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Questions, Questions, as WHS settles in for the longer haul . . . RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hello All:  

     Well, having conducted my various blasphemous experiments without causing apparent harm, as described here:

     http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whshardware/thread/f2f955f2-745e-4bc8-8414-fbe5d1dbfd0b

    . . . I've found that once I stashed the server down below in the basement (it's intended home), I really do use it mostly in "server" mode -- not much occasion to do desktop work down there, although the system has generally been fine when I've asked it to do some minor desktop work.

    Meanwhile, the server appears to have been faithfully backing things up with much better regularity than my various prior backup efforts, and has stored and duplicated the beginnings of a ripped CD collection using Exact Audio Copy writing to FLAC files.  All in all, a fairly good experience.

    The problem is that I've not had as much time as I'd like to get deeper into WHS, and am still new to some of the basics, which brings up a couple of questions:

    1.  DEFRAG:  Having read the description of the defrag difficulties here:

    http://social.microsoft.com/forums/en-US/whssoftware/thread/67a19ef5-8da4-4070-8c7c-b0c5b902cd03

    . . . I have refrained from doing any defragging whatsoever to date.  If the First update (PP1) fixed this issue, I missed the documentation, and see little reason to buy a commercial defragger updated in a manner that is designed mostly to prevent it from doing what it's designed to do. This sure looked like it needed fixing.  

    Two questions:

     a.  Is this problem at least on the list of items that needs attention?  Defragging is pretty basic stuff, after all, and not being able to defrag a file server without risking disaster seems strange, to say the least.

     b.  Am I correct in assuming that it DOES remain safe to defrag the system partition with the included applet, along with drives in the machine that are NOT included in the storage pool?

    2.  SERVER BACKUP:

    I had read a number of threads suggesting that we're not quite there yet on backing up the server itself, something it certainly seems a good idea to do now and again.  There seem to be three possibilities if I'm reading correctly:  

    a.  The built in Backup post PP1 -- though it seems perhaps a bit limited.  I haven't plugged in a USB drive yet to check it out, and am not quite sure what it's designed to do . . .

    b.  WHS BDBB -- the add in that seems designed to backup the backups of the OTHER PCs on the network to whereever one likes . . . useful, but not a complete answer . . .

    c.  THIRD PARTY BACKUP  -- Something like Acronis, etc., which could apparently give you a bare metal restore option, just as it would on a desktop PC -- as long as you have an exertnal usb drive or something similar big enough to hold the entire contents of the server.  

    Did I miss anything, is anything in the works, and does anybody have any good advice to offer here?  Basically, the storage of music and such makes the server the only storage locale in the household (admittedly duplicated) for data that would take a bit of work to restore.  So Option B doesn't quite do it.  

    I'm all right, I suppose, if I need to go third party, as long as I'm not going to foul up the system by backing it up, and can safely presume that tombstones and such will be backed up and restored successfully.  I could see something like a schedule using 3rd Party software every month, and WHSBDBB on the alternating two week intervals.  That make any sense?  

    3.  PC BACKUP:  

    There's one odd behavior associated with the basic backup functions -- they don't seem to work when external USB drives are attached to the client, and particularly not with an encrypted drive/file is mounted using something like truecrypt (even if drives or mounted virtual drives are manually excluded from the backup attempt).  

    Is that intentional, or am I misconfigured somewhere?  

    4.  LOGGING ON:  This one's a bit of an oddball question, I'll admit, but I have good motives.  I'm aware, of course, that WHS is meant to be run headless, and somewhere along the way I believe I've been warned that leaving an account logged on (locally) can degrade performance.  

    OK.  But that has some drawbacks too.  First, there are some things that need to be up and running in the tray to do their thing -- e.g, now that the PC is downstairs where it's cool, the hottest components in the box are at like 33 degs C with most components in the 20s, and speedfan would readily quiet things down -- IF I'm logged on.  This could be fixed, of course, with a hardware fan controller, but is that really necessary?  

    More importantly, I've now managed to get the house workstations to go to an S3 sleep state, which is really good for the energy footprint.  Modern PCs seem to draw considerable power even at idle (80-90 watts, maybe more?), but only a meager few in S3 with everything including the fans shut down.  I have good guidelines that suggest you can put a Server in S3 as well and have it recover with wake on lan functions, and the power savings would be great for a server that mostly sits doing nothing during the day five days a week (say 5 watts vs 85-90 x 14-16 hours/day x 5 days).  And I can already attest to the fact that the desktops will wake when queried by WHS, backup, and go back into a deep sleep state, so the basic technology seems to be there.  

    But again, it wouldn't seem that one could use the "power options" to put the Server in Standby if there's no account logged on.  

    The question, therefore, is:  What harm would it do to stay logged on, and what sort of performance degradation would be expected (and why)?  This is an Athlon 3800x2 with 2 Gigs of RAM, so if the hit is minor, I could probably live with it -- this isn't quite min spec, after all.  

    Alternatively, is there some other way to get the task done?  

    As always, thanks in advance for the good advice I've consistently gotten here.  

    Cheers,
    Mike R.  
    Sunday, January 25, 2009 5:04 AM

Answers

  • Mike_Va said:

    Hello All:  

     Well, having conducted my various blasphemous experiments without causing apparent harm, as described here:

     http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whshardware/thread/f2f955f2-745e-4bc8-8414-fbe5d1dbfd0b

    . . . I've found that once I stashed the server down below in the basement (it's intended home), I really do use it mostly in "server" mode -- not much occasion to do desktop work down there, although the system has generally been fine when I've asked it to do some minor desktop work.

    Meanwhile, the server appears to have been faithfully backing things up with much better regularity than my various prior backup efforts, and has stored and duplicated the beginnings of a ripped CD collection using Exact Audio Copy writing to FLAC files.  All in all, a fairly good experience.

    The problem is that I've not had as much time as I'd like to get deeper into WHS, and am still new to some of the basics, which brings up a couple of questions:

    1.  DEFRAG:  Having read the description of the defrag difficulties here:

    http://social.microsoft.com/forums/en-US/whssoftware/thread/67a19ef5-8da4-4070-8c7c-b0c5b902cd03

    . . . I have refrained from doing any defragging whatsoever to date.  If the First update (PP1) fixed this issue, I missed the documentation, and see little reason to buy a commercial defragger updated in a manner that is designed mostly to prevent it from doing what it's designed to do. This sure looked like it needed fixing.  

    Two questions:

     a.  Is this problem at least on the list of items that needs attention?  Defragging is pretty basic stuff, after all, and not being able to defrag a file server without risking disaster seems strange, to say the least.

    I don't know if it's on MS's list of items or not.  You can always post a suggestion for it on Connect.

    Mike_Va said:

     b.  Am I correct in assuming that it DOES remain safe to defrag the system partition with the included applet, along with drives in the machine that are NOT included in the storage pool?

    Should it be safe to do so?  Yes.  Is it supported?  No (because it involves logging into the server desktop).


    Mike_Va said:

    2.  SERVER BACKUP:

    I had read a number of threads suggesting that we're not quite there yet on backing up the server itself, something it certainly seems a good idea to do now and again.  There seem to be three possibilities if I'm reading correctly:  

    a.  The built in Backup post PP1 -- though it seems perhaps a bit limited.  I haven't plugged in a USB drive yet to check it out, and am not quite sure what it's designed to do . . .

    b.  WHS BDBB -- the add in that seems designed to backup the backups of the OTHER PCs on the network to whereever one likes . . . useful, but not a complete answer . . .

    c.  THIRD PARTY BACKUP  -- Something like Acronis, etc., which could apparently give you a bare metal restore option, just as it would on a desktop PC -- as long as you have an exertnal usb drive or something similar big enough to hold the entire contents of the server.  

    Did I miss anything, is anything in the works, and does anybody have any good advice to offer here?

    WHS is designed in such a way that the OS is non-essential.  If something happens to the OS, you just reinstall it (leaving the data alone).  As for the data in the shares, the backup tool that is part of PP1 works just fine.  Ghosting your OS partition is unsupported and will most likely be more trouble than it's worth, but feel free to give it a shot if you like. ;)

    Mike_Va said:

    Basically, the storage of music and such makes the server the only storage locale in the household (admittedly duplicated) for data that would take a bit of work to restore.  So Option B doesn't quite do it.  

    I'm all right, I suppose, if I need to go third party, as long as I'm not going to foul up the system by backing it up, and can safely presume that tombstones and such will be backed up and restored successfully.  I could see something like a schedule using 3rd Party software every month, and WHSBDBB on the alternating two week intervals.  That make any sense?  

    3.  PC BACKUP:  

    There's one odd behavior associated with the basic backup functions -- they don't seem to work when external USB drives are attached to the client, and particularly not with an encrypted drive/file is mounted using something like truecrypt (even if drives or mounted virtual drives are manually excluded from the backup attempt).  

    Is that intentional, or am I misconfigured somewhere?

    It should backup USB drives as long as it has been configured in the backup tool.  However, if you are using TrueCrypt, then I can see how it might not work.  

    Mike_Va said:

    4.  LOGGING ON:  This one's a bit of an oddball question, I'll admit, but I have good motives.  I'm aware, of course, that WHS is meant to be run headless, and somewhere along the way I believe I've been warned that leaving an account logged on (locally) can degrade performance.  

    I don't think you would have a performance hit, but it's definitely unsupported.

    Mike_Va said:

    OK.  But that has some drawbacks too.  First, there are some things that need to be up and running in the tray to do their thing

    Which means you are installing something on your server that is unsupported as there is no part of WHS that requires direct server desktop access.

    Mike_Va said:

     -- e.g, now that the PC is downstairs where it's cool, the hottest components in the box are at like 33 degs C with most components in the 20s, and speedfan would readily quiet things down -- IF I'm logged on.  This could be fixed, of course, with a hardware fan controller, but is that really necessary?  

    More importantly, I've now managed to get the house workstations to go to an S3 sleep state, which is really good for the energy footprint.  Modern PCs seem to draw considerable power even at idle (80-90 watts, maybe more?), but only a meager few in S3 with everything including the fans shut down.  I have good guidelines that suggest you can put a Server in S3 as well and have it recover with wake on lan functions, and the power savings would be great for a server that mostly sits doing nothing during the day five days a week (say 5 watts vs 85-90 x 14-16 hours/day x 5 days).  And I can already attest to the fact that the desktops will wake when queried by WHS, backup, and go back into a deep sleep state, so the basic technology seems to be there.  

    WHS doesn't tell the client to "wake up".  The client is given a random time to wake up by the server, then the client wakes itself up.

    Mike_Va said:

    But again, it wouldn't seem that one could use the "power options" to put the Server in Standby if there's no account logged on.  

    The question, therefore, is:  What harm would it do to stay logged on, and what sort of performance degradation would be expected (and why)?

    The harm would be that your server is always logged on, a good way to allow someone else access to your data.

    Mike_Va said:

    This is an Athlon 3800x2 with 2 Gigs of RAM, so if the hit is minor, I could probably live with it -- this isn't quite min spec, after all.  

    Alternatively, is there some other way to get the task done?  

    You can install the 2003 Resource Kit on your server, then use an app called SrvAny (at least I think that's the name).  It allows you to install any app as a service.


    Cheers,
    Mike R.  



    Sunday, January 25, 2009 5:58 AM
    Moderator
  • If putting your server in standby/hibernation for a significant period of time every day is a major consideration for you, look at the add-in Lights Out.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by Mike_Va Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:18 PM
    Thursday, February 19, 2009 3:52 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • Mike_Va said:

    Hello All:  

     Well, having conducted my various blasphemous experiments without causing apparent harm, as described here:

     http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whshardware/thread/f2f955f2-745e-4bc8-8414-fbe5d1dbfd0b

    . . . I've found that once I stashed the server down below in the basement (it's intended home), I really do use it mostly in "server" mode -- not much occasion to do desktop work down there, although the system has generally been fine when I've asked it to do some minor desktop work.

    Meanwhile, the server appears to have been faithfully backing things up with much better regularity than my various prior backup efforts, and has stored and duplicated the beginnings of a ripped CD collection using Exact Audio Copy writing to FLAC files.  All in all, a fairly good experience.

    The problem is that I've not had as much time as I'd like to get deeper into WHS, and am still new to some of the basics, which brings up a couple of questions:

    1.  DEFRAG:  Having read the description of the defrag difficulties here:

    http://social.microsoft.com/forums/en-US/whssoftware/thread/67a19ef5-8da4-4070-8c7c-b0c5b902cd03

    . . . I have refrained from doing any defragging whatsoever to date.  If the First update (PP1) fixed this issue, I missed the documentation, and see little reason to buy a commercial defragger updated in a manner that is designed mostly to prevent it from doing what it's designed to do. This sure looked like it needed fixing.  

    Two questions:

     a.  Is this problem at least on the list of items that needs attention?  Defragging is pretty basic stuff, after all, and not being able to defrag a file server without risking disaster seems strange, to say the least.

    I don't know if it's on MS's list of items or not.  You can always post a suggestion for it on Connect.

    Mike_Va said:

     b.  Am I correct in assuming that it DOES remain safe to defrag the system partition with the included applet, along with drives in the machine that are NOT included in the storage pool?

    Should it be safe to do so?  Yes.  Is it supported?  No (because it involves logging into the server desktop).


    Mike_Va said:

    2.  SERVER BACKUP:

    I had read a number of threads suggesting that we're not quite there yet on backing up the server itself, something it certainly seems a good idea to do now and again.  There seem to be three possibilities if I'm reading correctly:  

    a.  The built in Backup post PP1 -- though it seems perhaps a bit limited.  I haven't plugged in a USB drive yet to check it out, and am not quite sure what it's designed to do . . .

    b.  WHS BDBB -- the add in that seems designed to backup the backups of the OTHER PCs on the network to whereever one likes . . . useful, but not a complete answer . . .

    c.  THIRD PARTY BACKUP  -- Something like Acronis, etc., which could apparently give you a bare metal restore option, just as it would on a desktop PC -- as long as you have an exertnal usb drive or something similar big enough to hold the entire contents of the server.  

    Did I miss anything, is anything in the works, and does anybody have any good advice to offer here?

    WHS is designed in such a way that the OS is non-essential.  If something happens to the OS, you just reinstall it (leaving the data alone).  As for the data in the shares, the backup tool that is part of PP1 works just fine.  Ghosting your OS partition is unsupported and will most likely be more trouble than it's worth, but feel free to give it a shot if you like. ;)

    Mike_Va said:

    Basically, the storage of music and such makes the server the only storage locale in the household (admittedly duplicated) for data that would take a bit of work to restore.  So Option B doesn't quite do it.  

    I'm all right, I suppose, if I need to go third party, as long as I'm not going to foul up the system by backing it up, and can safely presume that tombstones and such will be backed up and restored successfully.  I could see something like a schedule using 3rd Party software every month, and WHSBDBB on the alternating two week intervals.  That make any sense?  

    3.  PC BACKUP:  

    There's one odd behavior associated with the basic backup functions -- they don't seem to work when external USB drives are attached to the client, and particularly not with an encrypted drive/file is mounted using something like truecrypt (even if drives or mounted virtual drives are manually excluded from the backup attempt).  

    Is that intentional, or am I misconfigured somewhere?

    It should backup USB drives as long as it has been configured in the backup tool.  However, if you are using TrueCrypt, then I can see how it might not work.  

    Mike_Va said:

    4.  LOGGING ON:  This one's a bit of an oddball question, I'll admit, but I have good motives.  I'm aware, of course, that WHS is meant to be run headless, and somewhere along the way I believe I've been warned that leaving an account logged on (locally) can degrade performance.  

    I don't think you would have a performance hit, but it's definitely unsupported.

    Mike_Va said:

    OK.  But that has some drawbacks too.  First, there are some things that need to be up and running in the tray to do their thing

    Which means you are installing something on your server that is unsupported as there is no part of WHS that requires direct server desktop access.

    Mike_Va said:

     -- e.g, now that the PC is downstairs where it's cool, the hottest components in the box are at like 33 degs C with most components in the 20s, and speedfan would readily quiet things down -- IF I'm logged on.  This could be fixed, of course, with a hardware fan controller, but is that really necessary?  

    More importantly, I've now managed to get the house workstations to go to an S3 sleep state, which is really good for the energy footprint.  Modern PCs seem to draw considerable power even at idle (80-90 watts, maybe more?), but only a meager few in S3 with everything including the fans shut down.  I have good guidelines that suggest you can put a Server in S3 as well and have it recover with wake on lan functions, and the power savings would be great for a server that mostly sits doing nothing during the day five days a week (say 5 watts vs 85-90 x 14-16 hours/day x 5 days).  And I can already attest to the fact that the desktops will wake when queried by WHS, backup, and go back into a deep sleep state, so the basic technology seems to be there.  

    WHS doesn't tell the client to "wake up".  The client is given a random time to wake up by the server, then the client wakes itself up.

    Mike_Va said:

    But again, it wouldn't seem that one could use the "power options" to put the Server in Standby if there's no account logged on.  

    The question, therefore, is:  What harm would it do to stay logged on, and what sort of performance degradation would be expected (and why)?

    The harm would be that your server is always logged on, a good way to allow someone else access to your data.

    Mike_Va said:

    This is an Athlon 3800x2 with 2 Gigs of RAM, so if the hit is minor, I could probably live with it -- this isn't quite min spec, after all.  

    Alternatively, is there some other way to get the task done?  

    You can install the 2003 Resource Kit on your server, then use an app called SrvAny (at least I think that's the name).  It allows you to install any app as a service.


    Cheers,
    Mike R.  



    Sunday, January 25, 2009 5:58 AM
    Moderator
  • Defragmenting the hard drives in your server will not have the performance impact that you probably expect. In real world testing, defragmenting doesn't generally offer the level of improvement that the publishers of popular utilities generally imply, so I don't usually recommend it. If you feel a need for defragmenting, however, you will have to use one of those tools, as (so far as I can tell) Microsoft is unlikely to spend any time on making the built-in applet work safely with this version of the product.

     

    Server backup: The tool that was added to Power Pack 1 backs up only your shares. It does so in a relatively efficient manner, using links to files that haven't changed since a previous backup rather than copying those files all over again. You can then (if you choose) take the external drive you've backed your shares up to off-site for safety.

     

    There is, however, no supported way to back up the entire server. If you use the server as Microsoft has designed it, there's also no real need to do so. In the event of a system drive failure, the most time-consuming part of restoring your server would be the rebuilding of the primary DATA partition (D:), where all the tombstones for your shares reside, and that partition is really not very amenable to backing up by any means. Tombstones are changing constantly as you work with the files on your server, and as a result the D: partition backup would be "out of date" within hours (if not sooner). BDBB will serve to back up your client backup database, if you feel the need to do so. Personally, I am comfortable with the idea that failure of a drive that contains components of that database means that I will have to recreate the backup database from my client machines. I've been an IT professional for many years, and I have never encountered a situation where I wanted to restore a backup older than the "last good" backup.

     

    Logging on/power saving states: This is a Microsoft design decision. You can, of course, do what you want, but by design Windows Home Server itself does not require desktop access for any supported function. As for S1/S3/S4 states, if your server is in a power saving state, then any access to the shares, remote access web site, streaming media, etc. will require a tool which will wake it. (This functionality is usually referred to as "Wake On LAN".) Windows does not include such a tool, and it would be difficult to add one after the fact which would not be intrusive in some fashion. In addition, that would only serve to make local access to the server from those clients that are capable of installing such a tool easier. If you stream media to e.g. your Xbox 360, you would have to wake the server from some other client. And you would still be unable to get it to wake from afar for access to the Remote Access web site.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Sunday, January 25, 2009 3:02 PM
    Moderator
  • OK, just a quick note to apologize for asking a question and failing to check back for an extended time.  The PC thing is just a hobby at my end, and things got a tad busy. 

    (Busy was mostly non-PC stuff, but there was a rather hilarious interlude in which the server got bumped while shut down.  Upon reboot, it sounded much like a backing dumptruck -- "beep-beep-beep."  Uh oh.  Pulled the panel and checked/reseated cards and such.  No Joy.  Drat, time to find that MBoard manual -- and here's where it get's better.  Manual says "see bios beep codes below" -- which chart is nowhere in the manual.  No problem, right?  Google is your friend.  Which, in turns finds a first entry that says "hey, wheres the %$%^#$ beep code chart in the _______ mainboard manual?"  *Sigh*  Turned out to be a jostled/chip creeped mem module.  So all's well, but even at the time the sequence of events was almost as amusing as it was annoying) 

    The answers here are most helpful, and I really appreciate them. 

    1.  On the defrag question, I really think that needs to get fixed - it's pretty basic at least to those of us who've worked mostly with desktops -- but as it appears from the thread I mentioned that 3rd party vendors have made the point, I suspect that Redmond doesn't need yet another reminder.  Presumably, they'll get to it.  And at least I can defrag c:\ in the meantime (yeah, I know, everything I do with WHS is apparently "unsupported"). 

    2.  On the backup philosophy note, the "non-essential" OS point was most helpful.  Hadn't thought of it that way.  Since I'm installing some apps, and occasionally using the server for desktop sorts of chores (e.g., as a playback tool for that ripped music whist I clean up the basement), I'll still need to do backups (or take the risk), but I "get it" now about how it's meant to be done, and that makes sense. 

    Having better luck now with USB drives attached.  Not sure what was up there.  Will report back if/when I figure out what is/was going on if the reason seems significant, which seems doubtful. 

    Which brings us to SrvAny -- I really like that idea, and will look into it.  In some sense, I think greening my WHS is up next, and this could help.  Basically, I want to see if I can get the thing to go to standyby when nothing's up (which is most of the time measured in hrs per day), wake up to do maintenance/backup, go back to standby etc.  Again, will report back as to how it goes.   Anybody already been down that path that we know of? 

    Thanks again, and sorry to be so long getting back in here.  I'm now off to design a backup scheme (anybody want to chime in with a favorite app there?), and to work on a "less watts is more" effort. 

    Best to all,
    Mike
    Thursday, February 19, 2009 11:03 AM
  • If putting your server in standby/hibernation for a significant period of time every day is a major consideration for you, look at the add-in Lights Out.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by Mike_Va Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:18 PM
    Thursday, February 19, 2009 3:52 PM
    Moderator
  • Hey Ken: Wow, been a long time since I checked back. I took your advice about lights out, and it works brilliantly. PC's now go to standby nicely, server then hibernates. Everybody wakes up at 2am for back up, then back to standby. Like the usage graph too. Pretty green overall. And just checking back in, I realized that I'd never thanked you for reminding me that it existed. I'd seen it before and completely forgotten about it. Probably time to update it by now! Cheers, Mike
    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:21 PM