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Questions about off-the-shelf / retail WHS server hardware RRS feed

  • Question

  • The hardware in my ten-month-old, home-grown WHS (running on a four-year-old Dell Dimension PC) is becoming increasingly problematic. I've finally come to accept what others on this forum told me a while back--that the four 500 GB WD external USB drives I had lying around (!) really aren't up to the challenge in a WHS environment. There's not a week that goes by now that one of these drives doesn't randomly disappear or is considered failing. Rebooting usually resolves the problem, but I'm growing increasingly less confident about this hardware configuration.

     

    Therefore, I'm thinking of migrating to true server hardware. I don't feel comfortable assembling the server components (especially the motherboard, power supply, and case) myself. I figure I have two other options: off-the-shelf / retail WHS server hardware; or a generic, low-end Dell or HP server on which I would install my OEM WHS license. IMO, the off the shelf package (e.g., the HP EX470/EX475) looks like the simplest choice, but I'd love to hear your suggestions and/or alternatives.

     

    I have a few concerns about the EX470/EX475 (and probably most other off-the-shelf WHS server hardware):

    1. The EX models come with one/two 500 GB drives and can only hold four drives in total. I don't want to be quickly limited by drive space, so it would seem best to install four 1 TB drives right from the start. Is that a simple matter of removing the factory drive(s), purchasing and installing one or more 1 TB drives (perhaps this model, mentioned in another thread), and re-installing WHS?
    2. The EX models come with only one eSATA port--to which, presumably, an external eSATA drive or external drive cabinet can be connected. I have no experience with eSATA or external drive cabinets, but I'm thinking that such would be a great way to add additional drive space--perhaps even alleviating concern #1. But how many drives / external drive cabinets can only one eSATA port support? Can additional eSATA ports be added to the EX models?
    3. Are the EX model hardware specs unrealistic and inadequate for WHS? If so, how easy is it to expand the server hardware (i.e., processor and memory)?

    Thanks for helping this WHS server hardware novice!

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008 6:03 PM

Answers

  • I would buy the cheapest available 1 TB drive. All else being equal (and extensive research by e.g. Google has shown that it is) buying the least expensive drive that does what you need is pretty much always the way to go. Over time hard drives, like all devices, have a 100% failure rate, and manufacturer's MTTF numbers are often, umm, optimistic.

    HP hasn't mentioned anything about which port multipliers work with their server, I'm afraid, just that port multipliers are supported, so you're a bit on your own there.

    And I haven't seen any public announcements from HP about upgrades/updates to their MediaSmart servers.
    Thursday, July 10, 2008 5:13 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  •  cgwaters wrote:
    1. The EX models come with one/two 500 GB drives and can only hold four drives in total. I don't want to be quickly limited by drive space, so it would seem best to install four 1 TB drives right from the start. Is that a simple matter of removing the factory drive(s), purchasing and installing one or more 1 TB drives (perhaps this model, mentioned in another thread), and re-installing WHS?
    2. The EX models come with only one eSATA port--to which, presumably, an external eSATA drive or external drive cabinet can be connected. I have no experience with eSATA or external drive cabinets, but I'm thinking that such would be a great way to add additional drive space--perhaps even alleviating concern #1. But how many drives / external drive cabinets can only one eSATA port support? Can additional eSATA ports be added to the EX models?
    3. Are the EX model hardware specs unrealistic and inadequate for WHS? If so, how easy is it to expand the server hardware (i.e., processor and memory)?

    1. Pull the 500 GB drive, replace it with a 1 TB drive, and do a factory reset.
    2. The eSATA port on the HP MediaSmart Server is capable of supporting a port multiplier, which is a way of connecting multiple drives (maximum of 4, for the HP unit) to a single eSATA port. You can get an external drive enclosure with a port multiplier built in, so you could install an additional 4 drives in your external enclosure for a total of 8 TB.
    3. Memory is barely adequate. Many users have reported that installing 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM in their servers makes an enormous difference. There's a "how to" here. It requires completely disassembling the unit, though, so it's not for the faint of heart. You shouldn't need to replace the processor, and you won't see a huge improvement in performance if you do. If you need much better peformance than the processor already in the HP unit will provide (perhaps you need transcoding capabilities, or you need to run a database), you should consider buying good hardware and building your own.
    Wednesday, July 9, 2008 8:17 PM
    Moderator
  • Thanks! Do you have any recommendations for 1 TB drives? NewEgg has the 1 TB Hitachi Deskstar I linked to above for $199.99. Provantage appears to have the same drive in stock for $188.72. Those seem like very good prices.

     

    Do you have any recommendations for a drive enclosure that has a port multiplier built in?

     

    Lastly, before I push the Submit Order button for an EX470, has HP announced any new WHS-based models that should make me give pause?  Wink

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008 8:24 PM
  • I would buy the cheapest available 1 TB drive. All else being equal (and extensive research by e.g. Google has shown that it is) buying the least expensive drive that does what you need is pretty much always the way to go. Over time hard drives, like all devices, have a 100% failure rate, and manufacturer's MTTF numbers are often, umm, optimistic.

    HP hasn't mentioned anything about which port multipliers work with their server, I'm afraid, just that port multipliers are supported, so you're a bit on your own there.

    And I haven't seen any public announcements from HP about upgrades/updates to their MediaSmart servers.
    Thursday, July 10, 2008 5:13 PM
    Moderator
  • I have been able to pick up 1t Seagate drives for as low as $169 at Fry’s and even get Best Buy to price match.  I am using the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST31000340AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM or Retail version.  The OEM version simply comes wrapped in bubble wrap like from Newegg.com ($189) and the retail versions come with an install disk and internal SATA cable you will never use.  Ken is correct, they all fail but Seagate has a 5 year warranty and they are the same brand that is in the HP Servers.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008 10:50 PM
  • When I ordered my EX470 earlier today for $502, I got (IMO) a fantastic deal on four 1TB WD Caviar drives ($149 each, shipped). So the 500GB drive that ships with the EX470 will be coming out; perhaps I'll use that drive if/when I add an external drive cabinet.


    When I re-install WHS, what size should I make the SYS and DATA partitions on the first 1TB drive? Or will the server recovery disc process arbitrarily choose what it thinks to be the best size?

    Friday, July 11, 2008 4:07 AM
  •  cgwaters wrote:
    When I re-install WHS, what size should I make the SYS and DATA partitions on the first 1TB drive? Or will the server recovery disc process arbitrarily choose what it thinks to be the best size?
    When you do your factory reset onto a blank drive, you will get a 20 GB system drive and a (drive - 20 GB) D: (DATA) drive. You don't get a choice.
    Friday, July 11, 2008 4:36 AM
    Moderator
  • Thanks. So my DATA drive will be approximately 980GB? Wow, what a difference from my current 100GB DATA drive.

     

    Would it have been wiser to keep the 500GB drive and just add three 1TB drives? Will any of the 980GB on the first 1TB drive be usable for content replication and/or backups? Or is that area only used for temporary storage, to be used to copy content to the other physical drives? Or am I completely misinformed?  Smile

    Friday, July 11, 2008 5:01 AM
  • Actually it will be about 911 GB. Hard drive manufacturers measure disk size in powers of 10, operating systems measure in powers of 2. So a "1 TB" drive (per the mfg.) will really be about "931 GB" (per Windows). There is no great advantage to having your system drive be larger than about 200-300 GB. As long as you maintain a buffer of free space on your server, somewhere around the size of your system drive, there will be little if any actual data on that drive, just tombstones. But if you've got the drive already, go ahead and use it. Smile
    Friday, July 11, 2008 3:33 PM
    Moderator
  • For additional/replacement drives has anyone tried or looked at the WD Caviar Green? These drives require (for a 1 T drive) 7.4W (Read Write), 4W (Idle), .97W (Standby/Sleep Mode) . I believe the Seagate ST3500630AS (500GB) that came in my EX475 draw 11.6W-12W (Seek & Average) and 8W (Idle).

    Friday, July 11, 2008 11:20 PM
  • Frank, do a search. You'll find a number of people have tried those drives.
    Saturday, July 12, 2008 3:11 AM
    Moderator
  •  Ken Warren wrote:
    There is no great advantage to having your system drive be larger than about 200-300 GB. As long as you maintain a buffer of free space on your server, somewhere around the size of your system drive, there will be little if any actual data on that drive, just tombstones. But if you've got the drive already, go ahead and use it.

    Thanks. Only 20 hours after ordering an EX470 and four 1TB drives from NewEgg.com, the items arrived at my doorstep yesterday afternoon--with free shipping, no less! I haven't had a chance to do anything with the items yet.

     

    It's still not clear to me whether I'd be better off keeping the native 500GB drive (presumably, with the WHS bits already present) or replacing that drive with one of the 1TB drives and then re-installing WHS on that drive. It seems as though the larger portion of the 1TB drive would go to waste. I can certainly use that first 1TB drive elsewhere, perhaps even in an external drive cabinet (which is my next planned purchase, along with more RAM for the server). What do you suggest?

    Saturday, July 12, 2008 3:23 PM
  • Just a quick note from 'paranoid Ed' regarding the choice of having an external storage unit. Remember that although the WHS offers some measure of internal redundancy for your data, it does not protect you from catastrophic damage to the server itself.

    You might want to consider using that 1TB drive as a backup unit in a removable case. That way you can keep that drive at the office, or at a neighbor's house, or anywhere besides your own house, and bring it in once a week to backup your data on the WHS.

    When it comes to computer data, here is the rule to remember:

    "A file does not exist until it can be found in two separate physical locations."

    Just don't neglect to backup your server.



    Monday, July 14, 2008 8:29 AM