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Options for a New Server Build


Bill Murray
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Hello, everyone I am a first-time poster and come seeking information from "the collective."

 

I have been a Windows Home Server user for about two years, using a home build box. I am currently using a re-purposed Athlon XP board with only four SATA ports. One PATA is the system drive and DVD while the three of the four available SATA ports are my data pool drives (1 Tb Western-Digital green drives). My WHS is used for media storage (without duplication – I have everything backed up off-line), and storing my photos and some documents/files (currently duplicated via WHS). I currently stream media from the WHS to my TV via an Xbox360 (with plans for a HTPC or something else, soon). All my equipment is on a gigabit network.

 

I was beginning to think about building a new WHS box with a motherboard providing more SATA ports, and wanted this hardware to be "Vail-ready," but with the demise of Drive Extender, I am now re-assessing. A major reason I am pursuing the upgrade is storage space – with WHS not supporting the new Advanced Format 2hard drives, am looking for an OS that will do so. I am aware the 2 Tb W-D EARS green drives can be jumpered to work (maybe?) with WHS. I am not aware of a solution for the 2 Tb Samsung F4 drives. I am sure the Advanced Format drives will only be more of a concern as we move forward. That would seem to point me toward building a Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 server, at least in the short term.

 

I do not know Linux and am too entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem to consider moving outside of it even though I am very disappointed with Microsoft's decision to drop DE, which I think is effectively killing WHS. I also have no interest in setting up a RAID system. If I have critical data that needs to be backed up, I am willing in the future to do this manually (unless a better solution/suggestion comes along).

 

I considered setting up another Windows 7 machine and sharing various drive folders from that machine as a "server." This seems less than optimal, and I have read that you can run into port limitations that will limit the number of computers that can access those shares, and will require the "server" to be rebooted once that port limit is reached. I do not know whether this is true.

 

Another option I am wondering about is Server 2008 R2. I have a Technet subscription and thus have access to a Server 2008 R2 license for evaluation. Unfortunately, I have never worked with 2008 R2. I do not have any familiarity with setting up a Domain or Active Directory, and since I currently have at least one Windows 7 Home Premium machine on my home network, I want to avoid setting up a domain, if possible (unless someone can give me a compelling reason for doing so).

 

I was looking toward building a high-end AMD CPU or an Intel i5/i7-based machine, preferably with a motherboard supporting 6 to 8 SATA ports.

 

The Questions:

 

Can Server 2008 R2 be set up to function on a Workgroup like my existing desktops/laptops?

 

I am correct in assuming that Server 2008 R2 does not support Homegroups, which are available via Windows 7?

 

Are there other considerations I should know about, both pro and con, that I should know about with using Server 2008 R2.

 

Any other suggestions/recommendations on this upcoming server build? Thanks to everyone! My apologies for the long-winded first post.

 

BTW -- BYOB guys, I have especially been enjoying your podcasts. Great job!

 

 

Bill Murray

 

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Hello, everyone I am a first-time poster and come seeking information from "the collective."

 

I have been a Windows Home Server user for about two years, using a home build box. I am currently using a re-purposed Athlon XP board with only four SATA ports. One PATA is the system drive and DVD while the three of the four available SATA ports are my data pool drives (1 Tb Western-Digital green drives). My WHS is used for media storage (without duplication – I have everything backed up off-line), and storing my photos and some documents/files (currently duplicated via WHS). I currently stream media from the WHS to my TV via an Xbox360 (with plans for a HTPC or something else, soon). All my equipment is on a gigabit network.

 

I was beginning to think about building a new WHS box with a motherboard providing more SATA ports, and wanted this hardware to be "Vail-ready," but with the demise of Drive Extender, I am now re-assessing. A major reason I am pursuing the upgrade is storage space – with WHS not supporting the new Advanced Format 2hard drives, am looking for an OS that will do so. I am aware the 2 Tb W-D EARS green drives can be jumpered to work (maybe?) with WHS. I am not aware of a solution for the 2 Tb Samsung F4 drives. I am sure the Advanced Format drives will only be more of a concern as we move forward. That would seem to point me toward building a Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 server, at least in the short term.

 

I do not know Linux and am too entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem to consider moving outside of it even though I am very disappointed with Microsoft's decision to drop DE, which I think is effectively killing WHS. I also have no interest in setting up a RAID system. If I have critical data that needs to be backed up, I am willing in the future to do this manually (unless a better solution/suggestion comes along).

 

I considered setting up another Windows 7 machine and sharing various drive folders from that machine as a "server." This seems less than optimal, and I have read that you can run into port limitations that will limit the number of computers that can access those shares, and will require the "server" to be rebooted once that port limit is reached. I do not know whether this is true.

 

Another option I am wondering about is Server 2008 R2. I have a Technet subscription and thus have access to a Server 2008 R2 license for evaluation. Unfortunately, I have never worked with 2008 R2. I do not have any familiarity with setting up a Domain or Active Directory, and since I currently have at least one Windows 7 Home Premium machine on my home network, I want to avoid setting up a domain, if possible (unless someone can give me a compelling reason for doing so).

 

I was looking toward building a high-end AMD CPU or an Intel i5/i7-based machine, preferably with a motherboard supporting 6 to 8 SATA ports.

 

The Questions:

 

Can Server 2008 R2 be set up to function on a Workgroup like my existing desktops/laptops?

 

I am correct in assuming that Server 2008 R2 does not support Homegroups, which are available via Windows 7?

 

Are there other considerations I should know about, both pro and con, that I should know about with using Server 2008 R2.

 

Any other suggestions/recommendations on this upcoming server build? Thanks to everyone! My apologies for the long-winded first post.

 

BTW -- BYOB guys, I have especially been enjoying your podcasts. Great job!

 

 

Bill Murray

 

 

 

Welcome to the forums Bill and thanks for your post. I will give you some of my opinions as I am experimenting with 2008 R2 right now for the same reasons. First I want to point out that if all you want is backup and more storage, V1 is still a good viable option. EADS drives are plentiful and you can stack quite a few in one case. I have almost 16T in one case using all EADS drives. It still offers you the most flexibly. That said, here are some of my insights with R2.

 

Can Server 2008 R2 be set up to function on a Workgroup like my existing desktops/laptops?

Yes, it can be set up to look just like Vail, or V1 on the same workgroup

 

I am correct in assuming that Server 2008 R2 does not support Homegroups, which are available via Windows 7?

You are correct in that hommegroup is not supported however to me that is not real issues as it is easy to work around the issue.

 

Are there other considerations I should know about, both pro and con, that I should know about with using Server 2008 R2.

The biggest issue is expandability (hence my earlier comment). Server 2008 is at home with RAID however RAID has a number of issues. For starters, using on board controllers with software raid you can not add drives without rebuilding the array. In addition, you have to have matched drives (meaning type, size, firmware) You can add drives to dedicated raid cards however they are very expensive $200+ for a simple 8 port controller. This means that you will have to pre plan your server for the future in the very beginning making you price of entry very expensive. My test server has 4 2T green drives (EARS) in a RAID 5 array and I already ran it out of space in my testing. The only upside is that the RAID 5 configuration is very very fast compared to drive extender so if you can live with very little options for expandability you will love the performance.

 

Any other suggestions/recommendations on this upcoming server build?

Reconsider V1 with a good core I3, a motherboard that has 7-8 sata ports, and if necessary, an add in card with 4 more ports ($50) until something better comes around. Build yourself a cool low power server with a huge amount of storage to carry you for the next 1-2 years until they fix this DE mess.

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Server 2008 R2 is an awesome platform and can function just as well in a Workgroup setting as well as a Domain member. 2008R2 gives you a few more options to work with such as HyperV which is Microsoft's virtual server.

 

The interface on Server 2008 does not have the Dashboard as you have seen in Vail or Aurora but that's not what it was designed for. One option would be to run HyperV with a Drobo/IcyDock style storage device with the new Vail, stay with Version 1. Another would be the OS with multiple drives each setup for each type of files (TV, Media, Documents)and then setup a backup schedule to backup those drives or parts of them to an external drive.

 

Don't let the "server" name frighten you off. Grab your copy, install it, play with with it and see what it can do for you. The biggest drawback will be the setting up if drive storage prior to installation, i.e, a lot of planning

 

The biggest thing you lose is the ability to do a bare metal restore from the server but Windows 7 allows you to make an image of the OS/System drive and store it so you can restore from it.

 

You have three more years of Version 1 and my suggestion would be to stick with it using an i3 Processor/4gigs DDR3 RAM and then devote some time to learn the new platforms available.

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Guest no-control

Since your use case is very similar to mine. No media duplicated and dupe files are small <2TB. The loss of drive extender isn't a big deal. All you are losing is drive pooling. Your solution is a pretty easy setup.

 

For hardware unless you going to run VM's an i3 and 4gb of RAM is way more than you need. IMO Drobo isn't worth the money,a NAS box would be a better solution, honestly. The advanced format drives will actually be less of an issue in the future as operating systems are retired (WHSv1 & WS03). Again if you go with WS08R2 it's a non-issue. Running RAID isn't really difficult it just isn't flexible., but you can minimize the hurt with some creative solutions and a bit of up front planning.

 

If you're really willing to commit to running WS08R2 then I would really make use of VM's and that Technet account. I will be discussing my new server in an upcoming episode, but here's a sneak peak that would resolve most if not all of your issues. Basically I'm running WS08R2 with Hyper-V added in. I use a WHSv1 VM Install for PC backups & a file server. No duplication. I backup everything except my Videos to a single 2TB USB 3.0 Portable storage drive. Since WS08R2 is handling the drives directly advanced format is a non issue with the older software. I run WD EARS drives unjumpered in my WHS VM without issue. All of this (and more) can easily run on an i3/4gbRAM/H55 platform.

 

The Questions: <<< The Answers

Can Server 2008 R2 be set up to function on a Workgroup like my existing desktops/laptops? <<< Yes - Active Directory is not required, and not even part of the basic install.

I am correct in assuming that Server 2008 R2 does not support Homegroups, which are available via Windows 7? <<< You are correct, it does not but you can use libraries on the clients and shares on the server to get similar functionality.

Are there other considerations I should know about, both pro and con, that I should know about with using Server 2008 R2. <<< The only con other than cost is that you need a decent working knowledge of the platform to set it up. Not really difficult but there will be some up front time investment for planning the setup and testing. Otherwise it will pretty much blow everything else out of the water.

Any other suggestions/recommendations on this upcoming server build? Thanks to everyone! My apologies for the long-winded first post. <<<Again i3/4gb RAM unless you want to go with VMs

BTW -- BYOB guys, I have especially been enjoying your podcasts. Great job! <<< Thanks! We love hearing from our listeners and helping them out.

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Pcdoc, jmwills, and no-control:

 

Thanks for your responses confirming the Windows Workgroup capabilities of Server 2008 R2.

 

Thanks for the toughts on RAID. I recently listened to your BYOB podcast discussing RAID. I indicated that I am not interested in pursuing RAID; however, as an enthusiast, I have considered trying RAID as a learning exercise. When you mentioned in the podcast that it took five or six days for a RAID to initially build, that sounded as exciting as watching paint dry. I have thought about merits of using a mirrored RAID configuration as an option for setting up a redundant backup arrangement for critical files in my server configuration. I have some more reading and learning to do before I embark on this, and especially before I am ready to trust my data storage to this.

 

I did not mean to imply I am walking away from WHS V1. As an engineer, I am always looking for ways to "improve" (change) things (my wife really hates that!). For the time being, I am planning to keep a WHS V1 server in operation. I have been looking at a new Core i3 or AMD X4 motherboard with 7-8 SATA ports. My WHS V1 is housed in an Antec case that has room for either an ATX or micro-ATX board, and allows me to use eight or nine drives (maybe ten if I use an IcyDock). It has been serving me well and I see no reason to dump it yet. I am simply looking for a way to add more drive space and perhaps move away from using MP4-encoded videos from my DVD collection and instead use the uncompressed VOB files (thus the need for more storage space). Five or six 2 Tb W-D Green EARS drives will serve that purpose, for the time being.

 

My questions on Server 2008 R2 were directed toward building a new server to begin moving toward the path I suspect will be necessary now that Microsoft has abandoned DE. I have a 12-drive bay (eight bays plus a four drive space for perhaps a backplane) Rosewill rack-mount server case that I managed to purchase inexpensively on Newegg a couple of months ago (not the finest server chassis hardware, but at $55 delivered, who can complain). A nice Norco chassis will have to come much later. I hope to use that server chassis as a test bed for the new Server 2008 R2 build. My current dilemma is whether to build using an Core i5/i7 box (my preferred choice) or an AMD X4/X6 (if I need to save a few dollars) while also trying to upgrade the WHS V1 box.

 

The Server 2008 R2 build may also be my platform for trying out Hyper-V. I have listened to your BYOB podcasts and forum discussions on Hyper-V. I do not have much familiarity with virtual machines beyond my experimentation with Virtualbox and Virtual PC, under Windows 7. I hope to learn more by trying it on this new platform.

 

Thanks again for the information. More questions are certain to follow after I listen tot he latest BYOB podcast...

 

P.S. -- no-control, are you a fellow motorcyclist? (It's my other hobby.)

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Depending on the equipment you have, RAID arrays can be built in as little as an hour. With regards to the CPU, you might want to look at the low power Xeon chip.

 

Good luck on the build. I will spend one day of my R&R time building a new box using 2008R2 with HyperV for testing the new builds. I can do all this remotely and make a determination on how to finish this box in the summer.

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Depending on the equipment you have, RAID arrays can be built in as little as an hour. With regards to the CPU, you might want to look at the low power Xeon chip.

 

Good luck on the build. I will spend one day of my R&R time building a new box using 2008R2 with HyperV for testing the new builds. I can do all this remotely and make a determination on how to finish this box in the summer.

 

What card are you using that built an array in an hour. I just installed a Highpoint RAID controller with 3 1T drives and it took about 15 hours which is only marginally faster than the software raid. If you know of something that will do it an hour I want one... Let me know.

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Guest no-control

P.S. -- no-control, are you a fellow motorcyclist? (It's my other hobby.)

 

No sorry I avoid them like the plague. I'm a road racer.

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