With Windows Home Server 2011 out and running, the biggest complaint most users have is the lack of Drive Extender (DE) being incorporated into the operating system, which was included in WHS v.1. Drive Extender allows users to use any size hard drive (JBOD-Just A Bunch Of Drives) in their system and consolidate them so it looked like a single drive. If you had 2-500gb hard drives and 2 -1TB drives, Drive Extender would pool them together so it looked like 1-3TB drive. In addition, there was a type of software RAID that duplicated files in case a hard drive failed.
The lack of DE certainly has slowed the adoption of WHS 2011 by increasing the complexity for many users who would like to upgrade but can’t as there isn’t a cost effective storage solution for them. In extensive reading of blog comments and forum discussions, I’ve noticed a strong skepticism regarding the lack of DE for WHS 2011 and the viability of a 3rd party DE replacement. Honestly I’m not sure why people are as negative as they are about a 3rd party creating this. In my readings of some of the forums, many people have used a software RAID but seem to bash a DE replacement. For some people this means that Drive Bender could either be “the savior for WHS 2011″ or possibly a “doomsday for your data”.
Now there is at least one alternative to Drive Extender available for purchase called Drive Bender. Please note I called this a program and not an Add-In since it runs as a program in WHS 2011. It does have an Add-In interface for the Dashboard where you can control many, but not all, of it’s functions.
This review of Drive Bender is going to document my experience installing the program, copying approximately 10TB of data to the new pool of drive (16TB)s, merging a drive with data on it into the pool WITHOUT ERASING THE DATA, working with duplication, destroying the pool and seeing if the data stays intact, and anything else you can think of to test it out. Feel free to submit any test scenarios you might be curious about and I’ll try to test those and we’ll see how Drive Bender handles it.
Part 1 – What is Drive Bender?
From their website:
Drive Bender is state of the art, single point storage pool technology for Microsoft Windows. Drive Bender presents multiple hard drives as a single pool of storage, either as one or more drive letters, or a network shared drive.
One of the nice things about Drive Bender is that they have two versions – one for WHS 2011 and one for Windows. So you can use it on a regular PC as well in case you don’t want to use WHS 2011. Drive Bender is available to run on XP, Vista, 7, and WHS 2011, SBS 2011, and Windows Storage Server.
Here are some of the main features of Drive Bender:
- Allows you to merge an existing drive into the pool WITHOUT reformatting it AND PRESERVING THE DATA on the drive. Big improvement over DE for WHS v.1 as you had to format the drive to add it to the pool.
- If the drive pool is destroyed, your data is retrievable and can be used.
- All data is balanced automatically between the drives when data is copied to the drive pool.
- Data Duplication is also completed when data is copied to the drive pool.
What about cost? Drive Bender is available for $40 for a license to run on one machine. With WHS 2011 selling currently for about $60 and Drive Bender is $40, the total cost is $100, which was the same price WHS v.1 was selling for.
While it sounds like it’s the add-in/program everyone’s been waiting for, I’ve heard many people being skeptical about trusting their data to a new program, and rightfully so. I started to use Drive Bender during the early stages of the beta in preparation of this article, however, I stopped using it as there was limited functionality during the beta (which is to be expected) and I didn’t want to be totally frustrated before the final product release. Also, I wanted to experience the final product as an end user would the first time.
I’m going to document my journey as I convert half of my server to Drive Bender and copy all of my data to the Drive Bender pool. Then, we’ll be able to see if the program does what it says it will do, so you don’t have to and jeopardize your valuable data.
I’ll be doing this with approximately 10TB of data, so I think this will be a good test scenario to evaluate the product.
Below is an outline of the series of articles I’ll be writing about Drive Bender. Please post in the comments if you have specific scenarios you’d like to see addressed.
Part 2 – Installation and Terminology - configuring and setting up the drive pool.
Part 3 – Adding drives with data and removing drives from the pool – can we really integrate drives with data and not lose the data?
Part 4 – Data Duplication – how Drive Bender duplicates data and can we retrieve the data after a simulated drive failure.
Part 5 – Can we break the pool?
Let the journey begin!