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

  • pirspilane - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    Does anyone know if you can store an Outlook profile on this file server so you could use the same profile with any computer that is connected? Reply
  • vectorm12 - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    In theory yes. You could hardlink the directory to the directory on the server using a NTFS hard link. Although I haven't tried anything like that before(other than the mobile archive feature of Exchange Server which works in a similar matter) it should again in theory work as any outlook related services will launch well after the network stack and thus prevent the risk of invalidating the hard link. Reply
  • beisat - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    Building a relatively small and quiet system today is much easier than a few years ago, and I perfectly see the evolution on all the parts you mentioned. As well I see much quieter and more efficient PSU these days - but will there be a point in time where their size decreases as well? So far ATX PSU still seem the norm in the online shops of my country, and at that all are 350W+, pointsless for one CPU without a dedicated GPU and an SSD. Reply
  • bobbozzo - Friday, December 7, 2012 - link

    There are smaller power supplies, and some cases require them, but the current problem is there is no standard form factor for them; every case manufacturer has a different size or mount. Reply
  • Cyleo - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I really like the file server systems. Maybe a real guide (install, WHS etc) is an idea? I for one would be excited to read about it. Reply
  • SeanFL - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I've built this case 5 or 6 times for a really tiny build. In Win did a nice job with it. Initially put in an i3 2120t, but their new design also allows for the i3-2120 or any i3 or i5 you would want to put in. The samsung 830 really made it fly.

  • jhoff80 - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    It's probably just me, but I would absolutely love to see a super-slim mini-ITX case, designed for gaming, that has zero drive bays (why bother, when many boards have mSATA), a full-sized ATX PSU, and a PCIE x16 riser board and then two slots out the back of the case in order to use a gaming GPU.

    Most of these gaming cases have like 4 drive bays and a full sized 5.25" too, but that's really overkill these days, as far as I'm concerned.
  • Ananke - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    Lian Li Q-series. Check them, They have several of the type you look for. Reply
  • jhoff80 - Thursday, December 6, 2012 - link

    Really? All of the Lian Li Q models that I've seen have a bunch of drive bays (too large) or have 0 or 1 expansion slots, and/or a SFX 300W PSU, making them not conducive to gaming.

    Maybe I missed one though.
  • bobbozzo - Friday, December 7, 2012 - link

    How slim can it be with a full ATX PSU? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now