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Author Topic: Building a home server. Please help, DC!  (Read 35084 times)
Stoic Joker
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« Reply #50 on: May 26, 2011, 11:15:17 AM »

I don't get the "cutesy" act so much from my girls.  I get the "lady logic" arguments that flummox me to the point that I can't even form a coherent sentence with which to reply.

When cornered, the safest answer is always no. Beyond that fall back to go ask your mother ... Because only a true expert can win that game.

...At least that appears to have been my dad's strategy for dealing with my sister. smiley
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superboyac
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« Reply #51 on: May 26, 2011, 11:23:36 AM »

^Talk about initiative! I'd hire her in a heartbeat.  Grin

When I was younger I always pushed for letting a trusty girl or two into whatever we were getting up to. They often provided a "reality check" when thing started getting really stupid. And they were extremely valuable allies for getting adults to agree to something. (Never underestimate the power of a young female asking for a favor or permission.)

Most of them could also tell a lie (and be believed) much better than we could.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Emma, Judy, Kim, Tawney, and all the other so-called tomboys I grew up with.

Kim would have been one of the first to 'sign up' for building something like a personal petabyte cloud. She was handy with a soldering iron, "good with tools", and liked to build stuff. She's the first person I ever knew who had a ham radio license (and shortwave rig) when I was a kid. Self-taught too. Her father owned a dry cleaner shop and her Mom was a homemaker.

So imagine all the contributions your little sister might have made to your club if she'd been allowed in. Given enough time and encouragement, her skills and talents might have really taken off. Which would have been great. Because you just never know when you might need the services of a good forger.  Grin
I hear ya.  I was not always very nice to my little sister, it makes me sad to think about it.  She always wanted to do the things I was doing, and I would occasionally be a little mean and stuff about it, but most of the time we were good.  I'm just a loner, though.  I need space and time to myself more so than most people.

I agree with the girl power stuff.  My problem is that if I hang around a cool girl like that for too long, I'm going to get "interested" in her (not my sister, by the way, in case it wasn't obvious...you guys are sick!).  Seriously, every girl that I've been friends with, I eventually started having feelings for, and then things just change.  So i don't care anymore, I don't get worked up about it.  Those cute girls can seriously get anything they want...I "use" them that way also.  Like in that Seinfeld episode where the drop dead blonde gets the sold-out movie tickets, and gets out of the speeding ticket.  The area here in downtown where I have lunch, there are these three regulars that I call the "trinity", because if they ever asked me for ANYTHING, I'd do it.  no question.  The sight of them alone utterly defeats me.

I do love the tomboys, too.  So cool and fun.
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superboyac
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« Reply #52 on: July 28, 2011, 04:54:50 PM »

Well, I've had some more time to work through this project.  Before I give Geoff a call back, I'd like to review my server design here with you guys.  It's pretty generic right now, but as we discuss things more, I'll fill in the details.


Questions:
1) Let's say I order a Dell server for that first box shown (from Stallard).  How difficult would it be to format the drive and freshly install a server OS (MS Server, Home Server, whatever it ends up being)?  From what I've heard, doing a format/fresh install on a server is a lot more finicky than doing it with the regular OS's.  I always do that whenever I get a new computer.  But I don't want to run into an impossible to solve problem regarding drivers, OS configuration, hardware issues, etc.

2) The other thing I want you guys to pay attention to is the setup of the storage components.  I have RAID5 going on based on previous discussions here and with Geoff.  I also have this special shared drive, like a media drive, that will sync up with the media folders on the central storage.  This is how I'll get around my never ending issue with VPN, and trying to access files remotely.  I've given up on all that technology, none of them are good in my opinion.  Things like Dropbox are limited by their cloud services, usually by price or storage size.  I want nothing to do with monthly charges or cloud services.  So instead, I'll just physically sync all the files to each remote device that I use.  That way, I don't have to stream any videos, or read/write to a remote location.  Everything is local.  So I like this solution very much.
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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #53 on: July 29, 2011, 07:14:02 AM »

How difficult would it be to format the drive and freshly install a server OS (MS Server, Home Server, whatever it ends up being)?

Dell server hardware is all mainstream, so the drivers will most likely be in-box. So dificulty level = 0.

From what I've heard, doing a format/fresh install on a server is a lot more finicky than doing it with the regular OS's.

Can't imagine why, it's the exact same Windows installer we've all used 100s of times before. Wink

But I don't want to run into an impossible to solve problem regarding drivers, OS configuration, hardware issues, etc.

Seriously? With us in your corner, something is going to be impossible to solve..?? I'm hurt.  Sad

(hehe)
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superboyac
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« Reply #54 on: July 29, 2011, 09:28:07 AM »

Thanks Stoic!  You're right.  Again, I've only HEARD these things.  To me, as long as I can stick in an install dvd and it runs, I should be able to deal with it.  Where I would have trouble is if the OS can't even start or get going...then I'm lost.  Once it's up, you're right, I can always turn to the DC experts!
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superboyac
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« Reply #55 on: August 01, 2011, 03:50:43 PM »

OK, guys.  I've changed my mind again, and yes, I'm going to go back to the NAS suggestions that you all recommended to me in the beginning.  I've read around and asked about it, and I think there's no need for anything else really at this point.

The company I like so far is Synology.  I like them a lot.  I'll just get a 4-bay drive, and have a RAID5 array in there.  I think with the redundant disks, I can get 4 TB for now with it.  And that's good enough for now.  I might get two of these so I can store one in a remote location and sync it that way for backup.

Any thoughts?  Does this seem more reasonable and not so much of the overkilling that I tend to do?

(er...I may change my mind back. sheesh.  I'm annoying myself now!)
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 03:59:28 PM by superboyac » Logged

superboyac
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« Reply #56 on: August 01, 2011, 04:07:53 PM »

Quote
P.S. Don't use RAID-5. If you have a good backup strategy and can afford occasional downtime to perform hardware maintenance or replacements, RAID-5 is more trouble than it's worth IMO.
40hz said that earlier.  I'd like to understand this better.  because Geoff from Stallard recommended using RAID-5, and it sounded good to me.  If I don't use RAID-5, what are my alternatives?  Keep in mind that I will be handling about 6-10TB of data that I want backed up and very safe.  Also keep in mind that I am going to get a business quality RAID controller, not any consumer grade ones.

But I also shy away from RAID if I can help it.  I just need to know what alternatives I have if I don't RAID, especially when it comes to backing up and redundancy and all that.  I can only think of two things: RAID, and mirroring (file syncing).  Is there any other way?  Images are not the same, versioning is not really the same.
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40hz
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« Reply #57 on: August 01, 2011, 05:14:00 PM »

For 6-10 TB that you need kept very safe and available, RAID-5 is a viable first line of defense if you go with "business grade" RAID controllers and hard drives. But as you probably already know, you'll still need to combine it with a backup or sync of some sort so you have a copy as well as a resilient original of your data.  RAID mostly assures you of availability since an array drive failure won't take down the entire array. But it does nothing to get data back if a catastrophic failure occurs. For that you'll need a backup or mirror copy.

There are flavors of RAID (50 etc.) that combine striping with mirroring and parity check options.  But they're expensive solutions and usually only found in data center level installations. In short - fuggeddaboutit!
« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 05:21:20 PM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #58 on: August 01, 2011, 05:53:38 PM »

RAID5 is great (if you spend $$$ on a fast card or fast CPU to do the parity computation), right until a disk dies and you need to rebuild the array... and the second and third disks croak.

If you do end up building some form of RAID (and frankly, without a bunch of computers and a distributed file system, that's probably your only choice for that kind of storage), be sure to use drives from different vendors AND from different batches - that'll somewhat reduce the risk of your drives shitting themselves at the same time. Check out stuff like Everything you know about disks is wrong and Is Your SSD More Reliable Than A Hard Drive?... and cringe.
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superboyac
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« Reply #59 on: August 02, 2011, 10:01:30 AM »

For 6-10 TB that you need kept very safe and available, RAID-5 is a viable first line of defense if you go with "business grade" RAID controllers and hard drives. But as you probably already know, you'll still need to combine it with a backup or sync of some sort so you have a copy as well as a resilient original of your data.  RAID mostly assures you of availability since an array drive failure won't take down the entire array. But it does nothing to get data back if a catastrophic failure occurs. For that you'll need a backup or mirror copy.

There are flavors of RAID (50 etc.) that combine striping with mirroring and parity check options.  But they're expensive solutions and usually only found in data center level installations. In short - fuggeddaboutit!
That's how I feel, thanks for confirming.  That's why I'm thinking of having no RAID.  Just the disks on their own.  To merge them into larger directories (spanning), I can use Window 7 or the server's capabilities for that, right?  And backing up is easy that way: just file sync onto an identical hard drive.  I've been doing this for years now and see no real problems with it.
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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #60 on: August 02, 2011, 11:48:21 AM »

Spanning & Striping are both incredibly dangerous for the same reason. If one disk fails (or just has a real bad day), everything on the array is gone. Now you have to rebuild the array and restore all of the data that isn't on it any more, from somewhere. So if it's a 4TB array and you have good backups, you can get everything back up and running. Sure. In a day or so...

Or you can just not be down (RAID5). Blow a drive, you're still running (instead of scrambling for backups while trying to keep your heart rate under 150). Replace the drive, let it rebuild itself, go on with your day. Sure, If something else fails during the process you get to have a catastrophic failure anyway. But, that's what backups are for.

The point is a single disk failure shouldn't automatically cut you off from all your data, until such time as the primary system can be brought back on-line. Because if you're not physically there (due to being at work/out of town) when the box goes poof. You're stuffed for the duration if you don't have a little on-the-fly redundancy cushion.
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40hz
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« Reply #61 on: August 02, 2011, 01:48:20 PM »

re: Spanning

I don't go much for spanning or multi-drive striping for most personal or business uses.

About the only time RAID-5 makes sense (to me at least) is when you have something like an accounting or web application that can't experience unscheduled downtime for any reason. Usually because it interrupts "the flow of commerce" (i.e. sales) or some other key business function like issuing support tickets or software licenses to your customers. Having RAID allows you to stay up long enough to announce a maintenance period and get a good backup before you rebuild your array.

And don't be fooled by the "live rebuild" argument that says you can hot-swap and rebuild without taking your array offline. Yes, it can be done. But it's slow, and frustrating, and it drags server performance down so much  that it's not practical for general purposes. About the only time it is viable is if you implement load balancing with automatic 'fail-over' to a secondary server that takes on the burden until the primary array gets rebuilt. Once again we're talking heavy-duty data center setups here. If you're something like a bank - go for it. Otherwise put it out of your head. <EDIT/UPDATE: see StoicJoker's comment below before taking the above as gospel. mrgreen>

Spanning is something I really don't understand except for very specialized circumstances  - like streaming data collection, or media rendering. Basically where you don't know how big a file will be, other than it's gonna be humongous! Nothing can ruin your morning more then to discover your CGI project (which had been rendering for over 28 hours) aborted at the "94% completed" mark because it was a few hundred megabytes shy of the drive space it needed to finish. I've seen it happen. (There were tears...)

Pooling may be useful for a home media server. Especially where the owner is generally clueless about technology and keeps loading DVD after DVD rip onto their box. For people like this, pooling is probably the easiest and most practical approach. Run out of space? Just slap in another drive and add it to the pool.

But as Stoic pointed out above, it's still a dicey chance to take if it's data that's hard to replace or genuinely important to its owner.

Over time, I've begun to see the space limitations on physical drives as a blessing in disguise. The bigger the drive, the more disorganized they seem to become. And thanks to disk index/search utilities like Everything Kiss, most people can get away with it. Fling your stuff in folders - and put folders within folders out the kazoo - and screw organization! Just use a utility to root out where you put something when you need it.



It works. But it's sloppy. And it's not a generally good way to handle file organization.

FWIW, I tend to assign specific drives specific types of data. That allows me to more easily setup backup and sync routines on a case by case basis. Critical files and directories may get mirrored in real time. Other directories may require version control. Others may get simple backups. Some don't get copied or backed up at all since they're kept for convenience and easily replaced with newer versions should they ever be lost. (Linux distro ISOs or Microsoft's WSUS files are a good example of that.)

Simpler is better when it comes to drive and directory setups. Especially on servers. And extra especially when you're as simpleminded as I am about these things. Grin



« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 02:59:53 PM by 40hz; Reason: Added call out for important subsequent comment. » Logged

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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #62 on: August 02, 2011, 02:39:39 PM »

And don't be fooled by the "live rebuild" argument that says you can hot-swap and rebuild without taking your array offline. Yes, it can be done. But it's slow, and frustrating, and it drags server performance down so much  that it's not practical for general purposes.

I've actually never had a problem with it. If the server is under high (steady 50+% capacity) load, I can definitely see that as an issue. but for a SMB it just keeps them running, instead of being down for the duration of a full restore or (eek) Brick-Level rebuild. I've actually hot-swapped a dead drive (out of a 136GB RAID5 SCSI array) on our Exchange server, and let it rebuild during business hours ... Without anyone noticing. (Dell PowerEdge 1800)


Over time, I've begun to see the space limitations on physical drives as a blessing in disguise. The bigger the drive, the more disorganized they seem to become. And thanks to disk index/search utilities like Everything Kiss, most people can get away with it. Fling your stuff in folders - and put folders within folders out the kazoo - and screw organization! Just use a utility to root out where you put something when you need it.
 (see attachment in previous post)
It works. But it's sloppy. And it's not a generally good way to handle file organization.

FWIW, I tend to assign specific drives specific types of data. That allows me to more easily setup backup and sync routines on a case by case basis. Critical files and directories may get mirrored in real time. Other directories may require version control. Others may get simple backups. Some don't get copied or backed up at all since they're kept for convenience and easily replaced with newer versions should they ever be lost. (Linux distro ISOs or Microsoft's WSUS files are a good example of that.)

Simpler is better when it comes to drive and directory setups. Especially on servers. And extra especially when you're as simpleminded as I am about these things. Grin


Now this I totally agree with! I also like to keep things that fragment quickly (temporary files, logs, user folders) segregated from things that almost never fragment (long term archives, install images, reference materials (we have 17GB of service manuals)). And both of them away from databases that grow slowly and are best kept in one piece.
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40hz
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« Reply #63 on: August 02, 2011, 02:53:51 PM »

I've actually never had a problem with it. If the server is under high (steady 50+% capacity) load, I can definitely see that as an issue. but for a SMB it just keeps them running, instead of being down for the duration of a full restore or (eek) Brick-Level rebuild. I've actually hot-swapped a dead drive (out of a 136GB RAID5 SCSI array) on our Exchange server, and let it rebuild during business hours ... Without anyone noticing. (Dell PowerEdge 1800)

Doing better than me on that score with a couple of Dells I've tried it on. Neither were near capacity. But they both had remote users coming in via VPN to heavy duty client-server database apps so that may have had something to do with it.

Hmm...Gonna have to look into that a little more closely... smiley

@SJ - Thx for sharing your experiences btw. Cool
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« Reply #64 on: August 02, 2011, 02:58:15 PM »

40hz, Stoic:
Thanks so much for the discussion.  I'm really following along better than i expected, and I'm learning a lot.  I think I'm getting a clearer picture of what I want.  As far as taking "sides", I think very very much like 40hz in the simplicity approach, and the restrictions being a blessing in disguise.  As you can see, I struggle with this concept when you also add in my desire to overkill and overengineer everything.  It's a maturity thing right now...

Anyway, I like this:  I'm not going to RAID.  I'm pretty sure of that.  I'll have different disks for different stuff.  It's the videos that are the killer.  I think everything can fit on one drive, and videos will have to span multiple derives.  I'd like to pool them, I like that a lot.  Using Windows 7 libraries, and if that proves insufficient for my desires somehow, I'll see what kind of third-party solutions can handle merging several directories on different hard drives so the client computers "sees" them as one drive (please offer ideas if you know of any).

To me, "rebuilding" is as simple as copying all my files over to a new drive.  That's all I need, especially considering that multiple locations will have these copies readily available.  Anything fancier than that just doesn't seem to hit home to me.

I think this discussion is very good.  I've had several discussion int he past couple years about RAID, storage, backing up, etc., with a lot of people, and it seems to be a very divisive, confusing subject.  A lot of people are saying things that don't make a whole lot of sense to me.  I think if I could wrangle in this discussion into a short presentation, it would prove very useful to people.  The question people have about all of this is "What should I do?  What is the right balance?"
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40hz
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« Reply #65 on: August 02, 2011, 03:27:50 PM »

It's a maturation process for all of us.

A lot of the blush has come off the rose when it comes to RAID. Most of us have modified our opinions about it over the years. Old school "received wisdom" used to be: always go RAID-1 for the OS, with RAID-5 for everything else - plus a separate small and very fast drive for log/swap/cache files.

That old formula is absolute overkill for most of today's far more reliable hardware.

RAID doesn't reduce the chance of hardware problems. Nor does it reduce costs. Each additional drive you add will increase the number of potential failure points. Plus they'll also create heat and increased operating expense. No getting around that. Having three drives in a RAID-5 doesn't reduce the likelihood of a drive failing. It actually increases the possibility a having a drive fail by a factor of three or more. Some even argue that the additional busywork that comes from constantly striping and writing parity data actually increases wear and tear on the drive and makes a hardware failure more probable in a RAID array. Good thing it at least allows you to repair it without too much hassle. Because you will need to repair them. About once every three years in my experience.

Properly implemented, RAID reduces your risk of downtime. It does nothing to improve your reliability from an engineering perspective.

But today, it's less fretting about reliability and more about configuring for efficiency and performance. Because, in the end, the only real hope for data protection and preservation comes from having "known good" snapshots, file copies, and backups.

And all the fancy drive controllers in the world won't automatically give you those. Grin



« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 03:35:54 PM by 40hz » Logged

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superboyac
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« Reply #66 on: August 02, 2011, 03:36:05 PM »

It's a maturation process for all of us.

A lot of the blush has come off the rose when it comes to RAID. Most of us have modified our opinions about it over the years. Old school "received wisdom" used to be: always go RAID-1 for the OS, with RAID-5 for everything else - plus a separate small and very fast drive for log/swap/cache files.

That old formula is absolute overkill for most of today's far more reliable hardware.

RAID doesn't reduce the chance of hardware problems. Nor does it reduce costs. Each additional drive you add will increase the number of potential failure points. Plus they'll also create heat and increased operating expense. No getting around that. Having three drives in a RAID-5 doesn't reduce the likelihood of a drive failing. It actually increases the possibility a having a drive fail by a factor of three or more. Some even argue that the additional busywork that comes from constantly striping and writing parity data actually increases wear and tear on the drive and makes a hardware failure more probable in a RAID array. Good thing it at least allows you to repair it without too much hassle. Because you will need to repair them. About once every three or so years.

At least from my experience.

Properly implemented, RAID reduces your risk of downtime. It does nothing to improve your reliability from an engineering perspective.

But today, it's less fretting about reliability and more about configuring for efficiency and performance. Because, in the end, the only real hope for data protection and preservation comes from having "known good" snapshots, file copies, and backups.

And all the fancy drive controllers in the world won't automatically give you those. Grin
That sounds very sound to me. Cool
I think I have this figured out.  Dell server from Stallard.  A hard drive storage unit, like a Norco.  Whatever power supplies and cables and other stuff I need to make it all work together.  Slap it all into a 3-4' cabinet.  Connect it to my router.  Boom.  I'm done.
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Stoic Joker
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« Reply #67 on: August 02, 2011, 05:10:09 PM »

...Boom? Boom does not sound like a good conclusion to any project that does not involve explosives.

 cheesy
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superboyac
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« Reply #68 on: August 02, 2011, 05:12:35 PM »

 Grin
I got it from Dennis Reynolds in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
http://youtu.be/u_KIRUFbQiQ
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« Reply #69 on: August 02, 2011, 07:17:10 PM »

That's funny. I sometimes conclude a conversation with the word "whump!" which is my term for one of those ultra-low single "pulled" bass notes that end a rock song. Y'know...one of these notes:



(Think something like at the very end of Jethro Tull's classic Aqualung.)

It's my weird way of saying "Ok. I'm done with this. Next song please!" Grin Thmbsup
« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 08:30:02 PM by 40hz » Logged

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JavaJones
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« Reply #70 on: August 03, 2011, 02:19:46 PM »

Properly implemented, RAID reduces your risk of downtime. It does nothing to improve your reliability from an engineering perspective.

That is the most concisely stated view of RAID I've seen yet. Well said!

Regarding a presentation/article trying to clear up the RAID question, I think it's clearer than ever now that SSDs are widespread and relatively affordable:
For virtually all "home" users, including enthusiasts and gamers, RAID is unnecessary and, if anything, a potential liability. Don't use it. If you want speed, get an SSD. If you want redundancy, do regular backup. End of story. Those at an enterprise level who need RAID will know and don't need further explanation. That's my view anyway.

- Oshyan
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40hz
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« Reply #71 on: August 03, 2011, 03:06:02 PM »

If you want speed, get an SSD. If you want redundancy, do regular backup. End of story.

Bingo!  Thmbsup

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« Reply #72 on: August 04, 2011, 02:01:20 PM »

If you want speed, get an SSD. If you want redundancy, do regular backup.
...and possibly couple it with RAID Mirroring. That does add real redundancy and isn't (just) for downtime reduction smiley
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40hz
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« Reply #73 on: August 04, 2011, 02:58:37 PM »

If you want speed, get an SSD. If you want redundancy, do regular backup.
...and possibly couple it with RAID Mirroring. That does add real redundancy and isn't (just) for downtime reduction smiley

True.  smiley

Unless you have a controller issue which screws up both drives. ohmy

Weirdest thing about RAID-1. When it breaks, it sometimes takes out both drives.

I had this happen to clients twice in my career. So it can't be that rare an occurrence in the field. Which is why I'll only use RAID-1 for mirroring the OS drive thereby reducing it to a 'downtime reduction only' function.

Because I can always reinstall a disk image or (if it comes down to brass tacks) do a scratch reload of the OS (*choke*) without losing anything critical belonging to the client.

---

Never tried RAID with SSD. (Not being wealthy has its downsides. Grin) Is anybody doing that? And if so, does it adversely affect the life of the SSD drives? Mirroring probably wouldn't. But RAID-5 should since there's so much extra R/W activity generated by all the striping plus parity info being written to the drives. (Note: Save a dinky 1 meg file to a server with RAID-5 and watch das blinkin' lights come alive with motion and color. Freekin' dance of fireflies is what it is! Save anything to a RAID-5 array and it goes nuts "gettin' busy.") That can't be good for an SSD drive over the long term.

Anybody know anything about this?  huh

« Last Edit: August 04, 2011, 03:10:58 PM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #74 on: August 04, 2011, 05:07:11 PM »

Weirdest thing about RAID-1. When it breaks, it sometimes takes out both drives.
Shit happens smiley - drives from the same batch can die shortly within eachother (especially if you have very disk-intensive rebuilds... mirroring isn't too bad, raid-5 is BAD). And then there's stuff like power surges etc. So yeah, stuff dies.

I had this happen to clients twice in my career. So it can't be that rare an occurrence in the field. Which is why I'll only use RAID-1 for mirroring the OS drive thereby reducing it to a 'downtime reduction only' function.
Backups tend to run nightly - so mirroring can potentially save you several hours worth of lost data. And of course reduced downtime is a nice bonus, that does require hotswap capability though smiley

Never tried RAID with SSD. (Not being wealthy has its downsides. Grin) Is anybody doing that? And if so, does it adversely affect the life of the SSD drives? Mirroring probably wouldn't. But RAID-5 should since there's so much extra R/W activity generated by all the striping plus parity info being written to the drives.
Raid-5 (and other "big storage" schemes) would be silly on SSD until their storage capability goes massively up. The added writes of raid-5 is a real concern, but apparently the current crop of SSDs die off by crap electronics well before the erase cycle limit is reached ohmy ohmy ohmy

The drives are mainly useful for cache layers or or really I/O intensive stuff like databases. Mirroring might make sense, striping could (but you'll need  expensive motherboard and I/O cards, SATA and PCI-e bandwidth considered?).
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