I wanted to have a server in my house that would be able to run several virtual machines in a Windows Server environment all of the time. One of those VM's was going to be a Plex media server and would need to be powerful enough to transcode media on the fly in addition to running multiple other VM's simultaneously.
Processor: I decided on a Haswell Xeon processor as this build was going to be a 24/7 running machine and would be a server environment. I wouldn't need to overclock this processor, and wanted the ability to use some of the specific features that a Xeon processor offers. Since I was planning on hosing a media server on this machine, I wanted a Xeon that had a fairly high clock rate, so I went with fewer cores and a higher clock. This Xeon has nearly the same specs as an i7 4770.
Cooler: I actually purchased this for a different build, but decided it would go well in my server. It is nice and quiet, offers great cooling performance, and keeps my memory cool in addition to the CPU.
Memory: I have used Corsair XMS memory in many different machines and it has always been great. I didn't need high performance memory, I just needed 32GB of it. I like how the heat spreader is low profile and fits nicely beneath my cooler.
Storage Drives: I needed a lot of storage in this build and have upgraded/changed drives over time.
Currently I have two Samsung 500GB 2.5" drives that I have in a RAID-1 configuration for family photos, important documents, and anything else that would be considered irreplaceable. I have these mirrored drives shared on our network so that anything super important can be saved there from any host.
I know that Seagate gets a lot of bad press and has many bad reviews, but I had to stay within budget on this build and have had many Seagate drives in my life with zero failures thus far. Price to size ratio is excellent with Seagate, so I grabbed a few of them. I have a few external drives that I connect periodically to backup my media, VM's, etc on. So, in a worst case scenario where a drive failed, I won't lose anything important.
I have a 5TB Toshiba drive that houses my Hyper-V VM's and my Plex Server media. This Toshiba drive had good reviews and was a great price.
I went with the Crucial BX100 SSD just because I have purchased 5 of these so far for various builds and they have worked great. They are excellent priced and have worked wonderfully without any issues. This is used for the Windows Server host operating system as well as the virtual HDD for my domain controller and Plex server.
Power Supply: This PSU is a bit over powered for what I needed, but I got it with a rebate offer from Newegg. After the rebate, it was nearly the same price as most of the PSU's that were in the 400W range. Also, this PSU offered semi-modular cables which came in handy for keeping my build nice and clean. I wanted a quiet build that would run all the time, so keeping cables out of the way was of importance to me in order to offer the best airflow possible. This is also 80+ Bronze rated, which offers decent efficiency. I couldn't really justify spending a lot more for a gold or platinum rated PSU, so I settled for bronze.
Motherboard: Initially I wanted to get a ECC memory cable motherboard, but I didn't have it in my budget. So, instead I picked up this board. It was an excellent price and offered everything that I needed. It is all black and fits in well with my case. With the case that I picked, I was not planning on needing any more than 6 storage drives, so the 6 SATA ports were sufficient for my needs. It offers dual Gigabyte's dual bios... which has already come in handy as for some reason my BIOS corrupted, but was immediately fixed/restored by this board thanks to the redundant BIOS.
Case: I knew that I wanted a small build right from the start, but because I would be requiring several storage drives, I would need to have a case larger than an ITX build. This case seemed to offer good cooling options while being small and not too expensive. I was able to fit three 3.5" drives and three 2.5" drives all in this case neatly. The cable management in the back is a little tight, but with enough cable ties and routing, I was able to keep everything nicely hidden in the back. The case came with three fans, I put two in the front and put the other in the back. The goal was to have a case with positive pressure. Having the two fans in the front not only offer positive pressure, but also keep the hard drives nice and cool. These drives usually sit around 30 degrees Celsius, sometimes a little cooler. This is important to me in order to offer the longest life possible to these drives. The only thing that I wish this case offered is a dust filter in the front. The mesh tends to capture a lot of the dust, but it is not cleaned very easily and starts to look kind of bad over time.
Other Thoughts: I initially built this about a year ago, but have upgraded some of the drives as well as the cooler. Everything has been running great now other than one incident where the BIOS corrupted, but as mentioned above, the Gigabyte board self-corrected this issue.
I obtained a copy of Windows Server 2012-R2 via my school before I graduated. I have it as the main OS, but it is mainly just there to run a Hyper-V environment where I have several Linux and Windows VM's all running together. It has been wonderful having a Windows domain controller in the home where I can have an Active Directory environment for my family's computers.
When I was building this server, I was planning on creating a PFsense firewall as a virtual environment. Thus, I purchased and installed an Intel dual gigabit NIC. Unfortunately, hosting PFSense in a Hyper-V environment proved rather difficult and didn't work out. I ended up creating another build that is strictly for PFsense. This was a wise choice as I don't have to worry about internet/intranet connections dropping in the case where I may need to reboot the server.
As can be seen in the pictures, I modified the case just bit and put a fan under the 3.5" bay. I did this because of the tight fit when I put the hard drive in it. I wanted to be sure to keep this drive nice and cool. I took a Dremel Tool and cut a hole just big enough for the radius of the fan that I would be putting there. Then, I used hot glue to seal the fan so that it would force all of the air up and past the PCB of the hard drive. This worked quite well and has kept this drive very cool.
This stays nice and quiet and is functioning wonderfully as a server.