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Local NAS setup using ESXi server

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July 1, 2013 7:18:08 AM

I need advice on how to set this up. I have an ESXi server running and want to use it to run a local NAS. I want to have a simple Raid 1 setup with two 2TB or 3TB hard drives. The server is an HP Elite tower with 5 sata ports.

How should I go about doing this? Should I buy a nice Raid card? or just use software raid on a VM?

I should also mention the reason I am doing this is that our network storage is offsite and we have limited transfer rates (7 ir 8 MB's/sec), I want to have local storage running on our gigabit network and hoping to get more like 40-50mb's over the gigabit network.

How should I set this up?
a b G Storage
July 1, 2013 7:51:22 AM

The big question - is this for backup, or are multiple people (how many) going to be accessing the network share?

If it is a single user (backup) or 2-3 light users, software RAID can accomplish this. The more users, and the more data transfers, the more hardware you need.

Remember either way you go, make sure to have a backup - even with RAID, you can lose data!
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July 1, 2013 8:00:47 AM

ronintexas said:
The big question - is this for backup, or are multiple people (how many) going to be accessing the network share?!


This will primarily be used as a temp file dump, just for non-essential stuff or any essential stuff on there will be backed up to our off-site servers.

So Software sounds like it would be just fine, but people have told me it can be finiky, also do you think I'd get decent performance still even though it's software and on a VM? Also how exactly do I set up a software nas?
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a b G Storage
July 1, 2013 10:58:48 AM

What is the hardware on the server? There should be some form of SATA RAID built into the server. You don't have to setup the drives in a RAID array - I have utilized the WD Black 4TB Drive:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It works well, as long as you don't have intensive disk I/O (say 25+ users, with heavy file utilization). If you setup a primary drive, and then use software to backup the drive (like SynchBack Pro:

http://www.2brightsparks.com/welcome/backup/freeware-20...

The utilization of RAID is needed when you have to have a large volume (i.e. 4TB+ in size - utilizing RAID 0), or you need the speed of multiple drives (i.e. high speed array for databases - Utilizing RAID 1 or RAID 10). In a high-demand production environment, where you have to be up 24/7, utilizing RAID 1/RAID 10 allows you to have a drive fail, you remove that drive, insert the same make/model drive, and it rebuilds quickly.

Utilizing SyncBack Pro, if drive 1 fails, you remove it, replace it, then move the share to drive 2 (it should be fully copied to that drive), and change SyncBack Pro to backup drive 2 to drive 1. 4TB of data copied across drives can take 6-8 hours, where a RAID rebuild can take 20-30 minutes.

RAID can be finicky, so in a low volume office environment, I would go with two 4TB WD Black Drives, and back up one nightly to the other. One big advantage of this - you can set it up to not remove deleted files, and when someone deletes that file, you can bring it back in a snap....in RAID, it is gone....
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July 1, 2013 1:30:45 PM

ronintexas said:
What is the hardware on the server? There should be some form of SATA RAID built into the server.


This is the Desktop we have running our ESXi server: HP Compaq 8200 Elite Convertible Minitower PC serial# MXL151174N

I can see it supports raid, but I already loaded ESXi on a 1TB WD hard drive, is it possible to add 2 more drives and only raid them? The settings from the bios doesn't look promising.

So you are saying I could just not raid them and just do a copy of one drive to the other every night? That could work.

What O.S. should I install to run the NAS?
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a b G Storage
July 1, 2013 2:05:01 PM

The problem you will run into with RAID on this is if it is supported in ESXi. A single hard drive, running in IDE or AHCI mode will work pretty well in ESXi without much difficulty in compatibility. However, the same is not so when you start doing RAID arrays. Even when you create the array, ESXi might only just recognize the individual drives and not the actual array, which means trouble.

If you're going to be using RAID in an ESXi environment, I'd recommend finding a decent hardware RAID that is on the supported list. The ones I have used is the HP SmartArray P410/256 MB Cache or P410/512 MB Cache with Battery Backup depending upon your needs and performance. These can often be found on Amazon for as little as $230. You may also need to find a custom driver or ESXi installation media for these RAID controllers but they are supported. There are other cards out there to get as well, but even those listed as compatible on their charts sometimes can be hit and miss with how much it takes to get things working.

Personally I'm leery of the really high capacity drives. From what I have read the higher the capacity of a single drive, the more probability of failures or corruption. The largest drives that I use for servers are 2 TB SATA drives. I've got a few 2TB WD Black drives in one of our servers right now and they are great performers and quality. If you need more than 2 TB of storage space, then consider a RAID 5 or even better a RAID 10 array of multiple drives on your hardware RAID controller.

This is where your Compaq desktop computer is going to give you trouble. It's meant to be a desktop computer, not a server. So your onboard controller, while it may support RAID, is just a basic software functionality controller and will be limited in performance and reliability. I would not recommend it if you really need to have your data protected and need up-time for business critical data or services. Also, these computers come with a limited power supply. It may support two, maybe three hard drives (depending upon the internal SATA connections) but nothing more than that. You're pretty limited with how much capacity and performance you can then get out of that as a true storage server.

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July 1, 2013 2:14:21 PM

choucove said:

This is where your Compaq desktop computer is going to give you trouble. It's meant to be a desktop computer, not a server. So your onboard controller, while it may support RAID, is just a basic software functionality controller and will be limited in performance and reliability. I would not recommend it if you really need to have your data protected and need up-time for business critical data or services. Also, these computers come with a limited power supply. It may support two, maybe three hard drives (depending upon the internal SATA connections) but nothing more than that. You're pretty limited with how much capacity and performance you can then get out of that as a true storage server.


Well this is HP's elite series so yes it is a desktop but it's a high-end business oriented desktop so I'd trust it's powersupply a little more than what you'd get in a cheap pavilion but I get what you are saying.

This is not for business critical data. It's just a temp dump for internal IT usage really. I wanted a bunch of hard drive space to dump images etc before they are moved over to the off-site location we have but didn't want to pay full price for a nice SAN or NAS appliance. I'm just wanting 3 TB's with a little bit of backup in case we have a drive die and there is data on there that we wanted to keep.
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Best solution

a b G Storage
July 1, 2013 2:49:23 PM

If you can get by with two 2TB drive not in RAID, that would be the best scenario. I would select the operating system based on the operating system of other devices on the network. Windows Server 2008 has a 6 month "test-drive" if you have more than 25 users. If you are less than 25 users, you can just load Windows 7 on the machine.
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a b G Storage
July 1, 2013 6:01:03 PM

The HP Elite desktops are nice systems, and we sell them as well, but they still aren't intended for Server compatibility. It's not necessarily about quality more than it is compatibility. If you aren't going to use RAID, then it shouldn't make a difference and you can use the onboard controller, but if you want to set up RAID 1 I would be willing to bet the onboard RAID controller will not be supported by ESXi and you may have difficulty accessing drives, or they will only be viewed as independent drives instead of an array.

My concern with the expandability and support of the physical system really is just the number of hard drives you are going to be able to put in there. How many onboard SATA ports are there, how many are currently in use, and how many SATA power connectors are there? This is the most room you have for hard drives. Perhaps that is enough for your needs. If you are wanting 3 TB or more of storage, and only want to use the onboard storage controller, then you can use a single 3 TB drive or two 2 TB drives, but even with a dedicated RAID controller supporting up to eight hard drives, how many can you actually fit and power inside that system?
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