Reliable Small Business Storage Solution


I had setup a standalone Raid 5 storage solution not too long ago for one of the companies I support. This stored all critical company files and are accessed through shared drives. It seemed like a good solution for the cost associated with it, but after a power outage, the internal power supply blew, even though it was on the same surge protector and UPS used for the servers.

I am now looking for a similar cost effective solution that has more reliable internal components.

What I was using is linked below. I do prefer a solution I can hook into a server, since it has a complex permissions structure.

Any recommendations would be appreciated.
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Matt VCommented:
The Netgear NAS solutions have been very reliable for me.  They support iSCSI so you could run a gigabit crossover cable between the unit and the server for a direct connection.
I use Bufallo Tech hardware and have not had a problem with any of the 3 we use:
They have many different versions of NAS and they support iSCSI as well. Price ranges between $450 to $2000 depending on size and type.
First, you have a 100% probability that either any particular block of data will become unreadable, or the HDD will fail.  Where people screw up is they think RAID5 protects them against data loss when you have a drive failure.    This frequently turns out to be incorrect.  Consider what if you have a bad block on a surviving disk and a drive failure.   WHEN this happens, you end up with partial data loss.

So the solution is to implement a storage solution that has extra redundancy that protects against data loss when you are degraded.   Forget RAID5.  You need RAID6 (or RAIDZ2, which is a solaris zfs version of RAID6).

My suggestion, is to get a reliable used server, and purchase enough drives to create dual parity configuration, and then run solaris or opensolaris on it.  They make wonderful servers, and the filesystem has extra redundancy & data integrity checking.  Not only that, but you can enable compression and even de-duplication for certain directories if you wish.  That means you need to buy less storage.  Don't be turned off by "software raid".

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What dlethe says is true when it comes to Raid 5. It is inherint that it can lose you data. Raid 6 is a good answer, but I favor Raid 10 over that because Raid doesnt WRITE as fast as RAID 10. Here an analysis of that:

If your not actively doing backups on your production server thats a huge issue as well. Backsups are exactly the thing that keeps you from loosing everything.

If your serious about having a RAID that will withstand as much as they can, Raid 6 or 10 is what you want. If your just talking about Storage/Backups, then the NAS/iSCSI is a good choice.
The ZFS solution to poor write speed is that the filesystem allows you to add a SSD (or pair, if you want to mirror them), and use it for a write intent log. meaning, writes are put on SSDs for speed, and then flushed to disk.  This works profoundly well. One of my customers in my day job is a cloud provider and they put 250TB of disk on each zfs-based server, and use SSDs.   No problems with performance.  Remember also that zfs lets you do de-duplication and data compression, and can be turned on or off at any time.  So you can get away with purchasing fewer drives.  You can also hot-add another disk if you need to expand at any time.

This is how the big boys set up a file server, but you can do it for free with one of the variations of opensolaris.
dlethe, part of the key here I believe is that he said "Small Business" Your scenario is not great fit economically with that environment. I could be wrong though. He'll have to decide.
SemiarAuthor Commented:
dlethe solution is very interesting and something I will play with in the future.

The solution I use would need to be simple enough for another Network admin to take over without much of a learning curve.

Currently I am looking at over 500G of data that is growing steadily. The data is backed up every night, but is highly relied on by every department. So minimum downtown is preferred.

I do appreciate the information given about RAID 6 and 10 and I will use one with the future solution.

My main interest at the moment is hardware reliability and quality.
500GB?  Is that all?  No need for RAID5.  You can pick up 3 x 1TB drives for  $200-$300 , and then use any old PC you have, run LINUX or Solaris on it, and set up either a 3-drive RAID1 under LINUX, or a 3-disk RAIDZ2.  There will be no performance hit at all on writes, and reads will actually be much faster then if you had just a single drive, as both solaris & linux does load balancing on reads.

There is not going to be any hardware performance issue, so even a 10-year old pc will work nicely, as long as you have a decent ethernet card that has a processor to handle all the interrupts.  You will be much better than buying one of those appliances, which all just run linux on the inside anyway on a $50 embedded motherboard.  Difference is that you can configure a n-way RAID1 to give you extra redundancy.

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The hardware reliability is key.  You have to assume the disks will fail, and that is why you go with n-way RAID1.  Next for reliability, go with ECC RAM.  None of the low-end appliances use either.  They also use consumer class disks which are designed for only 2400 hours use per year.  That is right.  2400 hours per year. M-F  8-5, 300 days a year.  Run the disks any longer and you are using them more then what they are designed for.

So probably should have mentioned enterprise class vs consumer class disks also.  Did you know that WD actually formally says it violates their warranty if you put their black, green, or blue drives in a RAID5 config? It is buried in their datasheets, but there.

YOu should read this on drive reliability ...
Semiar, Trust what dlethe is saying here. He is totaly correct on this. Most of the drives in the cheaper NAS systems are consumer class drives. Even the Buffalo Tech NAS systems are using consumer class drives. What your business can afford is what counts. But it's easier to afford a more expensive Storage Arrary than to loose all business records due to a simple card/drive failure. Investing in a solid network structure is more important than people give credit for. Making your own Storage Server from a PC does work and can work well as he says.

But if your just wanting a better system, using a solid Raid Card and Business Class hard drives is important.
SemiarAuthor Commented:
Thanks Guys

I like the idea of building my own system. This way I know what parts are in it and it should be able to replace them if something goes bad.

I will keep this open for a day or two for anymore comments.
SemiarAuthor Commented:
dlethe, is it a complex task to mirror the permissions currently setup on the folder structures we use now after transferring the data into a linux environment?

Also, we currently use shadow copy on all of our data. Is there a comparable solution on the linux side?

I have not done much work with linux when it comes to file servers. I mainly use the environment for web servers, email and hosting databases.
If you want something simple, look at the drobo units. They have had a lot of success in the SMB market. I think that several of the units only have a single power supply, which could be an issue. I have no idea if you can just pick up the drives from one unit and put them into another. Drobo doesn't use traditional RAID, so you can remove and replace any drive with a larger drive at will. They support double drive protection, which must be similar to RAID 6.
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