NAS Recommendation

Continuing the discussion from Plex – Unreliable?:

I’ve started a new thread for this one as it’s likely to get a wider range of opinions.

Way back when I started with a 4 bay NAS and was disappointed with its performance with only an 800MHz CPU, even just trying to keep up with RAID 5 limited it to maybe 12MB/s write speeds. This was in the days before PLEX but I would suggest that it wouldn’t have had a snowballs chance in hell of keeping up. I also ran out of space very quickly and upgraded to an 8 bay unit in only a few months. Again, back in the days when 2TB HDDs were the norm. 4 x 2TB in RAID 5 only gives 6TB of space, something which can be quickly chewed up with a media library.

4 years ago I updated to the QNAP TS-870 with a i3 and 2GB of RAM… which was updated to 16GB of RAM on day one so I could run VM’s on it and later upgraded again with a quad core i7-3770S when I finally found one at a reasonable price. This unit is running 8 x 4TB NAS drives although I should note that the old unit was running 8 x 2TB Seagate (??) Green drives (the ones they say shouldn’t be in a NAS apparently) without any issues over their life. I only had one SMART warning in 4 years of 24/7 operation. The new NAS drives actually had TWO SMART warnings in the first couple of months, both replaced under warranty, and nothing since. I do have a cold spare sitting in the rack waiting for the day it’s needed.

CPU wise I’m set, there isn’t really anything my setup can’t do, but for normal humans you’re likely to be stuck with whatever comes in the box. While some play back devices can do their own decoding, iOS and Apple TV don’t except within a pretty narrow range. The ATV4 does actually have the guts to do quite a lot itself, but Apples player (which is used by Plex for TVOS) is limited it what it can decode locally (MrMC (a KODI branch) can actually decode most stuff locally). The likely hood of multiple people watching multiple streams at the same time is also something you have to take into consideration. Personally I would be aiming at something in the Core iX range rather than the Celeron.

You need to consider what you want it to do, do you want VMs? Then more RAM (and CPU power) would be handy. If it’s for transcoding, more CPU. The more apps you want to run, again more CPU is nice.

And the big one, media storage. Damn that adds up quick and exponentially as you move from 720p to 1080p to 4K. Movies aren’t too bad since it’s one and done sort of deal, so even a high quality 1080 Bluray extracted in h264 or h265 might only be 10-20GB but a TV show in the same quality can be 5-10GB per episode times 10 – 20 episodes per season… lots of stuff. You need to look at the size of the library you want to keep, add room for expansion and go from there. Assuming you’re running RAID 5, a four bay unit limits your total capacity to three times HDD capacity, six bay + units open that up a lot more.

As for brand, I’m a QNAP fan, but I’ve heard good things about Synology too. If I was replacing my unit again I would be leaning towards a rack mounted unit over a box because it lives in a rack, but then only if the cost difference wasn’t too much (it would be neater, but not necessary if the price premium was too great… I haven’t looked into costs in four years so can’t talk too much about that).

Thanks for this thread, @The_Hawk

I’m currently using a MacPro5,1, with about 6 drives either inside or in a 2 bay firewire box. Given the price of the MacPro7,1, and the strong second hand price of the 6,1 (and fact that it doesn’t have internal bays anyways) - I know I’m heading toward a NAS in the nearish future.

My current upgrade plan is to get an M1 Mini + 4 or 6 bay NAS, probably in around 12 months. Both second hand, cos - money - budgeting $1500 for both. I figure it wont hurt if the NAS comes sooner, especially if I see a good deal going somewhere - just have no experience with NAS except WD’s useless Cloud box.

The NAS will need to handle Plex, but I also need a scratch disk for video - wasn’t sure if that would be best done with the Mini’s internal drive, or if a NAS would be suitable. I know in film school we used our own external firewire drives and that was a lil painful sometimes. I don’t foresee myself doing 4k vids - either Plex or editing. 720p and 1080p will cover it either way.

Will have to start reading up on specs a bit more, looking at your comments above.

I had a Qnap TVS-471 for 5 years before it developed a fault.
4 NAS WD hard disks were still OK.
I replaced the Qnap with a QNAP TS-453D-8G 4-Bay NAS Intel Celeron J4125 quad-core 2.0GHz (up to 2.7GHz) 8GB DDR4 SODIMM RAM from the Qnap shop.
It was cheaper from there with that amount of ram onboard.
The other good point - I simply placed the original HDD’s into the new Qnap & away it went with all my PLEX data intact - quite impressive.
So far the HDD’s are still going strong (touch wood)!

I just hit a (second in about 10 years) SMART error on the backup NAS. I’m also at 91% capacity on the main NAS and it’s back to only getting security updates now and will be completely out of support soon enough.

So lately I’ve been contemplating what might work best for my future plans…??

I’ve migrated my VM’s to a couple of Pi’s and a physical PC (the TS-870 doesn’t run anything much past Windows 7).

The NAS itself still does a few things, mass storage for Plex, NVR for a couple of IP Cams around the house and TimeMachine target for the MacBook Pro. Technically backup for other Windows machines, but Mass Storage covers that.

I have about 19TB of data right now although I could probably clean up a TB or two if I really tried. At the moment that has been the approach to date, remove data to keep this one trucking along. Sadly it also pulls a little bit of power being on 24/7 too. The whole rack is nearly 5kWh / day… which is a lot and I’m wondering if I really need this all running. I estimate the NAS is more than half of that.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say a 10TB drive is $500. Four drives will set me back $2k! 8 Drives would be $4k and that’s before I spend anything on new hardware. So a new NAS, off the shelf or DIY, is an expensive undertaking. I just don’t know that want to go down the path of off the shelf system again…

If I went with an old desktop running Plex and software NVR and used external USB Drives with zero redundancy and backed up the important files to the old NAS and just risked the live data (which is really only Plex video I could re-rip etc) I’m still up for $1,500 in drives (3 x 10TB externals) and would have a little more space and hopefully less power usage. But a bit of a bodge.

Really, I want to build a bespoke system with a dedicated rack mounted NVR and a DIY 2/4RU Chasis running freeNAS or something like that. Still an expensive outlay, but hopefully more modular and upgradeable in the future.

For now at least I think I will just grab a new 2TB drive for the backup NAS to keep it happy and just keep thining the rubbish on the Main NAS to keep it running for a little bit longer.

Questions… and I guess it may depend on the brand / model…

What are NAS enclosures like with regard to energy consumption?

Are they “always on”, or do they sleep, and then wake on demand?

I used a 4 bay QNAP NAS at work without trouble for years and a 2 bay QNAP at home which developed a problem a bit outside of warranty.

They’re nice to use and the warranty is fine but they’re not totally trouble free (but then what is).

I’d still buy another mainly because the software is nicer than the alternatives.

Mine would go into low power mode then wake up when needed, of course the work one really only did that at night. Power consumption was not that high.

Make sure to purchase drives designed for NAS use, the power down modes of some non NAS drives can cause issues with some models of NAS.

1 Like

Mine have never seemed to actually sleep and may be a reflection of what I do with it. QNAP list a range of reasons why your drives might not be going into standby and I meet more than one of those criteria, the biggest being Plex.

As for power draw, my UPS tells me how much power I am drawing (which is about 200w to run the QNAP with 8 drives + Acer USFF Machine, 3 Pi’s, NBN Modem, USG3P, 24 port POE switch powering 4 IP Cams and 2 Unifi Wifi points.

With the NAS off that drops to 80W… so 120W as a constant draw or 2.88kWh / day or 1,051.2kWh / year. At an average of $0.20 c / kWh (blending peak and off peak) it works out to be $210/ year but it provides TimeMachine, Plex, IP Cam recordings as well as one of the backups for multiple machines in the house. If you didn’t have as many drives or powered it down overnight that could be considerably lower. It’s also worth noting that mine has been upgraded to an i7-3770S and 16GB RAM to help it along its way.

When this device is retired I’ll probably move to a dedicated PVR and a Pi for the Apps. A Pi could even manage the storage requirements with far fewer USB drives (without RAID) as long as I automated some sort of duplication… Hell, I could use 2 x 16TB USB drives and have more storage than I currently do and use the NAS as a weekly backup of most of that and likely use less power overall… the issue is that even at $200 / year it would take a lot of years to get back anything in power savings compared to the cost of the new shiny things.

Also… In my case power is an average of $0.097 / kWh so that’s close to $100 / year, all in my rack with all that stuff works out to be about $180.

Thanks for the breakdown, @The_Hawk

I have been wondering about the power consumption of my Mac Pro… typically I’ve left it running full time… which I know has been very wasteful. I now have it sleeping when not in use, but this means Plex wont work without going into my office and waking the computer (as “wake for network” doesn’t seem to do anything). I could set it to down-time overnight… but - was wondering with a NAS + Mac Mini… if it would work out better. I’m guessing yes… maybe… depending… :slight_smile:

The more I mull it over, the more I am thinking I’ll migrate to a Mac Mini + NAS. Instead of the original plan for an M1 Mini and NAS though, I think as a starting point, I’ll go with a cheaper set-up, as proof of concept… So, something like a $600 Mini (whatever that gets me), and a NAS that will “do the job”… I can then get a feel for what that looks like, and if it works, look at finding a better Mini/NAS later on.

I already have 2 NAS ready WD Red 4TB drives… But thanks for the reminder as I had forgotten about that. May take some moving data around, and also picking up some more REDs… maybe higher capacity like 8TB… or even 12TB…

1 Like

I’m currently using an R4 and an R8 Promise Pegasus thunderbolt drive enclosures, with 3Tb each drive bay for a total of 36Tb local storage as my local NAS - after RAID that drops down to about half that. Connected to my Mac Mini server.

I can recommend these units - reliable and works well. Apple store sells them.

1 Like