Looking for the right storage solution – Part 2 – Hardware purchased

After much reading about various components, and while keeping in mind the requirements that I laid out in an earlier post, I have purchased what will be my new NAS. I bought most of it on newegg.com as they had the best prices across the board. Here is the list of components:

Component Model Comment Price Qty
Case Fractal Design Define R3 Black Silent and clean looking $109.99 1 $109.99
MotherBoard ASUS M4A89GTD AMD 890GX  Integrated graphics $139.99 1 $139.99
Processor AMD Ahtlon II X4 640 3GHz Plenty of power $99.99 1 $99.99
RAM Mishkin (2*2GB) $20.99 1 $20.99
System HD Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB Planning on upgrading to SSD as soon as they are affordable $59.99 1 $59.99
Storage HDs Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Standard lowpower storage disks $79.99 5 $399.95
SATA Card Rosewill RC-222 In case I run out of connecter on the mobo $24.99 1 $24.99
Power Antec BP550 Silent and modular $64.99 1 $64.99
CD drive ASUS Black Could do without but for the price … why not? $16.99 1 $16.99
TOTAL $937.87

In terms of picking the right software option, I will most likely give a try to FreeNAS. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll got for a trusty WHS installation (In which case I’d like to build a small Linux server for me to play around with).

I plan on having both systems (old and new one) working concurrently for a couple of months at least. It is critical for me to make sure that those new drives will not crash on me. Once I am confident that my new system is trustworthy, I’ll sell the old one.

Looking for the right storage solution – Part 1 – The options

So I have been using a Windows Home Server box with an 8 bay Sans Digital bay for a few years. I love it. I use 8 Western Digital 1TB Caviar Green. I like space as you can tell – Actually, I have been collecting Linux Distros since 1998. The drives are spanned using Drive Extender, a nice tool in WHS 2008 that was not carried over in WHS 2011 (boo).

My goal with having a backup solution is to be able to store data in a safe way, accessible from within my home network, and with some fashion of backup.

I am looking to upgrade for the below reasons – As I said I like my current system but I still have a bunch of problems:

  • I am tired of having two boxes (the server and the USB attached Sans Digital bay) and would really like to have everything in the same box.
  • The system as is is too noisy
  • The system is too slow and doesn’t allow me to run all the application I want
  • I’d like to run with less hard drives (2TB hard drives are by and large affordable right now)
  • My system has 4% of its total space free … if one of my duplicated drive fails, I’m screwed.
  • It’s fun

Requirements for the upgrade (addressing the above points + what I would like to add to the current system):

  • Disk Spanning
  • Some sort of “local” backup solution (e.g. replication of data across two disks) – I already save my most important files to Amazon’s cloud
  • Silent or near silent
  • Fairly easy to maintain
  • Fast (And I know that most processor right now will be fast enough for the type of use that I plan on doing, for example downloading Linux Distros automatically)
  • Ability to add new drives to the system without needing to tear everything down.
  • Headless
  • Cost-effective

Below are the different options that I have identified at this point:

  • Windows home server 2011 box
  • Windows home server 2008 box
  • Amahi
  • Linux + software raid
  • Linux + hardware raid
  • Freenas (Explicitly putting it in its own category)
  • Windows (7?)  + software raid
  • Windows (7?)  + hardware raid
  • Appliance, e.g. drobo

I need to do some more thinking … Some of those options above are clearly not aligned with my requirements. I need to think in terms of trade-off, in terms of must-have and nice-to-have, etc. In any case this is an interesting project and I am interested as much by actually doing it and the end-result than by making sure my approach is the right one and gets me to the best of all possible outcomes. We’ll see.