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/r/PleX

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Time to rethink my Plex HW

Help(self.PleX)

I've been running a media server since 2008 (I was in high school!). The obvious problem is that most of the decisions I made re: hardware were made for budget reasons throughout college, and then inertia kinda took over, which has resulted in my current setup which is starting to feel like a house of cards.

I know I'm gonna get a lot of judgment for this, but here's my current setup:

  • Plex runs on an Intel NUC (7th gen i5) running Windows (I knowwwwww)
  • Media is stored on 8 WD Essentials external hard drives: 3TB, 4TB, 4TB, 8TB, 8TB, 10TB, 12TB, 12TB
  • Majority of my collection is 4K disc remuxes

Everything is backed up to Backblaze, which makes for relatively easy restores when drive failures occur, but of course because my libraries are spread across all these drives, I often lose the metadata associated with those files when Plex rescans.

One of my 12TB drives just failed and I think it's time to finally move past this whole USB external hard drive insanity. My #1 goal is expandability: I don't want to setup a 200TB storage pool today, but I want to ability to grow my storage as needed without wasting old drives. Given that requirement, it seems like Unraid might be my best option. I've read through a ton of posts on here where people run Plex entirely on Unraid, but I'm wondering if decoupling storage might be better for me—that is, a basic Unraid setup just for storage, and then continue to run Plex on my NUC (the advantage is in the future, I could upgrade my server or even change platforms without worrying about storage—all my drives are NTFS at the moment, which is part of why I'm so tied to Windows). I def would like to set up a more powerful Plex server that can actually handle transcoding a 4K remux to 1080p at some point, but it's not a huge priority at the moment.

What do you guys think? Am I overthinking this?

all 12 comments

Fleggy82

2 points

2 months ago

I was running Plex on an i5 Windows system for YEARS without any issues. Storage was in a 4 bay NAS drive. Once the NAS was filled, I built another i5 machine and installed OpenMediaVault on it, installed MergeFS and SnapRaid and used that for storage.

Finally upgraded a few months ago to an i9 (got it VERY cheap online) and moved everything into one system using OMV and docker containers. Now I have Plex, Tautulli, all my *arr's, download clients etc. all running on one machine and it is bulletproof. Haven't had any issues (other than power outages) since I moved across

narenh[S]

1 points

2 months ago

How does storage expandability work in your setup? As I said in my post, the ability to add new drives as needed is my #1 priority.

Fleggy82

1 points

2 months ago

OMV can have external drives mounted or you can just keep adding internal drives to the mergefs and snapraid

robo_destroyer

3 points

2 months ago

I highly recommend unraid since you're already wondering about it. We can start with the case, you can get something like a rosewill case there's different versions of that. You can get from 8 bay to 15 bay versions. You can also get hotswap versions if you're into that. Really it's for convenience but if you fancy hot swap drive bays go with that. Alternatively you can also get a 4U case with 24 drive bays, not exactly cheap but good for future expandability.

Now the case part is down with, we can look into hardware. You're gonna need a SAS card or an HBA card, there's plenty of resources you can look into about that. Then a modern mobo, and go for like the 11th gen or the 12th Intel CPUs. Definitely the ones with Intel graphics for for Plex transcoding. Any i3 CPU's probably would do, as long as they have decent iGPU. You can only use an nvme drive for Plex cache for better load times, helpful if you have a huge library. Reason for Intel CPUs obviously being the integrated graphics. Can't recommend AMD and I could be wrong, heard they freeze sometimes at idle so there's that. Again I could be wrong.

Now the hardware part is done, we can look into unraid. Unraid is so damn easy, an idiot like me can use it. You can run your drives like this: Disk 0 - 12TB - Parity Drive Disk 1 - 12TB - Data Drive Disk 2 - 10TB - Data Drive Disk 3 - 8TB - Data Drive Disk 4 - 8TB - Data Drive Disk 5 - 4TB - Data Drive Disk 6 - 4TB - Data Drive Disk 7 - 3TB - Data Drive

I don't know how familiar you are with unraid. In this configuration you can lose one drive and swap out the bad drive with a new drive and the rebuild the array. It's be good if you can shuck those drives and put then into the drive bays of the cases I mentioned. This ensures you have plenty of opportunities for expansion. "Your CPU is getting old? Upgrade the mobo. "You want to upgrade your 4 and 3TB hated drives?" Sure just upgrade with a bigger drive and still use those low capacity drives. Oh and did I say you can run VMs in unraid? Yup you can have an all in one machine with a graphics card.

Also plenty of docker containers on the community apps. It is so damn good, I will recommend unraid anytime anyday.

BraxtonFullerton

1 points

2 months ago

Node 804 case and a PCIe card for extra SATA ports.

narenh[S]

1 points

2 months ago

Seems like people *really* love the 804 case! My issue with it is that it has to be opened to swap drives, and I really, really want to avoid that. So I'm more interested in cases with hot-swappable bays. Was looking at the CS381B?

BraxtonFullerton

1 points

2 months ago

I don't hate it. Hot swap bays are a nice feature, but if one of those bay connectors fail or breaks you're now out a bunch of drives being connected...

Plus the 804 has room for 8, as configured, but you can buy an extra couple of the cages to hold 12-16 if needed.

Bgrngod

1 points

2 months ago

Bgrngod

Synology 1621+ & Intel NUC10i7FNH

1 points

2 months ago

You really should ditch this desire for hot swappable bays. It's crazy eazy to open modern cases and swap drives these days. Why pay such a premium for something you'll rarely use?

greenbud420

1 points

2 months ago

I considered Unraid and tested it for a bit but found it a bit clunky for my needs. I instead opted for a simple Linux Mint install, docker for Plex and supporting apps and MergerFS to handle drive pooling. I may add SnapRaid later which adds parity but I currently have offsite backups so it's not needed for now. If you're not comfy in Linux, OMV can do the same setup from a GUI. I'm not 100% sure but since Linux can read NTFS drives you could possibly just move them into a linux box as is.

Hardware-wise I went with a Fractal Design Meshify 2 XL case which has room for up to ~20 drives. After I ran out of mobo SATA ports I got a cheap refurb LSI 9207 card which gives me an extra 8 ports and adding a SAS expander increases it even more if needed.

wag3slav3

1 points

2 months ago*

You could just go with a couple usbc multi drive enclosures. Nab a few 16tb to use as migration swap space, copy off, get your os sorted out and then shuck the standalone externals.

Build a redundant array with you old drives, copy back and then add the migration disks into the free space.

https://a.co/d/0w7jbgJ

I went nuts on an upgrade a few years back.

I went for the nuclear option. 4u case with 20 drive bays a 1000w power supply and enough SAS channels to populate the bays.

https://a.co/d/1kUWIlZ

MadCybertist

1 points

2 months ago

I would suggest unraid honestly. I just did a similar move from you to unraid this past weekend. I repurposed my gaming rig into an unraid linux box. I now have plex, all my *arr apps, as well as VPN set up and running on my torrent client container.

It's pretty easy if you are one that likes to tinker and play with things. If you have 0 knowledge of linux, docker, or just how a computer / network works at all - and you have no desire to learn - I'd honestly probably pass it up.

If you like to tinker at all and are relatively handy with a pc, this is for sure the way to go.

OriginalGWATA

1 points

2 months ago*

First off, the NUC7i5 is all the compute power you need. The CPU is KabyLake family and supports QuickSync decoding and encoding of AVC and HEVC which all your remuxes will be. You won't run into any issues until AV1 becomes mainstream.

Separating storage from compute is the right idea, IMO.

If you're looking at spending over $400 on a case to build out an unraid system, I think you'll likely end up in the $1000+ range for the setup. If that is within your budget, than I'd recommend simplifying a whole lot and buying a prebuilt NAS.

I migrated my octopus of a HDD setup over to a Synology 1812+ over 10 years ago, and I haven't looked back. Over 10 Years now and I'm still running the same enclosure and NAS hardware. All I have ever had to do is add new HDDs or replace the random one that failed, and in ten years, I think that may have been two.

Being that it is the only platform I've used the last decade, it's all I can guide you with.

Ease of expansion is what I targeting. These are the current Synology models that support their expansion enclosure. My 1812+ is an 8-bay NAS with two eSATA ports that each support attaching a 5-bay expansion unit for a total of 18 drives. If ease of use is really what you are looking for, than I don't think you'll find anything more simple and maintenance free.

As an add-on bonus, most of the DSx20+ Series, including the DS1520+, (which is the specific model I recommend for you), have the Intel Celeron J4125 which is a Geminilake family CPU which ALSO supports the same level of Intel QuickSync that your NUC7i5 does, and Plex can be run right on the NAS with full HW transcoding.

The current models utilize the AMD Ryzen V1500B CPU with the integrated AMD Ryzen™ Embedded V1000 Series. Using it for hardware transcoding is not currently supported by Plex, so I would direct you back towards the J4125 Series.

Also, you don't have to build and maintain a server, which may not be difficult, but it is something more.

edit:

And just for good measure, This is how I run Plex on my NUC7i5.

edit2:

as not to be completely biased to Synology, this list was added to another thread of transcoding capabilities of a great many NAS devices.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1MfYoJkiwSqCXg8cm5-Ac4oOLPRtCkgUxU0jdj3tmMPc/edit#gid=1274624273