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Advice? File Server / HTPC with 8 HDDs

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February 25, 2013 5:16:14 PM

Hello,

I've never built a Tower before but am going whole hog into a server/HTPC combo, with 8 sata drives. My goal is to have at least 10 TBs of backed up and useable space, and to play 20gb bluray rips and battlefield 3 on medium settings at 1080p. I'm planning on using Windows 8's storage pooling for software RAID. I'm not sure if i will use RAID 1 or RAID 5 yet, but i'm sure that i want 8 trays for 3.5 HDDs. At the same time i'm trying to keep costs down. I'd like to get advice in case i'm missing something obvious with compatibility, wasting money on something, or if it doesn't make sense in any way.

Approximate Purchase Date: next week
Budget Range: $400-$800 without HDDs
System Usage from Most to Least Important: file server, HTPC, gaming
Are you buying a monitor: no
OS: Windows 8 System builder, already purchased
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com, but any is fine
Location: Los Angeles California
Parts Preferences: none
Overclocking: no
SLI or Crossfire: no
Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200

Here's the parts i've picked so far

NZXT Source 220, $50
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
ASRock Z77 Extreme6 LGA 1155 Intel Z77, com’es with free CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 240-Pin DDR3, $160
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Intel Core i5-2500S, $155
http://starmicroinc.net/intel-core-2500s-27ghz-cache-so...
ASUS EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 Radeon HD 6670, $90
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
CORSAIR HX Series HX750 750W, $140
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Samsung MMCRE28G5DXP 128GB 2.5-inch MLC Solid State SSD, $72
http://starmicroinc.net/samsung-mmcre28g5dxp-128gb-inch...
Seagate Barracuda ST3000DM001 3TB, $128 each, x8 is $1024
http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?p=HD-ST3TAS3&c=pw&h...
StarTech BRACKET Metal 3.5" to 5.25" and IO Crest 2 Port SATA III PCI-Express x1 Card (to fit an extra 9th drive in the external bay), $20
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.amazon.com/Crest-Port-SATA-PCI-Express-SY-PE...

Total before HDDs (before tax and shipping): $687
Total after all HDDs (before tax and shipping): $1711

Yeesh. It's definitely more than i was hoping, but i'll just start with less than 8 harddrives and expand later. I'll start with 4 HDDs, giving me 6 TBs at RAID 1:

Total with 4 HDDs: $1199


So what do you think? Am i an idiot?
February 25, 2013 7:23:28 PM

6670 is a poor choice for graphics. It's a really weak card. You can get a GTX650 Ti for not much more that will literally be 2-3x better for gaming.

2500S not a bad deal, but getting a low power chip for a system with 8+ HDD seems a bit counter intuitive.

I would also keep in mind that RAID 1 or 5 is not a "backup". It just prevents downtime. You need a separate backup. Guess what happens if you do a delete or get a virus on a RAID 1? It happens to both copies of your data at once! And what happens if you have a system failure, can you just plug a single drive into another computer and read the data? Or do you need the original RAID controller or windows storage space configuration? Backups are essential even with RAID.

Do you need all that space in one large contiguous volume? Do you need RAID uptime? Do you want backups to go to additional storage inside or outside this server?
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February 25, 2013 7:44:04 PM

You want to software raid? HAHAHA good luck with that..... Buy a raid card for $200 that is at least "hardware assisted" that way if the raid card fails you just have to replace the raid card. Otherwise you risk the chance of everything failing once you format or the OS fails. I've never had a good experience with software raids even with server 2012 and Windows 8.
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February 25, 2013 8:16:24 PM

That's why I was asking if it needed to all be contiguous. If it were me, I'd just leave them all as separate hard drives and have enough space so that I can keep a backup copy of every file I cared about on a separate drive. You can use windows mount points instead of drive letters to keep them all under the same folder structure if that works better for you.

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February 25, 2013 10:30:46 PM

You guys make interesting points....I see conflicting viewpoints on this across the Web. I completely understand how it is not a backup. I'm thinking that i will run regular backups of important folders onto my existing stash of external harddrives and rely on the RAID.

But the idea of keeping them as seperate drives does sound appealing. The main goal of the RAID was to avoid hardware failure, but if it's RAID 1 anyway, and i'm not improving performance it seems more recoverable to have 2 drives used and then mirrored to 2 other drives using backup software....

On the other hand RAID 5 sounds super compelling because of the instant bump in capacity with drive failure protection. With the external drives acting as a supplement i'd feel safer anyway.

I don't see the sense in just replacing a $200 card, when that would be the most expensive component in the build. If any part of the tower fails with software raid, i can replace that part and get it back for cheaper than $200. Also, others seem to indicate that hardware RAIDs are harder to recover, because raid cards sometimes go out of stock. I don't understand why an OS failure would loose the data, if i'm keeping my OS outside of the array on the SSD.

For home use, it's hard for me to justify the price of a RAID card :( . I think i would either risk it with the raid 5 with external backups or go with completely seperate mirrors....no? :) 

The video card i'm currently looking to change....this one huh...http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

maybe...

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February 25, 2013 10:51:06 PM

You would have a much harder time trying to recover a software raid than a hardware raid believe me which is why maybe 1/1000 people do software raids. Raid cards can also move from system to system without trouble or reconfiguration whereas software raids are all based through Windows.
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February 26, 2013 2:24:10 AM

I'm starting to see the light. I think i had a misconseption of what a RAID was for in the first place. Apparently reliability is subtly different from recoverability. I'm probably just going to go with vanilla backup software and no RAIDing. I think it's cheaper and less hassel for me to spend that $200-500 on more harddrives, rather than a controller, and software RAID does sound a bit scary during system failure.

--anyhow do you know of good software that automatically backups your entire harddrive onto a mirror drive on a schedule?
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February 26, 2013 2:45:17 AM

Sorry if I scared you off. Odds are you'd be fine with RAID, but you also be fine without it. I just know as a SysAdmin that's been doing this for a while, that a non-RAID disk is really easy to move around and you can access your data anywhere. I also know the sinking feeling when your array didn't import to the new controller and you get to reinstall. But most of the time everything works well. I've recovered arrays from dead motherboards and lost single drives, too.

As for a utility, Windows has robocopy built in since windows 7. It's command line, but you can schedule it to run with windows scheduler. It's braindead easy to use. The best part is that it only copies the new or changed files. You don't want to re-write 3TB of data everynight if you haven't even put any new movies on the disk.

For example, I have a batchfile I run every other night that just has this in it:

robocopy e:\ g:\backup /S


The robocopy part is simple and just copies everything from the E: drive to the G:\backup folder. The /S switch says also do all subfolders. Easy as that. Every file that has been changed or added since last run will be copied to G:\backup. It doesn't mirror deletes, so once a year I clear it out and start over, but I like it that way so I can restore files that may have been deleted by accident.

Backup software can work, too, but then you need that same software to restore. With robocopy, they are just plain files so if the system dies, I can just plug G: into a new computer and there are all my files ready to go. Backup software isn't going to be able to compress BD rips anyway, so It's probably not going to provide a lot of benefit unless you want multiple versions or specific archive points.
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February 27, 2013 9:44:25 PM

Awesome.

Also, for the operating drives and the backup drives should i create a spanned Volume (aka disc concatenation, or JBOD)? My concern there is the increase in failure probability, because the likelihood would multiply by the number of drives spanned. I want it to function as one drive instead of using symbolic links or mountpoints because i loose a ton of space by not maxing out each drive. For instance, if i make drive A for movies, and drive B for music, the available space on each drive is wasted, and if i had, oh, lets say pornos, i would have to split them between the two drives to use that space. So if spanning is the only way i guess i'll do it, but begrudgingly :) 
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February 28, 2013 1:38:26 AM

Raid 5(1 Parity drive) or Raid 6(2 Parity drives, almost the same as a raid 5 with a hot spare) is what I recommend. Then you have the ability to expand the raid if your card lets you like my highpoint rocketraid 2720sgl
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February 28, 2013 5:31:40 AM

If you are going to do a spanned volume you might as well just use RAID 0. The risks are the same, but RAID 0 is faster. JBOD is mainly for using drives that are not the same size so you don't lose any space.

If you are making a backup copy, then the only risk with RAID 0 is backup lag (might lose all of today's data).

If you go RAID 5, you are still going to want a backup, so like I said, all it really saves is your downtime, but it will cost you in available capacity and performance.

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February 28, 2013 12:42:00 PM

Raid 0? What are you smoking? Raid 0 on 8 drives hahahahahaha, thats just asking for one drive to fail and lose everything. Raid 5 and 6 provide redundancy so if 1 or 2 drives fail you don't lose all of your data granted you will have to replace the drives otherwise risk losing everything but raid 0? Raid 0 on 8 drives is basically a higher than 80% fail rate since if any 1 drive fails then you lose everything. JBOD is better than raid 0 in the fact that if you lose one drive you only lose the data that was stored on that "one" drive instead of raid 0 where if one fails you lose all data.
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February 28, 2013 9:05:36 PM

First off, yes, RAID 0 with 8 drives does have 8x the failure rate of a single drive, but since the failure rate of single drives is in the 1% range, that's more like 8%, not 80%.

But no, I didn't say use all 8 drives in RAID 0. I said use half the drives for backup and the other half for the array set.

AS I said in earlier posts, RAID 5 or 1 (or 10) does not eliminate the need for backups, so it's eating extra storage for nothing. If you have backups, RAID 1 or 5 only prevents downtime. If the RAID 0 or JBOD fails, you can just rebuild from your backups. If you want to spend the money and use extra disks to eliminate downtime and hassle of restores, that's fine. Just know what it's for.
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March 1, 2013 2:24:07 AM

Well, yes, i'm not willing to forgoe the space to do RAID 5/6 AND a backup. I wish, but i'm already gonna be strapped for space and i'm completely fine with downtime. I can live for months without a computer.

I feel like your comments are dependent on me buying a RAID controller, which i do not want to do. I could use Windows 8 storage spaces to do a fake RAID 0, but as i understand it, there is no speed advantage with software RAID. Also, wouldn't I still have the same problem with system failure if i have 2 sets of 4 drives in RAID 0; if my Windows crashes, then the index of the data would be lost and i'd loose the RAID and the backup. Or are we talking about RAID 0 on 4 drives, and then JBOD for the other 4 as backup? I can see that working, but it makes me scratch my head

...so what i was thinking was just JBOD 4x3TB -----backup----->another JBOD 4x3TB, all in the same box, with important folders backed up to an octopus of external Harddrives.

The other thing is expandibility. Doing a quick search, it sounds like RAID 5, 6 and JBOD all enable adding extra drives mid life of the drive letter. Since i haven't built up my collection to this capacity yet, and prices on drives are still falling and the future is changing, year one i was gonna start smaller. So really i'm thinking.....

year 1:
JBOD 2x3TB -----backup----->another JBOD 2x3TB, all in the same box, with important folders backed up to an octopus of external Harddrives.

year 2:
JBOD 4x3TB -----backup----->another JBOD 4x3TB, all in the same box, with important folders backed up to an octopus of external Harddrives.

I'd like to verify with you guys that that transition will be possible.
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March 1, 2013 4:40:16 AM

The storage spaces deal is great for adding disks into the pool later. It's really flexible and easy to manage.

When I was talking RAID 0, I was referring to making a striped set using dynamic disks in Disk Management or using RAID 0 function available on 99% of motherboard RAID controllers. It will be faster than a single drive or JBOD, even using Software RAID 0.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQiZVoJqyqo


If you are not terribly concerned about performance, JBOD ("simple") in Windows Storage Spaces will be the most flexible.

My only concern with having the backups on a JBOD is that they are sharing a controller. If something corrupts your windows install (or motherboard dies if using the SATA RAID) then you just lost both arrays! It might make backups more difficult to script, but I would leave those as stand alone disks. That way the data is readable independent of your WIndows install or hardware.
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March 1, 2013 8:37:08 PM

But then i have the folder aggregation issue. Soon i will have a movies folder that is larger than 3 TB. So I'll have to stretch it across multiple drives. And that will happen a lot, because i'll be forced to compartmentalize....

So it sounds like JBOD offers no more system failure security than Storage Spaces....what if i keep backups of the OS drive so that if there is a system failure i can restore the Windows 8 image and get the index back to read the drives?
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