How to: Build a file server…. and why you should….(Part 1)

How to: Build a file server…. and why you should….(Part 1)

New Gear

I really like the idea of multi-bay drive enclosures so I have opted to go for a Icy Dock MB455SPF which is a 5 bay enclosure taking up 3 5.25″ device bays in the case. The reason why I went for the 5 bay is simple, the motherboard I am using has 4 sata ports plus 4 ports on the raid controller means I am limited to 8 hard drives in my server. As I already have a 3 bay enclosure the 5 bay will take my total to 8 bays. Make sure you read part 2 of this series about the must do mods for these enclosures.

Final bit of hardware was the optical drive, being so cheap decision was made to get a DVD writer in the form of a Pioneer 112D.

So we now move on to the case, normally when I build a PC the easiest part is deciding on the case but this project was the exception. We need a case which will provide 6 external 5.25″ drive bays while being compact and looking good. Finding a case with 6 external bays is easy there called Towers Cases, but they are just to big and clumsy for this application not to mention very expensive.

After several weeks of searching I came across what must be the perfect case. It has 9 external 5.25″ drive bays, yes I said NINE!!! Looks good actually if I may be so bold looks stunning, and it is tiny measuring only 200 x 435 x 486 mm. I should point out this is a small case and to make things worse the Icy Dock enclosure are pretty deep units. I must admit I did have my fingers crossed that everything would fit in. Enough about the worries let me introduce you to the Sharkoon Rebel 9 Economy.

Sharkoon Rebel 9 economy frontSharkoon Rebel 9 economy BackSharkoon Rebel 9 economy Side

A few observations about this case. It is very cheap but surprisingly it does not suffer too badly, I would say it is better quality than other cases in this price range. It does fall short in several areas which may matter to some people and not to others. The metal used is thin and has lots of flex especially the motherboard tray and the side panels.

The metal surfaces are finished well enough but the edges have not been rolled or deburred, which can be bit of a health hazard. The fit on the side panels is not that great partly due to the flex in the metal as well the poor slide catches. There are no luxuries like tool less drive installation or removeable motherboard tray. You do however get 4 front mounted USB ports as well as audio in and out jacks.

Regardless of all the downsides this case I think makes the perfect file server for the home. I will show you a modification which I found was very necessary with this case but I should state it is a mod I normally make to all my PC cases which I will describe in Part 2 of this article.

How Much …….!!!

Here is the final spec for the file server including the price paid for the various parts. I have listed current equivalent components plus approximate prices.

Current Equivalents
Abit IC7-G £70 Gigabyte GA-P35c-DS3R
Intel P4 3.0Ghz HT Northwood £33 Intel Celeron D 352 3.2GHz (retail)
2GB DDR2 PC5200 Memory £25
Enermax 370W PSU £35
Icy Dock MB453SPF 3-Bay Enclosure £47
Icy Dock MB455SPF 5-Bay Enclosure £80 £80
Pioneer 112D DVD Writer £14 £14
4x 320Gb Sata drives £180
2x 500Gb Sata drives £120 £120
1x 160Gb Sata drive £30
Sharkoon Rebel 9 Economy Case £27 £27
Total using recycled parts £241 £661 Total to build from scratch

If there is case for recycling this is it. Costing one third of buying it all in, you end up with a monster of a file server costing very little. The new build cost seems expensive on the surface but you have to remember £660 ($1320) will be buying a fileserver which is future proof and gives you over 2.2Tb in storage to get you going.

My list above is not the only combination you can have and I am not the sole authority on building file servers. There are several places where you can save money (and lots of money) without compromising too much on features. For a start do you need removable hard drives? Most people will not and if I was honest nor do I – however it does look good! Just dropping the removable sata enclosures will knock off £127  ($250) healthy chunk of change.

Maybe you would prefer to organise your storage need differently, one avenue is to drop the 4 320Gb drives and just get 4 500Gb monsters. This gives you 2Tb of storage and a £60 ($120) saving.

I am bit of a brand sl*t and I only really understand Intel, so I have quoted for Intel based motherboard and processor. Looking around at other hardware and you could go a long way towards saving another £30 – £40 ($80) just by switching to AMD based motherboard and processor, while getting the same performance.

You will notice I left out the Promise SX150 raid card. While I love this RAID card and it does serve me well, I just don’t think it would make sense purchasing such a card nowadays. The Gigabyte P35C-DS3R spec’d above has Intel’s P35 chipset which includes a well featured raid controller built-in.

At this entry level the performance difference between these two solutions just does not exist and the motherboard solution is just so much easier and cheaper.

Look out for part 2 where I will cover the assembly of this hardware to form the basis for your file server as well as including lots more pictures!!!

7 thoughts on “How to: Build a file server…. and why you should….(Part 1)

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  4. Diego

    I think that the Abit IC7-G does only take DDR and not DDR2. So probably you have 2GB of DDR

  5. Tarkan Post author

    Thanks for your comments.

    You are right modern PSU units have better efficency at lower load levels. I would expect to reduce my power consumption by 50% by upgrading the motherboard and CPU plus changing to a more efficent supply.

    I would say since building this file server I have noted it generates lots of heat and this is a bad thing when you consider it sits idle most of the time – which re-enforces what you have stated about effency above.

  6. Sanfam

    I feel it is worth noting, in some way, that you need not upgrade to an absurdly over-rated PSU to see some improvement. Your Enermax 370W Power Supply may indeed be quite the workhorse, but this doesn’t tend to help resolve one of your issues, the utility bill.

    There’s a number of fairly cheap (<$45 on Newegg) sub-400W *good quality* power supplies, the vast majority made by Seasonic and rebranded, with efficiency ratings well over 80%. Older PSUs, while a little more robust, tend to waste a great deal of power simply idling around even with a minimal load. Examples include the entire Seasonic line, Antec Earthwatts and Truepower models, and the Corsair HX### series. I’m sure there are others as well.

    On another note, I’m not entirely certain as to your motherboard’s capacity or compatibility, but additional power savings could be had by switching the processor to a newer Allendale or Conroe-based CPU (even single-core chips are quite satisfactory). Either option would, in both Dual and Single core variants consume lower power than your current Pentium.

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