two terabyte file server, $3100
This document describes my file server. It is a home-built PC which maximizes fault tolerant storage while minimizing cost. This has nothing to do with xav.com (unless you wonder where your shareware fees go). This article is hosted on xav.com because that is my only site on which to host stuff like this...
While researching how to build my file server, I referenced the following guides:
Since those other online guides helped me, I figured I would describe my own experiences in this online guide.
|Storage:||2000 GB in RAID5 array + 279 GB stand-alone drive|
|Drives:||9 x 300GB Maxtor|
Components and Costs
Costs are listed as of November 2004, when the system was purchased.
|Antec tower case||$66.50|
|500W power supply||$44.50|
|two extra cooling fans||$9.10|
|Fan-cooled mount for 3 HD, fits in 2 CD bay||$29.50|
|Processor, P4 3.2e GHz / 800MHz bus||$219.00|
|Hardware RAID controller, 3ware Escalade 8506-8||$494.99|
|Nine (9) Maxtor 300gb SATA drives||$1836.00|
I had to buy about $20 worth of additional SATA power cables at Fry's. The system also needed speakers, floppy drive, DVD drive, mouse, keyboard, and monitor, but I already had those on hand.
I was building a storage-only system, so I opted for a motherboard with onboard sound, video, and gigabit Ethernet. If a man were making a gaming system or something, he would probably want a dedicated video card.
If I had to do it over again, I would:
Get a different case which can support dedicated fans for all 9 drives. The Antec has 6 built-in HD bays (3 cooled, 3 not cooled) and 4 CD bays. To fit the nine drives I had to buy a separate 3-disk cooled HD mount to fit in 2 CD bays. Going forward I will have 6 cooled drives but 3 uncooled, and the drives get very hot. It would be better to arrange for all 9 drives to be in cooled internal bays.
Assemble it all immediately. There is a 30-day window to return DOA equipment, and I wasted 28 days just thinking about assembling it. It was down to the wire because I had some hardware failures when it first went together.
Of my nine Maxtor drives, two had minor problems. The first worked okay as a stand-alone drive, but the hardware RAID controller did not detect it properly. And the second drive would work okay at first, but after thirty minutes use it would start to scream and heat up and the computer would no longer be able to access it. Both drives were exchanged and now the system appears stable.
2005-05-23 I have had the server for about six months now. No drives have failed and everything is running great. I bought a tenth 300GB drive for use as a future replacement; that drive is just sitting to the side for now.
I moved into a house in January. The house is about 20-30 years old, and I decided to set up shop in the basement. The electric power here is erratic -- at first I had several situations where the circuit breaker would blow when I was running the laundry, my space heater, and my three downstairs computers. In two situations where there was a sudden loss of power, my terabyte server got very bitchy and claimed that all data was lost. I had to repeatedly rebuild the array which took hours. Part of the problem was that once the controller thought that a drive had physically died, even when it had not, the controller did not want to accept that drive as a replacement. Eventually I forced the array to be rebuilt, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all my data intact.
Since then I have purchased an APC Back-UPS XS800. It provides surge protection to three outlets, and backup battery plus surge protection for four outlets. It was a bit spendy, like $200, because I bought the model that supported a lot of wattage. It has been a good investment. Since January I have had fewer power outages, since I&039;ve learned what my office-room can handle, but there have been two or three outages, and the UPS has kicked in nicely. I guess the lesson is that you should surge-protect and power-protect these types of machines.
I am still running Windows 2000, but am considering an upgrade to Windows 2003. I'm storing 137 DVDs on the server (using 927 GB). The house has 100MB wired Ethernet. From any computer in the house I can watch the DVDs over the network and the quality is great.
Pictures - Screenshots
The Windows explorer view:
Main drive properties:
Computer management => Disk management view:
3ware RAID controller software view:
Pictures - Hardware
Front. Of the four CD bays, the top holds a DVD reader, followed by the 2-for-3 CD bay to HD bay converter. The bottom CD bay is empty. I am thinking of converting it into another HD bay:
Side view through the clear side. Supposedly these cases can be made to light up, but mine doesn't. Probably I need specialized components:
Case open. From the top: DVD drive; group of 3 hard drives (cooled); group of 3 drives (not cooled); final group of 3 drives (cooled):
Close-up of the drives. Each SATA cable has masking tape with its index number, to make it easier to locate and swap out drives later:
Motherboard and processor:
Backend; I have it running headless. It is managed with Windows 2000 Terminal Services:
I considered getting a rack-mount case, since those are designed to hold a large number of drives. Ultimately I decided against it because some of those cases alone cost about $1500. One of the main benefits of those cases was the ability to hot-swap the drives. That is cool but I am okay with shutting down my system when I need to swap drives.
I looked at Dell's network storage appliances. As expected, they were incredibly expensive. The way they sell them makes it hard to price out a comparable 2-TB solution, but I'm sure it would be more than $3000 as of 2004-12-30.
I chose Windows 2000 because I am most experienced with that OS. For Windows 2003 Server they have a special "storage server" edition. I am not sure what extra goodies are available there. Maybe at some point I will try that OS out. For now, the file server is living on my private network (behind a software NAT router) and nobody is logging in to the system or running apps there, so security was not a major concern. If it were, I probably would have chosen a Windows 2003 OS.
I wanted RAID of some type. RAID5 has the lowest cost in terms of wasted disk space, so that won out. I am just storing backup media files, so if all my data is lost, it won't be an actual loss of unique data. I wanted to go with hardware RAID for the performance benefits, and also because it was an easy way to get an expansion card with eight SATA connectors.
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