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The Raid and Drive Extender Discussion


phrozen087
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Not sure if this is the right forum, or if it should be under the podcasts section. So to start, this most recent podcast really opened a can of worms for me this week.

 

I am on the verge of getting ready to build a new system and was thinking about possibly going the WHS 2011 route with a drive extender addon. I am familiar with building pcs (the server will be something like the 10th one I have build) and I haven't bought a pc of the shelf ever so its not so much the physical setup that scares me. I have a problem similar to what was talked about on the podcast and am kindof looking to see from the people who really understand raid if raid would be a good possible choice or if Drive Extenders would really be a genuinely better option for me.

 

Here's what I have and what I want to go to. Currently all of my drivers are individual and I use a software to clone them back and forth:

I have a 1TB drives that mirror my work data and the data is also mirrored to a 2nd 2TB drive. (60% full on the 1TB)

I have 2x 1TB drives that hold movies. (65% full)

I have 2x 2TB drives that hold TV shows. (70% full)

I have 2x new 2TB drives that I bought for when I build the server. They are empty other then for stability tests I ran on them.

So basically I have 3 1TB drives and 5 2TB drives.

 

In the server I will be adding all of these drives plus one more either 750GB or 1TB drive I have for the operating system, so I will have 9 drives total. The raid sounds really appealing, but it also really scares me about potentially losing data. I have always just had folders and cloned the data between drives so I could access anything on any drive.

 

Initially I had planned on adding all 8 of these data drives to a Drive Extender by adding the 2 empty 2TB drives, copying some data, wiping the 2TB TV show drives then, adding them into the Drive Extender and then gradually shifting everything over to the Drive Extender and eventually adding all of the drives. I had this all planned out nicely in my mind and was set on doing this.

 

Then this whole week was about raid on the podcast, something I had always had an aversion to because I have never used it ever before in my own systems. It actually sounds really nice, but I am kindof at a loss for if it is possible. Ideally I would kind of like to have 1 giant pool, but my drives are kindof a mismatch of sizes and there is a lot of data on them already. Near the end the talked about adding/expanding raid and I think it might work in a similar way to what I was thinking about doing before.

 

I guess my big question is for someone like me, who is on a budget, would say an 8 port raid card or 2x 4 port raid cards or something like this be worth it or am I just creating a lot of extra hassle. I constantly worry about failures on things, but it almost seemed like the standard folder mirroring in the Drive Extenders would automatically do what I am manually doing now. Any opinions would be really great. Sorry for the huge post, but this podcast really did open a huge can of worms for me and now I feel like I am back on this fence! This server is never going to get built, haha.

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Keep in mind, if you go Raid, you should buy new drives that are all a match. Given you indicate you are on a budget, I don't think Raid is right for you.

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Ehh. I've never had a problem, including currently, using same size drives from different manufacturers. I hear this all the time about matched memory, matched hard drives, even matched CPUs back when I was running dual CPU setups. I think it *may* make it easier to troubleshoot, but I've also had issues when because I went that route I had problems with ALL my hard drives/memory/etc because they all needed a firmware upgrade or had some sort of bug.

 

Personally, I'd go with the RAID setup, but I'd recommend a hardware RAID card. 4x2TB in RAID 5 giving you 6TB usable, with your fifth 2TB in reserve as a spare if the array loses a drive.Two of the 1 TBs in RAID 1 (mirror) for your work and critical data. The third 1 TB for your boot.

 

You could put the 5th 2TB drive into the array later if you bought a sixth drive for a spare, and needed more than 6TB for your movies and TV. But I wouldn't start it in the array - I'd keep it as a spare, since you're currently not using more than about 4TB for your videos and TV.

 

I can recommend a number of RAID cards, but we all tend to agree in the Highpoint 8 port SAS cards; which flavor is your choice. I use the 2720 just because it is SATA3 already, but it's no better/worse than a number of other Highpoint 8-port cards.

 

You could use the onboard and create a software (i.e. OS) RAID but I highly discourage it.

Edited by timekills
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No issue whatsoever with mixing brands of drives. That's an old wives tale in my opinion. Same speed, yes, but manufacturer, not so much. Just my .03 (the market went up)

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Thanks for all of the opinions so far. I'm still looking into it and reading up some more.

 

you say you were thinking of adding all 8 drives to a drive pool. What were you planning for backup?

I was actually planning on using the pool as its own backup. Since I have basically 2 copies of every file on different drives right now I was just going to mirror the data on the pool. This seemed like an ok idea that was comparable to what I am doing now, but I had assumed the drive extender addon would simply duplicate the files across 2 drives. Stablebit's method seemed like it might work since it said you could simply plug the drives in anywhere and the file structures (while possibly spread out) still existed on drives, just as duplicates. I may have made a bad assumption in thinking this is a good idea, this will be my first WHS installation.

 

 

Also thanks for the input on the types of cards to use and the drive mixing info. All of my current drives are only SATA2 so I think SATA3 might be overkill for me. It may be beneficial for me though to save up for a bit and buy a new cluster of equipment to use in raid later on and repurpose some of these drives as an external backup. Again, thanks for all the input, seeing as my background with raid is a big zero it is very helpful.

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I agree with TimeKills. Within reason, there should be no issues with the mix and match that you have. Remember that there is no "pool" to speak of in 2011. Using that many drives independently will be a real challenge but if some where tied together on RAID card, it would simplify your life. Using a a couple of drives in a mirror for duplication is a great idea for that hard to replace stuff. As other have stated, you will need to backup at least the critical stuff so one of those drives should be for backup. There has been much discussion on these DE replacements and many will disagree, but the problem I have is all of them are new, unproven with other software, and inherently slow. To prepare a new build with that many drives without the use of a RAID card to me does not seem like a good plan. Look closely how these DE replacements store data and RAID may start sounding a whole lot better. The question is do you want to put your eggs in tried and true technology (even if it is a "bit" more complicated) or do you go with something unproven. Of course in the end we all have to be comfortable with what we choose as we have to live with the outcome. Once queston we should ask ourselves is what we are going to do with it. If you are streaming media to more that one source at the same time, I am concerned the DE replacements may not be up to the task, It has been a couple of months since testing these DE replacement but I for one was not all that impressed with the performance. Good luck and let us know.

 

 

Note, look at the 2011 section of my server chart for a visual of what we are talking about.

http://www.win7king.com/2.html

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Thanks for all of the opinions so far. I'm still looking into it and reading up some more.

 

 

I was actually planning on using the pool as its own backup. Since I have basically 2 copies of every file on different drives right now I was just going to mirror the data on the pool. This seemed like an ok idea that was comparable to what I am doing now, but I had assumed the drive extender addon would simply duplicate the files across 2 drives. Stablebit's method seemed like it might work since it said you could simply plug the drives in anywhere and the file structures (while possibly spread out) still existed on drives, just as duplicates. I may have made a bad assumption in thinking this is a good idea, this will be my first WHS installation.

 

 

Also thanks for the input on the types of cards to use and the drive mixing info. All of my current drives are only SATA2 so I think SATA3 might be overkill for me. It may be beneficial for me though to save up for a bit and buy a new cluster of equipment to use in raid later on and repurpose some of these drives as an external backup. Again, thanks for all the input, seeing as my background with raid is a big zero it is very helpful.

 

I believe the DrivePool program does the duplication you are talking of. I tested it about a month ago and find it to be the best one. As pcdoc says, be careful since they ar relatively new and arestill in beta. The DE programs are changing fast at this time.

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Thanks for all of the opinions so far. I'm still looking into it and reading up some more.

 

 

I was actually planning on using the pool as its own backup. Since I have basically 2 copies of every file on different drives right now I was just going to mirror the data on the pool. This seemed like an ok idea that was comparable to what I am doing now, but I had assumed the drive extender addon would simply duplicate the files across 2 drives. Stablebit's method seemed like it might work since it said you could simply plug the drives in anywhere and the file structures (while possibly spread out) still existed on drives, just as duplicates. I may have made a bad assumption in thinking this is a good idea, this will be my first WHS installation.

I would not personally be comfortable with just folder duplication as my backup. I'm not saying it isn't a good idea; it's just not enough for my needs. What if the drive controller hiccups or fails and trashes the file directories? What if the power supply fails and sends dirty power to the system and trashes your data? What if the house burns down, or is flooded, or your system gets stolen or vandalized, or there's a lightning strike?

 

Only you can decide how important your data is. For me, I have family photos, videos, valuable documents like tax returns, my email server data, etc. on my WHS, so it's very important to me to safeguard it. I have my drive pool on my WHSv1 with no folder duplication, then I have an external 4-bay eSATA enclosure that has a complete duplicate of all the data, then I have 2 sets of drives that rotate back & forth to work. My data is backed up to one set of these drives (in external eSATA drive docks (toasters)) every night and that set is taken to work the next morning and exchanged for the set that was already at work.

 

For some this will be overkill; for others it's still not enough; they want constant real-time duplication. For me, it's been working for years, so I'm satisfied with it. I might use a cloud service instead of the 2 sets of drives that rotate to work and back except my bandwidth caps make that impractical.

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Guest no-control

Probably better to have this in the HSS section as I'm sure that is the Podcast you're talking about (I don't recall talking about it on ours recently), but I agree with Timekills and Ikon.

 

Here's my opinion, for what its worth.

 

RAID really isn't the big monster it's made out to be. Keeping all of your data, especially the critical stuff, on a single server is a bad idea. Backup should be offsite either HDD rotation like Ikon or cloud backup like PCDoc and HSS guys use (keepvault, I believe) or if you capable and dumb like me, site to site VPN sync. With your drives I would vote for RAID. While having all the same model drives is usually best from a compatibility standpoint. But not a requirement. Usually as long as they are the same speed an cache size you're good to go. Personally nothing I've seen, heard, or presented to me with the DE addons is impressive enough for me to want to use it. So far the best implementation of DE I've run across is the original WHS.

 

I would stick with your initial plan and go with RAID for now.

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