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N40L - Max. Sata Devices (with Port Multiplier) and RAID considerations


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Hi Everybody!


I have had an N40L, running Windows 2008 R2 for a while now.


It's main purpose is to act as a NAS.


Several drives died on me, or started acting up over the years. Since I had issues with both WD Green and Seagate ST3000DM001 drives (2 and 3 faulty drives respectively), I hope things will improve by investing in WD Red.


My Setup as of last Week:

1x DVDRW (eSata->Sata)

1x 64GB SSD Boot Drive (Sata)

2x WD Red 4TB (Sata) Raid 1

2x Seagate ST3000DM001 (JBOD)


My Setup as it is right now:

1x 64GB SSD (Boot Drive on eSATA to SATA)

5x 4TB internally (SAS / SATA, Config TBD)

I also want to reconnect an ODD (and the whole setup to look good), so I ordered a mount to fit the 3.5" drive as well as a slimline ODD to the 5.25" bay; however I am now one-port short so I ordered a 2-Port PCIe SATA III card. That way I can hook up the SSD and ODD internally and free up the eSATA Port. 


The idea was, to operate the 5 drives as a 16TB Software Raid 5. That should provide a sufficient level of data protection against future HDD failures, while being the most cost efficient option.

(The most important files will be backed up to external disks regularly, I know that a Raid does not replace a backup)


I read someone somewhere complaining that write Speeds on a Windows Software Raid 5 were ~50MB/s and figured that's actually sufficient for my needs. Of course, 100+MB would be ideal to make the most of my GB Lan, but the advantage would be that I don't introduce a new single point of failure and save quite a bit of money.


[Edit: By the way, right now (during initial sync) I see write-speeds of 26MB/s (tested with a 13GB File). If it doubles when it's done, it's probably fine. If it doesn't? Well...?]


It's just now that I realized

- The initial (empty drive) Sync Process in Windows is likely to take several days (plus several days for copying the files back via USB 3)

- A Raid Controller is not that much more expensive than I thought (Placed an order for a new $50 Sata Controller, could probably get a RAID Controller off eBay for ~$100-$200 instead)

- I will be left with a bunch of drives that may or may not fail again shortly (in fact, all of the Seagates are acessible for some time, but start disappearing from the device manager, or had read issues on specific files, strange behavior)


Hence I am looking for suggestions. Should I rather cancel the Sata Controller and get an 8 Port SAS/SATA Raid Controller? What sort of performance gain should I expect? Somewhere else I read someone complaining about Raid 5 performance with a P410 as well, reporting a write speed of 44.6 MB/s; so maybe it doesn't make much of a difference?


As for the remaining drives: It's probably a waste to have them rot in a drawer, so despite not needing them right now, I would like the ability to hook them up. For that, I was thinking about a 5-bay eSata enclosure.

If I don't get a Raid controller, that would leave me with 10 Ports connected to the onboard controller (5x internal, 5x external). Will it be able to handle that? Will the onboard Raid Controller support this or not?

I read that the custom BIOS won't boot with Raid, but am not sure if it doesn't boot FROM Raid or not at all with the settting enabled. My boot drive is not part of a Raid and backed up separately.


If I got a Raid controller, do the common controllers support multiple Raid Combinations (e.g. 5 disk Raid 5; + 3 disk Raid 5; or 5 disk Raid 5 + 2 disk Raid 1 + 1 single disk)?

In that scenario I would also have to think about a case... So instead of a 5-bay eSata, it should be a 4-bay SAS Enclosure and I would have to move one of the (currently) internal disks to the external enclosure, in order to make the most of all available ports, right?!


Looking forward to your opinions and suggestions.



Edited by raph
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