Building your own Network Attached Storage at home

Not my server, for illustrations purposes only.

Friend — For the longest time I’ve been a geek of audio and video. Many of you know I’ve been a DJ and a video editor because I love media that much. It’s a fun pass time hobby to make these edits. Especially during this Covid 19 downtime, I’ve worked on some pretty cool stuff.

As I sit here next to my fireplace on this chill winter Thanksgiving day with a bit of overcast, I’m happy to write to you that it’s been a cool project to build your own media server at home. What exactly is a media server? Think of Netflix + Your cellphone data + your computer data all in one and you can access that content from anywhere.

I’ve collected digital content for years (since the 90s) as a method of backing up my physical copies. Many DJs that are vinyl junkies even eventually moved to Serato as a mixing system because of the ease and ability to be able to drop a song on the fly for guests. They all laughed at me in the beginning but I saw the trend coming and guess what, most professional DJs these days use just that – Digital media to mix. Don’t get me wrong, original vinyl sounds are much better because of that fullness sound wave but not practical to flip through a crate when your guests want their song to be played next.

With that in mind, I’ve collected every single top forty song from the 40s until today. It sits in the corner somewhere in my server room. I’ve collected every single picture from my young adult life as a photographer to now from people I came in contact with during these years. I’ve collected my favorite movie and tv shows that you’ll not be able to find in many places because they’ve been dumped as old media. Over 30 years of content!

There is no better place to run all this content than through using Plex as a media server. I originally bought the Plex server to use on Windows platform and it has grown far and beyond what it use to be. The latest updates of Plex have allowed for the use of streaming live TV and recording those streams in a DVR format. I haven’t come across any other server platform that can do this smoothly and efficiently. And I was a fan of Kodi for many years.

Kodi – before there was Kodi there was XBMC (Xbox media center). I say this with a heart of love for this community — I was at the early stages of tweaking and learning this with the first xbox that came out. I give a big shoutout of love to all the developers who kept this platform open source. It still is to this day and freeware. Unfortunately, these ideas got robbed and put for sale when the XBOX360 came out as a media center. Now most game consoles have a media center after this discovery.

 

Back to Plex, I’ve been a big fan of Plex for years for the simple fact that I can use it anywhere I go from my Tesla, mobile devices, to my Smart TVs. I highly recommend you look into it for yourself. You can visit them at Plex.tv for more information. I started my first server with a basic Windows 10 workstation. Although this method is ok, it can be a bit heavy on resources. So then I started to study other platforms and along came…

 

FreeNAS – FreeNAS is exactly what is in its name. It’s a FREE Network Attached Storage (NAS) platform running under the FreeBSD platform. It utilizes ZFS. What is ZFS? Best described from the FreeNAS site: “ZFS is an enterprise-ready open source file system, RAID controller, and volume manager with unprecedented flexibility and an uncompromising commitment to data integrity. It eliminates most, if not all of the shortcomings found in legacy file systems and hardware RAID devices. Once you go ZFS, you will never want to go back.”

FreeNAS also has many plugins that allow for the install of “apps”. These plugins get created in the form of a jail. A jail is an instance of your FreeNAS OS through a “port” or a “virtual IP”. For example to be able to see what jails are currently installed, you will have to have SSH enabled if you’re a command line geek, you can type in jls. After you see your list of jails and you pick that number, you’ll have to “jail in” to that jail using the command “jexec # csh”. Frankly, I’m not sure what the different shells (csh, tcsh, etc) do but maybe you as a reader can share the insight on that. I just get in there and make some edits to the scripts and file permissions (ie. chown and chmod).

For those that are wondering how I’m running IPTV with the ability to record (DVR) inside my Plex system you can review xTeVe. It took a bit to understand how to install and pull the IPTV content with EPG but once it’s setup it’s pretty rad. Not all the logos get imported in so you may have to tweak your own and add the thumbnails. Here’s a screenshot of my xTeVe.

My current server setup is maxed out almost. I’m at 84% utilization. I have 5 * 10TB drives. All RAID which means I can lose up 2 drives and the system will still function. I will have to most likely buy more drives and my External hard drive enclosure can take up to 8 total drives.

One of your plugins that you may be interested in adding is NextCloud. It’s like running your own Dropbox and you can move files to that “jail” from your cellphone or any computer. It’s nice when you have Terabytes available to you on a box and it’s not costing you a monthly fee. Actually that goes true for most of these services / plugins because they’re open source.

Feel free to message me with any questions regarding this topic. I’m very passionate about YOU housing your own data.

Credits and shoutouts: To all those developers out there that believe in the open-source world. Additionally, my great friend Liam who I’ve known and geeked out with since 6th grade for assisting me with the understanding of the BSD / Linux Platform a bit more. I’ve been rusty but now use it daily.

Enjoy a movie on me,

Cesar Ramirez

 

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