Extending Storage in My Windows Home Server

by Damian on October 21, 2012 · 32 comments

in Guides

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about what direction to head in as a Windows Home Server 1 owner. I figured a lot of WHSv1 owners are at the same point as myself, or trying to think ahead to the future. With some new options out there (such as Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012), it was time to take a closer look to see if either of this solutions could serve as an adequate replacement for Windows Home Serve r v1. Although Server 2012 is probably the direction I am leaning towards, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about performance, storage spaces, etc… Since I needed to expand my storage soon, and I didn’t want to risk my home server by moving over to a new/unproven platform, I decided short term it would be best to build off of my current WHS (codename: Shawshank) as I allow Server 2012 or other alternative time to mature. The solution? I decided to go with the EnhanceBOX E10 PM eSATA Storage Solution plus Koutech IO-PESA220 PCI Express x 1 Low Profile Ready SATA II (3.0Gb/s) Controller Card. This would give me access to an additional 10 hard drives via eSATA. In less then 15 minutes set up time I was up and running, so here is a quick look at how everything went:

Note: Since Alex did a great review of the EnhanceBox I won’t spent much time going into any details on.

Here is the Koutech eSATA card. The main features I was looking for were 2 eSATA ports, Port Multiplier aware, hot swap capability, and JBOD. At less then $30 and with some decent feedback on Newegg, I had found a winner.

Here is a view from the side.

The 2 eSATA ports which will be used to connect to the EnhanceBOX enclosure.

Installation was a breeze. One of the nice things about the motherboard I chose for Shawshank is the plethora of PCI connectors, so this gives me a lot of flexibility. One nice feature with the card was the included instructions which made it very clear what drivers I needed to install. Within a minute the card was recognized, drivers were installed, and I was ready to rock n roll.

I had just picked up a 2TB Seagate LP drive, so I popped it into one the EnhanceBOX bays and WHS picked up the drive right away, allowing me to add it to the pool.

However, I did run into an issue. I added a second drive, which once again WHS picked up, but when I went to add to the pool I would get a failure notice. It turned out that by default the RAID card assigned each drive added as “Pass-Thru”. This allows you to view all drives, but does not make it part of a JBOD pool (so with one drive it was not an issue but with the second drive it was not being recognized as a JBOD pool). The RAID card did come with a handy little GUI to manage the arrange. All I needed to do was for each drive change from “Pass-thru” to “Contiguous”. Once done I was able to add each drive to my WHS pool.

Here is a view of the WHS Console with the 2 drives added (they show named as “SiIMage Volumes”).

Here is a picture of the EnhanceBOX snuggling up next to Shawshank!

I have been running this setup for about a day now and so far I have not noticed any performance hits, but this is something I will keep a close eye on for the coming weeks.  For now though, I have expanded the storage capabilities of my WHSv1 server, which should allow me plenty of time to test some of the alternatives before making the switch.





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 32 comments }

WalkinTarget October 21, 2012 at 10:05 am

Yowza .. 30TB and only 5TB free ?? You sir, are attempting to archive ‘the internet’ and doing a good job of it. Saw a guy here in the forums that maxed his WHS out at 56TB (with 32 drives).

I just bought a 3TB for my HTPC and get by with a meager 3.5TB in my WHS. I’m looking at adding a 2 bay ext. enclosure, either a Cavalry or Mediasonic dual box.

Enjoy the storage upgrade Damian !

Damian October 22, 2012 at 5:39 am

Lol, that is in part due to having duplication turned on, so I probably only have about 12TB of actual data.

580guy October 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm

That’s one reason I went with FlexRAID some time back. I use a combination of folder duplication (photos, videos) with parity protection (Media rips, dvd’s, iso files). Feel I have good protection without wasting so much space! I have 9-2TB drives in my mediasmart EX-495 + Sans Digital eSATA enclosure. And most of it is unduplicated but parity protected data. Of course, one drive is set aside for parity data only. I was able to remove 4 drives out of my server pool after going with FlexRAID initially, instead of duplicating all shares. Of course I slowly added them back in as data increased. Still let’s me use a combination of duplication for truly important stuff, and parity for less important (media) shares. I will probably end up doing this in the event I upgrade to WHS 2011, although I will need something else for share duplication.

JonThomasDesigns October 22, 2012 at 7:06 am

After reading the last Article about how to move fwd with WHS i decided to redo my second WHS (HP Proliant Microserver 40L) i have a 25TB WHS2011 upgraded HP EX945 churning along in the basement rack

Anyway I got a Mediasonic H82-SU3S2 3.5″ Black USB3.0 & eSATA ProBox 8 Bay External Hard Drive Enclosure Connected vis USB 3.0 to the HP 40L at the same time added a 120GB ssd as the server HD .. using WHS 2011 (decided it was my best bet after reading how slow Storage spaces was) and bought a second license to Drivebender and it is up to 28 TB .. 99% of what i use it for is storing my BD movies for streaming to Popcorn hour and my new Oppo BD-103

I was really hoping that Win 8 or Server essentials would be worth upgrading to but seems like storage spaces is a dud

Anyway sorry for rambling but the WHS thoughts article got me thinking : )

Damian October 22, 2012 at 7:37 am

No problem Jon, the point of my posts was to get everyone thinking as I have to believe I am not the only WHSv1 user out there trying to figure out what the next step is!!!

Stu Pidaso October 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm

You mentioned maybe leaning towards server 2012. I backed up my data, wiped the drive of WHSv1 and installed server 2012. I was thinking I was going to tech myself how to work with active directory, which I did, but that came to a halt when I go to my Win7 home machine and found out home versions cannot connect to a doman, DOH!!

Anyway, 1 nice thing about server 2012 is sorage pooling, YAY lol. Not concerned with backups (yet) as I know there is other software for that. My biggest concern right now is trying to figure out how to setup shares to behave like WHS did.

Damian October 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Stu Pidaso October 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Unfortunately that is for 2012 Essentials. I have full blown Server 2012. I have that as my son is a student and got it for free :) I am looking for a non domain solution now using server 2012 to setup shares to behave like whsv1 did.

Stu Pidaso October 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Sorry, also meant to mention one reason I was trying to get away from WHSv1. Getting very tired of false warnings of hard drive failures. :(

Randy R October 28, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Stu,

I have access to Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter myself as a student. How does one obtain CALs for the student versions, or are they required?

Stu Pidaso October 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm

To be honest I grabbed it to try and teach myself AD. I really don’t know about the whole CAL thing. Is that for each user that connects via AD or by “virtual terminal”? <– not sure that is the correct terminology.

Randy R October 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Stu,

I’m new to this as well, but as I understand it, a separate CAL is required for each user that accesses the server (other than the administrator account). I assume that effectively means each AD user account.

GJ October 24, 2012 at 12:29 am

I too am looking for the way forward off of WHS v1 although I may have to do it sooner rather than later. I’ve been happily adding storage to 1 of my 2 EX-485′s and finally had to get external storage (Mediasonic, USB 2.0 / e-sata, 4 bay). I initially added 2 drives to the Mediasonic and Blu-Ray movies were playing fine. I added 2 more drives (2TB each – for a total of 4 drives in the Mediasonic and 4 in the EX-485) when the price came down and now my movies are constantly pausing when they run off the Mediasonic enclosure (running from the drives in the EX-485 continues to run fine). I swapped positions of all the drives in the Mediasonic in case I had a bad slot with no change. I copied a movie that was on the Mediasonic to the other EX-485 internal drives (I have no external storage on that one) and it played fine so the rip is OK.

So, while a little off-topic, does anyone have any ideas as to why this would start happening (I also tested by turning of DE, which I’ve never had to do before) and I still have movies that pause and then speed up (I can see the drive light in the Mediasonic flash normally, then stop, then flash intensely which coinsides with normal viewing, pause, and then Fast Forward effect. If I’ve run into some kind of USB 2.0 limitation (and I can’t run e-SATA because the EX-485 doesn’t support drive multipliers (why did they do that!), then I’ll be looking to move off of WHS v1 sooner rather than later.

TIA for any advice/comments!

GJ October 24, 2012 at 12:39 am

One more question I wanted to ask. While I’ve built many PC’s and Servers, I really don’t want the hassle anymore hence why I loved the HP Mediasmart Server concept. Can anyone recommend a “pre-built” box that is particularily suitable for running the “next gen” WHS? I really just want plug and play ie keep adding drives and external enclosures via USB 3.0 / eSATA.

Thanks again!

GJ October 24, 2012 at 1:17 am

One more important point. My “next-gen” WHS solution needs to provide robust backups for my Windows PC’s AND Mac’s. Just read Time Machine backup is no longer is WS 2012 Essentials!

Damian October 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Not really plug n play per se and probably not what you have in mind, but Assassin custom builds servers:

http://assassinhtpc.com/media_servers.php

GJ October 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Great. Thanks Damien.

George (SeaRay33) October 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Damian, I am curious why you chose to go with eSATA instead of USB 3.0 Is there a problem with going with a 3.0 enclosure and WHSv1? Is your eSATA enclosure with the two eSATA ports able to use both simultaneously to exceed the transfer speed of USB 3.0? Sorry, now realize as I ask these questions that I should read Alex’s article on the enclosure first.
George

Damian October 27, 2012 at 3:55 am

Hi George,

The reason why I went with eSATA is because that was the enclosure that was made available to me :) . Either way I would have needed to get a separate card (i.e my WHS motherboard does not have USB 3.0), and Alex had the EnhanceBOX enclosure lying around.

George October 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks Damian, for the update. I am planning on adding a additional server (WHS 2011) which will be installed on a repurposed desktop. I already have the the OS and a USB 3.0 card. Thanks… I just wanted to make sure I was not going off in the wrong direction. :)
George

Gus October 29, 2012 at 5:46 am

I’ve been thinking about switching from unRaid to Windows Home Servers since I am not too knowledgeable about Linux code, but after reading all of these comments, I think I’ll stick with unRaid until something more “stable” from Windows comes up.

Alex October 29, 2012 at 6:42 am

I am going to give you my advice since your post goes in that direction. I have been trying figuring out a way out of all this mess. I.also have 30tb of data just like you and you are missing something important here when i see all those cables.

You have so many layers of technology stacked up on top of each other that the risk of something going wrong is increasing. A cable removed the enclosure goes bad. The os doesnt see it anymore. Drives go bad. Ect.

What i would do in your case is install normal windows 7 ultimate. Use that as the server. Backup will be handled with software. You have the flexibility if something is not working to choose another one and you are not tied to a hardware backup solution. I use flexraid with two parity drives so you can save space and avoid silent data corruption while maintain upkeep. And backup on the same array using versionning so even the versionning have parity.

In case of a disaster , thats the beauty with flexraid. All your drives are directly accessible and are ntfs. So you just plug them in another machine or enclosure and get things back.

The onoy thing missing is protection against theft or fire.

Please think about murphy law and silent data corruption.

Damian October 29, 2012 at 7:02 am

That was my hesitance with adding an enclosure, one more thing that could go wrong. It does however buy me time before I need to go with another solution, so for now it does the trick. I am still leaning towards Server 2012 + add in (either FlexRAID, one of the DE replacement add ins, etc…) but I need to run 2012 through the ringer first on my test server before I move forward in any direction.

Definitely appreciate the advice!!!

Alex October 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

The thing that I don’t understand is why people go with whs or server 2012 with all the drawbacks they have ?

You can easily replace/create ANY scenario or need with win 7 ultimate combined with the HUGE amount of software out there. For example, I tried ALL solution from synology to stream to me my Ipad/android. The transcoding was not done properly and the choosing is poor and complicated to setup. Sure, you can just click to install, but wait till you configure. It either wants you to use the default /music /video /photos trifecta that’s the same case for all linux machines. So you have to fiddle with those to get them to go look in another directory, ect.

So the thing That I found is streamtome that installs on your win7 machine.

I say if it’s a home machine that will get used by 7 people tops, then might as well just dump the WHS thing.

Damian October 29, 2012 at 8:00 am

What drawbacks? I have no drawbacks with WHS v1 and the drawbacks with Server 2012 regarding data redundancy would still apply for W7, W8, etc…

I rarely do transcoding, but when I did do I had zero issues setting up quick and easy on my WHS (either via Plex or Remote Media Center).

For WHS PC backups work for me without a hitch without the need to install 3rd party software

Alex October 29, 2012 at 8:05 am

what I need is a matrix stating the key differences between whs/win7 ultimate

RT January 20, 2013 at 5:19 am

Damian – I am at the same crossroads as you, though my circumstances are a bit different. I have 2 WHS v1 servers, one for backups and the other a 20-bay Norco rack mount chassis for storage and streaming (with folder duplication as redundancy). I built this as a scalable solution, so I could just keep adding drives as needed. Never thought WHS would become an orphaned product though …

I bought 3TB HDDs but found out after (egg on me) that WHS doesn’t support. So I am thinking of going to Windows 7 with Drive Bender (other solution is either Windows 8 with Drive Bender or less stable Storage Spaces). I have 4 PCs/laptops on W7 and I’m comfortable with it plus I feel it’s a reliable platform.

Have you or anyone else seen/heard of a migration process anywhere to get the data from WHS v1 to Windows 7 + Drive Bender? My OS/boot drive (2.5″) is separate from the storage drives and I have another 2.5″ spare drive … so conceivably I can install W7 on a new drive and access the old WHS drive if I need access to the WHS D:DATA partition.

I understand about shutting off folder duplication before installing W7 and then Drive Bender, but don’t know how to take it from there …

Key for me is to retain my folder structure from WHS. I have all kinds of videos, photos and movies spread across umpteen folders and don’t want to have to rebuild the entire thing. Thanks to you or anyone else who can help.

Damian January 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm

You can actually use a 3TB drive in WHSv1. The steps looked a little too involved for me wanting to try (http://forum.wegotserved.com/index.php/topic/16580-guide-how-to-make-gpt-4k-sector-drives-and-3tb-drives-work-as-storage-pool-drives-in-whs-pp3/)

Not sure the best route to go in your situation since if I am understanding correctly you will essentially be creating a dual O/S environment on your server? My plan when I go with a new Server will be to set up on all new hardware, so the transition should be “smooth”

RT January 27, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Damian – thanks for the thoughts … I actually have 2 WHS v1 servers, one is for backups only while the other is for media streaming/storage. The media streamer/storage server is based on a Norco 4220 20-bay chassis (with mini-SAS backplane). I built it in 2008 because it would provide me with a long-term, scalable solution. So far it’s been great, but now that 3TB & 4TB HDDs are becoming economical/viable … and given that Microsoft basically orphaned the product, I’d like to migrate to another platform.

My choices are WHS 2011, Windows 7 + Drive Bender (or Drive Pool), Windows 8 with Storage Spaces, or Windows 8 + Drive Bender (or Drive Pool). I’ve ruled out WHS 2011 because I don’t need backups & other stuff thanks to my WHS v1 backup that works fine. Why learn that platform when I can just go with Windows 7 or 8?

I looked into Windows 8 with Storage Spaces but apparently it’s buggy and just not ready for prime time. I don’t want headaches here, so that’s not an option right now. So it comes down to Windows 7 or 8 + Drive Bender/ Drive Pool. I’m leaning towards Windows 7 due to the fact I already have it in 7 PCs/laptops in the house and I’m very familiar/comfortable with it (and it’s stable/reliable, plus it has plenty of support). I could go with W8 and have a newer platform with better networking support, but it just means I have to spend time learning it (not to mention install shortcuts and tweaks to get back the start button and whatever else). W7 is just the faster/easier (yet safe) pathway.

The trick now is to migrate from WHS v1 to Windows 7 + Drive Bender/Drive Pool in such a way that both the data and folder structure remain intact. I am pulling together this process now which I can share once I’ve compiled it (and hopefully completely tested/installed).

Damian February 1, 2013 at 6:28 am

Same boat as you. I don’t trust storage spaces nor have I heard great things about, so I don’t really consider it an option. I still may go with Server 2012 essentials + one of the addins (Stablebit, Drive Bender, etc…). Obviously this is a more expensive option but I get a license for free. I do want the backup features and ultimately would want to retire my WHSv1 machine, (currently at 19 HDDs). It will be pain to transfer all the data over as I will have to build a new machine, just not ready quite yet to put the time in.

Prnv January 31, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Thanks Damian for initiating this conversation. I am a much more casual WHS v1 user. I use it primarily to store my picture collection which is steadily growing. Still my storage needs are about 1 -2 tb. However, my current build is extremely underpowered. I used a MSI wind (Intel Atom 230 Processor with 1.6GHz, FSB 533 MHz, 512KB Cache) barebones. Everything on my WHS crawls. I can barely make Plax to function. I was contemplating upgrading hardware and the OS. Suggestions – WHS 2011 vs Server 2012. Or keep the current WHSv1 for purely backup and setup a second mahine for streaming purposes only?

Damian February 1, 2013 at 6:31 am

I personally prefer to have one machine handle all streaming and backup, but really you could go either route. Unless you already have a license Server 2012 is an expensive solution and probably not worth the money from how you use your server. I would go with either WHS 2011 of W7/W8. If you want data duplication then you will want to look into one of the 3rd party addons (Drive Bender, Stablebit, etc…). if you are using Plex to stream videos you would definitely be better off getting a better CPU since Plex can be CPU intensive if it needs to transcode.

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