After moving into a new house this last May I have been on a major upgrade path, mainly because I went from dual satellite links at 10mb down and 1mb down, with a 25GB cap on each link to now having 45MB. This allows more internet activity at my house now that I have 45mb and no data cap. I made the decision to upgrade my old media server. This allows us to stream our movies to any device anywhere. So when the kids go somewhere they can watch our videos on their tablets or phones. The old server was a custom made rig to say the least. I made two identical boxes, each with 11 one TB drives in them, one box was the master and the other was the slave, set to mirror off an ESATA cable between the two of them. This was originally loaded with Windows Vista media center, and later upgraded to Windows 7 media center. I had spent days converting DVD’s to WMV files, and did not want to lose this so redundancy was a must on this original build. Over the years this has worked amazingly well, with minor hard drive failures here and there, but nothing major. Beings it’s been in production for 7+ years I figured it’s time for an upgrade.
A few months ago I started the project of ripping DVD’s and Blu-Rays again. This time I was ripping them to MKV files. I did this because most media today can play MKV in its raw format and not need to do any conversion or transcoding. I started loading these on portable drives and set up a temporary Plex server on an old PC. I loaded Ubuntu 14 due to the PC was only a Core Duo pc and I knew that windows 7 would chew up most of the CPU on that machine and Ubuntu is a lot less CPU intensive of a OS. Not to mention that the box only has 3Gb of RAM. I wanted to give Plex a fair shot at a usable replacement for media center. I mapped the portable drives and started streaming media. (How to map external drives to Plex) I decided to let it run for a couple of weeks and checking in on it from time to time. It seemed like an awesome replacement. At one time I had 4 live streams running at the same time on a Core Duo machine. That is pretty good I have to say. Even one of the streams was a 1080p and the other 3 were 720.
Now it’s the build phase. First step, find or build a storage device. I have been looking at different options for this for some time. It came across a friend that was running an Intel NUC as a Plex server with a Synology as his storage. To me that just seemed a little too costly. After all I was looking at building a 20tb+ media library. I ran across an ASRock X99 motherboard that could support 12 hard drives. And I thought about creating a 12 drive hot swap super Plex server. One issue I had was a case. I found one with Rosewill. They
make a 12 drive 4u hot swap rack mount chassis. After doing all the math of the cost of building my own and just buying a Synology I decided to go that route. The cost on both builds with a media server was about the same. So why not go the proven method.
I purchased a Synology DS1815+ and 6 Western Digital 4 TB red drives. This is my start. After about 2 weeks I ordered the remaining 2 drives and 1 cold spare. This will give me just under 24tb of media storage in SH2 or Synology RAID 6 and have one drive as a cold spare. The ability to have two drives fail is nice but beings rebuild times are so high I wanted to keep an extra drive close by as my security blanket.
On building the server that is still a work in process. I am still working on the best solution for this. Beings conversions on my side of the server are minimal, and should create minimal tax on the CPU there is not much of a need of a high end CPU. But I want to plan for future proofing as much as possible. I know an i7 is a must but the big deal I have is do I go with an Intel NUC that gives you a dual core i7 and a single NIC. Shuttle PC has a dual NIC version of the NUC just it only supports a Gen4 i7 but it can be a Quad core Gen4 i7. Right now I may go this direction mainly to get the Quad core part so I can support more HD video streams. There is always is many different ways to solve this, just really depends on your needs. Right now I would like to go with a Quad Core i7, 8GB of Ram and 256GB SSD running Windows 10 and the Database backed up to the Synology. Just have to make up my mind on the platform.
One big thing to consider is your Plex server needs. How big your repository will be and what are the max number of continuous 1080p streams you will have. For CPU recommendations look here.
Finally I came comfortable with a new platform for the Plex server. I decided to go with the Shuttle PC DS81. This was from what I could tell the best option for me. I decided to go with the Intel i7 4790 processor for the Quad Core 3.6GHz power behind the beast. I chose this processor based on benchmark tests. I tried to pick the best processor for the best price. And this one fit my needs the best. I also decided to use a Samsung mSata EVO 250GB SSD. I had never seen the mSata drive in person till this one. I was quite impressed on how small they are. Then topped it all off with 16GB of Crucial DDR3 PC3-12800 Unbuffered NON-ECC. After a bit of assembly, we were ready to start loading Windows 10. I decided to go with Windows 10 for now because of easy of use. When you go to connect up your External drive to load the OS you need to change one setting. in order for it the recognize your mSata HD. If you open up the BIOS and go to advanced you will see a setting “Mini-PCIE/mSATA Select” Change that to mSata and it will now see your HD. Once I had 10 loaded I ran the driver disk included with the Shuttle PC to get the NIC drivers to load. Then we were off and updating. Eventually loaded the Plex server and now we can let the streaming begin. I did make a few changes to the Plex server
now that I have a ton resources behind it. I did change the Transcoder quality to “Make my CPU hurt” I figured why not, we might as well go all out on the testing of this.
After running this for a few hours last night I am so far quite pleased. I did manage to run 6 1080p Streams off it at once and only had a 35% CPU utilization. Hopefully this weekend I can load it down with my Max planned load of 12 Streams and see how it goes. I will keep this updated as the testing progresses.
Below are some of the Assembly Pictures of the Synology and the Shuttle PC.
Shuttle PC build