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RAID Network Storage

Posted on 2011-10-01
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-06-22
Hello Experts,

My technical/networking skills are limited, but I need to install network storage at my client’s site that is fail proof. At their location there is no server, just 5 peer to peer computers (4 desktops, 1 laptop), router and modem.

I was thinking about adding the following hard drive bay http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/seagate-seagate-blackarmor-storage-server-nas-400-star401/10174035.aspx with 2 to 4 of http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/western-digital-western-digital-2tb-3-5-desktop-internal-hard-drive-wd20ears-wd20ears/10150539.aspx  is this are good combination for what I am trying to do?

What the bay scares me is the mention of active directory (?) and why does it say up to 50 workstations? I thought that I would just plug in the bay to the router and done. As well, am I understanding correctly if, one of the hard drives goes bad, everything will keep working and I can just take out the bad hard drive and replace it without any interruption or downtime, even with Access database residing there (the back end)? How will I know when a hard drive goes bad, and would I need to install the software on each computer, which I also don’t understand for the same reason that I thought this was going directly through the router.

For example at home, I have http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/western-digital-western-digital-my-book-world-edition-ll-2tb-3-5-external-hard-drive-wdh2nc20000n/10137885.aspx and while it does have software included for every desktop, I have not installed because I can access by going to \\mybookworld and mapping my drives from there, so I thought that the bay would work the same way. If it does, this is the reason for my question above.
Question by:APD Toronto
LVL 47

Expert Comment

ID: 36898481
Those disks are totally unsuitable for 24x7 server use. They are consumer class drives designed for 2400 hours annual use duty cycle.  Look for server/enterprise class drives.  Also, you need to use something that can go RAID6, not RAID5.

Reason - if you go RAID5, and lose a disk, then you have at least a 24-hour recovery window where if you even get one unrecoverable read error, you have permanent unrecoverable data loss.  RAID6 protects against that.

Also if you look at the number of ECC bits those consumer disks have, then statistically you will generate enough I/O on a rebuild to give you a 50-50% chance of an ECC error that also insures data loss.

LVL 47

Expert Comment

ID: 36898498
As that particular unit is unsuitable (lack of RAID6 support), I never bothered to see why the limit is 50 machines, but since AD is involved, it might be a MSFT licensing restriction. But moot, don't buy it. I wouldn't buy anything in this day and age of 2TB SATA drives that didn't support RAID6. In general, those appliances you get for only a few hundred dollars are  high risk of failure, and it is pretty easy to google horror stories about people losing ALL of their data when there is any sort of hardware hiccup.

On the inside, they're all low-end single-board computers running a stripped down version of linux and software-based RAID anyway.  But the difference is that the kernels are old, and the md drivers/subsystem (the software RAID) is stripped down and all the great features like increased tolerance, reporting, and disaster recovery code is stripped out.

LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 36899426
Also, I would mention that you say fail-proof solution.  1 low-end NAS device isn't really bullet-proof.  If this is a 'demanding' customer then you might want to consider 2 NAS devices that can replicate to each other.   I like QNAP and Synology brands which have a built-in function to replicate to another NAS unit.

Consider if your power supply fails on the NAS device (say next year) and that model is out of production or that company stopped selling NAS devices, so a replacement unit is not available.   It could take some time (days?) before you get access to that data again.

Or for that customer maybe a USB attached disk for backup is enough for their needs.  The NAS may have the feature to back itself up to a USB disk (for example).

For your other questions.  I think the NAS should has some alert function (via email) inside of it where it can send you an email if a disk fails, or some other error type of condition occurs.

You probably don't need to install any of the bundled software on the PC.  You can browse the network to the folder you need or MAP a drive at the PC.  The bundled software could be some backup (easy to use) program to backup the PC to the NAS.

If the NAS device has hot-swap capable drive bays then you should be able to replace a failed disk without disruption.  If no hot-swap feature, then you will need to power off for the disk replacement.
LVL 25

Expert Comment

by:Tony Giangreco
ID: 36899989
LVL 11

Accepted Solution

MajorBigDeal earned 2000 total points
ID: 36900242
Clients always say they want "fail-proof"" but it always comes down to cost vs. risk.   You can use Drobos (drobo.com) with products that cover a wide range of prices and reliability. You can get multiple units that sync to each other for added reliability. Also, you are are not tied down to the traditional RAID, which is very difficult to reconfigure once you have made certain design decisions (such as Radi5 v Raid6).  Drobo is super flexible and makes better use of your disks.  Also, you get to choose the underlying drives that you want to use so you have total flexibility in picking the brand and price/quality point that best meets your needs.

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