Posts tagged freenas
I have created another dilemma for myself in my search for the best backup solution although secretly I love this stuff, any excuse to do something rally geeky.
With my recent purchase of the Synology DS1010+ I’m able to make it work in an apple environment (more on that later) so I’m selling my Drobo V2 which I have been very happy with but didn’t need it anymore since the DS1010+. So I will have four 1TB hard drives looking for a home in this case my brilliant Antec 300 case (best mid size case ever as far as I’m concerned). Housing the four 1TB drives is one thing but what operating system do I install?
My two options are Windows 7 or FreeNas. These are my pros and cons for each. Although the decision does seem simple I wanted the system to be primarily a backup solution:
MAC PRO (primary files) –> SYNOLOGY DS1010+ (backup) –> OLD PC (secondary backup)
I have played with FreeNas in the past. When it works it’s great but when it doesn’t it suffers from everything LINUX based, it’s a real pain in the neck to track the problem and fix. With Windows 7 it’s still not that clear cut. The system can be slow, it’s more demanding on CPU and I’ve not fully tested RAID 5 as a reliable backup solution. I could buy a RAID card, but I don’t see the need to spend another £100+ when I’m about to move away from the Drobo.
In the end, I felt all the advantages that Windows 7 had to offer outweighed FreeNas. I had already purchased a Windows 7 license anyway so the monetary factor was not an issue. The pros are heavy; websites, emails, editing, gaming as well as backup completely outweighed FreeNas in every other regard.
Right now, I’m archiving files off my Drobo onto this Windows 7 machine, it’s not superfast but it gets the job done. Once I’ve completed the copy I will remove the drives out of the Drobo and insert them into the PC; I shall try to configure it for RAID 5 but I have never tried it before so it’ll be a first for me! I will post transfer speeds when that’s done.
After many days of research, investigation, trial and error I have one conclusion when it comes to 700gb+ archive solution. But before I get to that these are my pros and cons for each candidate.
I spent most of my time with Freenas, it’s free and the OS is robust, but I struggled with it. Every time I got it running it kept coming up with new problems after a few days especially with the Raid 5 configuration; it seemed it always rebuilding itself. The final straw was when I had one drive ‘apparently’ fail in the Raid 5 but it reported the drive was online! It was too annoying in the end for the level sophistication and capacity I needed.
I like Ubuntu, I’m a huge fan but I had to admit to myself it was because of the geek in me. I cannot fault it other than the fact it is not as established as Windows or OS X.
If I were to describe an Operating System that was reliable, stable and quick you would probably think Linux or OS X. In fact I’m trialing the Windows 7 Beta. I initially had a hard drive fault which I mistakenly blamed Windows 7 for. The SATA drive was corrupted which meant I mis-diagnosed the problem. I have put Windows 7 thought a battery of tests especially with the hard drives. The 4 x 1TB Western Digital drives are all running perfectly. Sharing is easy and it means I can run things like Lightroom and (cough) games on the old machine! Far more versatile than Ubuntu and Freenas.
So, there you have it. My choice for backup server is Windows 7 (beta). This version expires in August but it’s a good sign when a Beta version is showing good signs of a stable Operating System!
See also FREENAS
I spent some hard earned money yesterday; I bought a new Antec 300 case and the Adaptec 2410 raid controller for my server. I still haven’t decided on which OS so I’ve left it until I receive those two components and I will try to document as much as I can to help out those who also want to build a dedicated Raid Server.
My requirements are clear:
- Stable Operating System. So it will probably be a Linux variation (I’m open to suggestions).
- GUI interface. I dislike CLI.
- Dual boot to Windows 7 so it can double as a normal PC. I don’t need access to Raid partition from W7.
- Raid 5 configuration, so it must be compatible with Adaptec 2410 controller.
- Very reliable and updatable.
The front runner is Ubuntu Server Edition, but I don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision at this time. Researching the OS continues.
Links to Antec 300 review
*** UPDATE 25 Sept 2010 ***
There is a massive limitation of the Raid controller in that it only allows a maximum volume of 2TB. That is a huge limiting factor when I need a solution than can expand beyond 8TB in the long term. Currently I’m using Windows 7 as my third tier backup solution after my Synology DS1010+ I bought a few weeks ago.
On my last count, I have over 60,000 photos in my archives, that is roughly 650 gigabytes of images which I need to access, store, archive and backup. I need something that fitted my requirements:
- Easy accessibility. I don’t want to anything that could slow down my work flow. It also has to tie into Adobe Lightroom which I use to catalogue the photos. This rules out any online backup solution; if I am offline or need instant access then online is far too slow and inflexible
- Archiving & backups. It is HUGELY important my files are backup and that I know there are duplicates somewhere I can restore from should the worse happen. In all honesty I do not fully trust one system to backup my files for me. Call it paranoia but I know technology fails; it is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” hard drives will fail and become surrender monkeys!
- Simple process. The whole affair of access, archiving, cataloging and backups must be simple. I do not want to enter into a command line interface (typical of some Linux server solutions) when we live in an age of beautiful and functional User Interfaces.
- Cost effective. I am prepared to pay the price for the right solution but only if it offers something new, unique and reliable to the table. If not then it the price has to be comparable to everything else on the market.
So, that sounds easy enough. Below is my findings.
£380 for base unit not including hard drives + £180 for the network attachment
The small and silent box is elegant in it’s design and engineering. I think most people would not be ashamed to have this black beauty sitting on their desk. The lights are informative and simple without any distracting clutter. Installing drives is a very simple process; just open the hinged front panel and slot in a SATA drive into one of the slots. You do not have to turn the Drobo off to do this. Once again it scores points for simplicity. On Drobo’s website they have an online tool that works out how much storage space you will have depending on the size and number of drives you install; it looks like a similar storage system to Raid 5. You can remove a faulty drive anytime without turning the Drobo off, this means no matter what has happened you will not lose any downtime waiting for the replacement drive to be replaced or fixed. Also, you can mix and match different drives which is a very useful facility. It means you don’t have to find the exact match drives when you want to expand your capacity or if a drive fails. Finally the Drobo has an open operating system that allows for 3rd party plugins known as DroboApps.
You can view an informative video about the Drobo here:
There is no ignoring the price. When you consider you need to spend £560 just for an empty box without any hard drives you do have to look at your wallet and say “Noooooooo!” For that money I can buy a reasonably priced Desktop PC and attach a bunch of hard drives in there; I can assure you a full Desktop has more diverse functionality than the Drobo. There is no doubt the Drobo has one function, but it does that ONE thing very well. Although the DroboApps are being developed the number of plugins is a bit thin on the ground when you consider other systems offer that and more out of the box.
Easy accesibility – 9/10
Archiving & backups – 7/10
Simple process – 10/10
Cost effective – 3/10
The software is free which means the only thing you pay for is hardware. The cost of hardware is entirely dependant on you.
This solution is software based, the hardware can be an old PC you have collecting dust in the attic or it can be, a gaming PC that has been upgraded with more internal hard drives. If you already have the hardware then the actual cost will only be your time! The configurations are limitless. What FreeNas cleverly does is hide all the complicated stuff beneath a Web based User interface.
Watch this YouTube video with compares FreeNas to Drobo
It can take sometime to get the right configuration if are fussy about what you want, but if you just want a simple storage solution then it’s just a matter of download a file, burning it onto a CD and then install it onto the target PC. It is easy to use if you are remotely technical and comfortable using an Operating System outside of Windows, but it does lack the pure simplicity with a dedicated device offers like the Drobo. Drobo’s solution is a very simple mechanic; open front panel, insert or replace drive! That’s it! FreeNas is more involved. You have to switch your PC off, with any PC you have to dig inside the PC case and disconnect several drive cables, then boot up, configure FreeNas to recognize and format the drives and then wait for the drive to go online.
Easy accessibility – 6/10
Archiving & backups – 6/10
Simple process – 8/10
Cost effective – 9/10
Time Machine – part of Apple Mac OSX 10.5
Price: £86 for the Mac OSX operating system
Configuration is dead simple. Just nominate any drive (which can be internal or external), configure the folders you don’t want to backup then activate Time Machine and that’s it! Time Machine will do the rest. It will sit in the background archiving your files at frequent intervals. The best feature is you can go back in “time” to bring back files you may have deleted or written over so it’s not just a basic backup system, it is true archiving. The interface to go back to older files is very simple. Using what I describe as a 3D flying through space interface it shows the state of any folder you have archived at any given time so long as it is on your Time Machine drive.
Time Machine also scores points for being very accessible; at anytime you can backup, restore and even transfer your files to another Mac machine which is very handy if you are installing OSX onto a fresh machine. Also, once you have done the intial first backup then Time Machine only makes small incremental backups so it doesn’t hog your system resources. I hardly ever know its there!
The biggest pain for me is that it isn’t easy to configure Time Machine to backup to a network folder; I like having my files a central resource. It is limited to the Apple Mac family which alienates a large majority of Photographers, and there’s no way to limit the size of the archives; it basically keeps al your backups until your drive is full. That is not a bad thing, but I would like more control in how much of my disk space it uses up.
Easy accessibility – 9/10
Archiving & backups – 9/10
Simple process – 10/10
Cost effective – 8/10
It is difficult to fault Drobo because it is so damn easy to use that I could show anybody with no computer skills how to use it. Removing and replacing drives is just a matter of hold a bracket and pull out the drive. Expansion is also faultless; you can add any type of SATA drive you wish, they don’t have to match nor do you have to do any extra configuration to the hardware! However, the price is just too much to pay. Perhaps in healthier economical climates it would be something I could justify but at almost £600 without drives it’s way to steep so I chose not to go that path.
The path I have chosen is a combination of Time Machine and FreeNas. I have to confess I pursued the latter because of the Geek within me. I wanted to know how easy it would be to setup a File Server on a PC without disrupting the Windows XP Operating system already on it. Overall, after an issue with the Raid 5 installation, it works perfectly! And because my Asus A8N motherboard allows me to boot from a completely different hard drive I can still run Windows XP perfectly!
I use Time Machine mainly because it came with Mac OSX 10.5 and I like it’s ability to go back in “time” to older files. It works quietly and seamlessly in the background and I can use the 1GB Target drive for other Mac related files too!
Finally, I have to mention a recent resurrection to my backup solutions which is the tiny Linksys NSLU2 also known as the SLUG. It turns any USB hard drive into a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device that appears on the network. It was dead to me for years until I found it in my attic and the Geekiness overtook my sensibility once again. It serves no purpose other than just to see how it works in my network and how it copes. You can flash the firmware to turn it into a mini PC (yes really), I have done that but I’ve forgotten the root password to get into the the system.