My original specs for my cloud server.

Now that we have our goals list and our budget money available lets select some hardware that meets as many goals as possible within our budget. There were my first specs that I would not recommend using for your own server. It was much too slow in transfer speeds, had no room for upgrades, and was hard to manage hard drives. I will give some even better suggestions in the next part. As time has progressed I have upgraded my server multiple times and nearly all of my specs have changed. I will elaborate more in a future portion of this project.

Here are the basic specs I originally went with and their cost rounded to nearest dollar at the time I purchased them. I have also included some of my comments and basic suggestions. By now most of these are out of stock and are unlikely to be restocked as better and cheaper models exist. Most the prices have also changed on the items still in stock. I will provide links to Newegg so you can investigate the full specs listed there if so desired. I will leave a note on the items I have seen that are out of stock. Contact me if you notice more are out of stock now.

  • ASRock AMD Dual-Core 1GHz (1.333 GHz Turbo) CPU = $40 (Out of Stock)
    • I figured I would not need too much CPU for it to work effectively. At first it worked at a decent speed via windows SMB network. However once I added encryption via SSL and the cloud service my max speed through the internet went from 1-3MBps (which is my max upload speed) down to a horrible 256KBps if I was lucky. Sadly even directly through the network with the already setup mapped network drive speeds also dropped to marginally better then the 256 KBps. So in my later suggestions I highly recommend at least 2GHz in a dual-core. There are also many operating system tweaks I will mention when we get that far to help speed things up.
  • Above has an integrated AMD Radeon HD 6290 GPU = Included
    • This server doesn't need any fancy GPU just something able to output via VGA or DVI works fine as 99% of the time it runs headless.A motherboard with one built in saves you an extra slot for future upgrades and money on a GPU. If thats not an option even an old PCI video card would work for this. If you plan on a big upgrade like I did with tons of hard drives you want to keep your PCI Express x16 slot open if possible.
  • G.Skill 4GB DDR3 1600 RAM = $23 (Price on 3/3/17, $31)
    • I didn't figure it would need a lot of RAM originally. However I found out later it was always using most the RAM so I had to add another 4GB in. It seems 1 GB of RAM per 1 Terabyte is a pretty good rule of thumb. It needs even more if you are using virtual machines so keep that in mind.
  • 2x Western Digital Green 5,400RPM 4TB Hard Drives = $268 (Price on 3/3/17, $283 for one now. I don't recommend this hard drive as the Western Digital Green Drives have issues.)
    • I only chose the green drives because it would save me about $60-$80 at the time. If you can I would recommend the Western Digital Red drives designed for NAS ideally but since those cost more I would stick with Western Digital Blue drives. If you really need 7,200 RPM for faster read/write speeds you will want the Western Digital Black drives. Update: One of my original green drives has already failed due to some stupid power saving feature that force parks the head every few seconds to "save power". Avoid the green drives if at all possible which is easy now that the blue drives are cheaper.
  • Mushkin 60GB Solid State Drive = $37 (Price on 3/3/17, $40)
    • I largely chose this to be cheap but have really good boot up speed. However I learned the operating system I went with supports being installed on a cheap flash drive which can save you $26+ compared to what I paid. In my suggested specs I linked a great one of 32GB by Samsung that's USB 3 compatible. I have re-purposed this SSD into a different machine and switched to a USB flash drive to free up a SATA slot.
  • Rosewill Mini ITX Gaming Cube = $40 (Out of Stock)
    • This case in retrospect was not a good choice for me. It looked good originally because it was a decent size and below the height of my shelf. However now that I desire upgrading my system I cannot add more hard drives. I would have to get a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter to add an additional 3.5" hard drive. That would give me 4x 3.5" Hard Drive slots total. I could also get 2x PCI slot 2.5" adapters and put some laptop hard drives as well. Both could work but its much easier to get a larger normal tower up front that comes with 4-6 hard drive slots or a system like I will suggest in the next part of this series. Update: My latest upgrade takes this to an even larger extreme and I will touch on it later in this project.
  • Raidmax 450w Power Supply Unit = $25 (Out of Stock)
    • I chose this one largely due to the price and the fact I have used Raidmax power supplies with great success in the past. That and it has overload and overvolt protection which should help protect my computer system from damage.
  • Grand Total = $433

These were my starting specs there was one required upgrade right out the gate and that was an additional 4GB of RAM. With this additional upgrade it made my totals become:

This upgrade threw me just barely over my $450 budget but my original purchase had a $5 promo on the case so I only went over by $1. Either way I had the $25 in my wallet I could have used for it if I had to.

Note: I have noticed when I double checked prices and stock on 3/3/17 that many of the parts have gone up in price that are still in stock. I wouldn't buy any of these parts as there are better cheaper ones available that I will mention in the next part. Especially the Western Digital Green drives, they doubled in price for the same old model prone to failure due to the forced head parking.


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More in depth breakdown of my reasoning for the specs I chose and more suggestions.

First you can tell I didn't go for a really high speed CPU this was mostly due to cost as one closer to 2GHz was $30+ more. My other reason for choosing this was it uses very little power which was desirable with a machine running 24/7 and it had a 1 gigabit network card. That being said I should have spent the extra money as things such as encryption, cloud services, plugins, and smb (windows network share) use more CPU usage or only work with 1 core. Which means certain parts of mine are limited to 1GHz normally with a max overclock boost of 1.33GHz which is pretty slow. If you have to add an extra month to your budget so you can buy better specs if you need to. The other drawback was I went Embedded Mini ITX which is quite small and uses little power but the CPU is not upgradable. If I am not mistaken its soldered directly to the motherboard making it not worth even attempting a CPU upgrade if I could get a CPU to fit it anyway.

As you can tell my highest cost was in hard drives which yours will probably be similar. My total with the SSD was $305 which is 70% of my total hardware costs. I could have saved at least $100 going with 2 TB but considering my existing 2 TB drive was full at the time I chose to go for 4TB. At this point I am only using about 2.5 TB so I could have made due with 2 TB and deleted a few files. The Western Digital Black or Blue 7,200 RPM drives costed around $220 each and I didn't have $440 for just the storage drives in my budget. Also the Western Digital Red 5,400 RPM drives built for NAS were about $60 more then the ones I got. This is why I chose the Green 5,400 RPM drives which are slower RPM but at the same time also use less power. The drawback is the green drives tend to park the drive reading head way too frequently which can greatly decrease lifespan based on some reviewers. Mine have not failed yet but the second hard drive has some non writable sectors already so it may eventually fail completely. There are some nice drives by HGST, a company owned by Western Digital, that are not only designed for NAS but nearly the same price or a bit more but I did not see them at the time.

I chose the RAM because I have purchased many G.Skill RAM sticks over the years with good success other then an occasional dead on arrival which is quickly replaced so not a huge deal other then annoyance. That and they are often quite cheap and have the heat spreader on them which both reduces heat while looking nicer.

I chose Mushkin largely due to the price only being $37 for a solid state and I have used them once in the past with good success. At the moment my drive is no longer part of my setup as I changed it to the USB flash drive I recommend later on.

For the power supply I went with Raidmax because its really cheap for a reasonable watt total, has overload protection, and over voltage protection. That and I have used their power supplies and cases with very good success over the years. Its efficiency is only up to 75% which isn't the best I could get but was the best I could get in my price range with some room for upgrades if desired.

Last I went with the Rosewill Neutron Gaming Cube mostly due to the price though cheaper ones were available this one came with 3 fans, was just below the max height my shelf allowed and could fit 3x 3.5" or 2.5" hard drives which I needed. It looks like now Newegg is sold out of them so in the suggested specs I will post an equivalent or better one. I should have gone for one with more hard drive bays for future upgrades.

Now that you know the specs I used and some of my reasoning behind the choices lets jump into the suggested specs that can give you considerably more bang for the buck. I also have some alternative hardware suggestions I will go into after in a later part.

⇐ Budget | Suggested Specs ⇒