Windows 8 as new Home Server?
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Author:  dboss [ Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Windows 8 as new Home Server?

Hello - I'm hoping for any help people can provide based on their experience or information they have. I've decided that it's time to finally move on from WHSV1 and my EX470 that I've had for almost 7 years (support for WHSV1, larger HDD's, and DE lag being my main reasons). My current set-up consists of 16TB of storage with all 4 bays in the EX470, a Sans Digital 8 bay USB 2.0 tower, a Sans Digital 4 bay e-sata tower, and 5 External USB drives (HUB) attached. About 99% of my usage is for streaming video (BD's, DVD's, etc.) and managing my movie collection.

In looking at the options on the market, I think I'm about 80% leaning towards using Windows 8 as my OS solution going forward. I have no concerns about backing up other PC's in the house and I really just need the ability to stream movies, manage the collection (MyMovies), have the ability to use my current storage enclosures, and the ability to pool my drives into shared storage. From what I've read, I think Windows 8 will serve my purposes, but I do have some questions... I believe I read that Windows 8 can have data speed issues between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 in that 3.0 drives will ramp down to 2.0 speeds based on the Motherboard configuration. Not sure if I misread that, but it's one of my main concerns as I want to make sure I plan for this as best I can. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read it so I don't have anything I can quote and I've definitely been looking so wondering if I misread something.
I'm also very much on the fence as far as hardware goes. I see a few potential commercial solutions such as Lenovo's ThinkServer, or the HP ProLiant line however I'm not sure if those would offer me everything I want. I've started looking into building a server, but the motherboard configurations do somewhat scare me because I don't know what I don't know and I don't want to get something that won't accommodate my needs in 3 years...

Anyways, those are my initial thoughts. Any help would be great! Thanks in advance!

Author:  Comp1962 [ Sun Jun 29, 2014 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Windows 8 as new Home Server?

I would recommend you look at a build even though you may be reluctant because of what you do not know. This is where you will find Google to be your friend and component reviews to be your best resource.

As for the speed issues you mention with USB2 vs 3 and such. I can't actually confirm this but I can tell you I have USB2 and 3 here along with USB3 devices and I can't see the speed difference but I am not a big USB person. I will also mention that I have motherboards with both USB2 and 3 ports and I even tried USB3 Host Boards on clients that do not have USB3 just to see the speed differences and unfortunately I have not seen any significant speed differences but then again it could be the USB3 drive I was trying out and the drive in the enclosure could of been the limiting factor in terms of the speeds I was observing.

Ruben Rocha posted an interesting link about speeds over gigabit and the limiting factors of the speed that I recommend you take a look at. viewtopic.php?p=100916#p100916

Now there is an eBook about using Win8 as a server but I think you can use Win7 the same way and if your interested in data redundancy then look to see if Drive Bender has a Windows option but I believe Stablebit Drive Pool does. While I do not use it myself and I am not up to speed on it the Storage Spaces its something you may want to look at closely to see if its right for you but I think the 3rd Party Solutions may offer you more advantages then what Microsoft offers.

I will mention Window SMART 2013 and recommend you install it to keep an eye on your drives. This coupled with Windows looking at the file system will be your best defense for hard drive issues when they arise. However if your planning on a RAID Array then I do not believe this software will help you but if you keep everything JBOD then you will have no problem and JBOD is more forgiving yet not as fast as RAID which is an option but one that I will leave to others to discuss if that's where your going.

I would encourage you to look at a build. It's a daunting thing if you have never done it before but I would recommend you write down everything you want to have in your solution then once you have that criteria written down then you can start searching for the components that will accomplish this task. Its fun but at times nerve racking but if you take your time and search out what you want in your build you will eventually come up with something that will work. Ask lots of questions, read lots of reviews and read the specifications to learn what each component can and can not do to make certain your choose wisely. Something you may find what looks to be say an outstanding motherboard but down the road you find its limited in what it can support say in terms of PCIe slots or the Drive Controller may not support what you want to do. I might add that you will have to look closely at the drive controller on the motherboard as well as on the cards you have in mind to see if they support what your looking to do be it JBOD, RAID or Both and if they will support the larger drives.

Sometimes it may come down to the enclosure you may want to use which may limit your choice on motherboards or compliment of drives you can install. There is not one solution which will work well for everyone but it is a process of elimination as to what you want.

When looking at solutions which are built by an OEM you will run into the same thing and yet if your needs are not awfully great they may turn out to be the best way to go. However building your own unit does offer you longer warranty periods for the components. You can also chose to use higher quality components and in many cases not find out that your stuck using proprietary components from an OEM which may not be easy to obtain.

If you pick out an enclosure which comes with a PSU beware the PSU may not be of good quality or it too may be so proprietary that obtaining a replacement may be difficult. I have seen some enclosures where the PSU is actually riveted into the unit making it even more difficult to replace. So if you chose an enclosure get one without a PSU and purchase a PSU that not only fits but will properly supply the power needed for your components. BTW pay close attention to the PSU as the cheapest may not always be the best to use. For my most important builds I tend to stick with Corasir PSU's because they have never failed and come with a 7 yr warranty. I also like Modular PSU's because it reduces the cable clutter in the unit but they tend to be more expensive to use but keep in mind the PSU is the life blood of your build. I have also used other PSU's that work equally as well.

I personally prefer all my drives to be in one enclosure. I use to be a big fan of external Port Multiplier Enclosures until I started experiencing drive drop out issues which annoyed me. So if you can build something where all your drives can fit into one enclosure then I think you will have a good experience but keep in mind that it does not mean you will not experience issues over time they just occur and if your solution is flexible then you can easily resolve them quickly. Personally I do like Drive Trays and backplanes and tooless enclosures. I am a big fan of certain Lian Li enclosures because they can hold a fair amount of drives, they have backplanes, filters and decent cooling, are quiet and look very attractive in any location. They are also easy to work with just do not throw the documentation away because when you go to remove the filters you will need the documentation to remind you how to properly remove the filters for cleaning.

There are so many enclosures I do like that work well for a variety of applications. I really like the Fractal Design R4 enclosure its rather large, can hold a good compliment of drives and has padding to reduce noise levels and it too will look good in most settings and will accommodate most motherboards but it does not have the cool backplanes and you will need to purchase additional fans for it since it doesn't come with all the fans.

Anyway I do encourage you to look at building its a good experience and if you take your time and look around you will do well. I also encourage you to look at the DIY Builds posted on the site to see what others have done in the past and the problems they encountered along the way. Its a very good lesson on building. While most of the posts there are older the principles are all the same.

I would also encourage you to keep your EX470 online just for the free Microsoft SubDomain which will allow you to setup your next solution for Online Media Streaming. I do not mean that the EX470 would be streaming your content rather the subdomain with some Port Forwarding in the Router will enable you to stream your content directly from your new solution for the small cost of keeping the EX470 running to keep the IP updated for the free subdomain. This way you can install online media streaming software and used your free subdomain to get there. Of course if this is not want your looking to do then retire the EX470 when you have migrated your data over to the new solution. Migrating your data will be the biggest time consuming task you will have to do.

Last thing worth mentioning is that you have other options available to you then Microsoft solutions and there are a ton of thing Linux offers that may be of interest to you as well. Explore all your possibilities then chose what works best for you. Always remember this what works best for me and others may not be what works best for you. There is no write solution or wrong solution here it just simply comes down to what works for you but at the same time keep an open mind as you move forward and hopefully soon you will figure out where you actually want to go and I honestly wish you the best in this because its never easy moving from one solution to the next.

Author:  dboss [ Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Windows 8 as new Home Server?

Thank you very much for the response. I've started moving in the direction of building my own solution. I've purchased a couple of books and am just now reading through them to make sure I'm moving in the right direction. Some of my biggest worries are what you already mentioned in making sure to purchase something that is 'future-proof' for a few years and also making sure all the components go together and don't somehow conflict.

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