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HP Microserver as 4 Bay NAS....options ?


jerzy_bulovski
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Hi,

 

I've been running a ReadyNAS Duo for a few years and it's getting full so I'm thinking of getting a new "NAS"

 

I've thought about getting another Readynas as it has been a solid performer even if the transfer rates never matched the blurb. Still, I'd rather have my data intact and it has certainly done that even after some drive failures.

 

I've been looking at some Synology solutions but I also like the idea of a Microserver. So, I have some questions and, apologies if these have been asked before.....

 

Hardware or software RAID?

 

Freenas:

Since it's essential that you know what to do if your NAS goes wrong, I've played around with Freenas on virtual machines before and basically done things like create a virtual machine with Freenas installed along with a couple of virtual hard disks that serve as components for a mirrored RAID. I tried some things out like removing single drives etc and discovered that it didn't work very well at all (I lost the volume); when I spoke to the guys in the Freenas support room, there was some scratching of heads and no one could really work out what had gone wrong. By this time, I'd lost trust in using it but I suspect it may have had something to do with using UFS.

 

Over the last few days, though, I've tried it again and set up a ZFS-based RAID and, to be honest, it's performed nicely. I've removed individual drives in turn and it's informed me that the RAID is degraded and allowed me to "replace" one of the drives. I've also trashed the Freenas install, reinstalled to a fresh drive then imported the RAID volume that that worked quite nicely, too - no loss of data.

 

I guess the main thing is that Freenas is a bit of a bind to set up plus it needs to be installed "somewhere" like a flash drive. I'm not sure how I can get it to run itself from a RAID volume itself. In other words, if I use Freenas with 4 drives in the RAID, I think I have to run Freenas from a 5th drive or flash drive... (?)

 

HP BIOS-based RAID

I believe the microserver has a built in RAID (0 or 1). I don't know a lot about this even after reading the documentation on it. What I'd like to know is the following:

1. Can it support two mirrored RAIDs of two drives each?

2. How does it warn you that a RAID is degraded? (Can it email you? I've heard that Windows isn't very good at reporting this. Is this easier with Linux?)

3. If I use this, I'm guessing I'd have to do something like:

a, Set the BIOS to have a pair of mirrored RAIDs (RAID A and RAID B. I'm guessing that the BIOS now reports these as "two seperate drives."

b. Partition the RAID a drive with an area for the OS and the remainder for data.

c. Install the OS on the RAID a OS partition?

d. Share the data partition on RAID a via the OS. Share the entire RAID b as a drive (because it would appear as a single drive to the OS?) via the OS?

e. Set the OS up to report when there is a problem with either RAID ?

and/or

e. Set up the BIOS to email me when there is an issue with a RAIDed drive (is this possible?)

f. Assume that if I lost RAID a OS partition that I could reinstall the OS without losing anything in the data partition / RAID b.

 

Is this how complicated it is or is there an easier path because, suddenly, Freenas doesn't sound so difficult.

 

Or, I could just buy that Synology....

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

Cheers,

Jerzy

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If you want to play around with server stuff, the Microserver Gen8 makes a great NAS as well as a server.

 

If you really aren't interested in the server side, I'd probably go Synology.  I think you'll get the benefits of NAS and Synology's OS and related apps without having to deal with the level of management that either a server OS or FreeNAS will involve.

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What is this storage used for? Is this for a backup of something? Or is this your main copy and you also have a backup elsewhere? How critical is the data? Are you looking for size, performance or redundancy? What features are you looking for (in other words, why do you want to RAID)?

 

I ask all these questions, because when you build your own server you can decide what you want to do. You have some family photo's you don't want to lose? Fine, make sure there's a copy on all 4 drives (manually or software). Won't help in the event of a fire, but that's a debate for a different time. However, you entrust all of your data to a NAS.. and what happens if some microchip fails? How about if one of the drives gets corrupted and the OS realizes there's a sector problem on another drive? Well.. with a hardware array you could lose your entire array. Of course if the data is backed up, this small possibility doesn't matter. Maybe use your ReadyNAS for backup? Who knows.

 

Hopefully just my asking helps you in determining a direction.

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Thanks for the replies.

 

In answer to the general question(s), I'm really interested in having a reliable backup NAS. I take your point about the "off site" backup of really very important data (I had a discussion with a friend about this - my storing data on his NAS remotely and he storing stuff on mine) Photos are the primary item I'm storing along with video, music and encrypted "personal" info like financial stuff etc.

 

I also have a USB external drive that I back certain things from the NAS (photos) just in case, as you say, there is a catastrophic failure and I lose the volume. Obviously, that's no insurance against fire.

 

I don't currently need a NAS that can stream DLNA or other formats as I primarily access it via CIFS (Windows, Linux & OpenElec/XBMC) and I view/play the media directly from disk. Transfer speed is therefore important as it should be able to transfer HD (1080) adequately; XBMC will connect to the NAS via a local Gigabit switch and this "sub network" is accessed via a 500M home plug.

 

I have a couple of "accounts" on the ReadyNAS but, generally, all the data is stored as "guest" with no access permissions applied to any files; it's just easier this way when accessing from different machines.

 

Therefore, I guess I'm really only after an inexpesive, RAIDed file server. That's not so say that I won't need DLNA at some point (I might buy a television that uses it) but as long as the solution is flexible, it doesn't matter.

 

I'm not averse to doing a bit of work to get the thing up and running (e.g. Freenas) but what I want to avoid is to find out, one day, that I can't recover a RAIDed volume because I can't just shove a good drive into another machine and access the file system or I forgot to set an obscure parameter that I missed in the documentation etc.

 

Currently, I can get hold  of a new "4 bay" Microserver for less than £100 and then I have to put the drives in it. I can get hold of a Synology 2 bay NAS for £120 but it's only of the "slower" ones; a "fast" one will be more like £150 without drives.

 

So, there are some clear cost advantages to using the Microserver.  I hope this makes sense and shows the requirements more clearly.

 

Cheers,

Jerzy

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Thanks for the replies.

 

In answer to the general question(s), I'm really interested in having a reliable backup NAS. I take your point about the "off site" backup of really very important data (I had a discussion with a friend about this - my storing data on his NAS remotely and he storing stuff on mine) Photos are the primary item I'm storing along with video, music and encrypted "personal" info like financial stuff etc.

 

I also have a USB external drive that I back certain things from the NAS (photos) just in case, as you say, there is a catastrophic failure and I lose the volume. Obviously, that's no insurance against fire.

 

I don't currently need a NAS that can stream DLNA or other formats as I primarily access it via CIFS (Windows, Linux & OpenElec/XBMC) and I view/play the media directly from disk. Transfer speed is therefore important as it should be able to transfer HD (1080) adequately; XBMC will connect to the NAS via a local Gigabit switch and this "sub network" is accessed via a 500M home plug.

 

I have a couple of "accounts" on the ReadyNAS but, generally, all the data is stored as "guest" with no access permissions applied to any files; it's just easier this way when accessing from different machines.

 

Therefore, I guess I'm really only after an inexpesive, RAIDed file server. That's not so say that I won't need DLNA at some point (I might buy a television that uses it) but as long as the solution is flexible, it doesn't matter.

 

I'm not averse to doing a bit of work to get the thing up and running (e.g. Freenas) but what I want to avoid is to find out, one day, that I can't recover a RAIDed volume because I can't just shove a good drive into another machine and access the file system or I forgot to set an obscure parameter that I missed in the documentation etc.

 

Currently, I can get hold  of a new "4 bay" Microserver for less than £100 and then I have to put the drives in it. I can get hold of a Synology 2 bay NAS for £120 but it's only of the "slower" ones; a "fast" one will be more like £150 without drives.

 

So, there are some clear cost advantages to using the Microserver.  I hope this makes sense and shows the requirements more clearly.

 

Cheers,

Jerzy

 

Jerzy,

 

Since it sounds like you already have a backup strategy, you can go with any solution. The two Synology options you mentioned are both 2-bay, so you'd have no more space than you currently have with your ReadyNAS. I guess you'd use both?

 

Even a high-bitrate Blu-ray is like 50Mbps, so are you streaming to multiple devices at once, or using it for many different things? Any NAS should be able to serve up 50 mbit (6.25MB/sec) without issue. 99.9% of streamers also have buffers in the event of spikes. I guess I don't see the issues with getting any of the solutions. Unless I glossed over something you've said.

 

Given how cheap you can get the MicroServer, seems like a no-brainer to me, since it can do a lot more things (but does require an OS/administration). I haven't used FreeNAS in years, ever since Oracle took over Solaris and close-sourced ZFS. At the end of the day it really depends on whether you like tinkering and having the ability to do more... or if you just want the simplicity of a no-nonsense NAS.

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With a little trial and error you can load the Synology DSM on the Microserver.

Its rather easy to get xpenology running on the microserver, which means you get a powerful 4bay synology NAS rather cheap with a N54L.

 

snt frm n7

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Over the last few days, though, I've tried it again and set up a ZFS-based RAID and, to be honest, it's performed nicely. I've removed individual drives in turn and it's informed me that the RAID is degraded and allowed me to "replace" one of the drives. I've also trashed the Freenas install, reinstalled to a fresh drive then imported the RAID volume that that worked quite nicely, too - no loss of data.

 

I guess the main thing is that Freenas is a bit of a bind to set up plus it needs to be installed "somewhere" like a flash drive. I'm not sure how I can get it to run itself from a RAID volume itself. In other words, if I use Freenas with 4 drives in the RAID, I think I have to run Freenas from a 5th drive or flash drive... (?) 

 

You are correct, FreeNAS - rechristened NAS4Free - should be installed on a drive other than your RAID volume. You may boot the operating system from any device allowed by the BIOS: another hard disk, an optical disc, or USB drive. My microserver is configured to boot NAS4Free from an 8GB USB stick housed inside the box. I am also leaning toward using a ZFS RAID for my setup, specifically RAID-Z2.

Edited by mythic.glyph
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I find these distinctions between "NAS" and "Server" pretty arbitrary. AFAIC, WHS2011 is as much a NAS as any of type. Each has its advantages and disadvantages; pick the one that has the features you need.

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