Guide: A Storage Enthusiasts Journey from WHS V1 to WHS 2011

by Paul Carvajal on May 11, 2011 · 45 comments

in Guides

Last year I decided to get a new server in anticipation of Windows Home Server 2011 due to capacity restraints with my existing server.  I’d read a few articles of what people thought it might be, all the rumors, etc.  Everyone anticipated that pretty much everything from WHS v.1 would remain, but with some nice new features.  Who ever thought Microsoft would eliminate some core features of the WHS v.1 from the new WHS 2011 version?

I mean really, isn’t the purpose of upgrading to add features?  Fortunately, through a little planning and mostly, just some plain dumb luck, I had a great system built that accounted for some of the features that were not included from WHS v.1.  And to be honest, I don’t miss them in the least!

In this article, I’ll detail the system I built for WHS 2011, but more importantly, some storage options you have for WHS 2011.  And yes, you do have options AND YES ONE WILL BE RIGHT FOR YOU!!!

Please keep in mind as you read this article, I’m a Home Tech Enthusiast, not an IT person.  My life is NOT working on computers or IT systems.  I understand them, how they work, but I’ve never taken any computer courses, except how to use Word, Excel, etc.  So simplicity is key for me.

My Reasons For Using A Home Server

My main reason for having my server is to centrally store my media collection.  I have over 1200 DVDs and BluRays and I want to keep these on a server so I can watch them from any TV in the house when I want to.  Since most DVDs are 8GB nowadays and BluRays are 25-50GB, these take up a lot of space and storage expandibility is critical for my needs.  I currently have over 10TB of data on my server.

Upgrading To A New Home Server

As I stated above, my main reason for getting a new server is that I was running out of hard drive space in my HP EX495 and Sans Digital TowerRAID TR5M-BP hard drive enclosure.  I had 10TB of data (out of a maximum of 16TB), so most of my data was unprotected. I couldn’t use File Duplication as there wasn’t enough free space in the Storage Pool.  No backups – a disaster waiting to happen!

I knew a replacement WHS operating system was coming when I started planning for my new system.  I tried to build my new system taking into account the new WHS OS was going to be based on 64 bit architecture (Windows Server 2008).  I wanted a relatively inexpensive way to add as many hard drives as needed, to be “futureproof”, while still trying to be cost conscious.

After doing some research and talking with a few people, I had a custom system built that I felt would be extremely flexible for storage.

Nickname:  “THE BEAST!”

I chose to use a Solid State Drive for my operating system.  I understand that it’s pretty expensive compared to regular hard drives you can buy today.  The reason I did it was for speed and reliability. I know many argue you don’t need it and it’s a waste of money.  SSD’s are much faster than typical hard drives.  On my server, it boots up more than twice as fast as a normal hard drive.  While you don’t turn a server on or off very much, it’s nice when it’s there.

The bigger reason for using an SSD is reliability.  While everyone backs up data on their server, how often do home users backup the operating system drive?  What happens when it crashes?  Ever have issues with WHS v.1 doing a server recovery and couldn’t get the data drives to reinstall correctly and then have to manually reload your data?  I think on a server it’s even more important to use an SSD to improve the reliability of the server.  I know they’re costly right now, but you’ll be glad you did.

I really kicked around whether or not to add the SAS/RAID card, but it was about $100 more than just an SAS card.  So, while I never thought I’d use it, I went ahead and added it anyway.

SAS

What’s SAS and why?  SAS stands for Serial Attached SCSI.  It allows you to use either SATA (regular type hard drives you can get pretty much anywhere) or SAS drives (more expensive and not as widely available).  The nice thing about SAS is you can hook up pretty much an infinite amount of devices.  Okay, not really infinite, but I doubt I’ll reach the 65,535 device limit (think of 65,535 hard drives) SAS has!  As you’ll notice, I have a Norco 4220 case / chassis that can hold 20 hard drives.  I can keep adding these cases with an expander card and just daisy chain one case to other and I can keep expanding my storage.  I doubt I’ll ever get beyond two cases, but guess what, I don’t ever have to worry about it and I don’t have to throw out and replace any expansion cards or hard drives.  People will want to discuss the technical pros & cons of SAS, but you know what, I’m a Home Tech Enthusiast, I don’t care, I want it to work, not have to mess with it, and not have to upgrade it.   And guess what, it works like a charm!  There’s a nice explanation with pictures of the expansion cards, etc. at the MyMovies.dk forum.

The “Vail” Nightmare

I signed up to be a beta tester of “Vail” (codename for Windows Home Server 2011) soon after it was available.  So, I took my new “Beast” (server), loaded up “Vail”, installed a half dozen hard drives and began transferring my data from my old server to my new “Beast”.

After everything was set up and my data was transferred, I was going through all sorts of issues with Drive Extender and File Duplication.  Slow response times, lockups, you name the issue, I had it, including having to flatten my server twice to fix problems.   I was kind of worried about what I had gotten myself into and whether it was going to be worth upgrading.

For those of you who may not have used WHS v.1, Drive Extender is a built in software program that allows you to take all of the hard drives in your server and combine them together to look and act like one drive, called a Storage Pool.  Basically a software kind of RAID (I’ll explain RAID a little later in the article).  So, if you had 8 x 2TB drives you could add them together to create the Storage Pool, which made it look and act like a 16TB drive.  They didn’t have to be the same size drives, it would add all of them together to form one drive.  Pretty cool feature and a real cost saver if you had extra drives around that were of different sizes.

In addition, there was a feature called Folder Duplication that made a copy of the original file and made sure it was on a different drive other than the original file.  This was so that if a hard drive failed, you still had a copy of the file to work with.  If two drives failed, you would lose data.  These were huge selling points for WHS v.1 as it made managing and protecting relatively easy.  It’s like a software RAID solution.

Then, when it was announced that Drive Extender and Folder Duplication were being eliminated from WHS 2011, I was like everyone else.  Nope, not gonna use it now, too complicated, and I’m going back to what I know best – WHS v.1.  So, I flattened my server and back to WHS v.1 I went.

After following the Vail forums for about 30 days and reading about the improvements people were seeing in the new beta version, I decided to try it again.   But, how was I going to manage my storage and backups now that Drive Extender and Folder Duplication had been eliminated from WHS 2011?

Storage Management Options

There were some 3rd party add-ins that had been discussed as possible replacements for Drive Extender, but nothing was available at the time the Vail beta was released without Drive Extender.  As I said earlier, my HP was out of space to use Folder Duplication, couldn’t add hard drives, and I didn’t have backups for the majority of my data.  I needed to do something now.

So, I figured I had three options.  I could set up:

  1. Each hard drive as a separate drive (D: , E:, F:, etc.) just like in regular Windows 7 machine or any other PC that had 2 or more hard drives
  2. A RAID array.  You have to have an adapter card for this.  For those of you with HP Media Smart Servers or similar Home Servers, RAID isn’t an option for your units.
  3. WHS v.1 for a 3rd time on my new server.

Using each hard drive as a separate Shared Folder/Drive, like you would in a regular PC, could work for me.  All of my drives are 1.5TB or 2 TB drives.  I could:

  • Create one Shared Folder for each hard drive and then use it until it got full, add another hard drive, create one Shared Folder for the new hard drive, use it until it was full, etc.
  • Match each Shared Folder/Drive with a Backup Drive.  This actually makes more sense when using the Server Backup function.  If you had a Storage Pool, you would have to monitor the size of each shared folder and make sure it didn’t exceed the size of your backup hard drive.
  • Set up my Server Backup on WHS 2011 and forget it.  It will back up twice a day for you automatically.

For me, with 10TB of data, it would mean that I would have to have 5 – 2TB drives to store all of my videos/movies and other data.  So, after looking at my data I decided I could:

  • Fill 4 drives/shared folders with 2TB each of my movies/videos.  No big deal, once they were there, they were there for good and I wouldn’t have to do anything with the data once this was complete.
  • Use 1-1.5TB drive/shared folder for new movies
  • Use 1-1.5TB drive/shared for other data and space for new data

Even though I have a lot of data, this didn’t seem like a big deal to manage.  I just had to plan it out before I did it.  It took a little getting used to, but in the end, I was fine with it.

If you don’t have a lot of data on your server, this setup is the least expensive, most reliable (more reliable than Drive Extender & Folder Duplication), and easiest to use.  It takes about a day to restore 1-2 TB of data from a backup, so for me, it could take anywhere from 5-10 days to restore ALL MY DATA from backups.

However, this isn’t a likely scenario as each drive is independent and all I would lose is the one drive of data, which I could reload from a backup drive.  So if I lost two hard drives to failure, I would lose part of my collection for 2-4 days while I restored the data.  Not bad, but even though I’m a home user and most of data wasn’t life of death if it was down for awhile, I didn’t want to have any downtime.

RAID

What is RAID?  It’s a pesticide, that’s in a pressurized can……like I said, I’m not an IT guy.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks.  Which means it can take several hard drives, combine them to look like one hard drive and depending upon which type of RAID array you choose, your data can survive up to 2 hard drives failing at the same time because of RAID’s replication features to other hard drives in the array.  For those of you who want the complete details, there’s a nice whitepaper on Adaptec’s website.

In very simplistic terms, each hard drive is combined to make one big drive.   A portion of each drive is set aside for replication that occurs automatically.  RAID requires a controller card in the server to manage the process.  The controller card handles managing the hard drives and duplication so your server’s resources don’t have to, which generally makes it faster and more reliable than other duplication methods.  The advantage of RAID over backups, is that there isn’t a restore process, your data is available if a hard drive fails.

I was really skeptical about using RAID.  I had really never used it before.  I had tried it early on with “Vail” but I broke the array, which is a HUGE NO NO – can you say complete data loss?  My fault as I didn’t remove the hard drive correctly from array, but aggravating nonetheless.

But, I decided to try again.  This time, I did a little more planning, a little more reading, and played around with creating an array a little more before putting all of my data on it.  And you know what, it wasn’t that big of deal!

Here is what I would call my “checklist” items in building a RAID array (we’re going to assume that you have a RAID card installed in your system).

  1. In building an RAID Array, you should (you don’t have to, but it’s recommended) use all the same brand, type, and size of hard drive to improve stability and performance.  If you mix and match different size hard drives, it will only use the amount of space on each hard drive as the smallest drive in the array.
    • For example, if you have a 1TB drive and 2 – 2TB hard drives, you have 5 total TB available.  However the array will only use 1TB from each hard drive, so your array will be 3TB.
  2. BEWARE OF “GREEN DRIVES” in your array.  They will work, but be sure to make the settings of the drive are what the manufacturer of your RAID card recommends.  For example, using some the WD Green Drives with my Adaptec RAID 5405 card required special jumper settings on the hard drive.
  3. Plan to always have at least one Hot Spare hard drive set up for your array.  A Hot Spare is a hard drive that is already in your system in case one goes down.  It does not store anything on it until a hard drive goes down, then it will replicate your data to it automatically so you don’t have any down time.
  4. I suggest you write down the physical location of your hard drive and it’s SCSI ID.  This is where I made my big mistake when I broke my array as a hard drive failed and I removed the wrong drive – dumb on my part.
  5. Decide on the type of RAID Array you want BEFORE you start.  You’ll see by the next section, you can have several types of Arrays.  The difference is a little speed and how protected do you want your data to be.

RAID Arrays-Choosing The Right Array for You

The chart below shows the most common types of RAID Arrays.  You can also find a detailed whitepaper at Adaptec’s website.

  • # of Hard Drives – minimum number of hard drives to create an array
  • Drive Deaths – your RAID array can survive this number of hard drives dying without data loss
  • Capacity Utilization – an easier way to say this is, how much space is available to store your data AFTER accounting for the space for your replicated data.  On a RAID 5 Array, a minimum of 67% can be used for your data.

All of the RAID Arrays will combine all of your hard drives to look like one big hard drive.

RAID 0:  While this is called a RAID Array, there is no “Redundancy”.  So you can combine all of your hard drives to look like one big hard drive.  If one hard drive fails, you will lose all of the data on ALL of the hard drives.  For most people, this is not a viable option.

RAID 1:  Easiest way to think of it – it “mirrors” your hard drives.  Each hard drive has it’s data replicated on another drive.  So, if you have 4 2TB drives in your array, you’ll have 4TB for data and 4TB for replicated data.

RAID 5:  A more complex way of replicating your data which improves performance and more efficiently uses the hard drive space for the replicated data.  Generally the most space it will use for the replicated data is 33%.  RAID 5 is probably the best value when measuring cost vs. performance.

RAID 6:  While RAID 1 & 5 Arrays can sure survive one hard drive crashing, RAID 6 can survive 2 hard drives crashing at one time.  This array provides the most data protection.

Here’s a quick ratio (using the maximum amount for replicated data) for you if you use 4 – 2TB drives (8TB total):

  • RAID 0 – you have 8TB to use to store your data and zero space for your replicated data
  • RAID 1 – you have 4TB to use to store your data and 4TB for your replicated data
  • RAID 5 – you have 5.4TB to use to store your data and 2.6TB for your replicated data
  • RAID 6 – you have 4TB store your data to store your data and 4TB for your replicated data

I chose to use RAID 6 as I’m paranoid about data loss.  This array will survive two disks crashing at the same time.

ADAPTEC STORAGE MANAGER

Adpatec has a decent program to help you build and manage your array, called Adaptec Storage Manager (ASM).  I’m going to show you some screen shots and a description of the process for creating an array.  However, this is NOT intended to be a step by step process for you (it’s pretty close though).

In a couple of weeks when I receive the RTM version of WHS 2011, I’ll show you how to upgrade your machine and I will tear down and re-create my RAID 6 array.

After you log into your ASM, you’re presented a screen that will show your hard drives.  If you want to create an array other than a RAID 6 array, follow the pictures:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

This will list all of your drives.  You can make edits here, such as not including a drive to be part of your array, etc.  The blue check marks are for the drives to be included in your array.

At the very end, you’ll be asked to “Configure Power Timers” for your drives.  Just cancel out of this.

That’s it – your array is being built.

Depending on the size and type of array, IT MAY TAKE DAYS – THAT’S RIGHT-DAYS – FOR YOUR ARRAY TO BE BUILT!!! I would not recommend doing anything to your server during this time period, especially adding or removing drives.  Better yet, create your array on Thursday night, take your significant other on a nice weekend retreat and by Sunday evening, you’ll be ready to go!

Now you have one more step – formatting up your array to work with Windows Home Server.  Remote into your server.

Go to:

> Start

> Administrative Tools

>Computer Management

And you’re done!  You can also configure the Adaptec ASM to send you email notifications of events that occur with your array if you choose.

Summary

Microsoft created a publicity nightmare with it’s elimination of Drive Extender (DE).  And as usual, they failed to delivered what they promised, which was to keep all of the features of WHS v.1 and add some needed improvements.    People had grown accustomed to DE and Folder Duplication and was something they’d grown accustomed to.

I’m kind of surprised people have forgotten THE ABSOLUTE PAIN that DE and Folder Duplication was in the beginning.  It was not stable, slowed down performance, and let’s not forget about the dreaded “File Conflicts”, which still can occur.   As updates came out, it became more and more stable, as well as a real money saver as people didn’t have to replace hard drives, they could just add to them.

However, times change and so does technology.  Who’d thought that hard drives would be half of what they were a little over a year ago?  3TB for $160, $79 for a 2TB drive, or $59 for a 1TB drive (Prices as of May 1st)?  Storage is unbelievably cheap this year.

If you want to upgrade to WHS 2011, your easiest and cheapest option is to manage your drives just like you do with a regular Windows 7 PC.  As with any change, it will take some getting used to.  You may need to buy a hard drive or two, but shouldn’t you anyway?  Do you really want to trust your pictures of your wedding, kids, your financial files, etc. to a 4 or 5 year old hard drive?  Just plan it out and you’ll be fine.  Plus, you’ll see much better speed and reliability with WHS 2011 and without DE.

For those who want to be adventurous and have a few bucks, get the RAID card.  It’s not the big bad monster everyone says it is.  Do it once, set it and forget about it.  If I can do it, you can do it to!

WHS 2011 is an absolute gem.  I’ve been using the RC candidate version for almost 3 months now as my PRODUCTION server.  It’s stable, fast, and reliable.  I can run the latest version of iTunes (can’t do this with WHS v.1) on it to be my music server, video server, backup server, etc.  The Remote Access website is great and the Video Streaming is awesome!  I’m so happy with it that I hate to think about tearing it down again to reload the retail version of WHS 2011!

But, alas, I will.  If nothing else, to share with you the mistakes I’ve made so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!





Article by

I guess you could say I'm Home Tech Enthusiast. I'm a little different than most of the people who probably visit the website. I'm not an IT person! I love technology and want to find cool things that have a purpose. I'm not one who likes to program, create things, etc., I like to spend my time using them. Plus, my wife is NOT technology oriented! The more complicated things are, the more my life is complicated! One thing I hate about electronics nowadays, is that all documentation is written as though you know this, you've already been to another site or section to find this, etc. Nothing is clear cut. So, I try to write everything to the lowest denominator. Keep it basic, keep it simple, and make it fun!


{ 43 comments }

John Zajdler May 11, 2011 at 6:14 am

Thanks for the great writeup.

From what I understand, there should not be an issue upgrading from the RC to the retail version of WHS2011. When doing the install, it will find the system drive and ask if you want the delete just that partition. Paul Thurott talked about it recently on Windows Weekly.

The issue for me is that with WHS2011, you can only backup a maximum of 2TB, unless you start messing around with the backup interface and that becomes messy and user intensive.

Paul Carvajal May 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

Thanks John for your comments.

In upgrading to the RTM version, that’s my understanding as well, I just haven’t tried it. I’m anxiously awaiting it though!

As far as the 2TB backup limitation per shared folder or drive, this isn’t any different that WHS v.1. I think if you’re going to use the backup function, just manage your storage as you would on a regular PC. Again, I did this early on in the beta and it really wasn’t a big deal. I had 6 data drives and 6 backup drives.

Luke Foust May 11, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Great article! I would love to see pictures posted of your new setup.

Paul Carvajal May 11, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Thanks Luke – I’m sure we can do this and I’ll get with Alex to get it done.

Paul Carvajal May 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm
Darkstryke May 11, 2011 at 4:22 pm

To be fair that’s about as far from a normal DIY server as you can get for simplicity, and certainly not anything a Joe average will delve into. That’s the market that WHS2011 out of the box is failing, not the very high end of users that are running extravagant solutions like the one posted here.

That said, your setup looks like it will serve things pretty well, but beware when being very liberal about hard drive selection. Very few of the ‘cheap’ options are suitable for long term raid use, certainly not anything from WD or Seagate under the $100 mark for 2TB. The day you have to rebuild an array because of a wonky collection of drives is the day you realize that raid is nowhere near as simple as the Ron Popil solutions ‘set it and forget it’.

John B. May 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Paul, great article. My WHS2011 system is more modest at 3TB storage plus OS but I used the same config of pairing hard drives (2 x 640MB drives for OS, 2 x 1.5TB drives for PC Backups and 2 x 1.5TB drives for Media.) Instead of RAID, I use the Mirror function in WHS2011 to replicate between the pairs. I also use an external HD (USB3) to back up the server. Net is I have three copies of data on three different drives. Simple and performance is great. Good enough for me!

Paul Carvajal May 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Thanks John for your comments. This is EXACTLY what I was trying to communicate – you have SEVERAL STORAGE OPTIONS for WHS 2011.

You can go basic, which to be honest, will work for anyone. This is probably the easiest, most reliable, and most people already know how to use it. With hard drives as cheap as they are, you can accomplish what you need pretty easily.

Three copies of your data? You da’ man! I thought I was the only one as paranoid about data loss!

Holt June 1, 2011 at 10:11 am

John B., I hope you are not counting on the Windows Mirror function to actually let you boot from your system drive if the one being mirrored fails. The data on it will be there but there are problems with marking the drive active and having the boot manager working on it. I tried it on a Windows 7 machine and even after reading MS KB articles on it, I never could get it to work on a system drive. The OS backup feature of WHS2011 is the way to go with the system drive. If someone can get the system mirror drive to work, I would love to be corrected.

Paul Carvajal May 11, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Darkstryke,

I agree I probably went overboard on my WHS. However, being a video buff with my DVDs, I’ve been surprised lately how many people have or are building servers similar to mine because of their video or audio collections. This seems to big part of the Home Server market.

However, I out grew my HP EX475 in less than 2 years and I had to start over. This type of system allows to add as needed AND/OR replace pieces and parts as you want without starting over.

But you’re absolutely right, there are going to be alot more people on the low end.

With that said and hard drives being as low as $79 for a 2TB, why does the average home user even need DE? I remember using my first HP EX475 and all of the issues I had with DE in 2008. It was NOT easy to understand when there was an issue or to resolve file conflicts.

I think now with storage so low, you can operate WHS 2011 storage just like you would your regular PC, which makes the learning curve EVEN EASIER. Have a 2TB drive you want to backup? Just match it with a 2TB backup drive. Set it and forget it.

And for those who can’t handle being without DE, there will be Drive Bender and StableBit Add-Ins in June/July (current dates for release-hopefully they won’t slip). I’ll be starting to test these this weekend on my system.

And lastly, RAID is finally supported! Totally agree you should use the higher end drives for RAID. However, anyone using any consumer grade hard 3-5 years old needs to really think hard about their backups and when to replace these drives. I personally am starting to do what you’re suggesting and replacing my low end drives as I’m going to probably to stay with RAID long term.

WHS 2011 now appeals to ALL home users REGARDLESS of the storage option they want to use. You can use:

1. As you do with on a regular PC
2. A Drive Extender equivalent
3. RAID

I think that WHS 2011 is going to be a real solid improvement over WHS v.1 and if you plan your storage options, it will be a long term solution for any home user.

Adam May 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I think there’s one more item to add to the cost…a Rack to hold your 4U “Beast!” Did you have one already or are you purchasing one for this?

Thanks for a great article.

Paul Carvajal May 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I had a basic audio/video cabinet that I added supports in the back because of the weight. I currently have it on rails. The rails aren’t the best for the Norco 4220, but it’s adequate. Also, make sure you have NO hard drives in it when you move it – you could get a hernia if you don’t!

Speaking of which, if you’re planning to mount it, get a rack, not a cabinet. It is kind of a “beast” to handle and it would be much easier if you can get at it from all angles.

Stands and Mounts were very helpful over the phone to get me what I need. Also, I bought parts from Rack Mount Solutions and they were good to.

http://www.standsandmounts.com/
http://www.rackmountsolutions.net

whistlingdogg May 12, 2011 at 3:20 am

To be honest I really don’t get windows server 2011 and why you need to upgrade. Your reasons for upgrading are a bit thin to be honest:

It’s stable, fast, and reliable… really? compared to v1?

I can run the latest version of iTunes (can’t do this with WHS v.1)… I guess that’s why you need 8Gb of memory. itunes is a terrible piece of software.

and the Video Streaming is awesome!… Why would anyone want to you windows features to stream videos with it’s restricted support for popular contains and codecs. Better to just make them available my nfs and let you media player (popcorn hour or similar play them).

The Remote Access website is great… Pain to configure and blocked at many work places – You are better off using logmein.

I don’t see any reason to upgrade I’m afraid and I don’t really believe you would consider having different drives for different parts of your video library. What a pain to “know” where to find your movies…

Paul Carvajal May 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Thanks for your comments – always good to have a different perspective.

I guess at the end of day, no one really has to upgrade. If you like what you’ve got, stick with it. Nothing wrong with WHS v.1 if it does what you want. Same thing, if you like Windows XP and it does what you want, don’t upgrade to Windows 7.

I agree with you about iTunes – it’s definitely not the best piece of software. However, I have 8gb of ram as I do a lot video converting and it’s nice to have. With the quad core and 8gb of ram, my video converting times are half or less of what they used to be on my HP EX495.

As far as the video streaming, I’m sure you’re referring to play MKVs, which I agree is a mistake on Microsoft’s part. But I don’t have that many BluRays to convert, so it’s not that big of deal for me. However, I’ve read that some people have used Shark007 (I think that’s right) to do this successfully.

Not sure about the issues you’re having with Remote Access, but I’m at work right now on my Mac and I’ve logged in to my server at home and watching a movie that plays just fine via web.

As far as my videos, sorry you don’t believe me. I use MyMovies for my videos and the software doesn’t care where the movies are stored. When I rip it, it adds it to the library and that’s it. I don’t need to know where it is as it tracks it. Also, if I decide to move it to another drive (why I would do this I don’t know), it has a folder monitoring capability and with a click of a button, it will search and change the location to the new drive.

Hope that answers your comments and let me know if you need anymore info.

Nigel Wilks May 12, 2011 at 11:00 am

Good article Paul, pretty much matches my experience so far. I do find I don’t play as much with the server as I do with V1, probably a good thing. I also don’t miss DE, no more stuttering playback when the drive balancer kicks in is a big plus point.

Paul Carvajal May 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I don’t mess with it that much either, what am I going to do with my free time? Plus I’m still using the RC, not RTM. What to do with my time……

Bert-Jan van Regteren May 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

Aha! So thát is causing the stuttering playback and hdd action every once in a while!
Totally off-topic, sorry about that, but this has been bugging me since I started using my Mediasmart server. Thanks! :-)

Jan Didden May 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Paul, you say you are a movie buff.

I’m using my WHS also as a video-library too, only 82 movies for now ;-) and i have ripped all my DVD’s completely to the WHS in VIDEO_TS-folders.

In the livingroom i have a Popcorn Hour C-200 to play my movies. Very pleased with it.

Recently I have bought a WD TV HD Live for a second room (following all the good reviews). But it seems that de WD does not play menus from VIDEO-TS-folders and doesn’t play subtitles when streaming from a media server (http://wdc.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5461/p/208,333/session/L3RpbWUvMTMwNTE4NjM5Ni9zaWQvdkcxb2hMdGs%3D). A bummer!

Do you rip your movies to video-ts-folders or which method do you use?

Do you now of other media players than the Popcorn Hour that can play menus from video-ts-folders and can play subtitles from media servers?

Luke May 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I’ve got the WD Live TV Plus and it does play menus. You have to access the Video-Ts folder from the network share. Accessing using the media server/dlna option does not allow for DVD menu support.

Paul Carvajal May 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Thanks Luke for the clarification!

Paul Carvajal May 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I’m a big MyMovies user (www.MyMovies.dk) for storage and collection management. Their database of movie seems to be quite extensive and it does quite well.

MyMovies integrates nicely with SlySoft’s AnyDVD and will rip DVDs and BluRays into the folder format. The nice thing about this is that it’s automatic with WHS 2011. Just pop a DVD in, it will recognize the DVD 99% of the time, apply the correct movie information, name the folder for you, and rip it.

They also have an interface that works well Window Media Center to watch movies. So I use 5 PCs on TVs to watch movies on. Most of the PCs were $350-$400 to use. This gives me full functionality to use these like a DVD player. Bad thing about this is you have to buy Total Media Theatre software to play BluRays. Tranquil also has some real unique PCs that mount behind a TV for this purpose.

Dune HDs are also another unit that can be used with it that will play ripped DVDs and BluRays as well. I’m not as familiar with these as I’d like, but there is quite a bit of info on the MyMovies website. This is something I’m really considering to reduce the footprint and the complexity.

I’ve got a buddy who loves his WDTV. But as I remember, he has the same issues you do. But for the price…..it works pretty good.

Hope this answers your questions – let me know if you need anything else.

Paul Carvajal May 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

One other thing. My understanding is that LG is coming out with a unit similar to Dune that uses Plex Media Server. I’m not that familiar with it, but you might check it out.

Anthony Marquez May 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Thanks Paul for the write-up. I finally started putting together my media server after atleast 2 years of reading up on things, and your article will make it even easier to jump into the game. Overall, I’ve been avoiding it because of the time commitment that I know that it has. But it seems like if I approach it right, I can make that time commitment minimal. Also, I’m very hopeful that the 3rd party plug-ins for WHS 2011 work as well as everyone expects them to, make my life even easier.

I wanted to ask/suggest putting in a quick summary on pricing for the software that you are also using. It seems like you are using AnyDVD and MyMovies, what other software have bought.

Paul Carvajal May 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Thanks Anthony for your post. If you’d like help building your server or someone to do it for you, let me know, I know someone who does this pretty reasonably to your specifications.

On my server, I use the following:

MyMovies: This is the collection management and interface for Windows Media Center. A complete description of the product is at http://www.mymovies.dk/products.aspx

It is free, however you either have to contribute DVD information to gain points to use all of the features OR you can pay to buy points. If you pay to get full functionality (2500 points), it’s $100 for unlimited licenses and updates for personal use. So, in my case I have 6 PCs plus 2 servers, and I would have to pay $100 for all of those forever. If you want the iPad, iPhone, or Android apps, those are a separate charge. I think it’s $5 each for those. You can use the software with full functionality for 3 weeks at no charge to become familiar with it.

AnyDVD is the ripping software that is completely integrated into MyMovies at http://www.SlySoft.com. It will rip BluRays, HD-DVDs, and DVDs. You can rip with any software, many are free, and MyMovies will use the rip. However, you’ll have to manually identify the movie. I just checked and they’ve gone up in price since I purchased it 3 years ago. It’s $119 Euro or about $150 US for a lifetime subscription.

Now, the slick thing with AnyDVD and MyMovies is I can convert 5 DVD/BluRays at a time. If you look at the picture of my system, you’ll a cabinet I purchased on eBay that holds 4 BluRay drives and I have one additional DVD drive. So I can rip 5 movies at once. So if you’re starting to rip a collection, this is a huge time saver as I can rip 5 DVDs in approximately 20 minutes, 15 an hour, or 150 DVDs in 10 hours (BluRays take 30 minutes to an hour each depending upon the size). If you have a large collection to rip, this is a huge benefit.

Total Media Theatre 5 is what I use to play my BluRays and HD-DVDs with as well as Media Converter 7 to convert my DVDs to play on my iPad/iPhone. These are available at http://www.arcsoft.com They run promotions pretty much every month where you can get 20-40% off their software. TMT5 is normally $99 and the converter is $40. You only need these if you want to play BluRay/HD-DVDs or if you want to convert to use on an iPhone, etc.

On the non-media side, there’s a great Add-In for WHS 2011 called “Remote Launcher”. I think this a “Must Have” for anyone with a server. You can launch say iTunes from the server and the program will use the Dashboard.

That’s about it. Whew!!!

PatrickGreene May 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I’m glad you made it work for you. However, it is not what I need, and it is not where the industry is going with storage. Let me break it down: WHS 1 used storage like a ‘cloud’ [sorry for the overused and poorly defined term] or ‘virtualized’ storage. Added storage was put into a ‘pool’ that was used seamlessly to the user. Your video folder could grow or contract, your photo folder could grow, user folders could expand or contract, same with music, without you having to make storage allocation decisions and compromises. When you go ‘cloud’ or ‘virtualized’ storage you use storage more efficiently, meaning less wasted space. In other words, you went from a system that did not have storage boundaries to one that does. That does not seem like a step forward to me. As someone else posted, the newer features like streaming or iTunes is really a constriction rather than a step forward for me. The tasks that WHS did in the background or eliminated are now something the user has to plan for and schedule.
As for the SSD for OS drive, I see the use, esp. if you are using a small case and heat is an issue. For safety, however, there are several devices on the market that create a RAID mirror that is invisible to the OS and provides an ‘on the fly’ backup. I have considered using one with a couple of laptop drives in my next build.

Geoff Coupe May 14, 2011 at 1:35 am

Paul, good writeup. One thing though, you seem to be saying that the server Backup feature in WHS 2011 can deal with multiple 2TB chunks, so that if you have 6TB of movie data, this can be backed up onto three 2TB drives. Not with WHS 2011′s server backup feature, it can’t. That can only deal with 2TB max. You have to use other backup methods if you have more than 2TB on your server.

If I do migrate to WHS 2011, then I’m not going to be implementing any form of RAID on the server. I don’t really see the point (I want a simple life).

The built-in server backup solution, while it has this stupid 2TB limit, will take snapshots of the server twice-daily by default, and more frequently, if desired. So this means that up to 2TB is being dealt with in a RAID1-like manner (not in realtime, obviously, but being duplicated on a scheduled basis). It can also be likened to the DE Duplication feature of WHS V1, although, once again, it is not in realtime, but scheduled.

I can also use the built-in server backup solution to handle two 2TB backup drives, which I can rotate on a daily basis between the server and an offsite location.

So long as my most precious data lies under that 2TB limit, then I’m prepared to accept the risk of drive failure. I will lose my most recent server data within a 12-hour window (using the default settings), if a drive on the server fails, or within a 24-hour window if the house burns down, but I can live with that level of risk.

The bulk of my server data is ripped CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays. Since this data changes slowly over time (as new titles are acquired), then taking weekly or even monthly snapshots of this data onto external drives using SyncToy or a similar solution is sufficient for me. These external drives are also stored off-site. The thought occurs that perhaps I should also store the original media off-site, and that’s certainly a possibility for me that I think I should implement.

That’s my strategy, at any rate. I think it’s sound, but feel free to poke holes in it.

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 10:13 am

Geoff,

Thanks for your comments. The understanding I have on Server Backup for WHS 2011 is that it works exactly like it did on WHS v.1, which is the 2TB limit per share folder.

I submitted a bug on this on a previous beta version as the setup box would only allow you to specify 4 folders for backups. I had setup my WHS 2011 exactly as my WHS v.1, which was 4 shared folders for videos, etc. This kept the match so I could back up each shared folder to its own backup disk.

I rechecked in the WHS 2011 Microsoft forums and this is what is indicated as well (of course Microsoft FAILED to mention the limitation in their documentation for WHS 2011). I’m reconfiguring my server this week to test Drive Bender and StableBit DE replacements, so I’ll reverify this as well to be sure I didn’t miss anything. I could be wrong as my tests were with the last beta that had DE and course their could have been a change I missed.

Okay – here’s a little different way of doing your backups. I’m a backup up nut as many years ago I lost some very complex spreadsheets that literally took me 80 hours to rebuild.

Use SyncToy on your server (you can automate this using Task Scheduler) to copy your “must have/keep” files to another PC. Purchase Carbonite, ($60 a year – UNLIMITED) then all of your files are on another PC AND you have them automatically stored off site. I use Carbonite on my WHS v.1 for these files and it works like a champ!

As far as the CDs/DVD, as long as you have the original media, you can always recreate what you have. Not ideal to re-rip these again, but you’ll always re-create them. You can’t recreate photos or home videos!

I don’t think there’s a perfect way to backup, just many different ways. As long as you have a plan and making them regualarly, you’re doing it the right way.

Geoff Coupe May 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

Paul,

Thanks for your comments. You write:

“The understanding I have on Server Backup for WHS 2011 is that it works exactly like it did on WHS v.1, which is the 2TB limit per share folder”.

Weell, I’m not convinced that it does. I’ve ranted about it here:
http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/i-dont-believe-it-2/

I’ve seen nothing from Microsoft to contradict this. The bottom line, for me, is that WHS 2011 no longer has the “home user” as its primary target. Because of short-sighted, but from the company’s viewpoint, valid decisions, the home user has been shortchanged. It’s a great pity; and for those of us trying to compensate, it’s a PITA.

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 11:07 am

Interesting as the bug I submitted on Connect indicatied it would – par for the course for Microsoft eh? One answer from one person and a different one from the next.

Oh well, like I say I’m reconfiguring my system now so I’ll try it again and see how it works.

Thanks for the comments and the link – great reading!

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

Also, nice documentation – I see where you had the issue. I can’t believe they did that – looks I stand corrected. Man I hope they fix that in the RTM.

PatrickGreene May 14, 2011 at 7:03 am

Interesting to read Geoff, above me uses [or is thinking of using] SyncToy. Currently I have an external unit that holds 8 TB in RAID, with eSata hookup. I use it on WHS v1 to backup files I feel I can’t afford to lose on my 33.5 TB WHS. Obviously, that is not everything, but documents, pictures, home videos etc are backed up at least once a week. Suspenders and belt, I guess, but it makes me feel safer.

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

Patrick,

Great comments and glad to hear I’m doing my backups like someone else. I use SyncToy between my WHS 2011 and WHS v.1 to have both systems in sync and another backup.

One suggestion, I also use Carbonite on my WHS v.1 for my “must haves”. You might think of getting a subscription ($60 unlimited) for an added level of protection.

One note, Carbonite doesn’t support WHS v.1. However, I have two subscriptions on my WHS v.1 at home and one at work and they both work like a champ.

ryan August 30, 2011 at 10:44 am

How do you install Carbonite on WHS v1? I have been trying for some time with no luck, I have a HP MediaSmart and have been trying to find a way to back up the 100gb of photos from my dslr. I would appreciate any help.

Adam August 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

Where are you getting stuck with Carbonite? I’m running it on my HP MSS for almost two years. Works like a champ.

RDP into the server. Run the install. Make sure you look at which types of files are being backed up. I found that you needed to right-click on certain file types to add them to the upgrade pool.

ryan August 30, 2011 at 11:03 am

Thanks, I think my problem is that i was forgetting to go via RDP and download while i was there. I will try again I really appreciate the help.
-Ryan

Adam August 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

Similarly, you can still download the installer from Carbonite on your usual Desktop PC. Then, copy it to someplace on your WHS, like the Software folder.

Then, you can RDP into the server and doubleclick on it to kick off the install. If you happen to get some kind of warning about rights when you doubleclick on the install, you may need to look at the properties of the file while on the server and uncheck a box about protection or something like that. I can’t remember the name of the box, but you’ll need to uncheck it if you can’t run the install.

The key is…just because there isn’t a console add-in for the WHS doesn’t mean you can’t rdp into the box and run something. I think that throws a lot of people.

good luck and let us know. You’ll feel better when you have those 100gb worth of pictures with Carbonite.

James Walker June 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I am interested in the external unit you have that has the DVD and Blueray drive in it? How does it connect to your system and what brand is it?

Paul Carvajal June 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I purchased it on eBay here: http://stores.ebay.com/Superldg-Store/_i.html?_fsub=5

They have a whole host of enclosures – pretty much anything you may need. The one I have holds 4 BluRay Drives and has 4 eSata ports to hook up to your server.

What I did, is I ran 4-15′ USB cables from the 1st floor of my home to the basement, where my server is stored. I then used a USB to eSata converter (4-one for each drive) to hook to the enclosure (purchased at MicroCenter).

Hope this helps and let me know if you need anything else.

James Walker June 2, 2011 at 6:30 am

thanks for the information. 15′ USB cables — wow — I did not know you could go that far with a USB cable without lossing signal strength. I know I recently found a USB to Cat5 converter, according to the package, can go 50ft or more.

James Walker June 14, 2011 at 6:34 am

Paul;
How did you handle folder re-direction. I know (it has been a while since I installed WHS) when you first install WHS it put the inital video, music and PC backup folders on the main drive. How did you go about getting WHS to use the other drives for storeage?

Paul Carvajal June 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm

When you set up your folders in WHS 2011, it will still set up certain System Folders, such as folders for Client Computer Backups, Music, Videos, etc. However, it will ask you which specific drive you wish to have your folders on, both your system folders and folders you create.

Make sure you use the “Move Folder” option on the dashboard if you want the folders to reside on a different drive.

James Walker June 16, 2011 at 6:30 am

Thanks;
I know you use MyMovies for WHS but I just found an article on YAMJ. Have you ever use it?

Paul Carvajal June 16, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I have not. I’m currently using MyMovies, but as I have several Macs, I’m starting to use Plex. The nice thing about Plex, is that it will run on Macs & LG is incorporating it into their BluRay players, TVs, etc. Plus I can use Plex and MyMovies and they don’t seem to interfere with each other.

MyMovies is coming out with a Mac version for the Collection Manager this summer. So I’m betting that a “player or media” version for the Mac will be out this fall.

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: