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Raid 1 + A8N SLI Premium + New Build.. Help..

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March 28, 2006 6:46:51 PM

Hi, this is my first post so I'll try and ask a detailed question. (or 2 or 3 or 4 :p  )

I'll list the parts for the new build first, which have already been ordered and on the way.

ASUS A8N-SLI Premium
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+
CORSAIR ValueSelect 2GB (2 x 1GB)
Western Digital Caviar SE WD800JD 80GB 7200 RPM Serial ATA150 (qty-4)
SAPPHIRE 586L Radeon X300SE 128MB DDR PCI Express x16
Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W Power Supply
COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 Case
NEC 16X DVD±R DVD Burner Black ND-3550A
SONY Black 1.44MB 3.5" Internal Floppy Drive
KEYBOARD-2000 MKS-301 (Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers)
Zonet ZFM5620-CF 56Kbps Conexant/Rockwell Modem
Microsoft Windows XP Professional w/ Service Pack 2
17" Monitor

Okay, now that's out of the way.. this is what I'm wanting to do:

I have built several systems in the past, I even built my own personal PC around the above motherboard which has been great. I am now building a PC for someone in an office enviroment so this will be my first "server" build. I have never built a system using RAID of any type but after alooott of reading I'm thinking about building this server using RAID1. I'm sure there are several different ways to configure a RAID system using 4 identical hard drives so of course I am open to suggestions.
A couple of things you should know, this server is being built solely with data security in mind. Speed is of no importance at all. So RAID0/RAID5 isn't really an option. This server will only have a few software programs on it serving 3 or 4 PC's and a handful of PDA's. It will never be used for gaming, graphics, or digital video editing. Yes, I know I could have built a cheap little server if the only need was to serve files but money wasn't an issue so I went overboard on everything.

So my questions are:

1. With the above parts, what's the best RAID setup? (ie 3 drives in RAID1 + 1 for storage? or.. keep all 4 drives in RAID1?)
2. After all the hardware is assembled, should I expect to run into many problems installing Windows XP with a RAID1 setup?
3. Is there anyone running a similar setup on this particular motherboard?
4. Can someone post step by step instructions from the first power up of the system including instructions for RAID1? :D  (hey, I tried!)

I think I have a good idea on what to do but you guys are the pros.
The little bit of fuzzy knowledge I've gathered is:

Enter Bios after first boot
Enter the RAID area and enable ports etc..
Continue to "build" the RAID1 in the BIOS (still fuzzy on this one)
Press F6 during XP install to use the RAID drivers on a floppy (fuzzy on which drivers to use)


Well, that's about the extent of my knowledge. I have built several systems but they were little "internet machines" and maybe a gaming machine or two. But when it comes to all of this RAID stuff, I am at a loss :( 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post and look forward to the advice of the pros!!
Thanks again!! :) 

(oh, and I hope I posted this in the correct location of the forum.. wasn't quite sure)
March 28, 2006 7:17:22 PM

Why not RAID5? That would be the way I would go. I would also get the WD RAID series of disks, which are designed to run 24/7 (not sure what series your listed disks are in)

You are running applications on the server? I think I might use w2k3 if that is the case.

After looking through your list, it is my opinion you are going way overboard on hardware and not nearly enough on OS and disk array. Get a RAID5 controller (if that board doesn't have one) and buy a hotswap disk rack, just to make it easier. Get a server OS and tone down the rest of the hardware. You've got a 128M video card in a machine that is never going to drive video. Why?

ADDED: OK, I just looked at that board and it will support raid5, which is what I would use if I were you. I don't think you need so much processor, but would like to know what you mean that you will be running a few apps on the box. A disk rack isn't necessary but it makes it a nice install. I might lean away from corsair memory because I've seen a lot of trouble with it on several asus boards I have. It's good memory, I'm not saying it isn't, but I've just had problems on more than one asus board. Check the hardware compatability list for that board and see if they list that memory before you buy it.
March 29, 2006 1:58:26 AM

Quote:
Why not RAID5? That would be the way I would go. I would also get the WD RAID series of disks, which are designed to run 24/7 (not sure what series your listed disks are in)

All the hardware has already been ordered and is on the way so going with the WD RAID series is not an option.

You are running applications on the server? I think I might use w2k3 if that is the case.

Only one program in particular (similar to Timeslips, won't Windows XP be sufficient?)

After looking through your list, it is my opinion you are going way overboard on hardware and not nearly enough on OS and disk array. Get a RAID5 controller (if that board doesn't have one) and buy a hotswap disk rack, just to make it easier. Get a server OS and tone down the rest of the hardware. You've got a 128M video card in a machine that is never going to drive video. Why?

Cheapest Pci Express card available, no AGP on that board.

ADDED: OK, I just looked at that board and it will support raid5, which is what I would use if I were you. I don't think you need so much processor, but would like to know what you mean that you will be running a few apps on the box. A disk rack isn't necessary but it makes it a nice install. I might lean away from corsair memory because I've seen a lot of trouble with it on several asus boards I have. It's good memory, I'm not saying it isn't, but I've just had problems on more than one asus board. Check the hardware compatability list for that board and see if they list that memory before you buy it.


Again, all hardware already on the way so I'll just have to make do with what I have.

Any advice on setting up the machine using RAID1? I know you're suggesting RAID5 and I looked into that, but from what I understand RAID5 is for speed and security,, all I'm looking for is the security. mirror mirror and more mirror :) 
Related resources
March 29, 2006 10:54:22 AM

How you have said above is how you need to install it, generally speaking. Set up the array, install the OS, press f6 to load your driver, that's it. The raid setup will be seperate from the bios, most likely. It will likely give the option to enter the bios, then it will give the option to enter the raid setup menu.

You are going to use 4 disks in a mirror set. If I'm not mistaken, you need to strip 2 disks (raid0) and then mirror that set to a second strip set for raid1. By doing that, you are going to have a total of 160G of storage, total. If you use 4 disks in raid5, then you'll end up with 240G of total storage. Or, you could use 3 disks for a total of 160G and keep 1 as a spare disk. Or, if the board will support it, you could use a raid5 array with a hot spare. 160G total storage with a hot spare, so if there was a disk failure it would switch disks automatically and you would still have data security because the array would still be intact with 3 disks. That is providing the controller will support a hot spare.

Raid1 will get you some security, but IMO raid5 is the way to go, especially since the controller supports it and you already planned to have 4 disks.

As for running an app on XP, I'm not sure how it would work. I've never done it like that. I know you can run w2k server or w2k3 as an application server, but I'm not sure XP will do that for you. Have you done it like that already and know it will work? If it will, then XP should be OK. It's not the most elegant configurations, but as long as it works then whatever. :wink:
March 29, 2006 1:14:35 PM

Very good reply Pain, some good information there :) 

As far as the application that will be used, yes. It is actually up and running now on a Windows XP machine that is acting like a server.. it's actually just a vanilla Dell 2400. The app is installed on that machine and the other machines in the office. Then the "install path" in the actual app settings is pointed to the "Dell server" on all the other machines, and all seems to be running well.

What I would usually say is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well the Dell is the owner of the company's PC so right now it's not only running the app, but ALL of his personal stuff too. Plus, they just moved into a new office so it seems like a good time as any to switch things around.

As far as RAID5 is concerned, if there is a failure, isn't it true that you would have to rebuild the array in the event of a failure? And from what I gather, with RADI1 you do not have to rebuild the array if there is a failure which sounds pretty good to me. I have to travel out of state to set this thing up (as a favor nonetheless) so once it's up and running it would be nice if it was pretty much a "set it and forget it" situation.

Now I have to go find the drivers because this motherboard doesn't come with a floppy with the drivers on it. I think I have to make a floppy from the included driver cd.. again, I think.

Thanks for taking the time to reply thus far, you've been a great help Pain :) 
March 29, 2006 1:45:28 PM

Quote:
As far as the application that will be used, yes. It is actually up and running now on a Windows XP machine that is acting like a server.. it's actually just a vanilla Dell 2400. The app is installed on that machine and the other machines in the office. Then the "install path" in the actual app settings is pointed to the "Dell server" on all the other machines, and all seems to be running well.



Ahhh. So, you've got the app installed on the clients and are just storing the data on the 'server'. That's essentially just a file server. The server isn't running the application. If it is running the application, I don't see why you don't just leave the application running on the client since the app is already installed on the client. Just point the data path to the server.

Quote:
As far as RAID5 is concerned, if there is a failure, isn't it true that you would have to rebuild the array in the event of a failure? And from what I gather, with RADI1 you do not have to rebuild the array if there is a failure which sounds pretty good to me.



Well. It really depends on the management software for the array, but first let me just say that in raid5, if you have a disk failure, the array continues to operate as it was before. No data is lost, nothing changes, you continue to work as usually [and hope you don't have a second disk fail]. It is true that when you replace the faulty disk you must rebuild the array. The management software may do that automatically and allow you to hot-swap the disk and rebuild the array without even leaving windows. If you shut the machine off to replace the disk, then you can rebuild the array from the setup menu in the disk controller, which is how I've always done it myself.

As for the RAID 1 setup, I've never used it so I don't know how it works. In fact, are you going to just have multiple mirrored disks, or are you going to have a RAID 0+1 array (2 disks + 2 mirrored disks)?

Quote:
Now I have to go find the drivers because this motherboard doesn't come with a floppy with the drivers on it. I think I have to make a floppy from the included driver cd.. again, I think.

Thanks for taking the time to reply thus far, you've been a great help Pain :) 


You can use the included CD, or I would just go and get the drivers from the asus website.

Glad to help. Check out the RAID sticky thread in the hard disk forum, and also this thread about integrated raid controllers.

http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/Motherboard-int...
March 29, 2006 2:23:30 PM

Quote:
Well the Dell is the owner of the company's PC so right now it's not only running the app, but ALL of his personal stuff too.


<cringes...>

You might save yourself some time later if you make the server a stand alone system...I know it seems like a waste of a computer, but it's not a waste if it's a mission critical system.

Before i got hired on for the college i now work for, i did work for a bunch for small buisnesses/manufactures, on the side. One of those, who i won't name, was using a server as his personal computer. Well, one day i got a call saying that his son had been in and downloaded something on to it, and that it had crashed and now wouldn't boot all the way in to windows...His buisness came to a complete stop, because of that one machine. Once i got there, bounced in to safe mode and cleaned things up, he was fine...but these things happen. I recommended he get a new computer for himself, and that he change the passwords on the old so his son wasn't tempted to do it again. It cost him more to be down for 3hrs, by far, then it did for him to buy a new computer for himself. Do you see where i'm going with this? =) If this isn't a mission critical system, then it may not matter...you/he just has to weigh what it's worth for that system to be down.

As a side note...raid 5 is a pretty good way to go (fairly cpu intensive compared to 1+0...)...however i believe that only works on one of the sata controllers, not the ide. I believe there are 2 sata controllers and 1 ide. Raid 0,1, 1+0, 5 is available on one of the sata, and Raid 0, 1, 1+0 is available between the other sata and the ide (for a potential max of 8 hd's). But i might be thinking of my old a8n-sli deluxe instead of my a8n-sli premium heh (although i think they had the same raid config).

edit: one more thing heh...<pushes raid 5>...raid 5 allows you to use more space than raid 1...with the advantage of still having a redundant system and being faster reading/writing (in most cases)...So it might server you better to go with raid 5, since you'll still be redundant...basically in this config of raid 5 (using 4 disks) you would be able to use 3/4 of the hd space over 4 disks...so if you had 4x80gb...you'd get to use 4x(60/80gb) or 240gb vs in raid 1 where they're all mirrored so with 4 80gb and raid 1 you actually have a total of 80gb to use to store stuff on (240gb vs 80). Or 80 + 80 if you do raid 1 with 3 and a spare for storage...240 vs 160...So basically raid 5 gets you the most for your money. **-the 3/4 i used is just a est...the actual amount is similar, but not exact; the larger the raid 5 gets the less redundant yet faster and the better your $/gb cost comes down since your % of usable hd space goes up(until you reach a point where you need a second redundant hd or uhm this thought has gone on long enuf....)...Alternatively you could do that raid 0+1, using all 4 drives where you have (2x80)160gb mirrored...which would be faster then raid 5, and potentially safer (since you could afford to lose any 1 drive, but from then on your system could die if you lose a second [dependant on which 2nd drive you lose...]). But i personally would go with a raid 5. If you've got the hardware solution, might as well use it. With raid 5 you can afford to lose one drive, but it needs to be replaced as soon as possible vs raid 1 with 3 or 4 drives, where you could lose up to 2 with 3, or 3 with 4.
March 29, 2006 2:31:26 PM

Woodlake, you do intend to have this machine stand alone, right? I agree with apesoccer, if you want a server then make it is a server. The minute you have someone using the server as a workstation, then you are asking for trouble.
March 29, 2006 2:37:19 PM

Yea

raid 0 is striped...ie the fastest, but the least safe...

raid 1 is mirrored...relatively slow but the safest

raid 0+1 or 1+0 is striped and mirrored...benefits of striped with the safety of mirrored...slightly slower then raid 0 (overhead cpu cycles and whatnot...)

raid 2,3,4 is old...parity bits stored on a single hd, with everything else on the others (i believe...heh) (safer then raid 0, or single)(slower then raid 0, 1); cpu intensive

raid 5 parity bits stored across all hds...safer then 2,3,4 and faster...very cpu intensive

raid 50, 100 are mirrored/striped versions of raid 5 if my memory serves; typically only available in large hardware raid devices (external...);


Here's a much better link (and more accurate) than the scriblings i've left in this post on raid...
http://www.bjorn3d.com/read.php?cID=886 (edit...sorry i didn't see that you had left a link on raid as well heh...=D )
March 29, 2006 3:08:59 PM

If he has 4 disks then raid 5 is the best setup in my opinion. But if the controller supports it i'd go raid 1+0 as it does not calculate parity, saving some cpu power.
On the other way, he said data integrity is his main goal, so i guess raid5 would be the best
March 29, 2006 3:30:04 PM

Yea thats the question...How much space is enough space...(since he has an x2...that would eat up the xtra cpu cycles carried from raid 5 with little[less] affect on his system [vs a single core]...)

He'll get redundancy with raid 1 and raid 5...regardless raid 1 is safer, in every situation...But raid 5 gets him alot more hd space comparitively, at the cost of increased redundacy with raid 1...

Insofar as safety is concerned (where raid 1 [when using 3+ disks; if using 2, 1+0 is safer %wise] is the safest):
1, 1+0, 5*, single, 0
*-some hardware raid allow for more than one redundant disk which would shake things up a bit in the order (where 5 would overtake 1+0) but requires 4 or 5 minimum disks vs 3 for raid 5 with 1 redundant disk

Insofar as speed is concerned (where raid 0 is the fastest):
0, 1+0, 5, single, 1

Insofar as size is concerned (where % of usage is best):
0 or single, 5, 1+0, 1

I would imagine the % of usage of raid 5 would be something like:
x=amt of disks in array; y=redundant amount of disks
((x-y)/x)*100
March 29, 2006 8:39:10 PM

Oh goodness, lot's of replies to read after work :) 

I'll try and reply to everyone in one post... okay..

Yes, this computer/server will be a standalone (in a back office where DSL enters the building, wireless router, stuff like that.) So no, it will not be accessed by anyone unless there is a problem.

Honestly, the main software that is going to be running I could get away with a Celeron 500 machine running 256 memory and a 6.4gig hdd.. That's why I've been leaning more towards RAID1 instead of RAID5. I know RAID5 is alot faster but it's just not needed. The guy wanted a computer that he wouldn't have to replace for at least 5 years,, 8-10 if even possible. So that's why the parts listed above are so overboard.

And as far as optimizing the amount of hdd space available, well, 80gig is wayyyy overkill as it is. The Dell 2400 that was mentioned earlier is where the software is installed now and the installation folder + all backups is less than 2 gig. And that includes the last 4 years of data/clients.

Everyone keeps saying that RAID1 is far superior when it comes to data security. So working off of that I'm thinking of doing one of 2 things:
1.) Install all 4 hdds in a RAID1 configuration
or....
2.) Install 3 hdds in a RAID1 configuration and install 1 hdd solely as storage, independant of the RAID array.

Does either of those sound like a winner?

Again.. thank you thank you thank you to all that have replied so far.. you guys are great!!
March 29, 2006 9:10:33 PM

Quote:
1.) Install all 4 hdds in a RAID1 configuration
or....


That would result in 2 RAID1 volumes, is that what you need?

Quote:
2.) Install 3 hdds in a RAID1 configuration and install 1 hdd solely as storage, independant of the RAID array.


You would need only 3 hd's for that... 2 in a RAID1 array, 1 solo.

If you already have 4 HD's, i'd suggest you to go RAID1+0, which is basically 2 RAID1 volumes stripped in a RAID0 volume. If 1 disk goes down the system will fall back to a RAID1 setup, you'll still have your data secured.
If you havent bought your disks yet, i'd suggest you to buy only 3... maybe 2
March 30, 2006 7:08:56 PM

Is that a hardware limitation of this device then? I've never tried raid 1 with more then two hds on this mobo.
March 30, 2006 7:52:45 PM

neither do i, actually :p 
but i think 4 disks in a raid 1, even if possible, would be a waste... 3 would make sense, but i dont know about 4..
March 30, 2006 9:00:16 PM

Oh, yea i said basically the same thing...but if speed doesn't matter, it's certainly the safest way to go heh. Have a good one...I'm head'n home...screw this work'n stuff. =)
!