I discovered Plex Media Server in 2014. Having small kids in the house at the time who enjoyed chewing on DVD and Blu-ray discs, I was looking for a way of watching our movies without having to use the discs.
Since 2014, I have slowly evolved my Plex server and have been adding not only movies but also TV shows, family photos, and videos.
In this post, I will outline my Plex journey, the hardware I am currently using, and what I would like to do going forward.
About my Plex server
My first Plex server was the desktop I was using every day. This is a typical beginning for most people who start using Plex. I wasn't sure how long I would use Plex, so I didn't want to invest in new hardware at the time.
Movies, TV shows, family photos, and videos were all stored on a single 3TB external hard drive. Back then I wasn't as conscious about a good backup process and didn't have much storage so everything was on the single, USB-connected drive.
After a few months of using Plex, I decided that I would look at moving Plex to its own system, and decided to look for a cheap used system that would run Plex without any issues. This was the beginning of 2015.
Looking through eBay listings I found a small form factor PC that will work for about $200. The specs are listed on the My Plex Media Server page.
This same server has been running since 2015 without any issues.
I won't go into great detail about the hardware of the server as I have it listed on my Plex server page, but it isn't considered a powerful system compared to today's hardware.
At this time, I only have h264 movie files on my server. My current server can transcode movie files as needed, so the hardware is more than capable.
I would, however, like to look at moving to a mini PC with a more recent processor, probably an Intel 11th generation or later. This will allow me to transcode h265 files, if needed, and reduce the power consumption and physical footprint of the server.
I also don't need a physically large server as the hard drives that contain my media are not internal to the server. The next section explains how my files are stored.
As I mentioned previously, I started my Plex journey with a single USB-connected 3TB hard drive. I quickly realized this was problematic for several reasons, with the main reason being it was a single hard drive.
Around the same time I moved Plex to its own system, I also purchased a Western Digital Duo 8 TB DAS. This DAS includes two 4TB Western Digital Red drives. These drives hold the movies and TV Shows that are streamed from Plex.
The two drives are mirrored using DrivePool so I lose half the space, but won't lose any of the media files if a drive fails.
The two drives are monitored by Stablebit Scanner which will alert me if a problem is detected.
For family photos, videos, and music, those files are stored on different hard drives. I purchased a 4-bay Terramaster D4-300 DAS that has 4 drive bays.
In two of the bays, I added 8 TB Western Digital Gold drives. These are the hard drives that contain all the photos, videos, and music as well as other important files. These two drives are also mirrored using DrivePool and monitored using the Scanner.
Since the two Gold drives contain very important files, they are backed up to Backblaze. I will go into more detail about how I manage the backups and files in another post.
The last two bays have an 8 TB white label Western Digital drive and a 3 TB Western Digital Green Drive. Both of these drives were shucked from two external hard drives.
The 8TB white label drive is used for local backup of the two 8TB WD Gold drives. The 3TB drive is used as a scratch and test restore drive.
I have had zero issues with running my server with the DAS attached to the server via USB 3.0. Although some of the drives are very old and will need to be replaced soon.
I have many different clients connected to my Plex server. I don't allow anyone outside of my household to use my Plex server, so client management is not difficult.
The client list includes the following:
- Windows desktop and laptop
- Android phone
- Roku 3
- Roku TV
- Android box
There have been issues where I have had a device not establish a local connection to the server on the same network. That required some troubleshooting but was able to get it to work. This only happened with both the Roku 3 and Roku TV. There was something the Roku OS didn't like about the connection.
While traveling, I can connect to my Plex server through a VPN. At first, I used a local Wireguard server running on a Raspberry Pi 3 that was on my LAN. This worked well for many years and required no maintenance.
I now use Tailscale, which also uses Wireguard, to connect to my Plex server while away from home. Tailscale does not need me to open a port in my firewall which is one of the reasons I decided to use it. Another reason is since I switched ISPs, I don't have a public IP address at the moment and Tailscale works fine. My Wireguard server does not.
I briefly explained that I would be looking to upgrade from my current small form factor PC to a mini PC with an Intel 11th generation or later processor. By going this this upgrade, it should last me for probably 10 years going forward.
By going with a mini PC, I will save physical space, and with a newer processor, there should be a reduction in power consumption. There should also be a noise reduction.
My current DAS setup is working without any issues, but I would be looking at upgrading the aging hard drives. The two 4TB drives that hold my movie and TV shows will be replaced with much larger hard drives to accommodate more media.
The remaining 4 drives won't be upgraded as soon. The two 8TB Gold drives are two years old, and with a 5-year warranty, should last me for at least 3 years, and hopefully longer.
The other two drives - 8TB white label and 3TB green drive - are over 5 years but they aren't used for running Plex. While one is a backup, I am not too concerned as I currently have multiple copies of the important files, and once I retire the two 4TB drives, they can replace the 8TB as backup drives, if needed.
The clients I am using are working fine, and I will only replace them as needed.