Up to 24TB of storage in a 5 gallon case

A year ago I wrote a file server builder's guide, which generated more discussion than any of my other guides. Succinctly, there are a lot of options to consider when you build a file server. There are many operating system choices, from FreeBSD and FreeNAS, Ubuntu and Samba, to Windows Home Server 2011. You can read more about those software solutions in the previous file server guide, as the information remains relevant. Windows Home Server 2011 gets the nod here, simply because of its ease of use. If you're willing to spend a bit more time implementing a free file server OS, there are many compelling alternatives.

Dustin recently reviewed Fractal Design's new ITX case, the Node 304. What impresses me most about the Node 304 are its sleek styling and its ability to house six full-size 3.5" hard drives. As 4TB drives are the highest capacity models available to the mainstream market, the Node 304, which has a volume of about 5 gallons, has the ability to put up to 24TB of storage in a small footprint on your desk or on a bookshelf. My own testing indicates that the Node 304 is capable of keeping lower RPM (i.e. "green") hard drive temperatures well within comfortable operating temperatures (less than 40C) even under full, artificial load.

That said, the Node 304 is, as you might imagine, cramped when you stuff it full of six hard drives. To ameliorate this concern, we're pairing it with Silverstone's ST50F-P power supply, a 500W 80+ unit that is one of the smallest ATX power supplies available. Furthermore, we're recommending Silverstone's short cable kit, which helps with installation and cable management.

ASUS' P8H77-I is one of the few ITX motherboards with six SATA ports. As such, expansion cards aren't necessary to fill the Node 304 to its maximum hard drive capacity. This motherboard is also particularly well laid out when installed in the Node 304, which again helps with installation and cable management. It's important to note that file servers do not require powerful processors, so again the Celeron G540 gets the nod here.

Finally, Western Digital released its Red line of hard drives this year, which Ganesh reviewed. These drives are ideally suited for server use: they sip power, they're user configurable, and they run cool and quiet. Western Digital Red drives also carry a 3-year warranty, compared to the 2-year warranty of Western Digital's Green drives and many of Seagate's higher capacity storage drives. These Red series drives are available in 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB capacities; hopefully a 4GB model will be available soon. 4TB hard drives are currently available from Seagate and Hitachi. That said, the base model file server outlined below features a single 3TB Red drive as this capacity represents the best dollar per GB ratio of the three Red models. Of course, only you can determine how much storage you need, and definitely watch prices as I've seen these fluctuate wildly over the last month in terms of cost. Also keep in mind that consumers are not in a good position to judge the reliability of hard drives, and that the plural of anecdote is not data.

Component Product Price
Case Fractal Design Node 304 $90
Power supply Silverstone ST50F-P $78
Power supply accessory Silverstone short cable kit $20
CPU Intel Celeron G540 2.5GHz dual-core $45
Motherboard ASUS P8H77-I mITX $100
RAM Corsair Value Select 4GB DDR3-1333MHz $18
Hard drive Western Digital Red 3TB $155
Operating system Windows Home Server 2011 $50
  Total: $556

On the next page, we outline two SFF gaming systems.

Budget Small Form Factor Systems Gaming Small Form Factor Systems


View All Comments

  • Taft12 - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    A 40mm fan? No, no, no, no and no. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    It's a 17W mobile part. A slow 40mm fan is more than sufficient when combined with the improved airflow of even a SFF case when compared to a laptop chassis. The similar sized fan on my 18W E-350 file server has never gotten gotten loud enough to be heard. Reply
  • dananski - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    He's probably concerned about the pitch of the sound. I've avoided anything smaller than a 120mm fan in all my builds as even quiet high pitched noise is a nuissance. Your file server probably has a low CPU load compared to the video playback cyrusfox intends to do, so I'd expect it to stay nice and cool with the fan barely on. He might not be so lucky.

    As for the board & integrated CPU, seems pretty good value for money, though I'd like to see some more powerful mobile chips in this sort of design. Will probably become more common with Haswell.
  • cyrusfox - Thursday, December 6, 2012 - link

    Board came today, I am load testing it currently. Bios is nice, fan is fully customizable(so much so that you can set it low enough to not turn on) and cpu and gpu power can be altered(step down, you can also underclock the cpu or diable a core-won't be doing that). Trying to see how low it can go and be stable. So far it is silent and not even in its case yet(cardboard build, waiting for the last parts to arrive).

    You don't need much air flow for a tiny 17watt chip. The fan is removable, so you could just add some heat pipes and make a passive build out of it, CPU good to 100°C. It really is a low profile board, highest part is the audio connector on IO. Whenever Temash gets out, I'll probably replace it, but this should be more than good enough to emulate, stream, and surf on the couch.
  • ricardoduarte - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    Why are you suggesting 1TB hd, and no SSD in the gaming systems.
    I would one of these would be better:
    -2TB hd, and 256gb ssd would be a better choice.
    - 3TB hd and 64gb ssd for cache
  • Norseman4 - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    True it's double the price of the OS, but it looks like Win8's Storage Spaces revives and possibly improves the best part of the original WHS ... Drive Extender.

    It's be nice to see an investigation into SS and it's direct comparison to DE, though. (I've only seen pages on how to set up a SS, so how it functions is still unknown to me)
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I looked at W8 + Storage Spaces recently; but benches put it significantly slower than rival fakeraid options. Hopefully MS will be able to patch it up to more competitive levels in an upcoming service pack (Blue?) or W9. Reply
  • bigfire - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I've had my AMD Athlon 64 X2 for about 6 years and it still works well. I've never had any troubles with this guy. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    What mobo chipset did you use? Both of mine have been dead for over a year after nForce4 boards 4 and 5 followed my first 3 into the grave. Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    Same here, I have x2 2.5ghz with stock fan, it's probably been 5 years now.
    It's still running as a champ for my workload. The only upgrade I'm made in the past 2 years is the $99 5770 :) great investments.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now