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santacruzskim

v1 Replacement: The End Is Near And I've Got No Place To Go!

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santacruzskim

I currently have an EX470 running WHS v1 and love it. It may be my favorite piece of technology I've ever owned, but I can sense its end is near.  Though I've done a fair amount of forum-hunting and podcast-listening, I feel like nothing can step in and take over the duties of this cheap, simple box that has been quietly sitting in my closet the last 6 years as the backbone of my home and work computing life.

 

So sorry for another one of these "make me a perfect system" posts, but I've exhausted my resources and had already made this list to help figure this all out for myself so I couldn't resist posting it.  For the sake of discussion, money is not an inhibiting factor, but practicality is and I want the right tool for the job.  This is obviously going to be accomplished through some combination of hardware, OS, and software and I am not playing favorites- if it gets the job done, I'm interested.  I'm sure I'm forgetting many, many things, but after watching my useage for the last month, this is what I've got:

 

WHAT I NEED

1. System Back Up & Bare Metal Restore for Win 7 through 8.1 and beyond (UEFI & GPT Compatible.

  * Doesn't have to be as miraculous as WHS v1 was, but needs to be automated and able to reliably restore a system image from outside of the OS (eg. In the case of a complete system crash or restoring a snapshot to a new HDD).

2. Pooled Storage. More Specifically…

  * File Duplication at Folder Level. (Currently looking at Stablebit DrivePool on top of win based OS, but other options like ZFS are also on the table, though I'd like to avoid the learning curve).

  * Able to access files independently from the "pool" (eg. If system completely tanks can still pop a pooled drive into a toaster and pull data off it).

  * Able to mix Hard Drive capacities, manufacturers, firmware versions, etc.

  * Support a Total Storage Capacity of at least 5TB but I'd like to buffer for around 8TB.

3. Run CrashPlan. I'm all-in on CrashPlan for cloud backup. If there isn't a way to point my data to CrashPlan, I can't use it.

4. Run Subsonic Server (or an equally awesome service for streaming my music).

5. Is Efficient (Runs Cool, Quiet, And Doesn't Cost a Ton to Run)

  * I'm never going to be doing heavy lifting on this thing so it doesn't need to be powerful. I'm on the coast in SF and it rarely goes outside of 50-70F, year-round. It seems like there should be no reason this thing can't stay cool and quiet if its designed decently.

  * My EX470 currently costs me $87/yr @$.14 kWh (the highest rate I've ever paid).  It pulls an average of 62 watts (monitored over a month of standard use).  Being cheap to run isn't as important as it being quiet, but I'd like to keep it in that ballpark.

6. Provide full, direct, access to files through OSX & Windows

 

WHAT I WANT

1. Some Form of Automated OSX Backup For System Drive (Not file history, but OS recovery) eg…

  * Image the OS drive at set interval (ideally incremental- only backing up new data)

  * Create a separate partition on the server that acts as a Time Machine backup destination.

2. Recovery Plan For Failed OS Drive - In v1 that was always an annoyance. I'll do a RAID 1 if I have to, but I'm interested in other options.

3. Have good system health tools built in or good additional software / add-in options

  * Alert me via text, email, etc. when something goes wrong or into a "warning" state.

  * SMART status on drives, system component health, heat warnings, etc.

4. Run BitTorrent Sync. I have other options, but I love this software and rather stick with it.  Here's what it runs on: http://www.bittorrent.com/sync/downloads

5. Have some way to control access to certain folders. Currently that's done through users privileges in v1: all users can r/w to media folders, each user can r/w his or her own personal folder(s), and guest account can read media folders and I'd like to be able to replicate that in some way on the new system.

6. People are doing amazing things with their servers and I'd like to get in on some new creative uses so being on a healthy platform with lots of support and development and room for tinkering is ideal, but not necessary.

 

NOTES / THOUGHTS

  * I'm hesitant to go to WHS 2011 as the OS. It seems like another dying platform, based on an OS now 6 years old.  If there is simply nothing else out there that will work for me, I guess I'd be ok doing this as a hold-over until a better option appears, but I rather find something to take me as far as v1 did.  The 2TB limit may interfere with my plans as well, but its not a non-starter for me b/c of my backup strategy. On the upside, the price is right.

  * 2012 is an option, but spending ~$500 on an OS seems insane to me and extremely hard to justify.  If that is the only option that exists at this point and time that can handle my needs then so be it, but man… REALLY?!?!

  * Simplicity is great, but I'm stubborn and know that if I'm not willing to make sacrifices with my setup I'm probably going to have to pay a little extra and / or tinker to get what I want and I'm ok with that.

 

thanks to anyone who can provide their own insights or even point me to some useful resources. if this belongs in a different section of the forum, let me know and i'll move it. i browsed around and this seemed like the best fit.

 

-eric

Edited by santacruzskim
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schoondoggy

WOW!

Thank you for this post!

This is exactly what has been rolling around in my head for sometime now. As much as WHS 2011 has served me well, it is getting harder to recommend an aging OS. Spot on with 2012, great OS, but the price pushes it out of Home Server land.

Unfortunately, I don't currently have the answer, but I intend to work on it. I am hoping others in the forum will participate in this discussion.

Thanks for the topic! 

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diehard

WHS2011 is the way to go in my opinion. It's a server OS so I don't need the latest and greatest as on a PC. Hey, they even came out with the UEFI hotfix before they killed it, great. Support >3TB drives, great.

 

The 2TB limit should not be an issue if you use something like Cloudberry Backup. Just use the built in server backup for the OS only, no shares. Cloudberry Backup to a USB drive or cage. It's got more functionality and no 2TB limit.

 

Oh, take advantage of the 40% off deal to HomeServerShow members, great.

 

Oh,oh, FULL DISCLOSURE. I'm still using WHS v1. I don't have any new UEFI motherboards and I've hacked 3TB drives in the pool, I have a ton of add-ins, so I'm golden.

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Drashna Jaelre

Well, it looks like WHS2011 is out of the question. All supplies seem to have dried up in the last week or so!
 
To be honest, the simpliest solution will be to go with Server 2012R2 Essentials. It's not cheap (~$500, so OUCH), but it's based off of the same code as WHS2011. It has all the same features, but improvements in a lot of areas.
It covers most of the issues/features you want, as well. Everything but OS X really. (but if you want to "cheat", you could use HyperV to create a VM with something like netatalk and solve that issue).
 
As for the ~$500 cost, you can download an eval version that is good for 180 days (I believe). You can see if it's what you want to go with. If you don't, you could install over it and move on. Or if you like it, you can purchase a copy and activate it (no reinstall needed). 
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205288.aspx
 
 
 
 
Alternatively, you could use a desktop version of Windows to do this as well. You could backup the "client" machines to a network location (but restore is a bit more tricky... you'd need to remember to run "wpeutil initializenetwork" and then "net use" to map the share, ideally).
If you use Windows 8.1 for this, you could also setup HyperV for the OS X backup. 
As for Subsonic, since that is it's own web server, you can JUST run that and forward the ports as needed. 
 
But let me try and cover these as best I can, individually: 
 

WHAT I WANT
1. Some Form of Automated OSX Backup For System Drive (Not file history, but OS recovery) eg…

  * Image the OS drive at set interval (ideally incremental- only backing up new data)

  * Create a separate partition on the server that acts as a Time Machine backup destination.

 

As I mentioned above... twice... The best solution here is going to be a dedicated VM to handle this. OS X does not play friendly with Windows. There may be solutions out there, but I'm not a Apple guy. In fact, there are no Apple devices in my household, and I actively try to keep it that way (partially because I despise the company, and partially because it's better to keep to one ecosystem)
 

2. Recovery Plan For Failed OS Drive - In v1 that was always an annoyance. I'll do a RAID 1 if I have to, but I'm interested in other options.

Windows (Server) Backup. Seriously. It works SOOOO very well. (except when it doesn't). I use it to backup just my system disks, and have restore from them several times. I even used it to migrate from a "spinner" to a solid state on WHS2011 (well SBS2011E, but who's counting, except ikon and scoondoggy).
The client version works well, but has less options, IIRC. But it definitely does work.
I think Acronis has a network option as well, but it does cost money, while Windows Backup is free.
 

3. Have good system health tools built in or good additional software / add-in options

  * Alert me via text, email, etc. when something goes wrong or into a "warning" state.

  * SMART status on drives, system component health, heat warnings, etc.

 

Shameless self-promotion: StableBit Scanner. If you go with StableBit DrivePool, this is the best option. Why? because they work together. If scanner finds damage on a drive, it will cause DrivePool to evacuate the drive, hopefully before you lose anything. It can be configured to do the same with SMART errors, and to avoid using drives that have overheated as well.
And as I imply, it monitors SMART data as well as disk temperature. And it does a surface scan once a month (where it reads each and every sector to make sure they're still readable).  It's a great tool.
Also, you get a discount if you buy both.
 
Also, the beta version of Scanner (2.5) supports email, text, pushover, pushout, Notify My Andriod, and a few other services, IIRC. So lots of notification options!
 
Alternatively, HD Sentinel is a good alternative. 

 

4. Run BitTorrent Sync. I have other options, but I love this software and rather stick with it.  Here's what it runs on: http://www.bittorrent.com/sync/downloads

Runs on every version of Windows, from what I have seen. Including desktop and server versions.
 

5. Have some way to control access to certain folders. Currently that's done through users privileges in v1: all users can r/w to media folders, each user can r/w his or her own personal folder(s), and guest account can read media folders and I'd like to be able to replicate that in some way on the new system.

Well, WHS2011 handles this better, as does Server Essentials.

Specifically, it shares the folders giving "Everyone" full access. Then it uses NTFS permissions to control what users have access to the data. This is a good method, and works well.
Homegroups doesn't give you this option... It's all or nothing. But the manual share version above requires using the guest account or having matching credentials on each computer (or cached ones, using "Credential Manager").

 

If needed, I can expand on this, but I think that I included enough info to be "useful" at least.
 

6. People are doing amazing things with their servers and I'd like to get in on some new creative uses so being on a healthy platform with lots of support and development and room for tinkering is ideal, but not necessary.

Not really sure how I can help you there. Well, except for recommending that you have a good backup solution in place. That... or,.... rather, maybe AND use HyperV for tinkering. Windows 8 Pro includes the option to run HyperV if hte hardware supports it. You can also run HyperV Server 2012R2 (which is harder to manage, as it's Server Core (command line). Or you can get Server 2012R2 Essentials and violate the license and install the HyperV role. Not that I'm recommending that you violate the license.

 

But having HyperV and a VM setup to allow you to do OS X backups would be a great idea, And then you can run additional VMs for testing, or to segment off roles.

 

 

As for hardware, I'd recommend Haswell. Hands down. They have celeron to core i7 to Xeon haswell CPUs. And they're really worth it.

I went from an AMD FX 8120 (8 core) to a Xeon E3-1245v3, and it literally cut the power usage (Wattage/VA) in half. Same RAM, same HDDs, just motherboard and CPU swapped (and the geforce 9400 removed).

 

But it depends on what you want to do. For the most part, you could get away with a Pentium Haswell, or a Core i3. Though, if you plan on using HyperV a lot, and a lot of VMs, then a Core i5/i7 or a Xeon would be a better option. 


WHS2011 is the way to go in my opinion. It's a server OS so I don't need the latest and greatest as on a PC. Hey, they even came out with the UEFI hotfix before they killed it, great. Support >3TB drives, great.

Unfortunately, as somebody mentioned on the StableBit forums, Newegg has stopped carrying copies. Same with Tiger Direct, NCIX, etc. Amazon has a couple from 3d party merchants at a much higher price ($100). And finding it elsewhere.... almost everyone is "out of stock".

 

No warning, no notice, just suddenly out of stock.

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ikon

Yeah. I responded to someone else's post about what OS to run and discovered the same thing about WHS2011. It seems to basically be 'gone'. If you can find a source for it at anything like the $50 price I would jump on it quickly. There won't be any new feature updates to WHS2011 after mid-2016, but there should still be security patches for it for several years after that, simply because it's based on Server 2008r2.

 

If you can't find a reasonably priced WHS2011 I'm not sure what to suggest. As you say, WSE2012 is pretty expensive for home use. There may come a point when we all have to re-evaluate what we do for home servers. I know Microsoft wants us to migrate everything to the cloud, but I don't think that will be a truly viable option for quite some years yet.

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Joe_Miner

Check the Deals Forum -- Server 2012 Essentials and the R2 version are $359 over at Newegg.

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santacruzskim

Wow, this community is truly awesome!  Thanks everyone, great stuff!

To selfishly keep this conversation relevant to my needs, OSX is pretty low on the importance list. I'm an editor and it's my pixel pusher; it sits in the corner like the bad boy that it is and crunches numbers. If I run updates or install anything hefty, I image the OS with CarbonCopyCloner (awesome software) beforehand. It would just be cool if whatever I ended up with took care of that as well. I will be looking into netatalk though (thanks drashna!).

Some things to insert into this discussion...
  * For WHS 2011, if you deactivate a license can you sell it to someone else? If so this community seems like the perfect vehicle for such a marketplace as folks are constantly hopping from one OS to another, possibly with licenses collecting dust on the shelf that others could make great use out of.

  * The OS conversation seems a little narrow - Microsoft option A or B? - and I think that's a reflection of the space at this point in time which is a bummer as they both come with many downsides.  My gut reaction to your thoughts is to find a good piece of hardware and start testing!  Gen8's certainly get a lot of buzz around here and I love having gear that's part of a healthy community (why I had so much fun with the EX470 all these years), but I've read horror stories about getting things up and running, mainly issues with OS installations and updating firmware. For all I know the new ones ship with fixes for these issues already applied or maybe the issues were the result of user error.  Also, anyone know what the power consumption / fan noise is like with the thing packed full of drives but otherwise "stock", ideally compared to a fully packed EX470?

 

(ikon- completely agree with your thoughts on microsoft's future in this space. i think i'm at least one more server lifecycle away from their fantasy world being an actual, viable options for folks like us. what is a horder to do!?).

 

thanks again everyone!

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schoondoggy

I am just starting testing. I am leaning toward Windows 7/8 or Linux for a base OS, then layer on the features needed. BMR is tough to find, but I like what I see from these two:

This one is under $20 per PC if you buy in three packs:

http://www.paragon-software.com/home/brh/

There is a free version as well, still trying to determine the difference:

http://www.paragon-software.com/home/br-free/download.html

Updated features of Paragon BR:

http://www.paragon-software.com/news_all.htm?id=0276&year=2014

Redo looks interesting as well:

http://redobackup.org/

 

 

Found it, with this link you can compare Backup & Recovery Home 14 vs Backup & Recovery 2014 Free;

http://www.paragon-software.com/home/features.html

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santacruzskim

redo?! - nice find schoondoggy, definitely going to check that out.  lack of automation is a bit of a non-starter for implementing as my primary client backup strategy, but definitely looks like a good tool to keep around. i've been in the acronis camp for a while, but it looks like paragon have really made some great improvements since I last used them. Keep us posted on your travels through the world of non-microsoft-powered backups.


 


Quick update on my quest to replace my v1 machine: I'm currently looking at a Gen8, a Poweredge T20, or a ThinkServer TS140.  Amazingly, just like WHS 2011, it looks like i just missed the boat on good prices and availability for all 3, but I put in some price alerts so I'll be keeping an eye on all of them.  They all have their + / - and getting comparable data on subjective questions like "how loud is it" is difficult (I've seen the T20 described as "noisy" and "whisper quiet"!) so if anyone has experience with more than 1 of these to pull some useful comparisons from, that would be very helpful.


 


Also, I'm thinking of just picking up a license of WHS 2011 if I could get it in the $50 neighborhood.  If anyone out there has a copy sitting on the shelf they want to ship or an iso + license key they want to send over, lets talk!  Very interestingly, if you try to buy a TS140 from cukusa.com they give you to the option to throw in WHS 2011 for $50! Not sure if they wait to tell you they're out of stock until they have your credit card or if this is legit, but either way it caught my eye.

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ikon

  * For WHS 2011, if you deactivate a license can you sell it to someone else? If so this community seems like the perfect vehicle for such a marketplace as folks are constantly hopping from one OS to another, possibly with licenses collecting dust on the shelf that others could make great use out of..

 

As I understand Microsoft's policy, you cannot legally sell a WHS2011 licence. I believe the licence is legally limited to the hardware it's originally installed on. If you sell the entire computer, I believe it is legal to transfer the software licence that way.

 

That said, people do of course transfer their copies of Windows software from 1 computer to another. They upgrade the hardware but keep the OS and other software. While technically an infraction of the MS EULA, I think MS recognizes it would be a grave mistake on their part to try to enforce the terms -- the backlash would be loud, long, and vicious -- I would expect lawsuits even, claiming that the EULA is inherently illegal.

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