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Home Server Build, RAID 5, Please help.

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November 8, 2007 3:05:28 PM

Ok, so, I know there are a lot of RAID 5 threads going around, and I read through pretty much all of the recent ones. I am still in need of some direction and advice.

I would like to put together a home server that at first will be networked with my desktop, my wife's desktop, my laptop, my ps3/tv mediacenter, and then in the future will be connected to 2 other set-top boxes to allow for quick access to music and movies from any tv/speaker system in the house.

I also would like some data security, and have a lot of data to secure!

So, I have researched the RAID levels, decided on a RAID 5, and, sicne i already own 2 500 GB HDDs, figure I'd build a 2TB RAID 5 with 5 500GB disks. I have personally never built my own system, but my 2 friends, both CS majors, have built many and are helping me out. One has a software-based RAID 5 home server, the other has never worked with RAID before.

I did my research on RAID controllers for hardware based RAID, and SATA controllers for a simple software-based, but people seem to not like the software based RAIDs. I also just recently looked at motherboards that support over 4 SATA HDDs with software-based RAID 5. That being said, I have no idea which ones are quality, on any of these, except the reviews and tech reviews I've seen on the hardware RAID controllers.

So, Here's where I'm at. I'd very much like to put this system together for $600, but $700-800 isn't horrible either. Like I said, I already own 2 nice SATA II 500GB HDD (Hitachi, separate manufacturing runs), so the other 3 should cost somewhere between $240-$280(though I'm going to try to get them closer to $200 if I can). using $250 as a base, we'll say that leaves me with $350 for the motherboard, CPU, memory, case, controller, power supply, networking, and cording. Basically, I still think this is possible, I jsut need help with things I can buy that are quality, but inexpensive. there's always that tradeoff, i just want to figure out where that spot is, where cost is low, but quality is acceptable. I am also not a CS genius, so I'd rather go with hardware RAID, which seems easier for me to handle, but I'm still up for discussing the relative merits of software RAID.

So, basically, from the ground up, does anyone have any suggestions? brands, prices, etc?

Thank you all in advance!

More about : home server build raid

November 8, 2007 3:20:23 PM

Oh, and also, I was looking at some semperon cpu/motherboards plus 512 MB RAM and a $50 power supply, and that really only got me to around $150ish, but I have no idea if the motherboard itself was any good, or if i could even find a good controller for $200, what a case would cost that could house 5 HDDs without overheating, etc etc.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I'm not planning on streaming video, I jsut want a server that can "quickly" upload, say, a High-Def movie onto my PS3 so i can watch it on my TV, or a movie onto another set-top box to watch on another tv or both at the same time, etc.
November 8, 2007 3:27:33 PM

CPU is going to run you ~ $200 if you want something decent. (I'd recommend at least an E6600 if you're going to have multiple people accessing the same material constantly. You can go with a Q6600, but they price has gone up to like $315.)

A decent PSU is going to run ~ $50-80 (Stick with tier 1 and 2 PSU's on this list: http://www.tomswiki.com/page/Tiered+PSU+Listings?t=anon )

Memory is going to be about ~$70 before rebate if you want to run some DDR2 800Mhz in Dual-Channel. (Try Geil, OCz, Crucial, etc.)

Don't know much about controllers though, so I can't help you there.
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November 8, 2007 3:33:57 PM

Hmmm, well, I appreciate that insight, but I think that actually might be overkill. Right now, in the house, it's jsut my wife and myself, and my sister will be moving in for a while in a bit, but basically, worst-case scenario, we have 3 people downloading 3 movies onto 3 boxes at one time. I honestly was going to go with the cheapest CPU out there right now, 'casue that _should_ be sufficient, correct me if i'm wrong. I jsut, ya know, like I said, want to make sure it's not a big piece of crap. I do not, however, want to spend $500 on the mobo, CPU, memory, and power supply. even $300 on all that is pushing it in my book, but if it's $150 for something that will crap out on me, then sure, I'll go up to $300 or something. I'll definitely look into these that you've suggested, though.

Any other opinions?


rgeist554 said:
CPU is going to run you ~ $200 if you want something decent. (I'd recommend at least an E6600 if you're going to have multiple people accessing the same material constantly. You can go with a Q6600, but they price has gone up to like $315.)

A decent PSU is going to run ~ $50-80 (Stick with tier 1 and 2 PSU's on this list: http://www.tomswiki.com/page/Tiered+PSU+Listings?t=anon )

Memory is going to be about ~$70 before rebate if you want to run some DDR2 800Mhz in Dual-Channel. (Try Geil, OCz, Crucial, etc.)

Don't know much about controllers though, so I can't help you there.

November 8, 2007 3:43:18 PM

If it's only three users, then yeah, you probably can go with a lower-end processor since it's going to be dedicated to just downloading / uploading. You definitely don't want to cheap out on the PSU though. It's the heart of your machine... if it fails, everything else does. A bad PSU can damage other components w/ inconsistent voltages and provide instability.

*edit* I should just add that I'm probably not the best person to be commenting on a low-budget build. I'm really into gaming... so it's all about over-kill for me. :D  I'm sure there are some others here that have done projects like this before and can help you out more sufficiently though.
November 8, 2007 3:55:00 PM

rgeist554 said:
If it's only three users, then yeah, you probably can go with a lower-end processor since it's going to be dedicated to just downloading / uploading. You definitely don't want to cheap out on the PSU though. It's the heart of your machine... if it fails, everything else does. A bad PSU can damage other components w/ inconsistent voltages and provide instability.

*edit* I should just add that I'm probably not the best person to be commenting on a low-budget build. I'm really into gaming... so it's all about over-kill for me. :D  I'm sure there are some others here that have done projects like this before and can help you out more sufficiently though.



Hehe, I understand! this is new territory for me, too! I am a gamer, and my desktop rocks. I was going to build it myself, but Dell had 33% off their desktops in late 2006 when i bought it, and i priced it all up if i were to build it myself vs. the 33% off Dell deal, and I ended up getting a much better deal on the Dell. I checked out all the components, and it was all good stuff, too.

But anyway, thanks for the update. I was definitely not goingto scrimp on the PSU, my buddies burned too many out when they first got into building their own stuff.

Anyone have any insights into the RAID issue?
November 8, 2007 4:00:54 PM

This probably isn't the best place to ask about quality RAID controllers, as most people here aren't going to be buying them. I'd suggest looking for a forum where these topics will be more prevalent.

Software RAID might be sufficient with a buff enough processor.
November 8, 2007 4:08:24 PM

Hi,

You don't even need a new system. An older, used sub 2GHz system will be more than sufficient - IF - this box will only be used as a RAID server. You should be able to find a used one locally for well under the cost of a new system.

If you have shopped about, you'll see that Toms has reviews for products that are "all-in-one" devices, like the HPs home server package. You wouldn't necessarily be able to use the two drives you have depending on what you look at, but they can be re-deployed elsewhere, everything in the pre-built systems are installed and all you would need to do is configure the smaller box.

From what I am sensing, you want the challenge of building it though. Just remember, there will always be bottlenecks in this kind of set up - from the hardware you do ultimately choose, through to what OS is used (linux server software [FreeNAS] vs. Windows). If you start with two drives of the same make and size, stick with them. All drives in your RAID system should be identical. That way, you a) don't waste space and b) optimize performance.


Software RAID solutions are not as good performance wise as hardware RAID solutions, but hardware RAID solutions come at a cost to your wallet. You can easily drop 300 bucks on one card, but you'll be getting a really good card.

Where you should look at dropping some good coin (if you want to build a hardware RAID based system and have the patience for setting it up and maintaining it) is the RAID controller card, a good backup system, and a UPS, esp. if you are storing things like e-tax papers, photos, home movies etc. RAID is all well and good, but if its not backed up and protected from electrical strikes..... I'm sure you understand where I'm going. Adaptec is a good company, as is HighPoint and 3Ware. Intel also makes RAID controllers. Stay away from Bytecc and Promise - they don't really make true hardware RAID cards at prices that appear to be affordable. Ironically, software RAID set ups are easier than hardware RAIDs, but again, it comes at a cost to performance. APC make great UPS devices.

With regards to backing up the RAID system: I'd suggest a USB/firewire device you can plug in externally that is a single drive in an enclosure that can more than match the total size of your RAID system, i.e. if the RAID size is under 1TB, get a 1TB drive. Set yourself a schedule in which to copy all that data from the RAID to the external device, then disconnect the external unit from both power and the system. That way you can be protected in case the worst should happen.

Question: why do you want 5 drives? RAID 5 at a minimum only needs 3 - some have five for a redundancy drive in case one drive fails and a second for hot-swapping out a drive for minimal downtime.
jcarrey4 said:
Hmmm, well, I appreciate that insight, but I think that actually might be overkill. Right now, in the house, it's jsut my wife and myself, and my sister will be moving in for a while in a bit, but basically, worst-case scenario, we have 3 people downloading 3 movies onto 3 boxes at one time. I honestly was going to go with the cheapest CPU out there right now, 'casue that _should_ be sufficient, correct me if i'm wrong. I jsut, ya know, like I said, want to make sure it's not a big piece of crap. I do not, however, want to spend $500 on the mobo, CPU, memory, and power supply. even $300 on all that is pushing it in my book, but if it's $150 for something that will crap out on me, then sure, I'll go up to $300 or something. I'll definitely look into these that you've suggested, though.

Any other opinions?

November 8, 2007 4:19:10 PM

Oof, very nice response, very informative, thank you. You're 95% right, I do want the challenge, but I also wanted to save money, so I'll check out the prepackaged ones. As for using an old system, sadly, i have only ever owned 2 systems, and the older one is 700 MHz. I'll try to look for one, though. That being said, I was looking forward to the data security of a RAID 5. I understand the need to still back that up, but I figure, I can always re-obtain all my media that takes up a lot of space (except home movies and such) but eveything else I can back up on a smaller drive. At the very least my major media stuff is "secure", while everythign else is truely "backed up". I will definitely do so, thank you for reminding me! As for 5 drives versus 3, I am trying to optimize space, performance, and security of my drives not failing. I don't want to do a RAID 6, and I think an 8-disk RAID 5 is a little big in terms of two of those disks failing, so I went with 5. Plus, 2 TB has a nice ring to it ;) . Oh, plus I'd like to space the drives out in a case, adn not have a huge case, so, again, I went with 5.

So, I think if I decide to go for $700-800 instead of $500-600, I think I'll end up with a hardware RAID controller, but if anything, I could build the software raid now and get the controller later, couldn't i? I mean, especially if i got a mobo wit pci-x for the good RAID controllers...hmmm...maybe I'll do it that way....any responses to doing that?

Thanks again!




blueeyesm said:
Hi,

You don't even need a new system. An older, used sub 2GHz system will be more than sufficient - IF - this box will only be used as a RAID server. You should be able to find a used one locally for well under the cost of a new system.

If you have shopped about, you'll see that Toms has reviews for products that are "all-in-one" devices, like the HPs home server package. You wouldn't necessarily be able to use the two drives you have depending on what you look at, but they can be re-deployed elsewhere, everything in the pre-built systems are installed and all you would need to do is configure the smaller box.

From what I am sensing, you want the challenge of building it though. Just remember, there will always be bottlenecks in this kind of set up - from the hardware you do ultimately choose, through to what OS is used (linux server software [FreeNAS] vs. Windows). If you start with two drives of the same make and size, stick with them. All drives in your RAID system should be identical. That way, you a) don't waste space and b) optimize performance.


Software RAID solutions are not as good performance wise as hardware RAID solutions, but hardware RAID solutions come at a cost to your wallet. You can easily drop 300 bucks on one card, but you'll be getting a really good card.

Where you should look at dropping some good coin (if you want to build a hardware RAID based system and have the patience for setting it up and maintaining it) is the RAID controller card, a good backup system, and a UPS, esp. if you are storing things like e-tax papers, photos, home movies etc. RAID is all well and good, but if its not backed up and protected from electrical strikes..... I'm sure you understand where I'm going. Adaptec is a good company, as is HighPoint and 3Ware. Intel also makes RAID controllers. Stay away from Bytecc and Promise - they don't really make true hardware RAID cards at prices that appear to be affordable. Ironically, software RAID set ups are easier than hardware RAIDs, but again, it comes at a cost to performance. APC make great UPS devices.

With regards to backing up the RAID system: I'd suggest a USB/firewire device you can plug in externally that is a single drive in an enclosure that can more than match the total size of your RAID system, i.e. if the RAID size is under 1TB, get a 1TB drive. Set yourself a schedule in which to copy all that data from the RAID to the external device, then disconnect the external unit from both power and the system. That way you can be protected in case the worst should happen.

Question: why do you want 5 drives? RAID 5 at a minimum only needs 3 - some have five for a redundancy drive in case one drive fails and a second for hot-swapping out a drive for minimal downtime.

November 8, 2007 4:22:58 PM

software raid is bad idea and they do not work that well when one of your disk has a error real hardware raid cards are much better. You can get low end am2 x2 and maybe the Gigabyte MA69GM-S2H with on board video and pci-e x16 and pci- x4. Get a pci-e x4 raid card. You may also want to use a nvidia board with tcp/ip offload and dual nic teaming.
A good raid card will cost $250 and up
November 8, 2007 4:23:57 PM

Hardware RAID is better than software RAID. It will offload the CPU power.

Is this system will power on 24x7? Is this just a file server? If the both answer, =yes. I would suggest you to get a lower power system. 4X500GB disk drive, plus other components will add up to 100Watt plus. That costs you some $$ per month on your electric bill. My old P4 Prescott CPU costs me $12 to $17 a month for my electric bill (200 Watts w/5xHDD). I end up builded a smaller system, more energy efficent.

Go to www.mini-box.com, get a 9W or 25W system board with CPU ($150).
9W + 5Wx4 HDD=20W = less than 40Watts
Their little ITX power supply is more than 95% power efficent(fanless), most ATX power supply only provide no more than 70%, loud, create lots heat.

That will save you $$$ per month on your electric bill, it's also nice n quiet..

Look at the future costs..... :) 

One more,
Seagate HDD with 5 years warranty,
IBM, 3 years,
Wester Dig. 1 or 3 years warranty,
Just read the fine print.
and
Good luck.


November 8, 2007 4:40:22 PM

Well, if the 700MHz system isn't doing anything , then thats ok for three people. Just remember to invest in a good PCI hardware RAID card. I tend to be the kind that re-uses older hardware rather than send it off to the dump, but thats just me.

2TB does have a nice ring to it. Heh.

You can build a software RAID based system, but if you migrate, you would have to rebuild the RAID configuration. Meaning, re-partitioning and re-formatting. The reason is is that you are changing controllers and each use their own way of 'speaking' to the drives.

PCI-X is great, but PCI-e is more cost effective and has better transfer rates depending on the PCI-e card rating.
(PCI_e x8 or PCI-e4). PCI-X is more for business-class servers where you'd have 20+ people constantly using the network storage - yea you'll get a system thats rocket fast, but you'll be spending a lot too. I'd dare say it'd be overkill.

There are a ton of ways to set this up, and as other posters here have suggested, more than just one platform to choose too. Mini-itx.com sells low-power consuming systems that can handle a PCI-e card, and are strong enough for handling server tasks in a hgome environment.

Selecting hardware is the first step. The next step is selecting the OS you want to use. Whatever route you do decide upon, keep reading reading and reading.

jcarrey4 said:
Oof, very nice response, very informative, thank you. You're 95% right, I do want the challenge, but I also wanted to save money, so I'll check out the prepackaged ones. As for using an old system, sadly, i have only ever owned 2 systems, and the older one is 700 MHz. I'll try to look for one, though. That being said, I was looking forward to the data security of a RAID 5. I understand the need to still back that up, but I figure, I can always re-obtain all my media that takes up a lot of space (except home movies and such) but eveything else I can back up on a smaller drive. At the very least my major media stuff is "secure", while everythign else is truely "backed up". I will definitely do so, thank you for reminding me! As for 5 drives versus 3, I am trying to optimize space, performance, and security of my drives not failing. I don't want to do a RAID 6, and I think an 8-disk RAID 5 is a little big in terms of two of those disks failing, so I went with 5. Plus, 2 TB has a nice ring to it ;) . Oh, plus I'd like to space the drives out in a case, adn not have a huge case, so, again, I went with 5.

So, I think if I decide to go for $700-800 instead of $500-600, I think I'll end up with a hardware RAID controller, but if anything, I could build the software raid now and get the controller later, couldn't i? I mean, especially if i got a mobo wit pci-x for the good RAID controllers...hmmm...maybe I'll do it that way....any responses to doing that?

Thanks again!

November 8, 2007 4:51:07 PM

einstein4pres said:
This probably isn't the best place to ask about quality RAID controllers, as most people here aren't going to be buying them. I'd suggest looking for a forum where these topics will be more prevalent.

Software RAID might be sufficient with a buff enough processor.


ACtually some of us are enterprise level engineers. I've worked with RAID for years, from 2 drive 40G R0 arrays in my desktop to 6TB 288drive 3PARS that do some sort of dynamic RAID that defies description.

At the size you want to do, it's gonna be tough to do. You'll want a controller from someone like adaptec or 3ware, or possibly HighPoint (I've used their rocketRAID in a 4 drive 750GB array once with good results, but I'm mainly a 3ware man).

These controllers are going to cost around $175-300 for a 8 port SATA RAID card. I'm assuming your 500GB drives are SATA. (at least I hope so, I don't recommend more than 2 or 3 drives attached via IDE- cable management becomes a nightmare)

You most definitely don't need a E6600 for this, nor do I even think dual core would be of any benefit.

I haven't worked with them yet but a controller using the x4 slot would really help with performance as PCI would probably be constrained with 5 drives.

An alternative would be to find a server class motherboard with 64bit PCI. There are lots of controllers that use that. Something like an L440GX with dual 1GHz P3s (or a single P3 and a continuity card) would probably work great.
November 8, 2007 4:59:28 PM

I believe he was referring to the specific sub-forum, rather than the site itself. The thread kind of belongs under the NAS sub-forum, imho.

bliq said:
ACtually some of us are enterprise level engineers. I've worked with RAID for years, from 2 drive 40G R0 arrays in my desktop to 6TB 288drive 3PARS that do some sort of dynamic RAID that defies description.

November 8, 2007 5:01:06 PM

Bliq-

Ugh...oh, I followed everything through the first 4 paragraphs, then you lost me...I will look up those part numbers, but I don't know a lot about this stuff. But, let's start at the top:

$200 for a controller sounds like where I'm going to end up, so thanks for the brand name dropping, it helps ;) 

Yes, actually my 2 drives are 500GB SATA II 3.0 Gbps Hitachi deskstars. Should I go with 3 more like that, or can I mix and match 500 GB SATA II drives?

I agree about the processor overkill

Ok, now into questions about stuff I don't understand:

I, sadly, am not sure what the x4 slot is. how do I make sure the Mobo has one? For that matter, how do i know if the controller uses it? What do you think would be cheapest? I was planning on going on pricewatch or newegg and looking for the cheapest mobo with a brand I've heard of, throwing a cheap CPU and 512 MB of memory in there and being done. Can you possibly recommend a mobo/CPU/memory combo that is sufficient for these needs that is, say, under $200, that maybe inclues this 'x4' slot? of the controllers in that price range that support RAID 5, are x4, and have at least 5 SATA ports, which do you recommend? Sorry to be so needy, I jsut need a little direction. Thank you in advance, and thank you for your input thus far!

bliq said:
ACtually some of us are enterprise level engineers. I've worked with RAID for years, from 2 drive 40G R0 arrays in my desktop to 6TB 288drive 3PARS that do some sort of dynamic RAID that defies description.

At the size you want to do, it's gonna be tough to do. You'll want a controller from someone like adaptec or 3ware, or possibly HighPoint (I've used their rocketRAID in a 4 drive 750GB array once with good results, but I'm mainly a 3ware man).

These controllers are going to cost around $175-300 for a 8 port SATA RAID card. I'm assuming your 500GB drives are SATA. (at least I hope so, I don't recommend more than 2 or 3 drives attached via IDE- cable management becomes a nightmare)

You most definitely don't need a E6600 for this, nor do I even think dual core would be of any benefit.

I haven't worked with them yet but a controller using the x4 slot would really help with performance as PCI would probably be constrained with 5 drives.

An alternative would be to find a server class motherboard with 64bit PCI. There are lots of controllers that use that. Something like an L440GX with dual 1GHz P3s (or a single P3 and a continuity card) would probably work great.

November 8, 2007 5:17:03 PM

like, for example, this: http://www.partspc.com/Recommend.asp?Qty=1&ProdID=7039&...
which has the 4x designation, is cheap, i can upgrade to the "Asus K8V-VM Socket 754 VIA K8M890 DDR-400 PCI.e Motherboard" if i want for $12, and add in 512 MB of memory for $42 (i have a feeling i can find it for cheaper, that's "super talent, is that good?) and get all of that for $150...then get the controller card for that?
November 8, 2007 5:27:34 PM

I believe he was referring to the specific sub-forum, rather than the site itself. The thread kind of belongs under the NAS sub-forum, imho.

No, I just didn't realize that there were so many competent people in this forum with detailed knowledge of RAID controllers. I seem to be mistaken, which is a good thing :) 
!