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Backup and Media Servers
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Green Lantern
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July 2, 2010 - 6:45 am
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Greetings

I had a thought about securing a Media Server. Whether RAID of WHS, they all offer some possibility to redundantly store files as a protection against failure. But what happens if the media server itself and not the HD fails. I mean, lets say the media server is 5 years old and the power supply or the CPU burns out. It would cost more to have it repaired than it would to buy a new one. So you have, let us say, two hard drives in the server that are intact with all your data on them. I assume that if you had a "desktop" or "tower" pc you could just mount the HD into your system and transfer the data to new hardware. But I have three laptops - four actually if you count the reserve.

I suppose you could just mount the drives into the new media server assuming that the drive formats are still alive and well.

Just a thought.

GL

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Chad Johnson
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July 2, 2010 - 8:35 am
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Interesting thoughts, but not as dire as you may think.

Power supply: 50-100 dollars
Motherboard: 100-150 dollars
CPU: 100-150 dollars
Video card: 50-100 dollars

These are kind of average prices. You can go super cheap and super expensive in each case.

While the whole thing could be replaced for about $800 or so, if the parts are available, repair is usually a decent option.

On a laptop...things get trickier. Parts are more integrated and hard to replace. Most people don't run a media server from a laptop though (I say that, but for a while I had a Domain Controller running on a laptop, so strange things do happen...)

--ZIg

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Green Lantern
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July 2, 2010 - 9:23 am
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Hi Ziggy

I wasn't looking at it from the viewpoint of building my own server. I'm more likely to buy one. Not because I'm lazy, but I just don't have a clue about what how to go about building one. So I was thinking about something like the HP Media Vault. You can't put a new motherboard into that! But I can certainly see the benefit of building your own and having it be all modular like that.

I mean that's why I started this thread. Because there are so many aspects of this that I don't see clearly.

I don't really KNOW for example, if WHS would just run and perform all of its functions on ANY box out there. There may be certain magical components and configurations that need to invoked for WHS to work its magic (media streaming, etc.). If THAT were the case I could just go out and buy a no-name box, install WHS, thrown in an extra HD or two and be off. And be largely in the position you describe without having to build one from scratch.

GL

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Chad Johnson
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July 3, 2010 - 12:49 pm
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From what I've seen of the media vault, it's just a pc in a smaller box. It would still certainly have all the required components needed in a PC (motherboard, RAM, HDD, etc) - though they may be proprietary pieces which drives the cost up, they're still just as modular.

As for sys requirements - they seem pretty straightforward. [url:39aw4urk]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Home_Server#Minimum_system_requirements[/url:39aw4urk] I don't see anything out of the ordinary there...

Maybe someone with some WHS experience can speak to your whitebox option...

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Green Lantern
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July 3, 2010 - 1:02 pm
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Thanks Ziggy, I'll have a look at that link. It will take some reserves of fortitude that I'm not certain I possess before I get into building my own. I think I'd need more than a virtual hand-holding.

GL

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Green Lantern
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July 5, 2010 - 6:36 am
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Greetings

Does anyone know if it is possible to put a Windows Home Server in the living room and attach speakers to it. Can they be outfitted with sound cards?

Thanks.

GL

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David Hartsock
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July 9, 2010 - 5:01 am
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[quote="Green Lantern":5nx2n02f]Is is possible to back up WHS by directly plugging an external HD into it? Or would a backup be superfluous because the server can make dual copies of each file onto seperate HDs? The latter, would of course, require that one have a minimum of two HDs.[/quote:5nx2n02f]
Yes it is. With the latest power pack (service pack in pc world) plug the drive in and you are given the choice to add it to the storage pool (server storage) or backup the server. Is it unneeded? Well that depends on how valuable you believe the media is. For irreplaceable pictures? Sure, why not keep a backup off site. BTW, you really want to run at least 2 drives if you run WHS so that you can enable duplication.

[quote:5nx2n02f]The salespeople at my local electronics outlet are very bullish on NAS, particularly those with RAID. I have heard that these are not easy to migrate later on. I don't know how they compare to WHS which is a complete solution with backup software and streaming built in. I assume you would have to purchase such software elsewhere for a NAS server?[/quote:5nx2n02f]
WHS with duplication enabled is a poor mans RAID, but with many positives. If a RAID drive fails you have to rebuild the array, which can take a long time depending on size. If a WHS drive fails you turn the box off, remove the bad drive, install a new drive, turn the box on and walk away. No other intervention needed. With a NAS you will need software on each computer to perform the backup operations and there will be no central point to manage this, unless you go with a very expensive business class package. A NAS is basically a dumb box full of drives with a network connection.

[quote:5nx2n02f]I'm wondering if this is the right time to go for the WHS. It isn't out yet as 64 bit software and from what I've heard the user interface is a bit primitive. I read somewhere that it looks like Windows 2000! I assume this will get better. If the timeframe is longer that a year I would probably go with what's out there now, but if it's just around the corner I could wait...[/quote:5nx2n02f]
The reason behind the 64bit move is the base of the new version will be Server2008. Moving to 64bit allows the use of more than 4GB of RAM, which will be needed in the future as more functionality is added. I imagine over the next several years there will be more media functions available from the server(management, transcoding, etc). It is basically to give them a better base platform to continue development into the future. There is no reason not to jump on the bandwagon now if it has the features you want/need. Who knows what will be out in 3 years, so why wait?

The user interface isn't a "WOW" type, but more of a functional type. On a day to day basis you won't even look at the server. In fact most OEM units sold with WHS don't even have monitor connections. It is meant to be setup and forgotten about! Each PC gets a piece of software called a Connector installed. This shows the server status in the taskbar notification area and allows you to open the "Console" on that PC. The console is the control point for the WHS and can be accessed by any computer on the network.

[quote:5nx2n02f]The other crucial thing I am trying to figure out is how best to configure my wireless network to work with it. If I want to backup large amounts of data it would probably pay to have the fastest wireless I can get my hands on. I assume this means upgrading my existing router to a gigabit router.[/quote:5nx2n02f]

I prefer to have the WHS on a wired connection to the router so I know I have a good, solid, reliable connection to the server. My router is also a Wireless-N access point and I do have several laptops connected wirelessly. I also try to make a wired connection to any computer or device that isn't mobile. I transfer a lot of files and wired will always be faster and more dependable than wireless!

[quote:5nx2n02f]I guess nice people attract nice people. [/quote:5nx2n02f]
We truly hope that is the case!

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David Hartsock
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July 9, 2010 - 5:14 am
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[quote="Green Lantern":2b0m3q07]But what happens if the media server itself and not the HD fails. I mean, lets say the media server is 5 years old and the power supply or the CPU burns out. It would cost more to have it repaired than it would to buy a new one. So you have, let us say, two hard drives in the server that are intact with all your data on them. I assume that if you had a "desktop" or "tower" pc you could just mount the HD into your system and transfer the data to new hardware.[/quote:2b0m3q07]
The drives in WHS are formatted using a standard method and all files are stored in their original format. The drive can be mounted in any Windows computer and read, files copied, etc. In the case of a laptop, there are adapters (cost about $15 to $20) that will convert any hard drive (IDE, SATA, 2.5", 3.5") to a USB external drive.

If you look at a NAS type solution using RAID the answer isn't that simple and your data is more than likely toast (depending on the array type).

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David Hartsock
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July 9, 2010 - 5:24 am
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[quote="Green Lantern":3p6ipuke]I wasn't looking at it from the viewpoint of building my own server. I'm more likely to buy one. Not because I'm lazy, but I just don't have a clue about what how to go about building one. So I was thinking about something like the HP Media Vault. You can't put a new motherboard into that! But I can certainly see the benefit of building your own and having it be all modular like that.[/quote:3p6ipuke]

It isn't really hard, and probably a good learning experience! - [url=http://www.davescomputertips.com/articles/general/how_to_build_your_own_computer_1.php:3p6ipuke]How to build your own WHS[/url:3p6ipuke]

[quote:3p6ipuke]I don't really KNOW for example, if WHS would just run and perform all of its functions on ANY box out there. There may be certain magical components and configurations that need to invoked for WHS to work its magic (media streaming, etc.). If THAT were the case I could just go out and buy a no-name box, install WHS, thrown in an extra HD or two and be off. And be largely in the position you describe without having to build one from scratch.[/quote:3p6ipuke]
Well if you are going to build you have much more control of what goes in the box. If you buy a box (other than a specific WHS box) you are stuck with what someone else has chosen.

I looked at an Intel mid-grade dual core CPU, 2GB of RAM, a decent motherboard with plenty of IDE and SATA drive connections, and a Gigabit ethernet connection. I chose a case that had plenty of room for multiple drives and lots of cooling. Pretty simple, and the above article explains why I chose the components I did. If I had to do it again tomorrow I would choose a motherboard with more SATA connections, and drives I buy from this point forward will all be SATA. The most important thing is that anything you choose must be compatible with Server2003 (motherboard drivers, Ethernet drivers, etc).

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David Hartsock
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July 9, 2010 - 5:29 am
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[quote="Green Lantern":f37eywn8]Does anyone know if it is possible to put a Windows Home Server in the living room and attach speakers to it. Can they be outfitted with sound cards?[/quote:f37eywn8]
Not if you buy an OEM. Most of them have no expandable ports or monitor/sound connections.

If you built your own you could, but drivers for Server 2003, which WHS is built on, would be limited in availability and function. I can't really see a reason, unless you wanted to play directly to a TV/monitor which would lead back to the drivers for video.

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Green Lantern
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July 9, 2010 - 5:38 am
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Hey Dave

All I can say is WOW!

That is such a collection of priceless data. It pretty much answers all the questions I had. Thanks so much!

For the moment I've decided to wait for the release of "Vail" which I assume will be out later this year.

GL

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Green Lantern
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July 11, 2010 - 10:19 am
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In an earlier post to this thread Dave wrote:

"I prefer to have the WHS on a wired connection to the router so I know I have a good, solid, reliable connection to the server. My router is also a Wireless-N access point and I do have several laptops connected wirelessly. I also try to make a wired connection to any computer or device that isn't mobile. I transfer a lot of files and wired will always be faster and more dependable than wireless!"

I understand this point and I would also have the WHS wired into the router via ethernet cable. Our house is, however, not wired for a network and it would be a major expense and undertaking to do so now. My plan is to maintain the fastest possible wireless network. I am trying to gather data as to what type of hardware (router and network cards, manufacturer) would be best to support a very fast wireless connection between pc clients and the WHS. I am really weak in my understanding of networking. I've heard the term gigabit networks but I haven't a clue what it really means. When I hear the term I substitute "fast". I don't know what I would need to have to have a gigabit network, nor do I know whether the networking facilities in the pcs would support that speed. I'm a willing reading. If anyone knows of a "Networking for Dummies" type of primer I'd be glad to hear about it.

Thanks.

GL

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Green Lantern
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July 11, 2010 - 10:41 am
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Green Lantern wrote:I wasn't looking at it from the viewpoint of building my own server. I'm more likely to buy one. Not because I'm lazy, but I just don't have a clue about what how to go about building one. So I was thinking about something like the HP Media Vault. You can't put a new motherboard into that! But I can certainly see the benefit of building your own and having it be all modular like that.

Dave wrote: It isn't really hard, and probably a good learning experience! - How to build your own WHS

Hi Dave,

I had a good long look at your article on building a WHS, listened to your words suggesting that it would be a good experience to build my own, looked deep into my heart and chickened out .
You've never seen me install a faucet, let alone a computer. It took me 8 hours with water running out of the walls for 5 of them. Not a pretty sight. Seriously though, if I understand the principle here, a WHS is just a "normal" pc being dedicated as a server. There are no magical components required and the WHS software from MS delivers up the magic. So if I wanted to compromise, I could go shopping for a box with plenty of expansion slots for additional HDs, make sure it had a "gigabit network" card built into it or buy one for it, install WHS server and I'd be in business? It would probably cost about half of what HP would be asking for their teeny media vault and I could always add new components or replace old ones. With the HP box, I think that would be fairly difficult as it's so small.

I'm thinking of downloading the beta version of Vail and using that for the moment. The only issue there is I'm wondering if after the beta I would be able to upgrade to the production version without having to reinstall everything and renter all the parameters.

I'd appreciate your comments on what I said above about buying a no-name box and if you happen to know the answer to the beta question that would be great too.

Best

GL

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Green Lantern
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July 11, 2010 - 2:11 pm
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Greetings

The new software for the WHS will be 64 bit. I'm wondering what that means compared to the current situation. Currently the console, as I understand it, is installed on a client. It is 32 bit software. If the WHS has 64 bit processors would any tasks such as streaming or backups be processed using all 64 bits or would everything including the server run in 32 bit mode? I'm asking because if it only the client that is running in 32 bit mode it wouldn't really impact the performance greatly if all it does is start and stop tasks running in 64 bit mode.

GL

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David Hartsock
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July 11, 2010 - 6:48 pm
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[quote="Green Lantern":1cdhijfx]I understand this point and I would also have the WHS wired into the router via ethernet cable. Our house is, however, not wired for a network and it would be a major expense and undertaking to do so now.[/quote:1cdhijfx]
It really isn't that difficult or costly, especially in a single story home. 300 ft of cat5e cable can be had for $50 or less. Put the internet modem, router, and WHS in a closet. Drill a hole in the ceiling to run Ethernet cables. Have a look where you would like to have wired connections (entertainment center, office or den, computer locations) and note were the electric outlets are. Wires to the outlets will most likely be through the attic. Find the wire drop for the area needed and move one direction or the other 16 inches. Drill a hole - drop a cable. Cut a hole in the drywall and fish it out. A lot less complicated than it sounds, but easier with two people.

[quote:1cdhijfx]My plan is to maintain the fastest possible wireless network.[/quote:1cdhijfx]
There are quite a few "ifs" and buts" in networking. The faster wireless connection will be a Wireless "N" router using MIMO (multi in multi out). The cards in your computers would also have to be Wireless "N" and MIMO. Dual band (2.4Ghz/5.8Ghz) cards/router would be preferable, so look for a dual band wireless N router with MIMO. This will yield transfer speeds maxing out around 5MBs give or take.

There is a word that applies to servers and networks - reliability. That word doesn't apply to wireless connections. A simple cordless phone or microwave can drop a wireless connection to a crawl. This can be even more problematic if you have many neighbors, which is why I always try to make the important connections wired.

There are 3 speeds in wired networking 10 megabit, 100 megabit, and 1000 megabit (gigabit) - each being 10x faster than the previous. devices that do 10 and 100 simultaneously are very common. Ones that do all 3 are a little harder to find and more expensive, but worth it in my opinion. As you can see a 100 megabit wired connection would be 12.5MBs or 2.5 times faster than an optimum wireless N network. It would also be rock solid. A wired gigabit network would transfer data at 125MBs or 25 times faster than a Wireless N network.

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