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Hardware and Server OS Advice Wanted


jmmsumru
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I currently have an HP EX490 (updated with a Pentium E5400 and 2 GB RAM) running WHS v1 without too many issues (the system OS drives keep dying on me). I mostly use the server to stream video, music, and pictures throughout the house (to a Windows 7 HTPC, a few TiVos, and Xboxes) and backup important files (I write and record music). I also back up a number of files from the server to the cloud (CrashPlan). I'm always concerned the HP hardware will fail (e.g. power supply, motherboard, network, etc.) and I'm sure supplies will continue to dwindle over time. I also have access to Windows Server 2012E and have been looking at the HP n54l but am concerned that for those occasions when I need to transcode video on the fly (e.g. Air Video or TiVo), the new HP server will not be as powerful as my existing EX490. Also, is the upgrade in the hardware worth the cost? What are your thoughts? Thanks.

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I can't answer the question about transcoding, but I'll address the EX490 System Disk issue.

 

You say the System Drives keep dying. I'm wondering if you're referring to the DashBoard telling you that the System Drive is Unhealthy. If so, I can tell you that this happened to me regularly when I was running WHSv1. I simply told the system to repair the drive, rebooted, and went on from there. I never had any other issues with the drive.

 

What I did do after the 3rd time I got the Unhealthy warning was to shut down the system, clone the System Drive, and use the clone to keep the system running while I used SpinRite on the original drive. SpinRite found no issues whatsoever so I cloned the System Drive back to the original drive and put it back in service. I still have that drive and it's still working, although not in WHSv1, since I no longer run that version.

 

I can certainly see where you might be looking to replace the system, since it's a few years old. I just wanted to reassure you in case the System Drive issues are the one I described.

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Thanks for the response on the system drive topic but it's not that I receive a Dashboard message, its that the drives actually die.  Either the system completely freezes up or shuts down and the system OS is not recoverable (the drive no longer boots inside or outside of the server).  In most cases, a new drive and system restore works perfectly without losing any data but the fact that it's occurred three times in the last year is a little unsettling.  In all three instances, the drive was under warranty and replaced but I'm sure you can see how this becomes frustrating. 

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That certainly is discouraging alright. Sorry it wasn't as simple as I hoped :(

 

Which make & model of drives have you been using?

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I currently have an HP EX490 (updated with a Pentium E5400 and 2 GB RAM) running WHS v1 without too many issues (the system OS drives keep dying on me). I mostly use the server to stream video, music, and pictures throughout the house (to a Windows 7 HTPC, a few TiVos, and Xboxes) and backup important files (I write and record music). I also back up a number of files from the server to the cloud (CrashPlan). I'm always concerned the HP hardware will fail (e.g. power supply, motherboard, network, etc.) and I'm sure supplies will continue to dwindle over time. I also have access to Windows Server 2012E and have been looking at the HP n54l but am concerned that for those occasions when I need to transcode video on the fly (e.g. Air Video or TiVo), the new HP server will not be as powerful as my existing EX490. Also, is the upgrade in the hardware worth the cost? What are your thoughts? Thanks.

 

The E5400 is a 2 core at 2.7GHZ and has a average CPU BenchMark of 1581 which is about 17% better than the N54L’s 1349 (see: http://homeservershow.com/hp-proliant-microserver-cpu-performance-index-comparisons.html ) -- so based on that => a N54L would not be as powerful as what you now (i.e. E5400) have in your EX490 though keep in mind your EX490 is probably currently handicapped with a 32bit OS and only 2GB of RAM compared to running a N54L with a 64bit OS (either WHS-2011 or S2012E) 8GB of RAM (8GB RAM is the max HP recommends for the MicroServer’s and for a production system I would stick to their recommendation).  If you really plan on doing some serious transcoding or just want that option in the future or simply want something more powerful than you now have you may need to plan on either buying or building a beefier system. 

 

Personally, if I’m building I’d look at an Ivy Bridge (socket LGA1155) based system and go with at least an i3-3240 (CPU Benchmark of 4381 or 277% of the E5400) and 8GB (if looking at WHS-2011) or 16GB (if looking at S2012E) of RAM and 6+ SATA ports.  

  • Ivy Bridge because it’s the newest 22nm technology and I hope would retain it’s value longer YMMV
  • i3-3240 (or any i3 actually) – I’d go for the extra horsepower now to keep future repurposing options open in the future (3-4 yrs down the road) – the incremental cost between CPU’s isn’t all that great – if I build something I expect it to last -- YMMV
  • 8GB RAM for WHS-2011 – that’s the max WHS-2011 can use and RAM is cheap YMMV
  • 16GB RAM for S2012E – RAM is Cheap YMMV
  • 6+ SATA ports – my preference but YMMV

You could certainly build a machine more powerful than your E5400 for less if going with Sandy Bridge and older generation parts.  It just depends on what your objective is -- that's why it's important to spec out what you really want your machine to do and what future flexibility you want (the more flexibility the more cost).

 

If buying up you could design your own, copy someone’s design in the Forums, go with a kit, or look at low end business servers that are a step up from the MicroServer’s in power and performance.  There’s lots’ of used and refurbished HardWare out there and if you keep an eye on places like Newegg there’s lots of re-occuring sales and promotions of new equipment – just last weekend in addition to the big sale on N54L’s Newegg was running for $239 -- Newegg also had sales/promotions on several Lenovo and HP tower servers starting in the lower mid $300’s with i3’s and Xenon CPU’s (such as the Lenovo TS130 with a i3-3220).  You can save a lot $$ by specing out what you really need and searching for used/refurbished HW as well as new HW in sales/promotions.

 

I’m not trying to push you one way or the other but your desire for something more powerful than the E5400 in your EX-490 really pushes the N54L out of the running IMHO. 

 

Bear in mind a lot of people are using the N54L (and N40L) successfully with S2012E and WHS-2011 (check the forums) but I don’t know of anyone doing heavy transcoding on the N54L or N40L that I could point to and say “yeh, no problem”. 

Edited by Joe_Miner
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The core i3 Ivy Bridge will do everything the OP is wanting.  If you listen to the BYOB podcast of two weeks ago where NoControl was going thru his rack setup, I was surprised he was running that entire rig on an i3, and he is a heavy gamer.

 

Worth a listen, IMO.

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I run an i3 540 with 8 GB of RAM and it does everything I need. Much happier than the 495 I had. I sold the 495, kept the original OS drive and it died just a few weeks after selling it, so guess it happens often. The drive was a Seagate and I have had no problems with my WD drives.

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I'm about to sell off my ex495 and move to a amd fx 8120 w/ 8GB ram in a norco 4220. The media smart servers are a nice starter server, but there comes a point where they really just don't cut it...

 

Sent from my HTC One S

 

 

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You've all convinced me to sell my HP EX485 which has been sitting in the box in my garage for 2 yrs unused.  It has been upgraded to Mediasmart 3.0.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm looking at putting together a WSE 2012 from parts I have around:  Core i5-3570K Ivy Bridge (1155 socket), G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 2133 (PC3 17000), 3 WD Red 3 TB NAS Hard Drives 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache - WD30EFRX for RAID/Storage spaces, a WD 1TB black for OS, Seasonic 750 w. PS.  But I need a motherboard which will work with WSE 2012.  I tried an ASUS P8Z77-V PRO, but there is no driver available for the Intel LAN, which makes the idea of using this MB for a server sort of useless.  Any suggestions for a mb which will actually work with these parts and WSE 2012? 

 

The alternative is to use the above parts for a Win8 system and buy an HP n40L or N50L and upgrade memory to 8 GB and use the 3TB reds in it if either of these HP products will recognize 3TB drives.  As an aside, which would be preferable, the N40L or N54L for my SOHO server, assuming I cannot find a MB which will work with these parts and WSE2012?

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