Building upon a solid Linux core, Unraid is a network-attached storage (NAS) product that excels at serving media, particularly handy for home users. It allows growth by adding mismatched hard-drives over time. Docker containers offer all the required media services.
As this storage device is not a gaming PC, you’re better to run Unraid on many CPU cores with lots of drives, neither of which need to be blazing fast. In my case, I had a spare tower with dual CPUs (12 cores with 24 threads).
To allow for many Docker containers and a few VMs, its got 48 GB of ECC RAM:
I added a UPS to deal with brown-outs and black-outs, monitored by Unraid:
It also has an old Quadro GPU, but that’s another story.
Unraid itself runs in RAM, booting off a USB thumb-drive. After updating the BIOS settings to ignore disks in the boot order, I was able to access the Unraid GUI via web browser. With a 30 day trial, I started to test with a new 8 TB shucked drive for parity, a single 2 TB hard disk, and a small 240 GB SSD for cache.
As testing progressed, I continued to add hard-drives, pre-clearing them first, then rolling them into the array:
As shown above, I’m now up to 27 TB in the array, with data redundancy provided by the 8 TB parity disk. The oldest drive is a WD Green 1 TB from 2008!
While Unraid excels at growing a heterogenous storage array over time, these mismatched disks will not handle writes as fast as a homogenous array of fast ZFS disks on FreeNAS for example. To make up for this, Unraid uses a cache pool of SSD drives. I started with a single Kingston SSD, but added a 2nd to make a redundant pair.
As a storage array, Unraid comes with a few file shares already setup:
I added a couple more:
Unraid makes it really easy to run and update all sorts of Docker containers. For basic media server, I’m following this guide:
Overall, I’m really impressed with Unraid. It’s been on my list to try for years, but I kept putting it off. We’ll see how it holds up in the coming months and years, but for the price, it seems to offer a lot of value. It’s done an excellent job of taking over as my media server. I hope to explore additional projects my adding more containers and VMs in the future.