I’m in a bit of a technology pickle and I’d like some opinions from my geeky readers. For the past several years, I’ve had a small computer (a Gigabyte BRIX, Core i7 CPU) running as my 24/7 server. It runs Plex for streaming movies, runs CrashPlan for backing up all my data (as well as serving as the data location host for family member CrashPlan backups), Resilio Sync for always-on syncing with my other computers, and a few other apps. Connected to it is a 4 TB external hard drive, which is where I store copies of all my data (pushed and pulled there by a combination of Resilio Sync and SyncBackSE) and the CrashPlan backups from other people.
I also have a Synology NAS (a 1512+) from five years ago, stuffed with five hard drives and a DX513 expansion unit stuffed with another four more. I have about 32 TB of total storage and it’s where I keep my MKV rips from our movie collection – and this is what Plex uses for a data source (but the Plex server is on the Gigabyte BRIX). For the most part this works fairly well, though Plex (used via a Roku) routinely takes two tries to start playing movies – I think because the first attempt to pull the MKV from the mapped network drive fails – and it’s not uncommon for us to have a few moments of buffering in some movies. It’s very random though and I’ve never been able to pin down the source of these Plex glitches.
The problem is, a few months after setting up the BRIX, the rear USB ports didn’t work – drives would randomly disconnect from them. Gigabyte has horrible customer service and I was never able to get the issue addressed under warranty. So I just used the front USB ports for the 4 TB hard drive – those are now both failing. I thought it might have been the 4 TB drive, but a sector-level scan resulted in no errors, and the intermittent ejecting of the drive is consistent with what I saw on the rear ports years ago. Windows system logs are inconclusive as to what’s going on. I believe the heat has killed some of the internals on the BRIX – transcoding a 1080p MKV spins up the fans to maximum and the unit gets quite warm. Three years of this was probably enough to fry it.
Here’s the decision I’m facing: do I replace the BRIX with another small form factor computer, re-using the SSD, RAM, and hard drive? An Asus VIVO Mini PC with a Core i5 CPU runs about $400. Fundamentally I have the same heat risk factors.
Or do I spend $600 on a Synology DS916+ (with a 2.6 Ghz quad-core Intel Pentium N3710) and run Plex, CrashPlan, Resilio Sync and whatever else I can manage on it? The former is cheaper, but I may end up with the same Plex issues I have today. The latter is more expensive, and may not run Plex as well as I’d want, but if it works it would simplify my overall tech infrastructure. I’m gambling a bit though, as it would be a hassle to get it set up and find it can’t handle running Plex as well as I’d like. And there are some things – such as the Google Photos uploader, and SyncBackSE – that there are no Synology options for, so I’d lose some of the functionality that I have.
Opinions welcome from anyone who has read all this.
MAY 2017 UPDATE: Before I replaced any hardware, I knew I should at least try to wipe the OS on the BRIX and start over. I remember telling my wife “I’m 97% sure this will do nothing, but I should at least try”. Well, I’m glad I tried – after using the Windows 10 refresh function, when it nukes everything and starts over, everything is working fine. Not the back USB ports – those are definitely defective hardware – but the front ones work fine now! This ended up being a driver/software issue, which stuns me, because none of the telltale signs of software problems were present in a visible way. I am very pleased, however, not to have to spend money buying new hardware to run PLEX on – someday I will I’m sure, but not today…