For over 3 years my Windows Home Server (codename: Shawshank) has been humming along. At this point I would have thought I would have upgraded my server to a new OS, but due to the successor of WHSv1 removing some critical functionality I decided to sit on the sidelines a little longer. Now that Server Essentials 2012 has been released, and I am quickly running out of space (close to 30TB), I am starting to more seriously think about what the next step will be. Server Essentials (or even Windows 8) seemed like they could be the perfect replacement with the inclusion of Storage Spaces which essentially replicates the Drive Extender functionality that was pulled out of Windows Home Server. However, the more I read around the less impressed I am with Storage Spaces. Read/Write speeds appear to be slow, inconsistencies with replacing drives in the pool, etc… What appeared to be the perfect solution no longer appears to fit my needs, which are primarily data storage/redundancy and media streaming. I still want to come up with a plan for eventually upgrading Shawshank, so here are some of the options I am considering:
1) Do nothing, if it ain’t broke…. This obviously would be the easiest and most cost effective method, with the only thing needing to be done is to purchase an external enclosure to give myself additional storage space. I would still be limited to drives no greater then 2TB, but this would buy me plenty of time to see how the market develops.
2) Go with an aftermarket solution like Synology or Qnap, but given the amount of storage I require, this would be a rather expensive proposition (plus I enjoy being able to work in a Windows environment)
3) Go with a new Operating System (Windows 8, WHS 2011, or Windows Server 2012 Essential) but instead of relying on Storage Spaces (in the case of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 Essentials) incorporate some sort of drive pool functionality. Right now it appears this would come down to Stablebit, Drive Bender, and FlexRAID. Stablebit and Drive Bender appear to be the most straightforward in implementing (relying on 1:1 mirroring just like Driver Extender), FlexRAID looks like it would be more involved to implement, but the added advantage would be more efficient data redundancy via parity.
So that is where I stand right now. I have pretty much ruled out Windows 8 as a solution since I want to keep the PC backup functionality that I get with the current WHS OS. I already have a license for both WHS 2011 and Windows Server 2012, so I think I will just go with the latest/greatest (Server 2012) and start testing out some of the drive pool add ins. Earlier this year I built a test WHS 2011 server using the Lian Li PC-Q25B case, but I haven’t spent time with. Looks like it may be time now to dust off and start a new round of testing!
For those readers who are current WHSv1 users, or are in the market for a home server solution, what direction are you leaning towards? If you have already implemented one of the newer server solutions, how is it working for you, and you happy with your choice? Of course some of the more adventurous folks are already working with Server 2012 on with HP MediaSmart Servers! I know you readers are out there, so let your voice be heard in the comments section