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Help Building a Server for First TImer

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April 16, 2009 7:11:23 AM

Hello Everyone

I am a first time poster and a first time server builder so sorry if I sound a little green.

So here is my situation: I am running 3 x 1 TB external HD's to my macbook (running plex) which is hooked up to my TV. I am running out of space and decided the best way to go would be to build a file server and run it to my macbook with the intention of expanding to other media computers in the future.

Here are my needs:
- 8 x 1 TB hard drives in a RAID 5 array
- something decently quiet
- hopefully spend less than 1200 dollars before hard drives
- as power-friendly as I can get

As I have never built a server and don't know much about them, I was wondering if people here could give me some advice. I'll try to explain what I think I need and hopefully you can correct me if I am way off.

So I will need:
1. a case with 8 x 3.5" bays (maybe something like this: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... )
2. a raid controller
3. a motherboard
4. A processor (nothing fancy - like 2 GHZ duo core?)
5. about 2 GB RAM
6. Power supply
7. Some sort of server software
8. a PCI Gigabit Adapter to run files over ethernet to my media computer

Now can someone explain what sort of motherboard, gigabit adapter, and RAID controller I would need as that is the most confusing part for me. Please be as specific as you can.

Also, what sort of software do you recommend? I will just be running files over ethernet to my computer so I don't need anything fancy. I have never used Linux so I don't know if that would be the best option for me.

Lastly, if I am running 8 TB drives, what would you recommend for a power supply. Is 500 W enough?

Thank You

More about : building server timer

April 16, 2009 2:58:45 PM

Rofl just looking at that NAS makes me want one, 2 USB to plug your old external drives in, looks as if it can serve as a switch with 5 Ethernet ports, and doesn't use alot of power. I'm sure u can set it up to run a torrent client and have it always downloading for you...... lol upgradable ram :p 
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April 16, 2009 4:52:57 PM

Thank you for all the help so far.

I think I have decided to go with 1.5 TB drives, WD Caviar Green to be specific. I would probably start with 5 x 1.5 TB drives at first. I will also go with a lower capacity drive (40-320GB) for the OS. Will I need a 2nd drive to mirror it?

For the case, can I put 3.5" drives in 5.25" bays? Is this possible. Can anyone suggest a specific case that will house potentially 10-12 drives?

As for RAID, I think I am going to go with the software RAID approach using unRAID. This way I don't need to spend like 500 bones on a RAID card. Therefore, I am going to go with this motherboard (Gigabyte EP45-UD3P ATX LGA775 P45 DDR2 2PCI-E SATA2 RAID HD Sound 2GLAN 1394A CrossFireX Motherboard) as it has 8 SATA ports and 2 gigabit ethernet ports. What sort of CPU would you guys suggest? I don't want to go with the lowest processor possible, but don't want to spend much more than 200 dollars for the CPU.

As far as an OS goes....is unRAID an OS in itself or do I need to run Linux or WHS? I am not familiar with Linux at all so if I can use something more user-friendly it would be best because I hear the Linux learning curve is out of this world. Can anyone weigh on this?

Thanks everyone
April 16, 2009 7:32:10 PM

Yes, you can put 3.5" drives into 5.25" bays, but you need to purchase an (inexpensive) mount kit for each drive (basically just a spacer that mounts to the drive to pad it out, and then it mounts into the standard position in a 5.25" bay). Something like this drive anti-vibration mount would work as well.

For the case, I'd recommend the Antec Three Hundred instead of the Nine Hundred you linked above. Almost the same expansion capabilites (same number of drive bays, one less expansion slot on the back), and less than half the cost since there's no useless flash to the case. Note that, even though NewEgg doesn't have it, Antec DOES make a Twelve Hundred model with 12 total drive bays, if you think you'll need more room for expansion. If you're looking for a little more room on the cheaper end, Cooler Master makes a number of cases with 10 or more drive bays total for under $100. See the Elite 330 at $49.99 as an example, with 4 5.25" and 7 3.5" bays.

Make sure you get a GOOD power supply to handle all of those drives. Since they're all Green series, 500W will probably be enough (though I'd go at least 600W with that many drives), but make sure it's a reliable brand, and that there's enough 12 volt power to run all of the drives, preferably across multiple 12 volt rails, and that's it's rated for continuous output. In my opinion, if you're spending much less than $100 on the power supply, you're welcoming in failure. Take a look at something similar to this Antec PSU. 650W, three 12 volt rails at 22 amps on two and 25 amps on the third, and 80 Plus certified for efficiency, and it's a penny shy of $100, which is a good price in my eyes. Other brands to look at: Seasonic, Cooler Master, PC Power & Cooling. You can't go wrong spending a little more on a reliable PSU, especially if the machine is going to be on 24/7.

UnRaid is an OS, most likely linux-based. I can't recommend for or against it, since I've never used it before, but it looks to be targeted at NAS setups. Is your server just going to be used for file storage? Or are you using this as a web server (or some other purpose) as well?
April 16, 2009 7:40:06 PM

Oh, and Linux doesn't have THAT steep of a learning curve. To give you an idea of what it would take, here's a quick tutorial on setting up a home file server with Ubuntu Linux. The only thing you'd have to do after that is set up your software RAID. By the way, you DO have to have a drive separate from the RAID array for the OS if you're running software RAID 5. Whether or not you mirror that drive is up to you.
April 17, 2009 12:03:29 AM

For a low power file/mail server I use a Intel G31 based M/B with a single core Celeron underclocked to 1.2Ghz to save power. I also disable on board sound, LPT, com and unplug all LED's (Server is in garage loft space and not visable) to reduce power. Remove/unplug DVD after software install.

Each of the WD Green use 6W during read write so (factor for the future) 12x6 is 72W + the rest of the system uses less than 100W under load. this give the computer a sub 200W max power draw so 400W 80+ PSU is perfect (PSU's are most efficent at around 50% load.

I have 4 Sata conectors on the M/B and have added a checp 4 port PCI sata card (£20 ~ $30) to allow me to plug in my 6 HDD with room to spare. There is the possibility of adding a extra PCI SATA card which would give you 12 ports and could be upgraded when needed to save power.

As for software i use a old Windows 2K Pro desktop software licence. It handles 10 concurent connections so is not a problem in most home use.

Parts from US newegg.com site
GIGABYTE GA-G31M-ES2L $52.99
Intel Celeron 430 Conroe-L 1.8GHz $39.99
2 x Crucial 1GB DDR2 800 $10.99 each or $21.98
CHIEFTEC BRAVO BA-01B-B-B Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case $95.99
SYBA SD-SATA2-4IR PCI SATA II Controller Card $43.99
FSP Group FSP400-60GLN(80) 400W 80 PLUS Certified Power Supply $49.99 (Only 4 Sata connectors)
2 x Rosewill 8" Sata Power Splitter Cable Model RCW-302 $2.99 each or $5.98 (1molex > 2sata)
2 x Rosewill RFA-120-K 120mm Case Fan $4.49 each or $8.98
Total excluding software, disks and shipping is $319.89

This will suport up to 8 disk no problem if you need the extra 4 for expantion then you will need to get the following as extra

SYBA SD-SATA2-4IR PCI SATA II Controller Card $43.99
4x Athena Power 6" SATA II Y cable Model CABLE-YSATA290 $3.65 each or $14.60 (1sata > 2sata)
4x Scythe Bay-Rafter-3.5 Bay Rafter 3.5" in a 5.25" bay $4.99 each or $19.96 (5.25 > 3.5 bay adaptor)
This will push the price up to $398.44 excluding software, disks and shipping, which is not bad for a 12 bay NAS.

However given that the Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB HDD are $159.99 at newegg.com it's going to cost $1919.88 to fill that thing with disks. But you do get 18TB of raw disk space.

Good Luck.
April 17, 2009 12:05:01 AM

For a low power file/mail server I use a Intel G31 based M/B with a single core Celeron underclocked to 1.2Ghz to save power. I also disable on board sound, LPT, com and unplug all LED's (Server is in garage loft space and not visable) to reduce power. Remove/unplug DVD after software install.

Each of the WD Green use 6W during read write so (factor for the future) 12x6 is 72W + the rest of the system uses less than 100W under load. this give the computer a sub 200W max power draw so 400W 80+ PSU is perfect (PSU's are most efficent at around 50% load.

I have 4 Sata conectors on the M/B and have added a checp 4 port PCI sata card (£20 ~ $30) to allow me to plug in my 6 HDD with room to spare. There is the possibility of adding a extra PCI SATA card which would give you 12 ports and could be upgraded when needed to save power.

As for software i use a old Windows 2K Pro desktop software licence. It handles 10 concurent connections so is not a problem in most home use.

Parts from US newegg.com site
GIGABYTE GA-G31M-ES2L $52.99
Intel Celeron 430 Conroe-L 1.8GHz $39.99
2 x Crucial 1GB DDR2 800 $10.99 each or $21.98
CHIEFTEC BRAVO BA-01B-B-B Black Steel ATX Full Tower Computer Case $95.99
SYBA SD-SATA2-4IR PCI SATA II Controller Card $43.99
FSP Group FSP400-60GLN(80) 400W 80 PLUS Certified Power Supply $49.99 (Only 4 Sata connectors)
2 x Rosewill 8" Sata Power Splitter Cable Model RCW-302 $2.99 each or $5.98 (1molex > 2sata)
2 x Rosewill RFA-120-K 120mm Case Fan $4.49 each or $8.98
Total excluding software, disks and shipping is $319.89

This will suport up to 8 disk no problem if you need the extra 4 for expantion then you will need to get the following as extra

SYBA SD-SATA2-4IR PCI SATA II Controller Card $43.99
4x Athena Power 6" SATA II Y cable Model CABLE-YSATA290 $3.65 each or $14.60 (1sata > 2sata)
4x Scythe Bay-Rafter-3.5 Bay Rafter 3.5" in a 5.25" bay $4.99 each or $19.96 (5.25 > 3.5 bay adaptor)
This will push the price up to $398.44 excluding software, disks and shipping, which is not bad for a 12 bay NAS.

However given that the Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB HDD are $159.99 at newegg.com it's going to cost $1919.88 to fill that thing with disks. But you do get 18TB of raw disk space.

Good Luck.
April 17, 2009 10:33:13 AM

Thank you everyone for your advice. I have learned a lot in the last couple of days.

I think I have finally designed a fairly decent system and looked at all the small stuff that could go wrong.

1. Case - $80.99
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... )
Cooler Master Centurion - It has a 4 to 3 Device Module already in it.
I am going to buy 1 more 4 to 3 Device Modules (http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... ) at $27.49 each so I can expand up to 8 drives in the future.

2. Motherboard - $168.99
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... )
GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard
It has 8 x SATA II inputs so it will suit me good for now. My big issue is that there is no onboard video. Will this be a problem? DO I need to get a video card if I just plan on running WHS?

3. CPU - $86.99
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... )
Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5 GHz 2 MB L2 Cache Duo Core 775 65W
This processor should suit the server just fine and it compatible with the motherboard.

4. RAM - $27.49 x 2
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682... )
G.SKILL 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory
I think 4 GB will make the system fast for a long time. Reviews seem to be good for this RAM.

5. PSU - $119.99
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... )
CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply
It has 8 SATA power supplies which is good for what I plan on expanding my system to. 750W should be good for my needs for a long while.

6. Extra Fans - 2 x $6.99
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N8... )
APEVIA CF12S 120mm Case Fan
Is this going to be enough cooling for my system if you count the 2 that are in the 4-to-3 Device Modules?

7. Hard Drives
a) Boot and OS Drive - $62.99
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682... )
Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
b) Storage Drives - $219.99 x 5
( http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682... )
Western Digital Caviar Green WD15EADS 1.5TB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
I am going to grab 5 drives at first and then expand it as needed.
I have a bunch of externals that I will back up onto and move off site.

8. OS - Windows Home Server
I decided to go with this over unRAID. I am familiar with WHS and have a free copy so it just seems logical.

I can't see any issues with this system, but can you guys take a look over things to see if there is any glaring problems? I am worried about the no video card thing, but I don't know if it's an issue.

Lastly, is there anywhere cheaper besides newegg.ca to buys parts in Canada? Would ebay be the route to go? NCIX? Please let me know your suggestions.

April 17, 2009 12:42:36 PM

^
1. Good case for the price

2. Yes. You will need a graphics card if getting that board. Also note, you can get the UD3R (see: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681... ) and save money. You probably don't need 2 PCIe x16/x8 unless you plan to put a high end RAID card in there. You'll need at least one PCIe x16 for any board that dosen't have on-board GPU.

3. Good. Well priced for the money.

4. 4GB should be fine.

5. Over kill on the PSU (in terms of watts,amps,etc), but for the money and performance it's a very good PSU.

6. Haven't used those fans, but if looking for quiet fans get Yate Loon (best) or Scythe (2nd best).

7. Good drive, and has the space you need.

8. Home server is fine if you have it. I prefer Linux tough.

========
Newegg.ca has good prices compared to ncix, but keep an eye out for sales. Canada Computers ( http://www.canadacomputers.com/ ) are a good site to get small low ticket items (fans,etc) or if they have sales. Their prices and selection isn't up to Newegg/NCIX tough. Also I do not recommend getting thing from Ebay, with the exception of cases, modding supplies,etc. NEVER buy HDDs from Ebay as it can very easily get damaged during shipping.
April 17, 2009 1:32:04 PM

What sort of graphics card would you recommend? I don't imagine it would need to be anything powerful by conventional standards. Can someone recommend one?
April 17, 2009 2:41:36 PM

You don't need a graphics card, but its nice to have a chipset that has onboard video.

I would recommend a different system:

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ EE SFF 35W
Motherboard: Any AMD 780G/SB700 or nVidia GeForce 8200/8300 Micro-ATX board with 6 SATA connectors; Asus, Gigabyte and Biostar have good boards check their sites.
Memory: 2GB should be enough, with DDR2 being cheap now you can also put in 4GB it will act as file cache and can speed things up.
Disks: i recommend the 5400rpm WD Green disks, as they offer low idle power drain.

Going this route you will have:
- lower idle power consumption due to lower energy components
- cheaper build
- 6 onboard SATA usable for software-RAID
- no need for hardware controller if you pick any Linux or BSD based OS

I don't know Unraid, but i do know FreeNAS; it also has a RAID5 driver that performs quite good. It uses a web-interface for easy configuring. You can try out FreeNAS if you install Virtualbox, so you could check out FreeNAS while inside Windows and decide if that's good enough. ;-)
April 17, 2009 8:31:44 PM

^OP said he needed 8 SATA ports.
April 17, 2009 9:17:00 PM

He later said he would go with 5 disks. In any case, thanks to software RAID, you can just hop in a simple PCIe SATA controller (often with RAID drivers but you dont use those in Linux/BSD) and you get more ports, and you can combine 8 disks or more into one array.

With a Micro-ATX motherboard you generally have one PCIe x16 slot free and one PCIe x1 slot free, both of which can be used for a storage controller. I'm using such a setup, with two addon controllers adding each 2 ports, to a total of 10 disks. You do need to be aware that each disk you add brings 35W or so to the startup current required to spinup the disks, or your system will power down quickly. So you need a either a strong power supply or you need a controller which can do Staggered Spinup (not spinning up all drives at once but in phases).
April 17, 2009 11:23:21 PM

^True. It is cheaper so OP has no need to spend on the non needed stuff.
April 18, 2009 2:48:53 AM

1) DO NOT get a Gigabyte motherboard if you ever want to add a PCI-Express Raid controller because, for some reason, Gigabyte boards are not compatible when their PCI-E x4/8/16 slots are used for the Raid controller.

2) Software Raid 5 will be very slow. If you get an Intel-based board with ICH10R southbridge, you will have 6 ports to use for Raid and some have 2 extra ports using a JMicron controller. The onboard Intel Raid 5 will provide you with much better speeds than software-only Raid.

3) With more than 2TB volumes, you will need x64, use GPT volumes or use a hardware Raid controller that supports "Carving".

4) If your drives will be running 24/7, you really should look at RE3/RE2 if you must use WD or ES.2 or Ultrastar as these are "Enterprise Class" drives designed to run 24/7 and run in Raid. Another aspect to consider is that these Enterprise Class drives also use Anti-Vibration mechanisms to counter the constant vibration from 24/7 use. Desktop drives aren't designed to run 24/7.

5) For such a large Raid array, there really are many advantages to using hardware Raid controllers. One of which being FAR BETTER write speeds in Raid 5 as well as much better read speeds. You really should look at the Highpoint 4320 8 port SAS/SATA PCI-E x8 controller as it is on sale at newegg for $330 and its normal price is over $600.

Another thing to consider is Raid 6 which allows 2 drives to fail without losing data. From what you have said, more than 5 drives in Raid is in your future. The more drives you use in a Raid 5 array, the much higher chances of drive failure.

Another option is using being able to use Raid 50 down the road. This will give you up to 2 drives failing, so better fault tolerance, and it will also give you much better speeds.

With Raid 5, write speeds suffer a little to a LOT due to parity calculations and how well the Raid controller handles it. I have used a 4-drive Raid 5 using Intel's onboard Raid and I have been using a 3ware 8 port hardware controller. The Intel onboard has no where near the write performance of the 3ware card as the 3ware card has a dedicated XOR processor which calculates the parity. If I could, I would trade my 3ware for that Highpoint, even though it cost $300 more, because the Highpoint has one of the best XOR processors-Intel's IOP348.

One more thing to consider: how does the Raid controller handle Bad Sectors. Here is what my 3ware software said, "The 3ware RAID controller supports a feature called dynamic sector repair that allows the unit to recover from certain drive errors that would normally result in a degraded unit situation. For redundant units such as RAID 1, 5, 6, 10, and 50, the 3ware RAID controller essentially has two copies of your data available. If a read command to a sector on a disk drive results in an error, it reverts to the redundant copy in order to satisfy the host’s request. At this point, the 3ware RAID controller has a good copy of the requested data in its cache memory. It will then use this data to force the failing drive to reallocate the bad sector, which essentially repairs the sector."
April 18, 2009 10:33:07 AM

SO I bought all my components and now just to play the waiting game. I will let everyone know how it goes with set up and post some pics.

Thanks
April 18, 2009 11:24:12 AM

mikelaevlaev said:
SO I bought all my components and now just to play the waiting game. I will let everyone know how it goes with set up and post some pics.

Thanks

Ooooh, I want to see pictures.... I love looking at PC cases crammed full of fans, and hard drives, and cables.... :pt1cable:  Yummmy... :) 
April 18, 2009 8:34:49 PM

specialk90 said:
1) DO NOT get a Gigabyte motherboard if you ever want to add a PCI-Express Raid controller because, for some reason, Gigabyte boards are not compatible when their PCI-E x4/8/16 slots are used for the Raid controller.

They should work fine if you boot Linux or BSD. But generally you need a motherboard BIOS capable of "interrupt 19 capture", which enables add-on controllers to register themselves with the BIOS and register itself as a bootable device (if that is important).

Quote:
2) Software Raid 5 will be very slow. If you get an Intel-based board with ICH10R southbridge, you will have 6 ports to use for Raid and some have 2 extra ports using a JMicron controller. The onboard Intel Raid 5 will provide you with much better speeds than software-only Raid.

Onboard RAID = Software RAID, the only difference is that the RAID BIOS allows for booting RAID volumes. No other hardware acceleration is being performed. Intel is one of the best onboard RAID chipsets, and their RAID5 implementation is reasonable or mediocre.

But you should not have any judgements on software RAID5; as more advanced software RAID5 modules have no problem running over 400MB/s sequential sustained write. But that technology is not available in Windows ofcourse. If you need Windows; you need a hardware controller for a good RAID5 setup.

Quote:
3) With more than 2TB volumes, you will need x64, use GPT volumes or use a hardware Raid controller that supports "Carving".

You'd need an EFI BIOS to boot from GPT volumes, so you may want to use a different means of booting (USB stick, small flash disk)

4) If your drives will be running 24/7, you really should look at RE3/RE2 if you must use WD or ES.2 or Ultrastar as these are "Enterprise Class" drives designed to run 24/7 and run in Raid. Another aspect to consider is that these Enterprise Class drives also use Anti-Vibration mechanisms to counter the constant vibration from 24/7 use. Desktop drives aren't designed to run 24/7.
As far as i understand both the "RAID edition" and normal disks that come from various vendors have the exact same hardware manufacturing process. The only difference is in testing, warranty and firmware (TLER and other useless stuff). The warranty is a good plus, but overall i feel they are not worth their money. I'd prefer WD Green disks.

Quote:
With Raid 5, write speeds suffer a little to a LOT due to parity calculations

That is a myth. RAID5 write is slow due to 2-phase writes. SSDs have the same problems with writing: they first have to read a larger block, then erase, then re-program even for a small write request this means alot of additional work and thus its much slower. So if you want to change one byte on an SSD, you may have to read 640KiB, erase that block and write 640KiB again. For changing one byte!

The true reason RAID5 write is slow, is due to write combining and I/O request splitting techniques used by advanced RAID5 implementations. It uses alot of memory bandwidth and some parts are serial in operation (no threading possible). The CPU usage of 'simple RAID5' drivers is usually quite low but also low RAID5 write speeds (10-20MB/s) - with advanced drivers using write combining and write-back buffering the speeds can excel to slightly below read speeds. I don't see any reason why Software RAID5 wouldn't be able to pump more than 1000MB/s to the array, given sufficient disks. But RAID5 is complicated and no one made any good RAID5 drivers for Windows (who cares, windows has too much issues with RAID).

And FYI, your cpu should be able to do XOR calculations at near memory speed (8GB/s should not really prove a problem i'd guess). XOR is surely not the problem; only for hardware RAID because they use much slower chips compared to the CPU GPC.

Quote:
One more thing to consider: how does the Raid controller handle Bad Sectors.

Harddisks themselves should manage this; and if they can't there is the operating systems. RAID-sublayers should not interfere in this regard, IMO. Disks repair their own sectors and do so before they become bad; they have alot of reserve sectors. Checkout your SMART info and look for "Reallocated Sector Count" - thats the number of bad sectors your HDD has swapped with good reserve sectors. Once this number grows very high, you should replace the drive. Eventually its reserve-pool will run out then its game over. ;) 
April 19, 2009 1:24:35 AM

Sub Mesa, did you not see that he already purchased everything?
April 19, 2009 11:15:21 PM

specialk90 said:
Sub Mesa, did you not see that he already purchased everything?

Hahaha :lol:  15 minutes of time that he'll never get back...
April 20, 2009 11:30:05 AM

I want a refund! :D