building a file server

I have three 250Gb IDE hard drives left over from some upgrades and was thinking of putting together some sort of file server to store music, video and other communal files for my SOHO network.

I have never built a server before, so I'm hoping someone can point me in the direction of a File servers for dummies site or failing that, give me some tips for dos and dont re which software to use, levels of processing power required, whether I need to use Raid and if so, what type of Raid I need. I've built and upgraded a few PCs, but nothing like this, so any help would be cool.

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  1. If this is only a file server.... you won't need a lot of processing power.

    CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3000+

    Mobo: Asus A8N5X

    RAM: OCZ EL 1GB (2 x 512MB) DDR400

    Video Card: eVGA Geforce 7300 GS

    Case: Antec Sonata II <--- If you already have a case, then just get an Antec Truepower 430W power supply and put it in the existing case.

    Total Before taxes and shipping (with just the Antec Truepower PSU): $390.96

    Total Before taxes and shipping (with the Antec Sonata II case): $420.96
  2. Yes, just a file server. For software, is Windows server the best bet, or is there some linux derivative that will be better for the job, or is plain old XP fine? My network is all XP home/Pro and I dont know much about linux (yet)
  3. Depending on how many, how big, how often, etc, you'd want files, even anything down to a Pentium3 could suffice (of course, rarely found is a P3 mobo with RAID onboard).

    As for RAID, i'd be looking at RAID 5, if you can, and if you can afford the lower-capacity. Also, choose wisely now, as you'll need to back up Everything if you want to change raid levels later. RAID-0 won't give you any performance benefit if you've got a 10/100 card or switch, it *may* be faster if you've got Gigabit all the way though.

    1GB of ram may be a bit of overkill, but then again, 512 may not be enough, especially if running Win (i've only ever used NT4 server, i'll assume 2003server is just as ram-hungry as XP).

    If you don't want it in a hurry, i'd take it as a good time to experiment with linux. Pick something easy, especially using rpm or deb packages, like SuSE, Fedora, or Debian. Just make sure you install the SMB (samba) packages, and use the right network settings (any linux tutorials should show you how, or ask in the software->linux forums).

    One Big advantage of using linux is having the choice of Reiser as a filesystem. It's faster with big and small files, and it's Journalled (so you don't lose data if you have a power-cut).

    ps, i wouldn't bother with a GeForce video card. i wiouldn't even bother with AGP or PCIe, just put in any old PCI card to install, and forget about it, there's no point in spending more than $5 on ebay for something you won't need to use for more than a few hours, with no 3d. (although i would leave it in, so you can attach a monitor if needs be, and an old PCI card will chew through less power too.)
  4. I dont know how much you planning on spending on this.

    I would go raid 1 for file server if you are planning to store permanent data or important data without having to back them up to 10 zillion DvD's everytime or are in need to buy a tape solution for backup.

    Cheapest thing you could do is........Buy a second hand PIII, early athlon or later. The processing power you need is very very low.(But I doubt you be able to do the raid 1 thing that way)


    The second cheapest thing is.....A build around a mainboard with onboard graphics, raid, and Gigabit LAN..........get the cheapest socket/cpu combo you can find (would use brand mobo and memory but only there value parts). Any casing/PSU would do because the required power is minimal.

    Spend your money on gigabit LAN if you are storing and retreiving large files. (aka if you use second option you only need to make sure your main rig has gigabit lan and you need a gigabit switch (unmanaged will do).

    You dont need input peripherals nor a monitor (just use your current during install and remove them)

    You could use programs like Timbuktu pro or pc anywhere to administrate from your main rig.
  5. Everyone has different opinions, and you first need to answer if you plan to do backups or if you want some redundancy in your storage?

    How many people are planning to hit this server?

    You don't need much horsepower and can even use a P2 with an add-on controller card, and I've got servers without any monitor keyboard/mouse so a special graphics card is not necessarily required. But you will need to detail more information about your intentions before making permanent decisions on hardware specs.
  6. save up buy 3 more 250s
    go for raid 5+1 google that.
    thats very reliable for you and you shouldnt max out the array hopefully on thoughput.
  7. Quote:
    save up buy 3 more 250s
    go for raid 5+1 google that.
    thats very reliable for you and you shouldnt max out the array hopefully on thoughput.
    in addition make sure that you get the exact same model of hdd, otherwise it wont be as good.
    also you would only need 4 hdd for RAID 5, will give you 75% same compacty as well as data redundency.
    now, if you want the full compacity then if i were you i'd go with a JBOD RAID system. everyone says that its not really a RAID but...whatever. anywho if you have a JBOD you will have full compacity as well as (semi) data redundency.
    a RAID 0 will have the same storage compacity but the data is split between equally between the 2, which means that if 1 fails everything goes. RAID 1 is where the drives are mirrored, which is where they are the same data, also means that with 2 x 250 you only have 250 storage.
    have a look at for more info
    and check this out
    try and get a crappy old PC, e.g. under a ghz. you really dont need alot of power if there's only 2~3 ppl accessing it. though make sure you dont use wireless cause it's really crap when it comes to data transfer, stick with cable
  8. I would like automatic backing up as I work offshore and when I am away, my girlfriend never remembers to back anything up with our business files. Would like to keep 500Gb available, so I guess 1 more 250Gb is req'd. I also have an 80Gb drive. Would I be able to put the OS on that and have the other 4 drives for the shared storage.

    Minimal expenditure is preferred as I live in Sweden and we pay a lot more for PC bits than folks in the US.

    WIll have a look at Linux since I dont have any dates driving this project.

    Networkwise, I currently have a wireless router which is a bit crap I think (Belkin). I have 2 desktops always connected wireless and 2 laptops that are occasional wireless users and my own desktop which is wired in using Cat5. I also have a Pinnacle showcenter connected wireless and a networkd printer. My webcon is 30Mb cable.

    I was thinking of buying a gigabit wired router to have the 3 desktops, fileserver, webcon and the printer hooked up to and then have the wireless router hooked onto that to take care of the laptops and showcenter. Is that a viable setup, or cant I have the 2 routers hooked up to each other? Networking isnt one of my strong points.

    Thanks for all the advice so far folks!
  9. well if you patition the 80 Gb to sommit like 10/64 Gb, then you can use the additional 64 Gb for sharing, id not like to place the OS in the shared folder
    as for the auto backup, can someone back me up here but there was a sync. program built directly into windows, though i cant remember if it was only applicable to removable storage
  10. I don't recall any sync stuff in windows, but I personally use a brut force method and use a little program called robocopy. I use it to mirror data from one place to another automatically using scheduled tasks.

    Now. I suppose one could use a mirror set to do the backup automatically, if you want to call a mirror set a backup, but since you want 500G of storage you would need to use a 0+1 array to get your 500G AND a mirro set. A cheap 4 port raid controller will do this easily.

    Because you have a second person who may need to do some system admin stuff while you guide her over the phone while you are away, I would personally stick with windows, unless of course she is going to be able to work with Linux. That's completely up to you, obviously.

    If it's just a few people and general storage uses and not moving huge files around all day long and where speed isn't critical, then I wouldn't worry about gigabit lan, and certainly would worry about having a top end machine. Any old P2-3 will do fine, and 512Megs of ram is fine for any version of windows or windows server OS, for how you intent to use it.
  11. My servers are based on my current upgrade path, filesrv gets the low end MB and the best HD's. (note I didn't say biggest)

    Please bare with me as I outline the current path, all paths subject to change pending parts availablility, budgetary concerns, Honeydo's, ect..

    Alien, my box, got a pretty good u/g. All it's old guts except the HD went into Mommy. Mommy's old guts went into kid1. kid1's went into kid2. kid2's old components, (XP2000+, 1G RAM) are on the bench as test. Alien's old 250G HD is in test and has got a copy of warez(the file share drive) on it. test also has an 80G OS drive with Win2KServer that is being preped to take over from filesrv. Once I have all my ducks in a row on filesrv, (torrents caught up, Full netb/u, hard b/u's to DVD, etc.) it will get shutdown. Once shutdown I'm taking the 160G warez out of filesrv and formatting it to netb/u. The DAT and the DVDRW will go into test as well. filesrv and test trade names/places/ip's. once properly prepped, test will then be moted to linux so it can be the first machine behind the perimeter router and no PC on the network will be < PIII. (Web and xchange are both PIII class celery's, virus doesn't count because he's the MZ in DMZ.) Poor little PI 266MHz linux will probably end up stripped and on the curb the night before trash pickup and will be gone before I go to work at 7:00 in the morning. Then, once everything is back on the rack and crankin' out bits, it's time to contemplate the next u/g. ;)

    The point is, you can basically make a file server out of spare parts. Just incorporate that notion in your upgrade path. Shop around, grab the $20 CDRW with a black faceplate, cart home the 20G dat they are throwing away at work, walk out with a $18 case that has a 200w power supply and a scratch. Over time it adds up.
  12. My other user is a yoga teacher, so she doesnt like techy stuff much. Is windows server2003 much like XP to setup and run?
  13. Windows 2k3 server is very similiar to set up and use. There's also a wizard (I personally hate those) when you first log on to guide you through the purpose of the server.

    Redundnancy is always a good thing, but for home use a RAID 5+1 is overkill, the price for the extra HDD's is more than that of a decent tape system, and you can recycle tapes.

    Networking wise, you can attach as many routers as you want, there is really no limit. The physical part internet isn't much more than a large series of routers attached to each other by different wires :wink:
  14. The cost of a tape system depends on how much data he is backing up. If it's just 10Gigs, he can get a decent DDS tape system on ebay for $100 or so, and the taps will be 10-20 bucks each. The higher you go, the more the system will cost and the tapes get very expensive as well, naturally.

    Of course, that is the price you pay when you have critical data. :wink: You can use a mirror set to give some backup, and perhaps an external disks for backup or whatever and that would probably be cheaper and easier than a tape backup, but of course maybe not as secure as rotating tapes off-site in the case of a fire, etc. But, those are the decisions to make when building the system.
  15. Quote:
    Yes, just a file server. For software, is Windows server the best bet, or is there some linux derivative that will be better for the job, or is plain old XP fine? My network is all XP home/Pro and I dont know much about linux (yet)

    for a basic, run of the mill, setup that isn't supporting dozens or hundreds of users you dont need server software.

    throw whatever OS you have on there and share the hard drive, connect and mount it to another computer, there you have a file "server"

    (keep it simple... um... yeah)

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