HOPING, maybe 2031Q2 I can start really ramping up and purchasing something.
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethereal_Dragon View Post
Right now, my network storage consists of only a D-Link DNS-323, and I LOVE this thing. It has two WD20EARS drives installed totaling 4TB of capacity. Where it is lacking is in ability to add more drives, and in the horsepower dept. It is running a single core Marvell 500 Mhz ARM CPU, with 64 meg of RAM. I have about 1 TB of space used up so far between the disks, and it is rapidly shrinking. I recently ripped our CD collection to OGG vorbis, but that is under 15 gigs for right now, until I find the rest of the missing CD's. The killer is that I am looking to at some point rip our DVD library. Essentially trying to build a DIY on-demand system for the house. This is my inspiration but it is WELL out of my price range:
Kaleidescape - Kaleidescape - Servers - 1U Server - Capacity for 225 Blu-ray or 1,350 DVD movies

As for the software, I have been testing out PLEX Media Server, and it works great, but I need a system to run it on, as my desktop and laptop aren't on 24/7 anymore.


I have been looking at possibly a Dell R210, which I have been seeing on Ebay between $600-900. Haven't really looked at any other pre-builts, as this model was recommended because it can be powerful, but is also small, and quite, and doesn't consume much power.

The other possibility would be to build by own server. This would HAVE to be a rackmount server, because I don't want anything else sitting in my office. The Dell 27" monitor makes it hot enough in there. So I would be thinking either a 1U or 2U Super Micro chassis, and honestly, haven't looked at motherboards, CPU's, RAM or any of that yet.


Has anyone here ever built a server? Speak up if you've built a tower server too. That's just not for me, I have a rack, so I want to so with something rackmount, just not something that requires a 4 post rack. Although, I cut my 2 post rack in half, so I suppose if I HAVE to, I can hack something together.

At this point, this is still very much in the research stage, don't even have the funding yet. I'm thinking, err HOPING, maybe 2031Q2 I can start really ramping up and purchasing something.

If your leaning on building your own server I highly recommend you do that.
Those flat racks you see being used by dell, maybe its my taste and style but I wouldnt want any going that route for a server.

Building the system will be like building a normal computer, but you will need to configure it hardware and software wise for data storag/os media center pc.
For the os, I would recommend you go for a linux distro, I wont tell you which one to get, because most peoples tastes very differently on here.

If your willing to spend about 800 bucks on a server build its quite doable as I have done this in the past a few times.

If corrisive sees this, he'll help you out further as he specializes in this type of work.

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Old 09-30-2012, 04:23 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

If you are going to build your own server, and keep it a rack, make sure of a FEW things...

1: Stay AWAY from el' cheapo rack cases. (You think you get what you paid for when it comes to consumer grade cases, this is even more true in the server world. A good case won't be less than $150 IMO)
2: Try to stick with 3-5u.
3: Get a known good brand
4: Consider SATA/SAS Hotswap abilities to keep you from having to open the rack just to do some drive upgrades.
5: When you look at the form factors, make sure they follow that form factor.
Example. I was looking at a SuperMicro 4U rack case the other day, it stated that it supported ATX and EATX, BUT, after researching it supported ATX/EATX only for the super micro boards meant for that case, it doesn't follow the actual standard, but the rest of the case was amazing.
6: Consider air flow, some rack cases have a channel system to allow air from some of the fans to flow straight to the CPU area and out the back, keeping the rest of the hot air if possible away from them.
7: Consider seriously going 4 post rack instead of 2... Most servers are just too long and heavy on the back side to handle an older 2 post rack
8: Consider future upgrade options - You can always get a case that supports ~12 disks or more, but have a motherboard that doesn't. Eventually yes, you may fill all the SATA/SAS ports for your motherboard, but you can also update and get an add-on PCIe 8x SAS controller and plug up a few more SATA/SAS drives in the future to finish filling the drive bays. With smaller cases this is difficult and can cost even more in the long run if your media library is expanding at a potentially high rate of several TB a year.
9: Backups - If you are building a media server, and may have a healthy sized library that you wouldn't desire to loose due to the work involved - Consider a GOOD RAID array for your main library, then another seperate RAID array where you can schedule backups to. Yes it gets expensive, but once a library hits a critical point, it's worth it IMO.
You could always build a very cheap low-end server later on as a backup destination or even go the NAS route since it doesn't need to be high performance, just massive capacity in the event your main library goes down you still have a weekly or so backup. Try to stay away from daily backups, they become a PITA to manage.

Now, with that out of the way, you want PLEX to run on this server, so I am going to assume you may also want it to have a healthy amount of storage. There is one beautiful thing I LOVE about PLEX. If you ever did manage to max your server out, you can build nothing but a cheap storage server and connect the two over the network, then tell PLEX that a shared drive from that server is also part of an existing media library that is local. It will think of the second server as just local storage. So you could easily expand if needed in the future.

BTW, stay away from 1-2u cases, they are annoying in the fact that they run warm, need smaller fans that are louder and hardly move any air. This is why I said consider a larger 3-5 case as you can have higher CFM fans typically, which can also run a bit quieter. You also wont have to worry about getting a low profile heatsink and RAM for the system at that point, nor do you have to worry about limited HDD trays that tends to show in 1u and 2u cases.


Also, consider this, a LOT of premade servers sadly require proprietary hard drives now in days. The HDD is normal, it's the fact that the rails are built into the drive with no way of changing the drive between the rails. I tend to enjoy building my own rack servers, they are easier, and can tolerate more, but also tend to be just as, if not more expensive than a real server. But if you are dead set on 1-2u servers, pre-built machines would be your best bet, just do research to make sure you know what that machine is limited to, and if PLEX Server can run efficiently on it. Remember, the more powerful the machine, the more machines PLEX can stream to at one time till you hit a bandwidth issue.


Another thing, if you want life to be simple, some server cases and then SAS controllers can let the backplane talk to the controller about the drive health. Makes it very simple when seeing if a drive has failed as you don't need to remote into the server, just check the LED status, swap it, and if the controller is good enough it will start an online rebuild, though that gets a bit too costly in the end to have for what it's worth in a home IMO.

Also consider what drives you would use. Don't be cheap and get high capacity greens as they LOVE to head park, and don't tolerate RAID well at all due to head parking and sector recovery issues while in RAID. Get something with a long warranty, good speeds, and is meant for 24/7 operation in a hot environment.

Just curious, what would your budget be if you built a server of your own, how many machines and devices would you possibly be streaming to at any given time, how fast do you feel your library will grow in a time frame? I could help you look at some parts and give you a build list that you can look through. The good thing is, you don't need something as powerful as me since it's just for PLEX, I wanted to do far more than just PLEX with my setup. XD

EDIT: I looked at that dell server, I wouldn't waste my time with it honestly, ultra proprietary, and would be expensive to fix/update. While building your own would be a bit more expensive, it would be cheaper in the future when it comes to repairs, and upgrades, especially concerning upgrades.
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Old 10-01-2012, 02:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Cool Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethereal_Dragon View Post
Right now, my network storage consists of only a D-Link DNS-323, and I LOVE this thing. It has two WD20EARS drives installed totaling 4TB of capacity. Where it is lacking is in ability to add more drives, and in the horsepower dept. It is running a single core Marvell 500 Mhz ARM CPU, with 64 meg of RAM. I have about 1 TB of space used up so far between the disks, and it is rapidly shrinking. I recently ripped our CD collection to OGG vorbis, but that is under 15 gigs for right now, until I find the rest of the missing CD's. The killer is that I am looking to at some point rip our DVD library. Essentially trying to build a DIY on-demand system for the house. This is my inspiration but it is WELL out of my price range:
Kaleidescape - Kaleidescape - Servers - 1U Server - Capacity for 225 Blu-ray or 1,350 DVD movies

As for the software, I have been testing out PLEX Media Server, and it works great, but I need a system to run it on, as my desktop and laptop aren't on 24/7 anymore.


I have been looking at possibly a Dell R210, which I have been seeing on Ebay between $600-900. Haven't really looked at any other pre-builts, as this model was recommended because it can be powerful, but is also small, and quite, and doesn't consume much power.

The other possibility would be to build by own server. This would HAVE to be a rackmount server, because I don't want anything else sitting in my office. The Dell 27" monitor makes it hot enough in there. So I would be thinking either a 1U or 2U Super Micro chassis, and honestly, haven't looked at motherboards, CPU's, RAM or any of that yet.


Has anyone here ever built a server? Speak up if you've built a tower server too. That's just not for me, I have a rack, so I want to so with something rackmount, just not something that requires a 4 post rack. Although, I cut my 2 post rack in half, so I suppose if I HAVE to, I can hack something together.

At this point, this is still very much in the research stage, don't even have the funding yet. I'm thinking, err HOPING, maybe 2031Q2 I can start really ramping up and purchasing something.
For a quick basic answer, don't buy a rack mount, they're made for a rack, which I'm assuming you defiantly do not have, I'm a Sysadmin here where I work, and I'm with servers day in day out, don't waste time buying something premade or in a rackmount its pointless, they're made to be put into a rack, and all your trying to do is a file server. Well this is easy, technically you don't even need a server OS to run this, you can put XP or 7 , eathier or, anything really, setup share folders and what you want shared, config raid if you want raid, which preferably I would think you would want to go with a raid 1. As well as a backup of some sort, raid'ing isn't a answer for a backup solution.

I've built servers within Mid ATX and Full ATX cases, cool it well, since its going to be on 24/7 build it right, and away you go, for a file server you can keep it cheap and you will achieve what you want, 2gb ram minimum, a decent cool cpu, your OS and gigabit lan, heck you don't even need a monitor , remote in and set everything up and monitor it that way, for a file server it will work perfect. You could have one built for $300 +/drives. If you want some help pricing things out let me know, I'd be happy to help.

But really if your just doing file storage, thats going to be your best bet, ^ no need to spend 6-900$$$ ^^ like you mentioned, its a waste, spend that money on a custom build with some nice drives in a raid. You'll be very pleased.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

He specifically stated he has a 2 post rack, and would like to avoid a rack server that is 4 post. But he wants a rack mounted server. Please read the OP next time. Also, multimedia is far more than just simple file storage my friend, far far more.

He is wanting it to be a media server, using things such as PLEX, PS3MS, XMBC and the such. He needs far more RAM, a hefty CPU, and tons of drive space with redundancy AND high performance in mind. In the end, 8-16GB of RAM, a quad core CPU, and at least one Raid5 or Raid6 array, which needs to also be mirrored to another RAID array if his library becomes as large as mine have.

He also most likely wont run a server OS, which IMO, is less resource intensive because the software running needs resources. He will probably be on Win7 x64 which is more resource intensive than a copy of server 2k3 R2 or Server 2k8 IMO.
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Old 10-01-2012, 10:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

Yes, I do have a rack, and it would be absolutely essential that this build has a home in the rack. I work 2-3 days a week from home in my office right now, and the extra noise and heat from another system in there wouldn't work. Have it in the rack will also ensure that I can keep hands away from it, and any oops's. I have an almost 1 year old daughter, and while she doesn't go in my office now, I imagine she will be everywhere in another year or two.

This is what my rack last looked like before I tore it down a few months back. Recently sold my house, so it is sitting bare in the garage, with the other 2 half posts as well.




c0rr0sive...
  • 1 - I know about the 'you get what you pay for', but like question 3, I'm really not familiar with brand reputation in this market segment. I have heard of some brands, but not sure where they compare with each other. Would rackmount chassis with ATX PSU's follow the same rule of desktop towers, ditch the stock PSU for a better quality unit, or are they pretty good in those chassis?
  • 2 - I am really thinking that 3U and larger will be what I go with.
  • 3 - Really not sure about brand quality in this segment when it comes to cases.
    These are the top 3 chassis I have been looking at (really haven't had time to look anywhere other than Newegg yet. I am thinking hot swap bays between 8-12, but haven't decieded for sure yet.
    Rosewill RSV-L4411
    NORCO RPC-450TH
    iStarUSA D406-DE8BK
  • 4 - Hot Swap is something I am wanting
  • 5 - Pretty sure I will be going with an ATX board
  • 6 - This fits in with #2, and I agree on these points. I am also going to get some kind of filtering set up on it to keep all the junk in the air out of the cabinet.
  • 7 - If it comes down to it, this won't be an issue, as I HAVE 4 posts, I would just need to rig them all together. It WAS a 2 post 19" rack that I cut in half to fit in a storage space under the basement stairs at my old house.
  • 8 - This is something I was thinking about as well, and was trying to think of what kind of sweet spot I would hit as far as disk capacity. That is a very good point about using the motherboard SATA ports. To be honest, I was thinking I would just use 1 for a drive with the OS, maybe an SSD, not sure, and then get a RAID card. RAID cards are pretty expensive though, so that would cut out alot on the initial investment, and allow future expansion. As mentioned earlier, I'm thinking likely 8-12 bays, but not certain.
  • 9 - For the time after the server is built, I will use my DNS-323 with the WD Green drives for backups, and when budget allows, I will look to upgrade to another rack chassis with low power CPU and little bit of RAM for a back up.

As for RAID, I am really leaning towards RAID 5, I am not sure that RAID 6 will really be needed, but I won't rule it out.


For the OS, I am leaning towards a version of Windows server, just not sure which version. The other hosts on the network are Windows 7 Ultimate, Vista Home, XP Pro, Android, and the DNS-323 is Linux.

As for hard drives, what kinds of specs do I need to look at specifically, RPM, thinking 7200 most likely, but what about Cache? Any specific model lines that are best suited for RAID setups?

With PLEX, I'm thinking that 4 consecutive media streams would likely be max in the next couple of years. My wife and I pretty much always watch things together, unless one of us goes to bed, and my daughter is too young for TV right now, and we aren't sure how many kids we might have in the coming years.

As for budget, I was HOPING to get something setup for under $600, but I am thinking that under $1000 would be more realistic. This would be just for a base server, and no RAID array, that would be a future implementation, as budget allows.

Right now the library size is about 300-400 DVD's, and probably 20-30 Blu Rays, and it really doesn't grow that quickly.
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Old 10-02-2012, 08:23 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

1: If it has a PSU, skip the PSU unless it's a very off-standard size, or a known good brand which is rare to ever happen.

3: I like Supermicro, Norco, Chenbro, never had experience with iStarUSA nor Rosewill cases what so ever. If it has plenty of reviews, and the specs seem good, then go with it. I am rather partial to the NORCO case because of the hot swap, and potential to add in 5.25 devices such as a Blu-RAY drive for direct ripping, and other devices such as additional hot swap bays or a temp read out panel if needed.

The NORCO case you linked doesn't seem to have much room inside, so if you get a mobo, you are restricted on the size, and side based SATA ports would be a PITA to use.

The Rosewill has plenty of room and seems to be good for air flow, but, how sturdy is the metal on it?

The iStarUSA seems to be a bit better about space, but not much better than the NORCO, but it also has rails to hold tall PCI cards steady, though, those wouldn't be of concern IMO unless you move the server often and most don't.


6: Could always get a HEPA system that has washable filters that could clean a room ~2-4x the size of the server closet, additional noise, but it helps keep things rather nice and clean.

8: Just remember one thing, on board SATA isn't always the best, try to get a motherboard with a known good controller with good RAID options. For the sweet spot on disk space for the build. I would look at my library as is, consider in how much I still have to add to it in the next few months, then figure out how fast it could expand. If my library was, lets say, 500GB, I would probably just opt for a 2TB array for the time being if I was expanding at only 100 or so gigs every 2 or 3 months.

----

RAID 5 is suitable for most people, just always have a backup spare on hand! Remember, Raid 5, no matter how many disks are in it, if one fails, you are OK. If two fail, you loose that entire array, Raid6 just allows one additional failure before you have to really worry.


As for the disks, 32MB cache, 7200RPM, and the ability for a single drive to put out around 50MB/s or better which is becoming more common on higher capacity drives these days.
Last I checked, WD Blacks, and RE4's seem to handle raid nicely, but they get very hot as well, so make sure the hot swap bays have good active cooling.

I personally grabbed a bunch of 7200RPM Blacks with 64MB cache, 2TB each for around $170 a pop, 5 year warranty is nice insurance. If one fails in the array, I have a backup I can pop in that is known to be good, and if it happens in that 5 years, just send off to WD and get a replacement back. Practice business sense with the drives, especially if you order multiple drives, try to buy them from different companies, or at very different times to avoid getting from the same lot in the event a lot is bad all together. If one drive in a lot has issues, they all tend to have that same issue.

If you went with 3x 2TB Blacks in R5, or even 3x2TB RE4's, with 32-64MB of cache, that would let you stream 4 clients at once easily, have 4 TB of space which should be plenty for you for now, and you would only have to worry about an RMA for 5 years on the drives, just make sure you have that spare on hand before you get to a failure point, which you some day WILL have a failure of the array unless you retire it early.

This is why I stay away from most all other drives, it's getting to the point that everyone is dropping to 1 year and 3 year standard, 5 is the best I can find now. I kinda miss the old 10 year warranties like some of my 80GB blacks have.

When you tell me library size in the disk amount, it means nothing... Are they all direct rips, are they re-encoded, what is the typical file size for your rips?
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Old 10-02-2012, 03:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

c0rr0sive has provided some excellent advice so I'll chip in with my personal experience only and hope that it is of some use...

I've built a 2u which tops out at just 6 (non-hotswap) drives but that was not for big storage purposes. 2u can be a pain to work in but it can be quite good as well because it's the smallest one that can fit 80mm fans (pretty reasonable, especially if you are not in the same room with them), standard PSUs (with a rear fan, of course) and I think you can fit about 8 swappable 3.5" HDDs which is more than you want in an average, "normal" array i.e. you'd be alright with RAID 6 but I wouldn't want much critical data on an 8 disk RAID 5.
I've also built in a 4u chassis that can be used in rackmount or pedestal orientation it has 8 hot-swappable disks in two arrays but again, doesn't match your usage.
I believe that the 2u is a re-branded norco and the 4u is a chenbro, both are alright for what I needed but the chenbro is bigger, higher-end and better quality (the trade-off, of course, is that it was more expensive).
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Old 10-02-2012, 03:26 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

Chenbro products are EXPENSIVE, but the beauty is, the hot swap can be reconfigured for 5.25 bays and so on, with most Chenbro products that is. They are more of a "universal" and strong brand IMO.
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Old 10-15-2012, 02:20 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Has anyone built a (rackmount) server. Thoughts?

Hey all. I haven't had too much time recently to do any research. Passed my CCNA cert 2 weeks ago, and we have been planning my daughters big first birthday bash coming up next weekend. And also trying to get through the closing of our house.... Can't wait for it to sell but the DANG buyer is dragging their feet, we were supposed to close yesterday, but they weren't able to get in to sign the documents. It will be MUCH better when this is sold and GONE.

Anyways..... As for the server build...


I still have yet to choose a video format for ripping movies, but I am leaning towards .ISO's and using something like Handbrake to transcode it. Plex unfortunately doesn't officially support streaming of ISO's and a few other formats over the network. I have been testing this though, and so far I have ripped 4 DVD's to .ISO. My results have varied so far. The ISO's work just like watching a DVD from a Plex client on the same machine as the Plex server. From my laptop which isn't the server, the Plex Client works fine, and sometimes I get DVD menus which are functional, but sometimes it just jumps right into the movie. My PS3 can see the content, but sometimes I get only the DVD menu which isn't functional, or the intro of the MGM lion then back to the menu. My phone is doing the same thing as well. Still something I need to look into further, but not too worried about it at this point. I won't actually be ripping all the movies until the server is completed.




This is the chassis I am thinking about, and I am really liking it.
NORCO RPC-4220

I keep getting hung up on the CPU & motherboard selection, based mostly on which socket to go with. I am thinking most likely something that is less than 80 watts TDP, single CPU socket, and likely quad core. As for memory, more reading to do there, registered or unbuffered...?

In the beginning, I will just use the motherboard SATA ports, and in the future, I can expand to RAID card(s) using the SFF-8087 Mini SAS connectors to minimize cables in the case. I will probably end up going RAID 6 if I can.
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Gaming Laptop: - ASUS K501LX-EB71 - Stock (Wife's) - Gateway P-6860FX - Stock (Mine)
General Laptop: - Sony Vaio SVE141D1L - Stock (Mine)
Gaming Rig: BACK ONLINE!! ASUS Z87-PRO (V EDITION), Intel Core i5-4590 Haswell (Stock Cooling), HyperX FURY 8GB DDR3 1866,
XFX Radeon HD 4870, SILVERSTONE DA700, Samsung 840 500Gig SSD MZ-7TD500BW, 3x WD20EARS 2 TB Green,
ASUS DRW-2014L1T (DVD), LG WH14NS40 (Blu Ray), Dell 2709W, Sony SDM-HS95P, Windows 10 Pro
The NAS Box: OFFLINE D-Link DNS-323, 0.1RC3 Alt-F firmware, 2x 7200.14 ST3000DM001 3TB EXT4 - NO RAID - 6 TB
Home Server: BUILD LOG!! - Supermicro SC826TQ-R800LPB chassis, X8DTN+, Dual Xeon E5620 (Stock),
4x Nanya NT4GC72B4NA1NL-CG (24GB Reg ECC DDR3), 12x MICRON MT36JSZF51272PZ-1G4G1FG (48GB Reg ECC DDR3), (72GB total memory)
2x OCZ Agility (60GB) (OS & Backup), 6x WD40EFRX (4TB) in RaidZ2 (14.3 TB usable), 2x Q Series HDTS225XZSTA (256GB) ZIL & L2ARC mirrored

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