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Server 2012 R2 Standard (with essentials role) vs Essentials


JamesM
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Long time no post although I still watch the podcasts on youtube.  I used to post regularly as I worked for one of the HTPC hardware companies, but stopped after some login trouble.  But, glad to be back again.

 

I have finally decided to retire my Home Server (v1) after 7 years of use.  I liked it, and am retiring it for much the same reasons as this thread: http://homeservershow.com/forums/index.php?/topic/7550-v1-replacement-the-end-is-near-and-ive-got-no-place-to-go/

 

The JBOD storage pool (which is why I didn't upgrade to WHS2011), the incremental auto-backup, the folder replication, the whole system restore.  And I am finally retiring it after it's out grown my uses.

I added VPN in so that my work computers can 1) backup and 2) can access the same data.  And later added FTP.

 

I have already purchased hardware to replace it which will be:

i3-4130
Gigabyte GA-H97-HD3
4 WD 4TB drives

 

This is only to be used really as a storage and backup server.  No plex - I stream direct to TVs and Receiver without the need for transcoding. 

 

Server 2012 has "folder redirection" which seems to be similar to their old "folder duplication".  Correct me if I'm wrong, but that appears to be an option to send the same data to a 'different' drive.

 

The problem I'm faced with is:  Do I go with Windows Server 2012 Essentials R2, or Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and add the essentials role.

 

The only difference I could find between the two is:

Hyper V support

Data-Deduplication

Licensing.

 

I would like to have HyperV support now for future use.  I am currently using VMware for my virtualization purposes.

 

In terms of users, I am the only physical user.  I do have 3 different user names 1) direct login (such as RDP) 2) VPN login 3) for streaming devices as they all have different permission levels.  I'm not sure how MSFT classifies "users".

 

I plan on setting up the OS on a RAID 1 of spinning disks and the remainder of the data can live on in a pool.  No need to RAID a backup as I already have the first copy of the data.  Sans the data that is kept on the server.

 

Any thoughts?

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Folder Redirection is exactly what it sounds like (but not what you think it is). It specifically redirects the user account folders (Documents, videos, music, downloads, etc) to a network share instead of the local disk (it leaves AppData alone though).  It also, automatically sets those folders up for Offline File sync, meaning that they work remotely still.  

 

It has nothing to do with duplication at all, and is independent of any pooling solution you may use (other than you can store the share for it there).

 

 

As for storage pool, well Storage Space has known performance issues, and .... has recovery issues. You can find plenty of horror stories. In fact, I'd really recommend StableBit DrivePool or Drive Bender as an alternative, as recovery is significantly easier.  Additionally, either product, you can specify which folders are duplicated or not, much like WHSv1, but with a lot more fine control.

 

 

As for which OS to go with... there is a third option (sorry): Hyper V Server 2012R2. It's completely free, but it's a "core OS Installation", meaning no GUI and all command line or remote management. But it is completely and absolutely free.

 

However, For Windows Server 2012R2 Essentials, the HyperV role is intended (and licenses) only for use with Essentials. Even if you have licenses for other OS's, you're not licensed to use them on the HyperV installation. 

 

However, if you do want to use data deduplication and hyperV, the best answer here may be Standard.  It gets you everything you want.  It also includes rights for TWO VMs of Standard .... and standard includes downgrade rights to Essentials. So, really, you can get EVERYTHING you want here, with this option.  

The difference is ~$200-300 in price (~$300-400 for Essentials normally, and ~$600-700 for Standard). 

 

 

As for users, it's the users in the dashboard. So you would be using 3 user accounts by your description. However, the limit is 25 for Essentials. Any more than that requires User CALs (which are expensive).  Additionally, if you do anything like Exchange, or RemoteApp, RemoteFX or ... well anything "spiffy" with Remote desktop, you need CALs for that as well. 

 

 

Ahs for the system drive, I'd just recommend a fast SSD, and daily backups (Windows Server Backup can be configured to backup HyperV VMs as well... or just the storage drive you use for it).

 

 

As for data deduplication, it's fantastic for HyperV. It really, really is.  I'm doing so on a 500GB drive... which is only using ~200GBs of capacity, but storing ~1TB of data. These are all VMs, and I have a VM for every Windows OS since XP (and several VMs of specific OS). 

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Thank you for the reply Drashna

 

Alright, so I'm installing Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard in the lab currently and I'll add the essentials role - I previously had Server 2012 R2 Essentials setup before I started this thread.

 

I sadly spent hours looking at the differences between StableBit Drive Pool, Drive Bender and PoolHD.  I opted against Division-M.

 

One question however. 

 

With WHSv1 previously, if a drive failed the server would attempt to save as much backup data as possible knowing what was on the drives and it knew they were all independent drives.

 

With StableBit installed, it will appear to the OS as one giant drive.  How does it handle data loss if one physical drive is removed (uncleanly)?  Essentially this would appear to essentials as if someone went into the drive and deleted some data.  Would it break all the existing backup data and need to rebuild everything, or is it 'smart' enough to just try and recover the lost data?

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so for essentials it seems there are no CALs needed (up to the stated limits) but with 2012R2 standard, would 3 server CALs be needed for the 3 users? and possibly RDP CALs too?

Edited by nrf
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Thank you for the reply Drashna

 

Alright, so I'm installing Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard in the lab currently and I'll add the essentials role - I previously had Server 2012 R2 Essentials setup before I started this thread.

 

I sadly spent hours looking at the differences between StableBit Drive Pool, Drive Bender and PoolHD.  I opted against Division-M.

 

One question however. 

 

With WHSv1 previously, if a drive failed the server would attempt to save as much backup data as possible knowing what was on the drives and it knew they were all independent drives.

 

With StableBit installed, it will appear to the OS as one giant drive.  How does it handle data loss if one physical drive is removed (uncleanly)?  Essentially this would appear to essentials as if someone went into the drive and deleted some data.  Would it break all the existing backup data and need to rebuild everything, or is it 'smart' enough to just try and recover the lost data?

 

That really depends.  If duplication is enabled, then, it will still see the files, and they'll be accessible still, without any issues. Once the removed drive is removed from the pool, it will start to check the pool and reduplicate data as needed. (until then, the pool will be in a read only state, to prevent the data from getting out of sync). 

 

Because of how "fragile" the client backup database is (eg a single file lost can corrupt the entire thing), we (Covecube, StableBit) recommend enabling duplication on the Client Computer Backup folder. 

 

As for the the drive being removed, any data on that drive that was not duplicated would no longer appear on the pool, until that drive was replaced. Because of that, we absolutely recommend enabling duplication for any critical or important files.  

However, if the drive was replaced, it will be re-added to the pool.

 

 

 

 

 

The main difference between WHSv1's Drive Extender and StableBit DrivePool, is that we don't use an actual file system to enumerate and list the files. We grab this from the underlying disks in the system, and combine the info, basically. If a disk goes missing, all the unduplicated data on the disk will no longer appear in the pool. 

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so for essentials it seems there are no CALs needed (up to the stated limits) but with 2012R2 standard, would 3 server CALs be needed for the 3 users? and possibly RDP CALs too?

For Essentials, correct. No CALs are needed for it unless you want to exceed the stated limits (50 computers and 25 users). 

 

As for Standard, it depends on the configuration. If you're using the Essentials Experience role, I believe that you need to have at least 25 user CALs to use it "properly".  I'm not 100% sure about this. 

If you're not using the Essentials Experience role, then you just need the number of user CALs for the number of users that you're using. 

 

 

And RDP/Terminal Service CALs are handled completely seperately from user CALs. And you'd need both. 

 

 

 

But basically, the Windows Server 2012 (R2) Essentials SKU is a very special license.  (economical, actually, when looking at cost of properly licensing)

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Because of how "fragile" the client backup database is (eg a single file lost can corrupt the entire thing), we (Covecube, StableBit) recommend enabling duplication on the Client Computer Backup folder. 

 

 

That's kind of what I figured and what I was trying to stay away from.  But oh well, storage is cheap these days anyway.

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yes, such a deal compared to the big label version, but a far cry beyond the $35 I could have paid for whs2011.

nrf

Yup. But to the average person looking ... it seems very overpriced....

 

That's kind of what I figured and what I was trying to stay away from.  But oh well, storage is cheap these days anyway.

Well, this is because the backup database uses data deduplication. So losing one file can mean that you've lost a whole section of data for all of the backups.  That's why it's fragile.  And since how StableBit DrivePool stores the files by default, it's likely to cause an issue.  Enabling duplication is the best way, but using the file placement rules to limit it to one disk, or using the ordered file placement balancer plugin are ways you can "get around" this... but it doesn't make it any more fault tolerant. Duplication is the best way in this case. 

 

And yeah, storage is cheap anymore. :)

Especially if you keep an eye on the deals section of the forum. Schoondoggy is pretty on top of posting deals there, so you may find more storage for cheap!

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Guest KLLGUYhuG

Folder Redirection is exactly what it sounds like (but not what you think it is). It specifically redirects the user account folders (Documents, videos, music, downloads, etc) to a network share instead of the local disk (it leaves AppData alone though).  It also, automatically sets those folders up for Offline File sync, meaning that they work remotely still.  

 

It has nothing to do with duplication at all, and is independent of any pooling solution you may use (other than you can store the share for it there).

 

 

As for storage pool, well Storage Space has known performance issues, and .... has recovery issues. You can find plenty of horror stories. In fact, I'd really recommend StableBit DrivePool or Drive Bender as an alternative, as recovery is significantly easier.  Additionally, either product, you can specify which folders are duplicated or not, much like WHSv1, but with a lot more fine control.

 

 

As for which OS to go with... there is a third option (sorry): Hyper V Server 2012R2. It's completely free, but it's a "core OS Installation", meaning no GUI and all command line or remote management. But it is completely and absolutely free.

 

However, For Windows Server 2012R2 Essentials, the HyperV role is intended (and licenses) only for use with Essentials. Even if you have licenses for other OS's, you're not licensed to use them on the HyperV installation. 

 

However, if you do want to use data deduplication and hyperV, the best answer here may be Standard.  It gets you everything you want.  It also includes rights for TWO VMs of Standard .... and standard includes downgrade rights to Essentials. So, really, you can get EVERYTHING you want here, with this option.  

The difference is ~$200-300 in price (~$300-400 for Essentials normally, and ~$600-700 for Standard). 

 

 

As for users, it's the users in the dashboard. So you would be using 3 user accounts by your description. However, the limit is 25 for Essentials. Any more than that requires User CALs (which are expensive).  Additionally, if you do anything like Exchange, or RemoteApp, RemoteFX or ... well anything "spiffy" with Remote desktop, you need CALs for that as well. 

 

 

Ahs for the system drive, I'd just recommend a fast SSD, and daily backups (Windows Server Backup can be configured to backup HyperV VMs as well... or just the storage drive you use for it).

 

 

As for data deduplication, it's fantastic for HyperV. It really, really is.  I'm doing so on a 500GB drive... which is only using ~200GBs of capacity, but storing ~1TB of data. These are all VMs, and I have a VM for every Windows OS since XP (and several VMs of specific OS). 

That's good reply.

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