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Longtime lurker here, but I'm a relative newb when it comes to servers and I need some help with setup. I've been searching the forums and couldn't find anything that fit my needs completely.

I just purchased a Lenovo TS140 (xeon 1225 v3) on sale and plan to use it as a central server/Plex machine when I move to my new place.

I plan to add WD reds, some additional ECC Ram, and possibly an SSD for the OS as I can afford along with an external Blu Ray drive for rips.

I want this machine to be able to do a few things:

1) Serve as central file storage for multiple devices: including 3+ laptops.
2) Automatically backup 3 said laptops (at least one being iOS, the others Windows) on the server.
3) Serve as Plex Server and be able to transcode up to 3 streams simultaneously to A) XB1 w/projector, B) Samsung HD TV, and C) Ipad/other tablet.
4) Function as occasional workstation (research/word processing).

The question becomes; what software should I run to accomplish this? Can this be accomplished simply with windows? I'd prefer either windows 7 or 8 as I have keys, or free, because I'm a poor student.

Any help would be much appreciated!
 

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Windows comes with a nice, basic backup system that should cover you. It'll be set up on the clients, though, not the server. iOS devices aren't as backup friendly out of the box, but I bet if you dig around you'll find cheap/free software that will work. OS-X laptops have time machine. My Synology diskstation came with a package that time machine would talk to, so there will likely be something out there that'll do the same for windows. Web browsing and word processing are some of the least resource-intensive computer tasks nowadays. I doubt you'll have any issues there.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Windows comes with a nice, basic backup system that should cover you. It'll be set up on the clients, though, not the server. iOS devices aren't as backup friendly out of the box, but I bet if you dig around you'll find cheap/free software that will work. OS-X laptops have time machine. My Synology diskstation came with a package that time machine would talk to, so there will likely be something out there that'll do the same for windows. Web browsing and word processing are some of the least resource-intensive computer tasks nowadays. I doubt you'll have any issues there.
Thanks for the reply! I'd like to set it up so that the backups are not on the clients, if possible. Could this be accomplished if I used a Linux-based OS? Or is the answer going to be the same (have to set it up on the clients) across many OS?
 

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There will always have to be something set up on the client. Even enterprise-level backup requires installing agents on the clients, or at least it did when I last worked with it (~ 2011). If you're willing to invest the time & effort, I'll bet there are open source solutions that will do the job. I'll also bet they're a huge PITA to get running, and centralized backup is a giant pain in its own right, IMO.

There's probably also a way you could arrange drive shares so that the server can access the client drives, but again that's a lot of work and moving parts. I wouldn't expect it to work reliably for more than a few months, or even weeks, at a time.

It'd probably be easiest and most reliable of all to set up cloud backup. There would be a fee, of course, but that keeps dropping all the time.

Good luck!
 

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I have somewhat of the same setup, however instead of using Plex as a transcoder/streamer for my main TVs im using it strictly for mobile devices. I use it to stream 16 bit apple lossless audio cd collection and transcode my movie and TV show collection to my iPhone and iPad on the go.

As nice of a setup as this is going to be, I would highly recommend going the extra step and connecting OPENELEC with Kodi via an Intel NUC to your TV and stream 1:1 audio and video to your main tv's from your main computer without transcoding, especially if you have a nice TV and surround sound system. BTW I am using the NUC with the Celeron processor and it does the job beautifully.

If you have any questions let me know. Take care.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks dscott!

As nice of a setup as this is going to be, I would highly recommend going the extra step and connecting OPENELEC with Kodi via an Intel NUC to your TV and stream 1:1 audio and video to your main tv's from your main computer without transcoding, especially if you have a nice TV and surround sound system. BTW I am using the NUC with the Celeron processor and it does the job beautifully.

If you have any questions let me know. Take care.
What would the advantages of Kodi be over Plex? I would really like to stream 1:1 if possible to my projector (with XB1, which I believe transcodes MKV files now), but the other main TV is only a 40" in the family room without surround sound, so that wouldn't need it. Would the Nuc really be required in my case? And if not, would you still suggest OPENELEC with Kodi? Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
There will always have to be something set up on the client. Even enterprise-level backup requires installing agents on the clients, or at least it did when I last worked with it (~ 2011). If you're willing to invest the time & effort, I'll bet there are open source solutions that will do the job. I'll also bet they're a huge PITA to get running, and centralized backup is a giant pain in its own right, IMO.

There's probably also a way you could arrange drive shares so that the server can access the client drives, but again that's a lot of work and moving parts. I wouldn't expect it to work reliably for more than a few months, or even weeks, at a time.

It'd probably be easiest and most reliable of all to set up cloud backup. There would be a fee, of course, but that keeps dropping all the time.

Good luck!
And I just want to be clear, are you suggesting I use the windows software that I currently have to run the server? That should work OK?
 

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Thanks dscott!



What would the advantages of Kodi be over Plex? I would really like to stream 1:1 if possible to my projector (with XB1, which I believe transcodes MKV files now), but the other main TV is only a 40" in the family room without surround sound, so that wouldn't need it. Would the Nuc really be required in my case? And if not, would you still suggest OPENELEC with Kodi? Thanks!
Plex and Kodi are a bit different and both have their strengths and weaknesses in my opinion. I love Plex as an app and if you have the Xbox One which like you said plays MKV files then you wouldn't have to worry about Plex transcoding and degrading the video. Having said that, Kodi using OPENELEC as the operating system turns the NUC into a standalone media player without the need to log into the Xbox, scroll through and open the Plex app, or worry if the Xbox One will play the audio or video codec. Kodi is also very customizable, has good video processing options, and will play virtually any audio codec out there without having to transcode anything, because it just simply connects to the computer with the hard drives that you loaded to your libraries. For instance when I want to listen to my CD collection that I ripped to ALAC or watch my blu-ray that I ripped with MakeMKV for 1:1 quality, I simply press "Watch a movie" on my Harmony 650 and it wakes my NUC from sleep mode, turns on my receiver, turns on my TV, and I am ready to go without having to worry if the format will play or be degraded by having to be transcoded.

Plex in my opinion is the best server/player combo for mobile devices. There is nothing better than plugging my iPhone into my car stereo and having my entire ALAC library at my fingertips or my entire video library at my kids fingertips, but as far as a serious home theater I love Kodi. And with the investment you are going to make with your nice server, I would top it off with a great standalone player that can play virtually any format without hassle.

Watch a couple of videos on Cinema Experience for Kodi or just Kodi in general so you can get a better feel for whether or not you believe would buying a NUC would be worth it for you.

Let me know how it goes and if you ever have any questions feel free to ask.
 

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2) Automatically backup 3 said laptops (at least one being iOS, the others Windows) on the server.
I can't recommend using something like Spideroak or Crashplan enough. Both will let you backup your clients to a local server and their online storage as well. Backups are only as good as the number of locations you keep them in. Both are easy to setup and almost maintenance free once running.
 

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And I just want to be clear, are you suggesting I use the windows software that I currently have to run the server? That should work OK?
Assuming you're running XP or better, on the back-end the code base is all the same. The server products offer a lot more management options and the ability for lots of people to log in at once, but for a home network pretty much any version should be fine.

That said, if you're retasking an existing machine, I would absolutely consider blowing it away and installing whatever was the most up-to-date OS whenever you bought it. That'll give you a nice clean slate.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I can't recommend using something like Spideroak or Crashplan enough. Both will let you backup your clients to a local server and their online storage as well. Backups are only as good as the number of locations you keep them in. Both are easy to setup and almost maintenance free once running.
Thanks for the heads-up, Robnix. I checked them both out and they both offer good products, Crashplan's local and offsite backups should be plenty for me. I'll most likely go that route.
 

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Assuming you're running XP or better, on the back-end the code base is all the same. The server products offer a lot more management options and the ability for lots of people to log in at once, but for a home network pretty much any version should be fine.

That said, if you're retasking an existing machine, I would absolutely consider blowing it away and installing whatever was the most up-to-date OS whenever you bought it. That'll give you a nice clean slate.
Perfect, that's what I needed to know. And I'm assuming this will continue through a windows 10 upgrade this summer?
 

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Plex and Kodi are a bit different and both have their strengths and weaknesses in my opinion. I love Plex as an app and if you have the Xbox One which like you said plays MKV files then you wouldn't have to worry about Plex transcoding and degrading the video. Having said that, Kodi using OPENELEC as the operating system turns the NUC into a standalone media player without the need to log into the Xbox, scroll through and open the Plex app, or worry if the Xbox One will play the audio or video codec. Kodi is also very customizable, has good video processing options, and will play virtually any audio codec out there without having to transcode anything, because it just simply connects to the computer with the hard drives that you loaded to your libraries. For instance when I want to listen to my CD collection that I ripped to ALAC or watch my blu-ray that I ripped with MakeMKV for 1:1 quality, I simply press "Watch a movie" on my Harmony 650 and it wakes my NUC from sleep mode, turns on my receiver, turns on my TV, and I am ready to go without having to worry if the format will play or be degraded by having to be transcoded.

Plex in my opinion is the best server/player combo for mobile devices. There is nothing better than plugging my iPhone into my car stereo and having my entire ALAC library at my fingertips or my entire video library at my kids fingertips, but as far as a serious home theater I love Kodi. And with the investment you are going to make with your nice server, I would top it off with a great standalone player that can play virtually any format without hassle.

Watch a couple of videos on Cinema Experience for Kodi or just Kodi in general so you can get a better feel for whether or not you believe would buying a NUC would be worth it for you.

Let me know how it goes and if you ever have any questions feel free to ask.
I appreciate all of the info here. I've looked at it a bit today and I will continue to research it a bit. I think the most likely solution for me in the short term will be to try to make it work through Plex and streaming (purely because $/student status), but I will likely make a change such as that in the future. I'll let you know for sure which way it went when it all gets set up this summer.
 

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Perfect, that's what I needed to know. And I'm assuming this will continue through a windows 10 upgrade this summer?
That's up to Microsoft and whoever is making your software. USUALLY, the worst that will happen is trying to figure out where they put the switch you're looking for this time around. But maybe not.
 

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That's up to Microsoft and whoever is making your software. USUALLY, the worst that will happen is trying to figure out where they put the switch you're looking for this time around. But maybe not.
As I've researched a bit more, I've found that macs may not be supported on a windows (storage space) server like those windows 8 are capable of. Am I missing something? Is that something I'm going to be able to accomplish just using windows?
 

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Macs use the same drive sharing protocols that Windows does, at least last time I worked with them. Even if 8 radically changed things, they'd still need to support older systems to maintain compatibility. My Synology server came with a server-side piece that my mac uses to put time machine backups on. I'd think similar software would be available for windows, but I'm not sure of that. So there's two data points for you.
 

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I have a relatively high-end NAS and it is capable of backing up my other machines, but I found it much easier to just use OneDrive for a variety of reasons.
 

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Macs use the same drive sharing protocols that Windows does, at least last time I worked with them. Even if 8 radically changed things, they'd still need to support older systems to maintain compatibility. My Synology server came with a server-side piece that my mac uses to put time machine backups on. I'd think similar software would be available for windows, but I'm not sure of that. So there's two data points for you.
OK, I'm not sure if you're a bit over my head, or if we're just not quite on the same page. I'm looking for a way to use the thinkserver that I have to be a shared space between the Windows and Macs; as in both with write and read capability (and the ability to back themselves up into that space), and with some redundancy (Windows Storage Spaces is capable of both RAID1 like recording and RAID5) But I was under the impression that Macs use a different file system? Am I wrong in that thinking?

Thanks for all of your help so far.
 

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I have a relatively high-end NAS and it is capable of backing up my other machines, but I found it much easier to just use OneDrive for a variety of reasons.
I appreciate the input, but I'm not sure that would be the best solution for my needs. That's kind of the situation that I wanted to avoid at this point purely because of the money situation, and the things that I need the system to be able to do (sharing AND provide transcoding for multiple streams at the same time). From what I've read, a NAS would have difficulty with that. Is that correct?
 

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I pay $10/month for Microsoft Office 365, which gives each member of my family a terabyte of space on OneDrive. I set up all of the computers in the house with Windows Account login, so each person gets all of their e-mail, contacts, calendar and documents regardless of where they log in. Everything they save is automatically backed up to the cloud. I also have all of our phones set up to back our photos up to OneDrive. I have zero worries about data loss. It is extremely simple to set up and effortless to use.

I bought a pretty beefy NAS that I use almost exclusively as a media server. It has a quad-core 2.0Ghz Celeron with 8GB of DDR3 memory, four gigabit Ethernet ports, a direct HDMI out connected to a dedicated VM running Kodi and support for VPN and multiple virtual machines. I run Plex Media Server and Logitech Media Server directly on the NAS and run Sonarr with NZBGet on a Windows 2012 R2 VM. This server supports four televisions inside my house via Roku, in addition to several phones and tablets and also serves a Roku box at my parent's house. I have had zero performance problems so far, but I am not using uncompressed Blu-Ray rips. Everything I have is H264 .mkv or .mp4 video with AAC or DD/DTS 5.1 audio. When I rip Blu-Rays, I generally compress down to somewhere in the 10-12GB range. I do this for playback compatibility across the widest range of devices without the need for transcoding.

My NAS does have built-in hardware transcoding capability, but Plex does not use it. I know my NAS can handle at least one uncompressed rip at a time on CPU alone.
 
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