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Do I need a Server??

J

JetJockey

Guest
Hi again everyone.

Well, the Cat 6 cable has gone in and appears to be working. I really took my time with the terminations etc, and every thing (Gigabit switch, Modem Router, etc) has now been centralised in the workshop....... flipping marvelous. :clap:

However........... I have just been out pricing bits for a server (a real can of worms) when I started wondering if a NAs box would be a better solution.

Could somebody point me in the right direction please with a few obvious pro's and con's.

Thanks, Gerald.
 

wywywywy

Established Member
Don't know about the pros and cons (or too lazy to think about), but if I were in your situation, these are the things that I would think about:

- Power consumption
- Noise
- Heat (quite a problem in summer)
- Price
- Flexibility
- Coolness (as in how impressed your mates will be)
- Expandibility
- Wife-friendliness
- Usage (Bare in mind there are quite a lot of things a NSA can't do... e.g. controlling the Home Automation)

What are you going to use it for anyway?
 

willsy2

Established Member
If you're just looking for storage then a NAS is all you need. The ready made NAS boxes are easy to set up or you could try Naslite http://www.serverelements.com/ which you can make use of an old computer to build your own NAS.
A server would be a lot harder to set up, and unless you were using Linux a lot more expensive.
There's nothing stopping you having a NAS to start with then adding a server later on.
As regards heat & noise i used a fanless Mini-itx board in my Naslite box which is low power consumption, the main heat is from the hard drives. Even in this hot spell the room hasn't got particularly warm.
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
JetJockey said:
Could somebody point me in the right direction please with a few obvious pro's and con's.

NAS Box
======
  • Should work straight of the the box. Just plug and play(ish)
  • Size. You will struggle to get a PC box this size
  • RAID. Some boxes have real hardware raid

Dedicated Sever
============
  • Upgradeable... It is generally difficult to upgrade a commercial NAS box
  • Can be used for other things... You could web servers / database servers etc
  • Tweaking. Most NAS interfaces only allow you to alter rudimentary settings and this means they generally perform ok but can not be improved. With a server you can tweak settings as you see fit
  • Get to learn Linux. If you are doing this on the cheap then the only option for OS would be *NIX (LINUX or FREEBSD) which is good in that you get to learn who things work but it is going to be a steep learning curve

In reality most commercial NAS boxes are just tiny Linux boxes with lots of hard drives anyway. This means they are highly tuned to use little resoures but this comes at the cost of updragability

There are two main things you should consider
  1. Do you have the time / inclination to learn about Linux
  2. Do you have an old machine lying around already
 

willsy2

Established Member
Another point to consider with a commercial NAS box is if you get a hardware failure, you may not be able to read the hard disk without another box of the same manufacture. I also have a Synology Diskstation which uses a proprietry version of the ReiserFS file system unreadable other than in that box. That's why i'm in the process of switching to Naslite+.
 

HCK

Established Member
what are you going to be using it for ? Home, work etc ?
 
J

JetJockey

Guest
Thanks all.

I will be using it for storing Music, movies and photographs to stream around the house. Can't think of any other requirement at the mo. It would be used to feed two HTPC's or maybe one of those Roku thingamy jiggies. I am told that the NAS does not work with the Roku or Snazzio? I am also worried about the proprietry file system in a NAS. Don't have an old PC lying about so can spend money on either a NAS or a server!!!

Also, do I have to use Linux? I thought loads of people were running servers using Win XP Home or Professional?? What advantage would Linux give?

Gerald. :)
 

guido

Established Member
If you just want a NAS or equivilent, then how about connecting a Buffalo Linkstation or Synology Disk stations to your network? These are very good.. get great reviews and mate at work has got one of the Synology ones and says its great.

Synology PCPro Review:
http://www.pcpro.co.uk/labs/81392/synology-disk-station-101g.html

If you use the drop down at the top of the PCpro review, they also test the Linkstation.

OR....you could always go Windows SBS2003 for a proper server... and either hang direct attached storage or networked storage off this. SBS is a fab product... especially if you want to run your own mail server etc. :smashin: have set a couple up and once you bite the bullet and move your mx records at your isp to point to your own server then you get nice centralised mail for your family and can use OWA to get your own mail at any time.. also has nice things such as vpn and remote working all built in so easy to access info at home when you are elsewhere.

But I reckon the Buffalo or Synology products would probably suit your requirements.
 

HCK

Established Member
I personally go with a beefed up desktop....NAS boxes can be expensive and come with their own proprietary OS on them.....normally Linux.....which in my experience is not user friendly...unless you know how to administer it.

Server are normally used to server a large user base, you only have 2 devices so Windows XP will suffice as I think it has a concurrent network connection limit of 10...someone may correct me.

You can get MOBO's with built in RAID controllers for peformance and fault tolerance and with Gigabit network cards, so a high performance MOBO should suit you. A Gigabit switch that supports Jumbo frames will support fast network transfers. You can now get 750GB SATA drives so a few of these will do for storage.

I would recommend that you look at all your options, get as much info as you can then decide. Hope this helps.
 
J

JetJockey

Guest
Hi again.

Yup, that's the plan. Gathering info as we speak but I must be honest, no one has yet made a cast iron argument in favour of one or the other as yet. There have been plenty of pro's and con's, which is great, but no convincing arguments one way or the other.

Initially. the NAS server sounds the ideal solution due to it's dedicated hardware etc. However, the server sounds attractive because I am more comfortable with that having built many PC's.

What I was looking for were some cast iron can and can'ts for each solution but I guess that without knowing my exact system it's difficult. Trouble is, at the mo I don't know what I will end up with. Obviously there will be a HTPC at both the Plasma and Projector so that's 2 HTPC's to be fed. However..... I may end up with a scaler with media hub also at each display, or even a Snazzio or Roku or Xbox also. It's a minefield!!! :eek:

Gerald. :)
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
JetJockey said:
Also, do I have to use Linux? I thought loads of people were running servers using Win XP Home or Professional?? What advantage would Linux give?
Windows is designed as a desktop operating system (well XP anyway, 2k3 is server) where as Linux is far more designed to be used in server environments.

You can download it for free.

You can run a stripped down version of Linux on an old PIII and it will quite happily function as a file server (XP certainly wont).

There is still the great debate about this but IMHO it is also more stable than XP (my server has been up for about six months now without a reboot, and that was only because I turned if off when I went on holiday).
 

Uridium

Distinguished Member
jameson_uk said:
Windows is designed as a desktop operating system (well XP anyway, 2k3 is server) where as Linux is far more designed to be used in server environments.

You can download it for free.

You can run a stripped down version of Linux on an old PIII and it will quite happily function as a file server (XP certainly wont).

There is still the great debate about this but IMHO it is also more stable than XP (my server has been up for about six months now without a reboot, and that was only because I turned if off when I went on holiday).

Xp will run as a file server quite happily as long as you don't need anymore than 10 concurrent TCP connections, I've had an XP File server sitting here for 2 years.
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
HCK said:
I personally go with a beefed up desktop....NAS boxes can be expensive and come with their own proprietary OS on them.....normally Linux.....which in my experience is not user friendly...unless you know how to administer it.
Most NAS boxes do not allow you to get at the operating system anyway (some do with a lot of messing about but...). Most are just very trimmed down Linux distros; but some do

You can get MOBO's with built in RAID controllers for peformance and fault tolerance and with Gigabit network cards, so a high performance MOBO should suit you. A Gigabit switch that supports Jumbo frames will support fast network transfers. You can now get 750GB SATA drives so a few of these will do for storage.
Yes and No... onboard RAID controllers are really software RAID devices and not actually very fast. Most NAS boxes also use some form of software RAID but if you can find one that does true hardware RAID (bearing in mind a real hardware RAID PCI card on it's own costs about £300) then you may find gigabit actually helps but in reality you will not see much better performance over a 100Mbps connection
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
JetJockey said:
There have been plenty of pro's and con's, which is great, but no convincing arguments one way or the other.
When you consider £250GB drives are @£50 each and then an old PC with RAID MOBO (talking something like a socket A Athlon) would set you back about £50-£60 (memory, processeor and mobo) you are up to £250 already

Compare this to the buffalo terastation which costs @£500 then ask yourself what is more important. Something which you plug in and never really have to worry about again or £250 in your pocket and potentially a few weeks of steep learning and playing to get it to work? (That said Debian installed as a file server very easily and could be done without really understanding what is going on but I am not sure that is a good idea....)
 

andrew1810

Established Member
jameson_uk said:
You can run a stripped down version of Linux on an old PIII and it will quite happily function as a file server (XP certainly wont).

I have a PII 450Mhz (underclocked to 300Mhz) working quite happily as a file and print server, running Windows XP, takes about 1 min to boot up and hasn't crashed yet.
 
J

JetJockey

Guest
Hmmm.....

Which version of XP are we talking........ Home or Professional?

Where do I get Linux?

Gerald.
 

Uridium

Distinguished Member
andrew1810 said:
I have a PII 450Mhz (underclocked to 300Mhz) working quite happily as a file and print server, running Windows XP, takes about 1 min to boot up and hasn't crashed yet.

I have a nice little P3\800mhz\256Mb Small form factor Compaq Deskpro EN I use as a File\streaming Music server. very low power utilisation, reliable and cheap to pick up off Ebay etc for £50-£80

Currently running "TinyXP" which only uses a fraction of the resource of full blown XP.

Admittedly TinyXP isn't strictly legit but I have a spare unused XP Pro license I'm not using that I feel more than covers the licensing issue.

Sits in a cupboard out of the way with just a power cable and network cable plugged in. If I need to use it I just remote desktop across.
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
andrew1810 said:
I have a PII 450Mhz (underclocked to 300Mhz) working quite happily as a file and print server, running Windows XP, takes about 1 min to boot up and hasn't crashed yet.
Must admit that is better than I imagined. I recall in the past trying to install XP on a PII 233 with 128MB RAM and it took for evern to boot up and then was really unresponsive. But I suppose I was actually trying to get it to just browse the net where as this is not being used as a desktop.

Out of interest how far have you tweaked this (turned off lots of services etc?) and what service pack are you running ?

I have seen people running file servers on old 386/486 machines and I guess these work but would have thought these machines would cost just as much as PII/PIII anyway...

I am not saying the Linux is better then windows just that by default it uses a hell of a lot less resources. I am not sure how much you get but I know you can get some distros on floppy... and they should work with tiny amounts of RAM.
 

mark.carline

Established Member
jameson_uk said:
.....these machines would cost just as much as PII/PIII anyway...

Dont forget to factor in the cost of electricity when using an old PC. You can sometimes justify a laptop over an old 300w machine on the electricity savings you would get over 1-2 years (if you leave it on 24x7).

Do the maths!
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
JetJockey said:
Where do I get Linux?
This would be where it starts to get very interesting......

Partly comes down to what you want to do. If you just want a NAS box, you should probably go for something like NASLITE or FREENAS. (one is actually FreeBSD based not Linux but that is neither here nor there)

If you however want to play / do other stuff you can take your pick from 10,000 other distros. I would recommend Debian (or a debian based system) purely for the installation (apt-get / aptitude software). Also the network install means you can download one CD, setup a minimum install server and it will install the bits you need. One option is for a file server which will setup SAMBA. You can then start to do other things like installing a SFTP server so you can access your files over the net etc...
 

andrew1810

Established Member
I turned off every non-essential service and stripped out any of the extra software (CD-player etc.) and also installed Opera instead of IE for any web browsing (downloading drivers etc.)

I was going to use linux, but I only had an old dabsvalue wireless usb which didn't work in any of the linux variants I tried.

I think there is 256Mb RAM in it to make up for the slow processor (I underclocked it to remove the CPU fan)

There is also a ramdisk on there to save power/noise when it is only being used as a print server.

Edit: In terms of linux, I found Ubuntu to be the easiest as a desktop computer, FreeNAS as a NAS box and ClarkConnect as a server (web interface)
 
J

JetJockey

Guest
Hmmmmm..............

OK. I have had a look at some of these Linux options such as ClarkConnect etc.

How are you fixed with drivers for the latest Motherboards? For example, I would be buying a Gigabyte (K8N51GMF-9) MoBo with onboard sound and video and Raid and Gigabit Lan etc, etc. Does the ClarkConnect product cater for all of this Hardware? Surely, if it does not supply drivers etc, the boards hardware will not be running at it's optimum? Or am I missing something here? :confused:

Also, what is Tiny XP and where does one get it?

Also again, what is the difference between a NAS box and a Server in relation to FreeNAS or ClarkConnect? I only want this Server to feed data around the House, not across the Web. BTW it might be nice to use it as a Print server too. Is this easy with Linux (ClarkConnect), or should I stick with Windows?

Cheers, Gerald.
 

Uridium

Distinguished Member
"TinyXP" isn't strictly legit as basically it's a cracked version of WinXP with loads of stuff removed so it will install in just a few hundred Mb and run much faster on lower powered machines.

I don't like to promote software piracy but feel as long as you have a unused legal license for WinXP then no real harm is done. (actually I often wonder why MS don't release a stripped down version themselves as there is a market for it)

Anyway your only likely to find a copy by searching a few of the Big Bittorrent sites.

If you don't have any joy let me know and I'll help you out
 

jameson_uk

Prominent Member
andrew1810 said:
I was going to use linux, but I only had an old dabsvalue wireless usb which didn't work in any of the linux variants I tried.
Very good point which I forgot to mention. Linux (older versions particularly) are notoriously bad with any modern hardware so you may want to try out some of "live" distros which basically allow you to boot into Linux from a CD and have a play without actually installing.

Over the years I have been using Linux, this has been getting much better and indeed the last install I did (Debian Sarge) it recognised and setup all the hardware without me having to do anything

Edit: In terms of linux, I found Ubuntu to be the easiest as a desktop computer, FreeNAS as a NAS box and ClarkConnect as a server (web interface)
Ubuntu is one of the Debian derivitives and highly recommened. As for remote acces, I would say that just about all *NIX versions have one... SSH. This is only command line but tbh that is all you need.
 

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