Hi, just wanted to barge in on this topic as I find myself in a similar position to the OP. Happy to make a new thread if I am off base.
I am starting fresh on a new media server build with no particular hardware selected. I have been researching options and find more conflicting advice than useful information. I don't think my desire is unusual, so I am confused as to why I can't find a good answer.
Store audio, video, and files (photos, etc.) centrally
Room for 2000 DVDs, 300 BluRays, 1000 CDs. Expandable.
Ability to store in max resolution/quality and transcode down if necessary. ACC to MP3, or whatever. I don't know if I would store multiple versions to accomplish this.
Support Apple technology as my wife loves it (airplay, itunes libarary)
Avoid buying a mac because I don't love it
Allow multiple device types access to the material (PC, Smartphone, AppleTV, Dune(or similar), PS3)
Reasonable power consumption
Stable, but not necessarily 100% uptime
DIY integration friendly, for an iRule, ISY-99i controlled environment
Ability to "Sling" this to a smartphone or laptop outside the home, at lower resolution if need be
Every road I go down in my research turns up roadblocks. It seems that what I might need to do is actually build multiple devices:
1. a stand-alone NAS (unRAID, FreeNAS, opensolaris).
2. an always-on central server, possibly windows home server, running iTunes and various utilities.
3. Possibly an HTPC, though I am not sure what that gains over PS3, Dune, AppleTV. I need some device capable of ripping and transcoding, though, and I assume it needs higher processing power than typical media servers that are low power units.
I could probably combine some or all of those functions. I don't really know.
Price is an object. an $850 raid card is probably not in the cards. But $150 might be. Given the storage price crisis at the moment, I probably won't be buying 10 drives at once, so there is some genuine appeal to JBOD over fixed RAID, but I could be convinced to do one set of 5/6 discs and add an independent set later of that makes more sense.
I was leaning toward just a windows home server until I discovered that the advice I was reading was out of date, and that I might need a different storage solution. Would hardware RAID in a WHS box be better (cheaper?) than 2 boxes?
Is building to be airplay-friendly a waste of effort? Would I be better off convincing my wife to use an open technology? Like what? I plan to hardwire the airplay devices through gigabit switches, so it is more about access/control than wireless toys.