Jump to content
RESET Forums (homeservershow.com)

N54L vs another Off-the-shelf vs Custom Build


Recommended Posts

Wow.  Spent the vast majority of the day reading through forums and blog posts and I'm overwhelmed and unsure about which direction I should move to replace my WHS V1 HP EX495  


Background:  I've been a happy EX495 owner for nearly 4 years but I'm getting the itch to replace it and move to  2011 or 2012E...  Once every 2-3 weeks for the past 3 months, the 495 locks up.... drive lights stay lit but can't be accessed via RDP or Console and shares are not available from client PCs...  Have to perform a hard shut down with the power button and reboot.  Most times it has rebooted, but once it wouldn't boot at all and I had to drop the OS drive into a USB caddy and chkdisk.  Checked out OK and booted after that but signs of trouble are mounting.   I'm fully 3-2-1 backed up but concerned.  Main change to the system in that period is adding of Stablebit Scanner -- not blaming the software but that's the only thing I've really changed


Anyway, I went into my research today thinking the N54L would be the way to go, but now i'm not so sure....  


My requirements / hopes...

  • 4 or 5 3TB Data Drives
  • Likely 128 or 256 SSD System Drive
  • Backup 5 or 6 PCs (all Windows 7)
  • Simple local duplication for drive failure (most comfortable with a DE-like solution, have never used RAID, but I could be convinced.  I've always liked the fact that I can drop drives in another machine in true emergency situations
  • Ideally, I'd like to be relatively low power most of the time (given my requirements)
  • Remotely accessible by RDP through DynDNS URL and port forarding


Software I'd need to run on the server (to maintain my current server capabilities -- these currently run on my EX495)

  • EyeFi Card Software to receive camera pics
  • KMTTG - Tivo file automatic downloader, removes wrapper, and scans for commercials
  • Goodsync (sync key files from my WHS to primary W7Pro Desktop)
  • Crashplan - offsite backup for key files
  • Streaming Software (currently just use Windows Media Connect with my Onkyo receiver and PS3, but would like to use Plex and/or Subsonic (recorded TV as mp4 or home movies) and/or Asset UPnP (MP3 files))


Nice ot have -- Help me eliminate background running apps or offload media processing on (a) W7Pro Primary Desktop and repurpose (B) W7Pro media streamer / converter laptop

  • VidCoder and/or VideoRedo TV Suite for transcoding DVDs and Tivo files (a)
  • Dropbox / GoogleDrive / Skydrive (a) 
  • Plex and / or Subsonic / Asset UPnP (B)
  • Streambaby -- stream mp4 files to Tivo (B)
  • DynDNS Updater Software (B)



HW Solution - first thoughts:


So, as I said, I was thinking N54L coming into today.  I figured it was going to be a matter of sit and wait for the next NewEgg deal to come along.  But now I'm not sure the CPU will easily handle the streaming load and my desire to do more media management and file transcoding on the Server.  My gut inclination would be to do a custom build, but I've never built a pc before and would be very unsure about doing it right and getting all the right components -- I've seen a lot of custom build posts from within the last 6-8 mos and many have links to discontinued / unavailable parts.  (I do have an EE degree and I have added / changed RAM, swapped HDDs, added a SSD to my main desktop mini-tower, and changed video cards before so I not a complete novice, but it would be a bit of an effort...)  I think the happy medium would be another off the shelf solution (or nearly so) , but again, I'm not sure which current systems would be good candidates for my needs....


OS Solution - first thoughts:


At the moment I'm also torn between WHS2011 and Server 2012E -- mostly due to price.  Otherwise, I think I'd go with 2012E to avoid replacing WHS 2011 in ? - 3 years.  That said, I'm seriously thinking about enrolling in Technet Standard for a year to try out both OSs in a test environment for at least the summer (backing up from my ??failing?? 495 religiously for a worst case scenario....)  That way, I can pay <1/2 price of 2012SE for a 1 year rental, and delay the decision and full price of 2012E for another year (if I don't renew Technet...  As I understand it the licences are no longer valid beyond the subscription period)


I've honestly read 50-75 threads and blog posts today and now I'm entirely uncertain about what's best for my situation, so I'm open to any advice or direction from the community.  






Link to comment
Share on other sites

You didn't say how much you wanted or could spend?


I think the Technet subscription is money well spent for trying out the different OSes.


Based on what you have described it looks like you need an immediate solution because your current situation is becoming unreliable.  You might consider a 2 prong approach if you have the time and the money.


You could buy buy a Microserver and throw WHS2011 plus drive bender or drivepool on it if needed to get you back to a stable systems that is backing up your other PCs.  Then you could plan out and build a custom server at your own pace (with advice from the forums as needed).


Realistically PC-Doc and No-Control have a ton of examples of systems they have built on their personal blogs.  Have you checked them out?  With the advice and guidance they provide you could probably jump right into a custom built system since they have already told you which parts go together and work in their own systems.


How was that for providing an answer without actually answering a question?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About the 495....that possibly sounds like a heat issue to me.  I'd open up the case, blow it out and do those usual things and then start looking at the Event Logs when this last happened.


If not heat, then some task is kicking off that is overwhelming the server.  I'd also run a MemTest.


When I saw the word transcode in your requirements, that automatically kicks you into the i Series.  An i3 will most likely do the job but for sure an i5 and never worry again.


TechNet.....the licenses are good for life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

TechNet.....the licenses are good for life.

As long as you continue to subscribe to TechNet.

That may have changed, but that was in the rules last year when I renewed all our lab subscriptions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't purchase under that contract.  I go back five years preceding that and all of those licenses still work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you would be pushing the limits of a N54L. BYOB will get you a custom solution that will meet your needs and as cskenney mentioned there is lots of help on this site for a custom box. If you want to explore a OEM solution, yes I am a HP fan boy, I am impressed with the new HP ML310e G8. They start around $500;


Link to comment
Share on other sites

jmwills, I  believe TechNet has changed the rules so that licenses expire if you don't maintain your subscription. I think it may be possible that keys obtained before the rule change are grandfathered in, but all new keys are subject to expiration.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seems like I do remember something about that....clone baby clone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest no-control

4-5 3TB data drives....but you need to tell us how much data space you need/want. There's no need for a 128-256GB SSD for a home server. Unless you're installing a ton of programs 60GB is sufficient. Last but not least a budget.


My jumping off point would be:


Intel G1610

ASRock H77M

2x4GB G.Skill Ares

Corsair CX430

Fractal Define R4

AData S510 or SP600

4x 3TB WD Green (mirrored pair ~5.5TB useable)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi all.  Thanks very much for the input.  


Data needs currently sit at 3TB of pool storage (shares+pc backups, not counting duplication) but I expect to start a ripping project this year that will add another 1 - 1.25 TB to the data and let me put my disks into cold storage.  That's why I was figuring 12TB in total (with full redundancy for a single drive failure) would likely work for me.


Budget -- I'm flexible (so I didn’t mention it!!  My mistake).  My data is important to me.  I'm willing to buy up for greater flexibility, redundancy, and overall value in meeting my objectives for this server.  I don’t feel the need to throw $ away by unnecessarily over-doing it with a gold plated case, but I’m trying to use this opportunity to dig in a little more into my “home” server and PC environment and I’ll put in a few more $ now for more future proofing and flexibility (w or w/o further upgrades and mods)… e.g.  I don’t know enough yet whether I might experiment with virtualization, but if my build could do that (possibly with an OS upgrade), it would be a nice to have – though I’m not at all sure what I’d use it for right now and didn’t mention it as a requirement at all in my OP.  All that said, no-control’s jumping off point landed me around $500+/- (before pool HDDs) and I’m very OK with that but would go higher if it got me something… (I’ll ask a few questions below on some of the suggestions)



  • I kind of like your 2-prong approach and timing is right with another $250 deal out today.  Take care of data first and figure out the rest later.  I very well might do that

  • I had not gone to PC-doc or no-control’s personal blogs.  On HSS forums the issue I had with suggested  builds were that many links even 3-4 months old were to outdated or unavailable equipment and I’m not smart enough yet to find the replacement part #



  • Thanks for your thoughts on my 495.  My current philosophy is to baby it until I get the replacement set up.  I’ll look into the usual things… Had not yet looked at Event Logs (not great at reading those things) or MemTest.

  • I was also thinking I’d be in I3/5 until I saw no-control’s suggestion (see below)


.—cskenney, jmwillis, schoondoggy, ikon

  • Thanks for the thoughts on Technet.  I had seen references to the summery 2012 changes to Technet terms, so I assumed the licenses were not valid after a (non-renewed) subscription.  Not sure if that means any sw with technet keys will pop a dialog box asking for a valid key or if those keys will just not be valid any longer for re-installations…  I think that is the impetus of jmwillis’ ‘clone baby clone’ reference


.— no-control

Thanks for the jumping off ideas for a BYOB.  Just putting the pieces into a newegg cart was helpful in helping me learn about this process….


A few questions for you (not challenging you on your best thoughts given my limited information, more trying to understand for myself…  Please let me know if the additional information above would lead you to any different recommendations…


  •  Ivy Celeron processor G1610/MB and H77M mboard?  I was figuring I’d have to go to an ivybridge Corei5 for reliable support for real time transcoding (mostly plex if/when needed by the client) and (non-real-time Tivo stuff with KMTTG and MPGMP4 with handbrake..  Like the SATAIII and USB3 on the mboard…  I assume that’s pretty standard now, but it’s a plus regardless.

  • Non-ECC memory and just 8GB?  I was figuring 16 (not sure why) and that it ECC is recommended for most any server setup.  By the looks of it, this seems to be a limitation of the motherboard.  Just wondering if ECC’s not as important as I seemed to think.  I guess 16 really is overkill unless I have some virtualization plans?

  • SSD – definitely agree that 256 was not needed--not sure what I was thinking.  But I guess I was legitimately thinking 120 would be a safe since I do plan to install some software.  For my cart, I picked the S510 120GB for now.   (and I’m not entirely sure how much 2012E will eat up….?)   If you insist 60GB is good, I’m fine with that too.  Maybe my thoughts of someday fooling with virtualization are part of my perception of ‘requirement’ too….

  • HDDs – WD Greens vs Reds?  Worth the extra $20 each for the longer warranty?

  • Fractal Case – Looks cool.  I’ve never bought a case before but that one looks great.  I don’t need anything fancy.  Not sure if it matters or not, but this server will be in my dry, clean, and cool unfinished basement.  Noise is not an issue but neither should be cooling since it stays in the 50s down there most of the year.

  • Looks like the MB has a NIC built-in?  Would I need a 2nd NIC for any reason?  (I’ve only read a little about NIC pooling).  What about if I was going to use the server for DHCP rather than my router… does it need a 2nd NIC then?  How about if I wanted the server to act as a router with something like PFSense?  (not even sure this is possible or makes any sense to do?)

  • I assume I would run the mirror through disk manager?  No need for any Raid or drive pooling solution (beyond 2012E storage spaces)?  (again, pardon my ignorance, I’m trying to feed back stuff I mostly read about on Friday and haven’t dealt with very much before this week.)


Thanks again for all of your input and guidance today and I’ll apologize in advance for anything I’ve written above that is illogical or super-NewB  for BYOB stuff



Edited by greenawayj
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...