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Guide: How much will a proper home FreeNAS setup cost me?

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DrKK

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#1
We seem to get this question a lot:

How much can I expect to spend on a new, personal, home-use, FreeNAS system using the recommended types of hardware that the FreeNAS community would endorse?



First of all, we're glad you're asking. That means you're not trying to recycle your crappy old gamer/desktop b.s. to make a FreeNAS. That path leads to data destruction, and poor performance. A proper, home, FreeNAS server derives from equipment specifically purchased with this use-case in mind. It is NOT a redeployment of older, unused hardware, and in particular, not from desktop/gamer/consumer grade hardware you have laying around.

Here are the assumptions I am going to use:

  • It is now April 2015. Whatever I say is appropriate for this time.
  • You're buying everything new, from soup to nuts.
  • I am assuming you can source things through North American suppliers, like Amazon or Newegg or MicroCenter (all of which we recommend, by the way). If you are European, or God help you, from South or Southeast Asia, you should expect to have more difficulty sourcing the parts, and you'll almost certainly pay considerably more than what I am saying.
  • This is a NAS for home use. Its primary use will be as a FILE STORAGE SERVER. Other uses, like databases, virtual machines, heavy duty transcoding, etc., are not your primary use. If they are, you will need to consider more expensive options than I am going to talk about.
  • You want to build something that 100% of the FreeNAS support community would agree with, and support, as ideal equipment for the product.
  • You are not made out of money, and you want to get good value.
  • You will not need more than six hard drives. If you do, this setup will require fancier motherboards (which I will not discuss), or fancy HBA's and whatnot (which I will not discuss).
  • You are happy with 1150 socket stuff, and don't feel a compulsion you can't control to go with the latest 2011-v3 socket or whatever the hell it's called.
  • The micro-ATX form factor is acceptable to you. If you are insisting on building something smaller, you will spend more money on various parts. Get guidance in the IRC channel, if you like.
So here's the deal. Depending on how big of a storage pool you want, you can expect to spend about a thousand dollars. Plus or minus $250. Now if that sounds like a lot to you, I'm sorry. If you MUST trim corners, the following list is ordered from most important to least important. If you have to cut a corner, do it from the bottom. Here's how it breaks down:

(Edit: Marbus90 is insisting that I mention that the TS140 servers, T20 servers, et al, are perfectly good, and may offer a lower priced alternative for some people).
  • Motherboard: A motherboard like the ever-popular, and strongly recommended SuperMicro X10SLL or X10SLM will run just under $200.
  • RAM: You will most likely find that 8GB is sufficient for your needs. 8GB (2x4GB UDIMM) of recommended ECC RAM for a typical motherboard that we would recommend is going to be volatilely priced, but you should budget about $75 for it.
  • CPU: Typically, one of the Haswell Pentiums (G3220, and its refreshed ilk) is great for most people. These run $40-$70 depending on sales and whatnot.
  • PSU: I don't want to get into a jihad about this. Everyone has their own ridiculous opinion on this. You're going to want a good quality, as low of a wattage as possible (<--very important! Most FreeNASses are low powered---high power PSU's perform VERY INEFFICIENTLY at low power!), PSU. You should easily find something to fit the bill at the $75 price point.
  • Case: Most people go for small cases that have a lot of internal bays. The various options from Lian-Li, Thermaltake, Fractal Design (very popular), Bitfenix, and others, are all pretty much at the $100 price point. The case is not important, but obviously, you'll need one.
  • Boot drives: The simplest/cheapest thing to do is to buy 2x16GB Sandisk Cruzer Fit thumb drives. These should certainly be under $10 apiece, so let's call it $20.
  • Fans: You probably won't need auxiliary fans, unless you want them. The stock fans in most of these cases are sufficient for our needs most of the time.
  • UPS: I can't stress this enough. If you're serious about a reliable home NAS, you want a UPS. Various offerings under $80 from Cyberpower and APC are very popular in the community. Most of us consider an Uninterruptable Power Supply to actually be a REQUIREMENT for a FreeNAS build.
If you've been paying attention so far, you see that we have about $600 so far racked up.

Before storage, then, you should be expecting to spend $600 for proper, FreeNAS-community-certified, hardware. You could squeeze it down to $500 if you caught some sales and made value choices on things like case.

Now, it's time for drives. Prices on these are volatile. Brands that people recommend vary. However, there is one model that every single person in the FreeNAS support community thinks is (at least) very good, is priced well, and would never object to: the Western Digital "Red" NAS drive. This is our go-to drive for home NAS deployments. I use it exclusively, as do several of the other men.

The 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 TB WD reds currently run just about $60, $95, $120, $160, $220 and $270, respectively. You should figure, when it's all said and done, that you'll be spending in the neighborhood of $75 per usable TB, final, post-RAID storage space. This number will go down if you sacrifice a bit of expandability or reliability, and will go up if you do the opposite. Configurations that are acceptable, popular, and their prices (these are just POPULAR, for instance, configurations--each has their plusses and minuses, and there are, of course, a thousand other configurations. We will assist you with evaluating your configuration if you join us in the IRC channel):

  • 3x2TB in RAID-Z, offering 3.48TiB usable pool space. $285 ish. (about $82/TB)
  • 6x2TB in RAID-Z, offering 8.7TiB usable pool space. $540 ish. (about $62/TB)
  • 3x3TB in RAID-Z, offering 5.22TiB usable pool space. ~$350. <--Good value/price/expandability point. (about $67/TB)
  • 4x6TB in RAID-Z2 (or mirrored pairs), offering 10.4TiB usable pool space. ~$1000. (about $95/TB)
  • 6x4TB in RAID-Z2, offering 13.92TiB usable pool space, ~$925. (about $66/TB)
(Note: Reviewing this post now in September, I see I made a minor math error in the above---I based these capacities on what my pool seems to have available, but I forgot take out the fact that child datasets come off the top of the capacity. The numbers above must be 1-2% low. i.e., 3x2TB in RAID-Z is probably more like 3.55TiB. Don't think it matters really, but sorry about the mistake.)

So, your final bill, will be $500-$600 for the main hardware, and then another $300-$1000 in drives, for most people, depending on what their storage needs are.

So, call it $800-$1200, for most people, to put together an unquestionably FreeNAS support community-certified home FreeNAS with our recommended, go-to equipment, including drives.

The important thing to note: The difference between this setup, and new gamer-grade consumer gear with the same specs, is only $100 or $200. The difference in quality and appropriateness is astronomical. Look through the forum. Look at all the people with trouble because they recycled old gear, or didn't buy good server grade stuff. Don't make the mistake of being penny wise and pound foolish.

I hope that was useful.
 
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MtK

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#2
Very nice sum-up!
Well done @DrKK...

(+1 for sticky)
 

Ericloewe

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#3
I'd just like to point out a few facts, for European readers:
  • The numeric values of the prices mentioned should be similar to the prices in Euro.
  • Amazon is great for the stuff you can find. Shop around other countries' stores for deals or products that aren't available - for some reason, their operations aren't integrated. Amazon.de typically has the best selection, in my experience.
  • Good UPSes around here are a bit more expensive, so take that into account.
 

Ericloewe

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#5
So... Can I use reuse an old Lacie NAS?
Yes! I hear they make sounds coveted by movie sound designers, who use them for space ship drives and...
 

joeschmuck

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#6
Nice writeup. It would have been nice to add a section on cost comparison for a FreeNAS built machine in this price range compared to maybe a Synology with the same or comperable throughput/capabilities just so people can see that a FreeNAS machine is a less expensive solution when you figure in these capabilities. This would give the cost a justification because when I read it was $800 to $1200 for a total system, it felt like a lot of money so putting it into perspective would do your posting justice. Just my opinion of course and you know everyone has one :eek:
 

Ericloewe

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#7
Nice writeup. It would have been nice to add a section on cost comparison for a FreeNAS built machine in this price range compared to maybe a Synology with the same or comperable throughput/capabilities just so people can see that a FreeNAS machine is a less expensive solution when you figure in these capabilities. This would give the cost a justification because when I read it was $800 to $1200 for a total system, it felt like a lot of money so putting it into perspective would do your posting justice. Just my opinion of course and you know everyone has one :eek:
Yeah, I went through a similar process:
  1. Server-grade? Phew, sounds expensive. Let's check out Synology and co.
  2. Holy $#/!, these things cost how much? Let's spec some ECC stuff...
  3. Hey, this is only marginally more expensive than my old, hacked-together WHS 2011 server! FreeNAS it is!
 
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#8
thanks a LOT. You answered a lot of questions here. Even though this was about $$$ ... it's also very informative on what I need!

Very useful.
 

joeschmuck

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#9
Yeah, I went through a similar process:
  1. Server-grade? Phew, sounds expensive. Let's check out Synology and co.
  2. Holy $#/!, these things cost how much? Let's spec some ECC stuff...
  3. Hey, this is only marginally more expensive than my old, hacked-together WHS 2011 server! FreeNAS it is!
Line 2 is quite funny, I did the same thing and it really puts things into perspective when you compare to commercial brands.
 
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#10
The recommended hardware listed in my signature cost £1,450 in May 2015 (excluding PSU and UPS from eBay: £15 plus £35 for new batteries). I'm happy with the value for money. As Ferris Bueller said: "There is no substitute".

3Tb disks represent the best £/Tb, but I maxed out the RAM straight away as (a) you never know when that product line we become hard to get, and (b) there's always a reason to put off spending.
 

brando56894

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#11
Cost me about $1,500 USD

$400 for the AsrockRack Intel Avaton Board (same one that IX Systems uses in their builds)
$150 for my case
$150 for the PSU
$160 for 16 GB DDR3 ECC
$500+ for my drives
 

Chris Moore

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#12
I am quite shocked that the OP did not recommend a Xeon processor. I suppose that things change, but I thought you had to go with a Xeon to be able to take advantage of the ECC functionality of ECC RAM.

I have been working with computer hardware since the Apple II days and if there is one thing I know, things change.
 

DrKK

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#13
I am quite shocked that the OP did not recommend a Xeon processor. I suppose that things change, but I thought you had to go with a Xeon to be able to take advantage of the ECC functionality of ECC RAM.

I have been working with computer hardware since the Apple II days and if there is one thing I know, things change.
Negative sir. Intel has a number of 1150-socketed CPU's that are not Xeons that fully support ECC, in particular, the Pentium G32xx's, certain i3's, and even, I think the Celerons. You may verify this yourself on ark.intel.com, under the "ECC Supported" field.

A Xeon processor is excessive overkill for a server with only a couple users who are storing static files.
 

Chris Moore

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#14
Intel has a number of 1150-socketed CPU's that are not Xeons that fully support ECC, in particular, the Pentium G32xx's, certain i3's, and even, I think the Celerons.
Nice. Thanks for the update.
 

DrKK

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#15

Ruff.Hi

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#16
Excellent post. Very informative and funny. A couple of comments ...

You are not made out of money, and you want to get good value.
You can also balance your spending on the NAS with the wife ... well, her spending on her 'pet' projects (shoes, handbags, gems, what-ever, etc).

Case: Most people go for small cases that have a lot of internal bays. The various options from Lian-Li, Thermaltake, Fractal Design (very popular), Bitfenix, and others, are all pretty much at the $100 price point. The case is not important, but obviously, you'll need one.
In some ways, this was the hardest item to pick. I ended up going with a Cooler Master 915R stacker ... because I liked the small footprint and it let me mod the heck out of it ... also, it only cost me $35 after mailin rebate. A Fractal Design R5 was a very, very close 2nd.

Now, I find myself drooling over a CaseLabs S5 (only $300!) ... and also wondering how nice / quite the case has to be given that my NAS lives in the basement 24/7.

UPS: I can't stress this enough. If you're serious about a reliable home NAS, you want a UPS. Various offerings under $80 from Cyberpower and APC are very popular in the community. Most of us consider an Uninterruptable Power Supply to actually be a REQUIREMENT for a FreeNAS build.
I don't actually have one of these (yet). I guess I should get with the program.

My build is listed on PCPartPicker ... but I've added a 5th 4TB red to the mix. Total cost was about $1430.
 

danb35

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#17
You may verify this yourself on ark.intel.com, under the "ECC Supported" field.
Of course, until fairly recently, you could verify on ark.intel.com that Socket 1155 i3s supported ECC. Until you couldn't.
 

DrKK

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#18
Of course, until fairly recently, you could verify on ark.intel.com that Socket 1155 i3s supported ECC. Until you couldn't.
Right. So just to fill anyone in that you may have just scared the crap out of:

A few months ago, it was discovered by a fingergepoken dude that actually went in there and started pulling bytes out of crazy places that there was some evidence the the 1155-socketed i3-XXXX line of Intel CPU's was NOT using ECC. This was in stark and dramatic contrast to what Intel themselves listed on their ark.intel.com page. After a few back and forths, and finally getting an engineer into the mix, it was indeed determined that certain SKU's in the i3 line for the 1155 sockets did *NOT* actually support the ECC functionality. Why this was not noticed earlier is one of the world's great mysteries. But there it was.

After raising a moderate amount of Hell on this point, we generally believe that Intel went through and made damn sure that any (non-Xeon) CPU that was listed as supporting ECC (for example, various i3's and "pentium" lines in the 1150 and other sockets---i.e., the main gaggle of ECC-supporting, low-priced CPU's that we have been recommending for years) actually did, for 100% certainty, support ECC.

We believe this error in the Intel ark listings has been fixed, and that only a few SKU's of non-Xeon 1155 CPU's listed ECC support in error, and other sockets and SKUs were unaffected.

So, definitely, the CPU's we are recommending here, and elsewhere, do support ECC RAM, even when they are not Xeon.

i5's and i7's, though, on any socket line, definitely *DO NOT* support ECC, and never have. So your pantheon of choices, at least on the 1150 socket, are the Pentium (which I think it absolutely wonderful for FreeNAS and performs amazingly at its price point) G3220 (et al), then you get into some i3's, and then you get into Xeons themselves. It is almost never the case, however, that a home user of a FreeNAS box would ever need to shell out for a Xeon---you'll know who you are if you do. 80% of us do fine on Pentiums (Pentia?), and 80% of the remainder do fine on various ECC-supporting i3's, for a little more oomph.
 
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#19
I approve of the above message. ;)
 

DrKK

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#20
I approve of the above message. ;)
Might be nice to include the discussion you guys initiated over there with Intel. You have a link to that, Cyberjock?
 
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