Having a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device dedicated solely to serving up your media is much better than just throwing a bunch of hard drives in a HTPC. I’m going to go over why this is much better. Right now it might be okay to just have a 2TB drive in your HTPC, but sooner or later you will want to separate the two. Read on to find out why.
When you are just starting out as a cord cutter, you might think about just having a 2 or 3TB hard drive in your HTPC. This is perfectly fine, and for many people this is more than enough. Some people may never need to upgrade from this. Some people though may find their media library growing, and will need to look into expanding. Throwing more hard drives into your HTPC may not be viable because of space constraints within the case. Splitting up the two has many advantages.
Having all your storage in one place is the best way to go. Many people have a HTPC, but also have cell phones, tablets, PCs and Laptops. Having all these devices talk to one single storage pool is the smartest way to go about this. Speaking of storage pools, a huge advantage to having a NAS/Homeserver is pooled storage. Amazing technologies like Stablebit Drivepool, FlexRaid, Drive Bender, etc allow you to pool a bunch of disks together to one giant disk. This gives you a single point to store all your videos, music and photos, but also gives you fault tolerance. These applications allow you to use a sort of simulated raid to give you piece of mind if you encounter a drive failure. Software RAID isn’t a backup solution but it provides you protection against a failed drive, something your measly HTPC cannot.
Always on, or not
Having your HTPC always on in the living room might not be something you want. Having your NAS on all the time saves you from keeping your HTPC on. You can leave your NAS on to download stuff while you’re not home, or have it running to serve up other content. Don’t want to keep it on? Install a WOL plugin for XBMC and have it send a WOL packet to your NAS when you turn on your HTPC. Voila, you can now turn on both while only having to turn one of them on.
Noise and size
A NAS can be noisy, multiple HDDs in one case can be noisy. Moving your HDDs out of your HTPC and into a NAS that you can throw into a closet, or in the basement saves you from having to listen to them while you’re watching Breaking Bad. Multiple HDDs also take up a lot of space. Yes, you can buy bigger hard drives, but if you have 4,5 or 6 hard drives in a case, this isn’t going to be small. Having a giant HTPC isn’t practical or nice looking, so putting all these hard drives in their own case out sight makes for a cleaner setup.
Separating the HTPC from the NAS allows you to split up duties. I believe that if you’re going to have hardware do something, it should do it well. Build a dedicated NAS, build a dedicated HTPC. The two have wildly different specifications and requirements. This way you’re making sure you can get the most bang for your buck, and you aren’t making any compromises because you need to make sure your NAS (which is ‘headless’) has a nice GPU.
Your NAS/Homeserver can do more than be a ‘dumb’ fileserver
You’ve built this amazing NAS, now put it to work. XBMC is a client based application so it doesn’t need a backed, but that doesn’t mean your NAS should just sit there doing nothing more.
- Put Plex on it, so that you can watch your media on your cell phone, or tablet away from home
- Setup Subsonic so that you can stream your music library anywhere you want
- Install a PVR backend so that you can watch OTA live TV on your XBMC (I’m using NextPVR)
- Install MySQL and setup a shared library for your multiple XBMC HTPCs
- Setup Sickbeard/SabNZB/Counchpotato to auto download content for you
- Run a personal blog/website from your NAS – impress your friends!
- Run OwnCloud or Seafile – roll your own dropbox because you can
- Much more
You can do sooo much more with your own homeserver/NAS. Seriously look into it. I could go on and on with all the cool stuff.
I hope I’ve enlightened you about the world of running a homeserver/nas. I tried to make this a generic as possible. I run Windows at home, but many people run Linux homeservers, like those running UnRaid. If you have any questions or comments please let me know below.