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BUILD Can I use FreeNAS on a server with one HDD for storage of media so that I can use Plex ?

Western Digital Drives - The Preferred Drives of FreeNAS and TrueNAS CORE
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freeflyer

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Oct 20, 2017
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I am looking for a server initially to act as a media server for Plex/Emby/Kodi, can I do this using only one HDD for the media storage ?

After briefly playing with Plex/Emby/Kodi using my Mac Book Pro as a temporary server, I have found that I will need the server to transcode OR I will need a good media client such as the NVidia Shield to avoid the need to transcode.

Eventually I would like to use the server for the following (when I can afford to purchase more HDDs):

  • Apple Time machine backup
  • General backup of photos/documents/video etc
  • iTunes library (to play via my Denon AVR)
  • Personal cloud storage
  • Possible CCTV recording
I have no experience of server hardware and software but someone suggested using FreeNAS as the OS, which is why I am here.

The servers I have been looking at are:
  • HP ML10 Gen 9
    • Intel Xeon E3-1225 v5 @ 3.30GHz
    • Pass mark 7762
  • HP Microserver Gen 8
    • Intel® Core i3-3240 @ 3.40GHz
    • Pass mark x4310
  • Dell T30
    • Intel Xeon E3-1225 v5 @ 3.30GHz
    • Pass mark 7762
  • Lenovo Thinkserver TS150
    • Intel Xeon E3-1225 v5 @ 3.30GHz
    • Pass mark 7762
I was about to purchase the HP Microserver with an NVidia Shield as the Microserver processor is not as powerful for transcoding.

But then I realised that the cost of purchasing the 'HP Microserver AND an NVidia Shield' is the same cost as purchasing a higher spec server, because I wouldn't need to purchase an NVidia Shield as the server would be powerful enough to transcode.

I am now considering at the Dell T30 which comes with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD and I was going to purchase a 4TB WD Red to store my media on, so I can at least start using it as a media server.

My media setup is shown below and all devices are connected via wired ethernet (Cat5). The living room TV has a surround sound system so it will need to be compatible with DD, DTS etc:
  • Samsung TV - living room (UE37C6000)
    • Amazon Fire TV (Plex client)
    • Denon AVRX3300W
    • Dali Zensor 3 (fronts)
    • Dali Zensor 1 (rears)
    • Dali Zensor Vokal (center)
    • XTZ 12.7 (sub)
  • Samsung Smart TV running Plex client (UE26EH4510)
  • Samsung Smart TV running Plex client (UE32K5500)
 

nightshade00013

Neophyte Sage
Joined
Apr 9, 2015
Messages
1,258
Can you do it with one drive, sure but that kinda defeats the purpose so you will want to have REALLY good backups. You should always have backups but if one drive goes down it's up in smoke with no chance of recovery.

Any of the servers you mentioned should work ok but that is without checking the ram available or possible disk controllers included. You will however need to figure how many streams you want to be able to transcode at one time and figure out what you need to be able to do that for the number of streams you desire. That can be figured on the plex website https://support.plex.tv/hc/en-us/articles/201774043-What-kind-of-CPU-do-I-need-for-my-Server-

Also remember that the more you want to do with it the more cpu and ram you want available and the expand-ability of the server. Also you should try to figure a format that will support MULTIPLE devices without transcoding. You can apply multiple audio streams to one video container to get what ever you want out of it, like one device only needs stereo but another you want DTS. You just handle that when you encode the media. This should also work with the nvidia shield but you will need to search around and figure out what it likes. All of my devices do just fine with MP4 so I rarely transcode on the fly unless I am away from home and have a poor internet connection.

8GB of ram however is pretty small when you want to use Plex. I would say at least 16GB and more is ALWAYS better. Plus remember that when you want to expand to a much larger pool (personally for media alone I would suggest at least a total of 10 TB usable) you need places to put those drives or you will need to buy very large drives. It's probably better to wait a little and get something that fits your needs today and is able to expand later on to suit your future needs, otherwise you will end up with two servers and a higher cost of ownership at the end of it all.
 

Jailer

Not strong, but bad
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
4,688
You certainly can use FreeNAS with just one hard drive but you'll lose some of the key advantages that it and ZFS has to offer.
 

garm

Neophyte Sage
Joined
Aug 19, 2017
Messages
1,463
There are ways of running with only one drive but as already stated it’s limiting your server. The extra cost of atleast running two mirrored disks are worth it. Primarily you get bit rot protection, but you also get a chance to recover the pool if a drive fails.
 

freeflyer

Newbie
Joined
Oct 20, 2017
Messages
2
Thanks for the replies - I already have backups of my data on a collection of portable USB HDDs as well as another backup on a WD Desktop 5TB HDD which is kept offsite.

Eventually I want to use the server as a backup but this will have to wait until I can afford to purchase all the HDDs to put in the server.

To get started I want to get a server and install a HDD to store my media so that I can use the server as a media server.

I am looking for hardware that will be flexible, upgradeable and scalable. This is why I have been looking at servers rather than a NAS.

The Plex website states that a single 1080p/10Mbps stream will require a passmark of 2000, the Dell T30 has a passmark of 7762 so this must be more than enough ?

I was told that the Dell T30 supports up to 10TB HDD per slot and there are 4 slots available.

Are there any other servers I should consider ?

This will be a progressive setup, I would rather get hardware that will last into the future and add components over time for each feature that I add.
 

Stux

Wizened Sage
Joined
Jun 2, 2016
Messages
4,222
Any of those servers are probably fine. Ensure they come with ECC ram.

The Xeon 1220/1225 is a good chip for plex use. Xeon 1230/1235 is even better (about 60% better)

8GB is minimal but should function.

Seems like a good “my first FreeNAS” system ;) has a bit of growth potential, and one day will make a nice backup system ;)
 
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