Continuing with Linux for home server

Monday, December 6th, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Not that long ago I decided that I would be switching to Windows (from Linux) for my home server, specifically running Windows Home Server (WHS). I wasn’t ditching Linux entirely, it would just be running within a VM on that server.

As I said at the time the primary purpose is as a file server. Both as a target for backups and for media. The media becoming more important than before as I will have a television in a lounge room to play it on.

The specific component of WHS that I wanted was called Drive Extender. This is a storage solution where you add the hard drives to a storage pool and you then define folders within that pool. A folder can be set to duplicate its files across multiple drives for redundancy, or to just keep a single copy. Individual folders don’t have limits, whatever free space is available in the storage pool will be used.

In contrast to the other options, where you had to preallocate space and at the beginning set the redundancy level, this is just so flexible. Running out of space? Add another drive. Case not really big enough for that extra drive? Mark one of the smallers ones for removal it the data is copied off it.

I was waiting for WHS version 2. At least I was until they announced that Drive Extender would be dropped. It is the prime reason I was moving toward WHS. Many others agree and if you read further you will find that Microsoft’s reasons are not very well explained.

So, without WHS I am back to Linux. What I am now planning is an updated version of my current server. This means an LTS release of Ubuntu and I will continue to use LVM for the disks, but with a difference.

Currently I have two drives striped for media, then a partition on the primary drive for backups. The current sweet spot for drives is 2TB, so I will get two of them with 500GB of each setup in a mirror for backups, then the remaining space striped for 3TB of space for media. That should be more than enough. For now at least.

The aspect of this that I haven’t finalised is how I setup the mirror. I can partition the drives, RAID them and then setup LVM on top. Or I can just use LVM for the mirroring. Further investigation is required.

In addition to storage I also still intend to use this box for recording broadcast television. While I am quite impressed with DV Scheduler, it is no longer suitable as it runs under Windows. While I have yet to look into it, I suspect that MythTV backend will be the solution there.

The other feature of WHS that I was interested in was the ability to perform a complete workstation backup to it. I can continue using my robocopy based method as I know that it works, but that is only backing up data. If I have a drive failure I will need to spend a non-trivial amount of time to reinstall. But I have time to investigate other options (including the backup built into Windows 7).

I will continue to write about this (in between house stuff) but I actually need to act fairly soon as I have been out of space on the current server for a week now. It’s not good.

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