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Why I Use Plex (And a Look at My Plex Setup)

Posted by Jim Tanous on December 16, 2014
imac-plex-home-theater

My Plex Setup

Up until about a year ago, I was running Plex Media Server (PMS) on my primary iMac, which wasn’t ideal as I wanted to ensure an adequate separation of system resources. A benefit of running a technology website is that you end up with lots of spare parts like solid state drives, CPU coolers, and system memory, and I realized that I had just about everything I needed to build a dedicated PMS box. After buying a case and dedicated network card, I ended up with the following configuration.

The above system runs the Plex Media Server software, stores all the metadata, and transcodes outgoing media if necessary. The actual media itself is stored on a Synology DiskStation DS2413+ loaded up with twelve 4TB Western Digital Se hard drives. I elected to use Synology’s Drobo-like “Hybrid RAID” configuration with two-disk redundancy, leaving me with about 37TB of usable space.

synology-ds2413

The DS2413+ has two network connections, so I have one of those ports directly wired to one of the two ports on the server. This lets me point PMS directly to the Synology’s internal IP, ensuring a direct and unobstructed connection between the NAS and server. I therefore know that, regardless of any other congestion on my network, the media files will get from the DS2413+ to the server unobstructed. The Synology’s second port is connected to my broader network, allowing me to access it directly when adding new media or performing updates and maintenance. Similarly, the second network port on the server connects to my local network and the Internet — obviously important so that I can access Plex.

This server runs 24×7, with an APC SMT1500 UPS providing clean and continuous power, ensuring uninterrupted access to my Plex content both at home and on the road.

imac-plex-home-theater

Alex Byrne / Dribbble

As for clients, I have Plex Home Theater installed on just about all of my PCs and Macs. The main TV in our home was until just recently powered by a 2010 Mac mini server. I was hoping to upgrade after waiting so long for a new Mac mini but, well, we all know how that turned out. So instead I’ve moved to a Haswell-based Intel NUC, running Windows 8.1, and it works flawlessly.

I’ve recently started using the new Xbox One client for Plex, and it’s beautiful. The only problem is that efforts to binge on a TV series are stymied by the fact that you have to go back two menus after each episode to start watching the next one. Better TV show navigation would make the Xbox One Plex app the best way ever to enjoy the service.

plex-xbox-one

And, of course, we have a myriad of mobile devices configured to access our home Plex server, including the iPhone, iPad, and Amazon Fire HD. Our setup at times has also relied on the Amazon Fire TV and Roku 2 and 3 for playback on various televisions around the house.

Well, that’s my Plex story. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments or via Twitter, and please share your own Plex setups, too!

4 thoughts on “Why I Use Plex (And a Look at My Plex Setup)”

rainbow279 says:
Hi, i’m also using a 2413+ with 12×4 GB storage one the one hand as data and TM storage, the other (and bigger) hand as a media-storage for PLEX. 1st I tried to run plex on the 2413+ but this is boring, the atom-CPU is much too weak for this job, so I changed the Plex-Server to a Mac Power Mini (Late 2012 i7/Quad 2600 MHz, 16 GB RAM) and it works perfectly. Why so much storage ? It becomes clear when you look at the amounts of media: 3200 movies (a digitalized big collection of DVDs (2500) and about 650 BDs) as well as 95000 music songs. The advantage on Plex is best when running on two servers on two of the Power Minis (or Macs with i7). My servers are feeding 2 iPads, 2 Samsung UHD-TVs and 4 Macs (2 Minis (2012) MacBook white 13″ and a Imac 20″ with Core 2 Duo and 2 iPhones (4+5)). The problem I found by trying to run Plex as server on 2413+: Aftwer 4 hours of properly work the RAM value freezes by 98 % and the only chance to reduce this is a restat of the Synology.
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cap says:
Just catching up with your article as I’m researching (again) changing/building my system – quite a bit more modestly. I’m a retired IT guy who just doesn’t want to spend every waking hour being Sys Admin and would like my wife to be able to use some of this. My digital library of Music and Video is just shy of 1Tb but I have only about 15% of my movies in digital format at this point. I’m hooked into ITunes now, and yes I scream about it every now and then. I have two NAS devices (small 3Tb Seagate and WD) on my network. My large screen LG if connected to my AVR and most of the components are Ethernet connected, running 100G between two hubs on different floors and two joined wifi network, mostly to handle the mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, kindles, LG phones).

Resurrected a 5 year old laptop (i7, 6Gb) as media server. My intent was to connect the media server to the Onkyo via HDMI and thus feed the big TV. Then I want to be able to cast from the media server to any other DLNA player other TV’s, Blurays, Chromecasts, etc, as well as the mobile devices). The objective is to make as much of the content (less DRM issues) available on every device

Have played with PlayOn and Plex and a little with Jjriver. I have given up on my TV tuner in my old HP Media Center box as my cable company scrambles most everything and found the media software that says they can work with tuners (Emby, etc) to very hard to deal with. I like the recording capabilities in PlayOn (and some of the channels, though I probably have more channels than I need anyway). We watch a lot of sports here, so cable cutting right now isn’t on my immediate horizon.

After reading a lot of stuff, everyone has opinions, requirements differ, and while someone will make a negative comment about product X and someone else says they can’t live without it; clearly there’s a lot of breadth of product and needs. That says, it seems like PLEX has a huge following and strong community. I don’t think I saw any mention, curious if you had the PlexPass. I’d prefer to make that investment once I knew it was going to be a long lasting love affair. I may just hedge my bets and buy a couple of the apps for now.

After having Plex crawl my NAS and what a mess it made from the iTUNES managed library, I’m figuring I’ll need to redo my Video folders and perhaps change iTunes so that it no longer manages and consolidates my content and even leave the Video out of iTunes unless I need to synch to my iOS devices for offline access,

I’m not really interested in making my content available external to the Home network at this point.

My plan was to run the Plex media server on an Intel NUC (with Logitech K400R as the controller) connected to the AVR, and probably the PHT on the same box to drive the TV’s video – as well as on other PC’s around the house. APPLE TV (3rd gen) already connected to the AVR, that may be redundant at some point, whether that’s redeployed to another TV is yet to be decided. Crossing the CASTing caps among the player (Google, Apple, Amazon, Roku) seems to be a continuing issue.

Any advice or gotcha’s you can think of would be appreciated.

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Eden says:
Love your setup thanks for sharing. If you would to do it all over what would you have changed with your setup?
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TekRevue says:
I do love Synology, and I think it’s the best choice for users looking for the easiest setup with low maintenance, but as my storage needs have grown, it’s become very expensive to continue expanding with Synology products. If I had to start all over again, I’d build my own storage servers based on FreeNAS. As I mentioned in the comment above, I just deployed a second storage server since the Synology was nearly full, but it was built mostly from extra parts and my HBA card that controls the drives wasn’t recognized by FreeNAS. But knowing what I do now, if I were to start over again I’d build custom servers with FreeNAS compatible parts.

Oh, and when you’re dealing with this much storage, always have at least one, and preferably two, spare drives on hand so that you can quickly swap out any failed drives.

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Nick Wills says:
I don’t understand how you can have a need for 37TB of Plex content unless you have a serious downloading problem. Nice setup though. 🙂
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TekRevue says:
Well, I’m not going to lie to you and say I’ve never downloaded anything that I may or may not should have (getting to college in 2002 and going from dial-up to gigabit speeds for the first time may have resulted in some poor choices…cough…), but my current library is relatively legit. I’m a huge movie collector, starting with DVDs, moving on to HD-DVDs (because I know how to pick a loser), and finally settling on Blu-rays. When I found Plex, I started losslessly ripping everything, so I now have about 1000 movies and dozens of complete TV shows, mostly lossless, which quickly eats up a good bit of space. Throw in a few hundred FLAC albums, all our home movies and pictures, and you easily get to, as of today, about 40TB. (Yes, the Synology is now full and I had to deploy a second storage server based on Windows Storage Spaces (I wanted to make FreeNAS work, but it wouldn’t recognize my HBA and I gave up spending time on it).

I know… I have a problem. 🙂

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Neebski says:
From experience, stay away from WSS for Plex use.

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This Guide Last Updated: December 16, 2014

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