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Need help planning a storage structure

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October 31, 2006 1:47:13 PM

Here's the situation. I use my PC as my media tank for all my home movies, MP3's, DVD rips, etc and I use two modded xboxs to stream the content to my two tv's. What I'm starting to experience is that I'm running out of space. I have the following config:

Asus A8N-SLI MOBO
AMD X2 4800+ OC'd to 2.6ghz
2GB Corsair PC3200 DDR
Maxtor 6Y200P0 (200GB PATA)
Maxtor 6L300R0 (300GB PATA)
WDC WD2500KS-00MJB0 (250GB SATA-II)

I'm full in terms of drive space and would like to add more to finish converting my 500+ DVD collection to ISO's. Here's what I need help with. What is my best choice:

1. Add up to 3 more SATA drives since my PC can still address them
2. Add an external drive enclosure with multiple drives and its own power source
3. Buy a cheap pc and use it as a file server
4. Get a true NAS device

What do you think would be my best bet?

Thanks in advance,

Jessenj
October 31, 2006 2:56:21 PM

Well, as a person who understands your problems very very well (just look at my sig... and I'm running all this off a laptop)

First, just go with 3 SATA drives since thats the cheapest option for now. However, there are benefits to a NAS. First, its cheaper to keep it on all the time if you want to view anything on-demand. You can do the same with your PC, but it'll be sucking up a lot more electricty. However, a NAS also requires a larger front-end investment. I don't like the NAS way, even though it works really well... why?

Because you can get a cheap PC and make a nice little fileserver. If you plan on going extreme storage (think 6+ Hdd's in a case) A NAS wouldn't be able to accomadate that since their pretty much stuck at what they are. However, you can buy a cheap mid-tower, cobble together some parts you have left over (doesn't need to be powerful since all your doing is streaming files) and voila, cheap server that will last for many many hdd's.

Oh yeah, and point number 2... might as well just get a true NAS... price will be about the same anyways. I saw a router on sale at CompUSA that allowed 4 USB hdd's to connect to it and share the drives... you might also want to look into that solution, kind of a half assed NAS... but a true NAS would be better anyways.

And I hope your planning on encoding your DVD's... not just leaving them in raw format....
October 31, 2006 3:10:35 PM

I considered the NAS just cause I need a permanently attached, always on solution, but a NAS is an expensive appliance when you compare it to a cheap barebones PC with a full tower case. I can get a cheap PC for less than $200 and stick a bunch of drives in it and call it a day.

As for drives, ideally, I'd like to have at least a mirror set so I can at least have some kind of fault tolerance, but I don't need to go as crazy as having a RAID5.

As for archiving DVD's, I usally go for the full image rip. For one, if I ever break the dvd or scratch the original in the portable or on a car trip, I can always burn off a copy right from the ISO. I also like have the menus, hidden features and extras.

Considering that this storage solution will only be to house and stream vids/pics/mp3, would it be smart to go all SATA or go for cheaper PATA? Is there much of a difference these days? I would like to do something like 4 mirrored 500GB drives or 750GB drives. This would give me a total of 2-3TB of redundant online storage.

I forgot to mention, I also have 2 external USB WD 250GB PATA drives but I use them as offline backups for my more critical stuff (irreplaceable, like my digital pix). I could somehow work them into the mix if I come up with the right solution.

Your thoughts?
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October 31, 2006 3:33:14 PM

I'd get a cheap PC and load it up with linux and several hard drives (probably as a raid array), and make it a dedicated file server (for windows shares under linux use samba). I'd also hang any printers offf of it (s o they're shared for any netwock computer) you could also get into making it doing email serving, etc and maybe even internet firewall) so it also becomes a network hub. you could also put a video card in it and run mythtv so it records scheduled programs to disk for later viewing from anywhere. All without you even turning on your own computer. All just icing on the cake.

You don't need great cpu performance for just a file server so a cheap pc will be just fine, especially with linux.

Doing i t that way also means you get to turn off or reboot your own PC without upsetting anyone else streaming video from the shared drives.

Acutally all most dedicated NAS's are is pretty much a cheap PC with some fancy software.
October 31, 2006 3:43:31 PM

I think this would work for your needs. I saw it on Costco.com about a week ago but it is not there any longer. Was $999.99 at Costco but is $1190.00 at Memory labs

Here is a link to it at Memory Labs
http://store.memorylabs.net/ca2tbsadiarw.html

Specs:
2 channel 1TB per channel for RAID 0 Configuration
1.5TB useable formatted RAID 5
SATA RAID controller card with PCI Express, PCI-X or PCI
SATA cable included
8 hot-swappable drives
19 separate fans for cooling
300 watt power supply
Dimensions: 18" x 17" x 7"
Weight: 12 lbs
For additional questions regarding this product you may visit: www.cavalrystorage.com

http://www.cavalrystorage.com/CADA2000SA8.asp

Edit:

Just found this unit at Amazon for $895.00 free shipping
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000IBJL9M/dealtime-ce-feed-20/ref=nosim
October 31, 2006 4:34:22 PM

a cupple of years back i was in a similer situation to you in that i wanted to ahve a place to store all my media files that could be accessed very simply. i chose to build my own server to do this, and now that that one is getting full i am looking to build a new one. i ahve worked out that for about £1600 you can buld a server with about 4.4tb of storage (current one is 1tb) this would be using 12 400gb disks in raid 5. if i were you i would forget mirroring as that is a very expensive way of ensuring redundancy (half of your disks are used to backup the other half) and look at raid 5. you need a minimum of 3 disks to do this but it will spit the data between all the disks and include parity data on all of them so that is any one disk dies it can be rebuilt from the data on the others. this only costs you one disk in space lost. much better than mirroring.
btw 500 dvd's if they are all duel layer would be like 4.5tb... so you need some major storage if you want to back all of them up.
October 31, 2006 6:06:48 PM

I say the cheap barebones PC is your best bet here since you have the most functionality and expandibility, albeit at a higher electricity cost, but not very much either way.

SATA drives are easier to RAID, and if you want some sort of backup, then I would highly recommend RAID 5 if your planning on doing serious storage. RAID 1 causes you to lose a ton of storage, while RAID 5 still allows you to be safe in your storage while keeping most of your room.

IDE drives and SATA don't really have that much difference throughput wise, but like I said earlier, SATA drives are easier to RAID and there is virtually no differences in prices these days. I would recommend SATA.

Those two externals... you can do whatever you want with them, leave them as an always on solution to stream files would seem the best thing to do... you won't be able to implement them into a raid solution, so they would just be standalone.
November 1, 2006 1:11:14 AM

As described, I'd probably go with additional internal drives for simplicity.

For NAS (consumer NAS box or a DIY PC), you should also ensure gigabit networking (ideally onboard / PCIe + GbE switch), and there's a chance that the performance will still be slower than drives in the same PC (for fast large file transfer).

A DIY PC fileserver will tend to be faster than a consumer NAS box. Either, or some sort of external drive array, could be used to back up your data. RAID alone would not be a backup. Of course if all your data is backups in the first place, the only thing you'll really save with another backup, if you need to restore off it, is time.
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