Small server for general backup and use as an iTunes/video/picture server

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NRU Heed
NRU Member
15 Mar 2012
Falkirk, United Kingdom
Just some waffle about why I wanted a small low power PC to run as a server and backup device at a relatively low cost to build and to run.

The components are:

Gigabyte GA-C847N NM70 mini-ITX Motherboard
2x Kingston 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 Non-ECC CL9 DIMM Memory
2x WD 2TB 2.5 inch SATA Internal Hard Drive - Green
Asus DRW-24B5ST 24x Internal SATA DVD Drive
CiT Mini ITX Case with 300W PSU - Shiny Piano Black
Silent 150w power supply

What I bought were the MoBo, case and DVD drive and power supply. The other bits I had from laptops and the spares box. I went for a cheap box as it was going to be out of the way and the silent power supply meant it could be placed nearly anywhere and wouldn't make much noise. The mobo has a Intel Dual-Core Celeron 847 chip which is rather slow to be polite about it but will play DVDs, stream music and HD video without any issue. I was going to run Windows Home server on it but I hadn't got any experience of that so I stuck with Windows 7 Pro. As I had a Microsoft TechNet (they have stopped it now) subscription the OS was free and it was easy to set up.

So it was built and then the OS installed. To keep it simple I have only loaded the bare minimum of software on it that is needed:

Windows 7 Pro
Microsoft SyncToy

Once it was running OK I copied across all my photos (912 GB) and then got iTunes to download all the music (about 300 GB) and video (about another 300 GB) using iTunes Match which works for me. Initially I had connected it to the TV via HDMI but it isn't that pretty a box so it needed to be hidden and now resides in the garage out of the way. It is part of a backup solution that includes offsite copies of photos (because of the sheer volume) and cloud based backups of important documents. I use Microsoft's Onedrive as it gives me enough space and I can access it on all devices. I tried some of the online backup services but found that even after a couple of months the volume of data backed up was so small it was stupid and just not worth it. So once everything was installed, data loaded on to it and it was working OK it was moved to the garage and the Drobo storage device connected to it. The Drobo acts as a backup device and is currently running with 4x 3TB drives which gives about 8TB of useable space.

The final result is that it runs fine as an always on server for photos, video and music plus also operates as a backup device for documents too. Being in the garage it is out of the way and hidden so if anyone did break in to the house it isn't obvious so the data on it should be safe. Access to the data on the device is either through Apple TV, iTunes on PC/Laptops/Mac Mini, or as a media server device through the PS3. To access the device I use VNC which I can also use on all the other computers and iPads/iPhones and also Splashtop which allows remote access on my iPads and iPhone. So far it has proved to be a pretty reliable little device that doesn't use much power when idle and not that much when actually serving content.

Network: It is stupid as to how many network devices (24 at the moment) you seem to accumulate without realising it which is why I have started making my own network cables. The "server" in the garage is connected via a wifi extender which general works OK but isn't as fast for file transfers/backups as I would like so I wanted to get a network cable to it. The cost of a network cable nowadays is pretty cheap but to get a 100m Ethernet cable, RJ45 connectors and a crimping tool was under £20 and I can now make cables the correct length rather than buying something far longer than I need. Currently have 14 wired network devices and 10 Wifi Devices!
You running just the standard Windows media server? I've always wanted to build one with Plex so can transcode on the fly, no more PS3 moaning incompatible file type :p
Running Windows 7 Pro which works fine for what I want. Did try running Windows server on it but it was just a faff setting up and getting working. I have a licence for Windows Home Server but that is no longer supported and it isn't that easy to add extra storage to. The Drobo allows you to pull out a disk and add a larger one if required.

I also thought of trying FreeNAS but as I'm not too bad with Windows I've not trying it.

Just replaced the Wifi connection with a wired one and the network speeds are rather good!

I'm really paranoid about backing up photos and this set-up gives me reasonable peace of mind (so I have a mirrored copy of them on the same PC, a copy on the "iTunes" server, a copy on the Drobo (attached to the iTunes server), a copy in the car and a copy at my Mums.

So after a holiday I will copy all photos in to the main library and then copy them to iTunes "server" and the external hard disk which lives in the car. Any changes will then get propagated to other folders as required. The copy at my Mum's will be out of date but not too far and that gets swapped when we visit (I have two drives which I alternate, so back up the photos to external drive and then take that down to her and bring back the old one and keep that up to date until I see her again).

I think it is wrong for PCs to be sold without any rudimentary back solution in place as I know several people who have lost all their photos through a PC going faulty or being stolen.

Microsoft's SyncToy enables you to sync two folders. You can either do sync where any changes on either folder are replicated on the other folder, contribute or echo. I tend to use contribute where new files and changes are moved to the other folder rather than syncing the two just in case something goes wrong. See, paranoid.

If you bought all the bits for the box I think you would have to pay about £120 but if you have spare disks and memory around you can make a box for a lot less than that.
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sounds pretty nice. i run only a little 2TB network HD here but i play with the thought to buy a little server for month now. mostly my "stinginess" comes up with "your system is still running fine you don´t need a new one" lol
Depends on what you need it for. I just like having a separate machine for iTunes and video. If it ain't broke don't buy another one!
only need it as backup for photos ( around 200gb ) and for business stuff. all in all i need around 500gb from that 2tb so its not necessary to buy a new one. mine is around 5 years old and the new shiny ones looks nice and have more functions. :) everytime i am surfing around to buy a nice new one at the end i say "the old one is running fine" :D

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