Create your own Network Attached Storage (NAS) Home Server with a HP Microserver N54L

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Create your own Network Attached Storage (NAS) Home Server with a HP Microserver N54L

This tutorial assumes that you own or are planning on purchasing a HP ProLiant N54L MicroServer. I recommend using Windows 8.1 Professional as your OS, however there are many different Operating Systems you can use. At the end of the day it’s what ever works for you. I tried a few and this is what worked for me.

UPDATE 22/2/17: Windows 10 is now available and is recommended over Windows 8.1

HOME SERVER HARDWARE Specifications:

  • HP Proliant Microserver N54L: from $229
  • 1x 1TB Western Digital Green HDD: from $52
  • 1x 1TB Samsung F3 HDD: N/A
  • 2x 2TB Hitachi Deskstar HDDs: from $99ea
  • 1x 4TB Hitachi Deskstar HDD: from $229ea

It’s really up to you what Hard Drives you put into your NAS Home Server. I have selected 5x HDD above based on my NAS setup. A basic starter package will cost you around $300. I will cover some additional upgrades throughout this tutorial and explain the benefits as well as cost at time of publishing. Hitachi have also released their NAS range HDDs.

UPDATE: Since writting these tutorial 12 months ago I have replaced my 1TB WD Green HDD with a
250GB Samsung 830 Evo SSD. I have swapped out my Samsung 1TB F3 HDD and Hitachi 2TB Deskstar for 2x WD 4TB Red NASWARE 3.0 Drives

INTRODUCTION:

The average IT enthusiast will have a large amount of data. Every day our data consumption grows. The problem is that we need somewhere to store our data. Information is important to us now more than ever.

To make matters worse, our data is spread across multiple computers and mobile devices. Big technology companies such as Google, Apple & Microsoft are embracing new technologies such as the cloud. This has allowed us to manage/backup our data as long as we have a internet connection.

But what happens when we have large files which can’t be uploaded to the cloud? Or your cloud is simply not large enough. It suddenly becomes a costly exercise to protect and store your data. Not to mention time consuming to upload and download large files.

Privacy concerns have been a hot topic in the media this year. Some people are uncomfortable sending information to a third parties who has free rein over your sometimes sensitive information. If you’re a business owner then secure and safe information is critical for your business.
The solution, a centralised Network Attached Storage (NAS) device to store and manage your important data.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to backup your data. Whether it be family photos or your music/movie collection. Personally whenever I buy a new CD or blu-ray I instantly back it up digitally. If my media ever gets damaged then I have a digital backup copy.
My web development projects are backed up weekly, sometimes even daily. For me to achieve these tasks it is critical that I have a NAS Home Server. Before I came to this conclusion I knew that my NAS needed to satisfy some strict criteria. It needed to be lower powered, low noise, expandable, value for money, remotely accessible, double as a Home Theatre Personal Computer (HTPC), iPad/iPhone streamer and finally always on should I need it to be.

THE HP PROLIANT N54L MICROSERVER:

You may have heard about the HP ProLiant Microserver series. The N54L is the 3rd release of the popular HP series.

“The HP ProLiant MicroServer is a general purpose server that can provide a platform to organize and safeguard your business information, allow effective communication with customers and make the most of your existing office equipment and resources. The HP MicroServer is a cost effective starter server for businesses with less than 10 clients and it can take your business to the next level of productivity and efficiency.”Hewitt Packard Website – Source: http://www8.hp.com/au/en/products/proliant-servers/product-detail.html?oid=5336623#!tab=features

The best thing about the HP Microserver N54L is the price point. You definitely get value for money compared to other NAS on the market. For a comparison of cost visit the a famous Australian IT supplier Shopping Express or check out the latest rates at Static Ice.

The HP 54L consumes roughly 25 Watts at full power. It’s based around a AMD Turion™ II Model Neo Processor. It has 1x Integrated 4 port SATA RAID capable of handling 4x HDD with storage capacities up to 4TB per drive bay. You get 2GB (1x2GB) UDIMM ECC RAM included. On the back of the box you have 1x 1Gb NC107i Ethernet Port with 2x USB2.0 ports & a onboard VGA out. The front of the unit sports an impressive 4x USB2.0 ports and a empty 5.25″ Bay. There are also an extra 3x PCIe slots for an extra hardware such as a Video Card, USB3.0 Controller, Digital TV Recorder, SATA Card, etc. I forgot to mention that you have an onboard USB port and extra SATA port for an 5th HDD or CD/DVD/Bluray Drive. The PSU has a maximum output of 150 Watts. See http://www8.hp.com/au/en/products/proliant-servers/product-detail.html?oid=5336623#!tab=specs for more information

The AMD Turion™ II Model Neo Processor supports Visualization, so if you want to throw in some extra ECC RAM (max 16GB) and virtualise a bunch of systems, you’d be more than capable. Don’t expect it to have a lot of horsepower though, but it’s enough to play with should you need.

SETTING UP

When your server arrives, it will arrive in a plain brown box with an illustrated picture of the N54L.
(W) 38cm (H) 38.5cm (D) 32cm

Unboxing N54L

On the server there will be a key cable-tied to the back of the server that unlocks the front door.

HP N54L Back

Opening the front door reveals four non hot-plug hard drive cages meaning that you must power down the system before swapping out your hard drives. The first job undo the 2 thumb screws on the left and right side shown in the picture below.

HP N54L Front

Unplug all the cables attached to the Motherboard and pull out of the tray. Take care not to damage anything

  1. HP MotherboardPCIe x 1 IPMI Slot
  2. PCIe x 16 Slot
  3. Mini SAS Controller
  4. Internal USB Connector
  5. ODD Connector
  6. Fan Connector
  7. TPM Connector
  8. Front USB Header 1
  9. Front USB Header 2
  10. Front Panel Connector
  11. 24 Pin Power Connector
  12. DDR3 DIMM Slots 1 + 2
  13. VGA Connector
  14. NIC1 / USBx2 Connector
  15. eSATA Connector

All the screws you need are thoughtfully placed at the bottom of the front door. If you look closely you will also notice a Torx tool hanging there too. If your unsure about what I’m taking about look for the tool that looks like an allan key.

PREPARE YOUR HARD DRIVES:

The next step is to prepare your hard drives. For the purpose of this tutorial we will use all 4 of our Hard Drives. I’m going to select my 1x 1TB Western Digital Green Drive as my primary Operating System drive. Although this is not the fastest drive, it will serve as a great low powered, low heat, low noise, always on hard drive. Grab your torx and screws from the front door. Take out each hdd bay and setup your hard drives like I have in the image below.

NAS HDDs

Place your hard drives back into your NAS Home Server. So at this point the hardware is looking good. On the back on the HP N54L you will notice a 120mm fan. The only other fan is a 40mm fan inside the PSU (Power Supply Unit). The temperatures of the processor will easily hit 54C under load and idle around 38C. Clearly this will not be an acceptable stock standard cooling system.

Modification 01

EXTRAS YOU WILL NEED:
  1. Noctua 40mm NF-A4x10 FLX 4500RPM Fan: $22
  2. Scythe 100mm Kaze Jyu Slim 1000RPM Fan: $9.50
  3. Molex Power Splitters: $3
  4. 2×3 Pin Fan Cable: $5
  5. Thin Cable Ties: $5
Modification 01 Parts

This modification won’t void your warranty and it will make your technology happier because your system will run cooler. Don’t feel like you need to modify your cooling system. HP have made sure that their stock cooling system is sufficient at keeping your system from overheating. Cooler temperatures mean more stability and more fans enhance the systems airflow and reduce the PSU temperature without adding much noise.

1. ADDING THE 40MM NOCTUA FAN TO THE POWER SUPPLY UNIT

Using the included Torx Tool again, remove the three screws at the rear of the N54L that hold the PSU in place. Unplug all power cables and gently remove the PSU from the system. Take 3x thin cable ties and thread them through the cooling vents in the PSU. Be careful not to touch any internal components and don’t go poking around inside the PSU. Attach the 40mm Noctua Fan and pass the 3 cable ties through its mounting holes. Make sure the fan is mounted correctly, you don’t want to be able to see the sticker.

40mm Noctua Fan

Trim the excess cable ties. The fan should now be mounted flush to the PSU. Push you PSU back into place and re-secure 3 screws on the back. Use the Molex Power Splitter and 2x 3pin fan cable to power the fan.

Noctua Installed

Take note of where the Molex Power Splitter and 2x 3pin fan cable to power the fan are located. These should look similar to the image above

2. ADDING THE 100MM KAZE JYU SLIM FAN TO THE FRONT DOOR

The next step is to install a fan on the N54L front door. This will allow heat to be exhausted from the front as well as the back. Grab 4 cable ties and open the N54L front door. You can take the door off to gently by lifting it upwards off its hinge. Place the Scythe Kaze Jyu 100mm 1000RPM Fan against the honeycomb mesh. Pass a couple of cable ties through to reference a central position. Once your happy with the position place 1x cable ties on the four courners of your fan and secure like the image below. As a optional extra, place an old stocking around the honeycomb mesh. This will assist in stopping excess dust getting into your N54L. I recommend doing this before installing the Scythe Kaze Jyu 100mm 1000RPM Fan.

HP N54L Frontdoor fan

The Scythe Kaze Jyu 100mm 1000RPM Fan comes with a molex to 3 pin adapter. Use this cable so that it powers the 40mm fan on the PSU also.

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