First-Time Server Builder -- Advice Please!

CROSS-POSTED from the Reddit JDM_WAAAT forum:

Hey JDM_WAAAT and friends.

Thanks for all the advice here and on the Reddit forums – great stuff, really helpful!

I’m looking into building a new server, and have a few questions. Wondering what y’all would advise.


  • General data storage, roughly 40TB. Would also like some way to do full offsite cloud backup. Currently using Backblaze personal, which works fine.
  • Plex server. Maximum transcodes so far is eight simultaneous, but average load is more like four. All 1080p content, no 4K (if I ever expand to 4K, it would be in-network shared only; no transcoding). Lots of the content is x265. I know the ideal situation is “don’t transcode anything”, but that’s not an option, unfortunately.
  • Have been running all the above off of a couple MediaSonic boxes attached to my main rig – it’s plenty beefy, but all the Plex load is slowing things down a bit (and I’d like to be able to power down the main rig when not in use).
  • Budget is up to $1000, but cheaper is always better. Drives do not need to be included; I have plenty.


  1. High-level question: for the purposes above, would I be better off building ONE do-it-all box or TWO separate boxes, one to do the file hosting and one to do the transcoding?
  2. If one box, it seems to me the way to go (based on JDM_WAAAT’s transcoding guide) would be a recent Intel chip with QuickSync and a mobo with plenty of PCI-e slots for drive expansion, mounted in one of those Rosewill 15-bay cases. Is there a significant difference between the 7th, 8th, and 9th generation chips, so far as QuickSync transcoding goes? What’s a good bang-for-the-buck chip for this purpose?
  3. If two boxes, I assume the way to go would be to cobble together a NAS Killer and pair it with a small, dedicated transcoding box – like an 8th Gen QuickSync laptop, or maybe one of those 8th Gen HP minis that are going for like $100?
  4. I have basically zero experience with Linux; I’m a Windows guy, and I’m not anywhere near as tech-savvy in general as most of you guys are. Would I be better off going UnRaid for this build, or just sticking with Windows (currently running SnapRAID + Drivepool, which has worked a charm for my needs).
  5. Are there any good (affordable) cloud backup systems for Linux? I don’t think BackBlaze supports that platform. Would G Suite be an option?


#1. For your use case, I would go with two separate boxes as a lot of other people right now are. Build a cheap NAS Killer for storage and go for a separate quicksync box for Plex. Keep data and plex server separate.

#2. Go for 8th gen. 9th gen is not supported by Plex yet and 8th gen does cover more formats than 7th. You will also need Plex Pass since hardware transcoding is a plex pass feature.

#3. Yes, a NAS killer build, probably the NK4 and either a laptop or the HP 290. Some prefer the laptop due to the built-in monitor, keyboard and battery backup.

#4. Definitely go UNRAID on the NAS Killer. It’s worth every penny and there is a ton of support for it around the community.

#5. I don’t know about cloud backup. If you’re worried about your plex metadata I’m sure you could back it up to a share on the Unraid box but it’s also easily replaceable with plex doing all the work if something happens.

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