Home Storage Server

Posted on 2004-09-10
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-15
I currently have 480 GB worth of storage hard drive space on my main desktop computer.  Needless to say, this takes quite a big case as well as adds to the weight of it.  I'm looking to make another box that does nothing but serve my storage files to me (movies in DiVX format, MP3's, BIN & ISO games, etc...).  I was thinking the best way to do this would be to use a Gigabit network to connect my future storage box to my desktop (and secondary desktop).

I am wondering a few things:  What OS should I use?  I am not extremely saavy with Linux, but I would be able to set it up if it would be a good solution.  Is a gigabit network a good solution?  Do you know of any small server cases I could use that would hold at least 4 hard drives?  Should I use a standard computer setup or is there some dumb-server alternative (that's cheaper) that I could use?

Any help or advice you could give me would be a great help!  Thanks in advance!

Question by:Pyromancer

Expert Comment

ID: 12029521
I have pretty much the same setup you are looking to build. I am currently using a file server running WinXP in a workgroup. Since my home network is under 10 users, you don't need anything extravagant as 2003 server or anything like that. I had the network on a Linksys 16 port 10/100 switch. I noticed all my computers had built-in gigabit ethernet so I bought a Linksys 8 port gigabit switch. I notice a signifigant difference in file transfer speed. Gigabit is an excellent solution if you have alot of video or do video editing.
I bought a case that has 4 5.25 bays and I have removable HD trays in 3 of them that house 3 WD 120GB drives. That way I can change them when needed. The drive with the OS in installed in the internal bay.
As far as Linux I am still in the testing phase of setting up a file server with Linux. (because it's cheap)

Expert Comment

ID: 12030398
I just though that i might mention, i am guessing what ever computer you are going to get is going to have a PCI GB network interface.  I though i would just mention that the PCI bus is maxed out at 133MB/PS so unless you get a newer board with PCI express and a PCI express GB network card, you will not get as good of preformace (like 1GB/PS).  Since it sounds like you have a raid array, and you value fast transfers, getting a PCI express MB may be in your best interest.
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Accepted Solution

Lee W, MVP earned 2000 total points
ID: 12030412
Most computer stores and shows have cases now that hold up to 10 drives and they aren't any bigger than your standard desktop (tower) case.  I would recommend getting a few fans and possibly running it without the cover on it, but otherwise, that should be fine for you (in my area of NY, I can get them for under $50).

I'm still salivating over GbE at home - probably will have it in the next week or two, but I'd definitely recommend it, if you can shell out the $100 or so for a small GbE switch.  I know a lot of people swear by Linksys - and i'd like to be one of them, espeically since Cisco bought them - but it seems in my experience they have/cause problems roughly half the time.  So I'd go with some other brand - SMC for cheap, 3COM and if you can afford it.  Actual Cisco stuff if you win the lottery.

If you want to LEARN linux, then I'd say setup a linux file server. Otherwise, if this is just for home, then throw Windows XP or 2000 on it and share the files that way - you have a 10 user/connection limit to the workstation versions of Windows and have to remember to setup the same user accounts (names) on each system, but otherwise, that will do you fine.
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 12030450
icemanwol -
I often get these confused myself, but if I remember correctly, the PCI bus can transfer data at 133 MegaBYTES per second.  Which translates to 8x133 MegaBITS or 1067 Megabits (1 Gbit).  So PCI-X is not quite that important.  Even at a 33 MHz PCI bus, you'd still get 266 MBits 2.6 times faster than standard 100 mbit ethernet and when you're throwing around Gbyte files, this can be quite helpful.

Expert Comment

ID: 12031261
That, and the PCI bus has a burst speed somewhere around the 500's.

PLEASE . . . don't waste a MS liscense for a file server.  GET LINUX.  IT ROCKS!!!  You can download most distributions (as you have over 400GB of files, I will simply assume that you have some descent Internet Bandwidth.  hee hee).

I recommend SuSe 9.0 (catch it at best buy or ask me for the iso's).  It's smooth, and easy to set up.  If you need extra tools.  You can download WebMin which is a Linux PHP (web) based administration tool that installs on the server and is accessible from any system on the network (or outside if you open a port).

It's free, it's fun, and it kicks the CRAP out of Windows performance wise.  Plus, you can set up software raid if you don't have raid on the board; the machine is just going to be twiddling it's thumbs anyway.

Pretty soon ,you'll be thinking. . . "What about setting up my own DNS and email server.  Yeah.  it sounds good. . . .email me at  GOD@mydomain.net. . . "

If you decide to go this route, just ask for specifics.
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Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 12032378
IF you do opt for linux, I suggest talking to a local user group to find out what they recommend.  In my experience, both from personal installation attempts and from talking with and reading the local users group postings, here's what I've gathered:

Mandrake - EASIEST to install and setup.
Red Hat/Fedora - Most common Linux.  Fairly easy, fair amount of community support
Suse - Haven't heard much - it is a major distro, recently purchased by Novell, could have some decent potential
Gentoo - difficult to setup
Slackware - Poor package management historically, best for users with good knowledge of linux
Debian - HARD CORE following - you have a problem with debian, debian fanatics won't rest until they help you fix it.  Also has a GREAT package management system, apt-get.  Just tell it what you want and bang - you have the software ("apt-get install samba" and you have the Windows SMB sharing system installed - still needs configuring, but you got it.) - simple as that.

Everyone's got their favorite.  Napoleon41 suggests Suse, I'd suggest Debian.  And I'm sure you ask enough people you'll get a different answer from most people.  Check out www.linuxiso.org for downloads of MANY distributions.

Expert Comment

ID: 12037035
Yeah.  I like SuSe, but I've heard really great things about Debian.  Stick with either of those two.  Mandrake isn't great in the server field (not serious enough).

Stay away from Red Hat unless you become a RH fanatic.  They are begining to be more and more proprietary.  When you install packages from a tarball (don't let the different language intimidate you-tarball is just a compressed installation package), RedHat almost always bombs because they store things in non-uniform locations.  This would be like having 7 versions of Windows, and one company deciding to store c:\windows in c:\somewhere else.  This makes the process very frustrating, and almost no install goes off without a hitch.  This leaves you searching for an RPM of the software.  RPM's are RedHat'sr sort of "automatic" installation packages which are tailor-made for RH.  These are great, but not all Linux software writers customize their software for R.H. and package it special in an RPM (actually, almost no one, though RH does include quite a selection on their RPM CD's).

SuSe and Debian with Debian users being a bit more cultish.  Right leew?  LOL

Author Comment

ID: 12044819
Thanks everyone!  Everything here helped me quite a bit.  I hadn't even considered the fact of PCI vs PCI-Express.  However, even if it were a more intimidating factor, I don't think I'd shell out for the extra cash for the new motherboard.  I'm going to use my old-old...  733MHz Compaq for this task.  I think that is where I want to start so I can see if this is a workable solution for my problem (of a 30 pound single computer case!).

Linux will probably be the choice for this one.  The license for MS doesn't bother me (ah... heheh  ;)  But I still want to get into Linux, and I think since this isn't going to be my main computer for use, I can use it there with little trouble.  I'll buy a new case and use my old computer, so I should be straight.  Thanks again!

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