With the growth of media in many homes, especially with the advent of high definition media and HDTV, the amount of space required for even a mid-sized movie or music collection is growing rapidly. Hard drive sizes are also growing, but small computers and HTPCs don't have much room for them. The file server offers a good, convenient solution that provides a ton of disk space that you can hide somewhere.
Step 1. Think about your needs
Do you want to store hundreds of movies to watch on independent PCs throughout your home, or just need a little space for the music you'll listen to on your HTPC? Using a home file server strictly follows the following steps.
Step 2. Think about the amount of disk space
How many do you need? This question is closely related to the previous one. If all you have is a few HD movies (or a lot of DVD quality) and some music, you can probably get by with one 500GB hard drive. For lots of HD movies, a large music collection, and tons of family photos, you might be better off with a large hard drive or an array of hard drives.
Step 3. Think of multiple hard drives / RAID arrays
If in the previous step you decided that you need multi-disk space, then a RAID array may be what you need.
Step 4. Decide on the RAID level
RAID 1 mirrors content across all drives, offering the highest reliability with a single drive. To reduce paranoia, RAID 6 allows two hard drive failures without data loss. RAID 5 provides the most capacity (just one drive less than the total number of drives). RAID 10 offers the best performance in exchange for half the space. Finally, RAID 0 is the fastest, but it loses data on all drives if at least one fails, so it is not the best solution if you have no other place to back up your data.
Step 5. Think about a RAID controller
Hardware controllers are the fastest, most reliable, easiest to install, and offer a choice of possible RAID configurations. However, they are not cheap, and if your motherboard has enough hard drive ports, you can try system RAID without a controller. This way you get better performance than the cheapest hardware RAID controller. However, you will have to search the Internet for setup instructions and preferably use Linux. You can also save money by using RAID software with a “non-RAID” controller that usually comes with all the software you need.
Step 6. Think about the rest of the PC
The file server is usually low on power, so a budget CPU + motherboard is usually sufficient. Make sure it has a slot (usually PCI-Express) for the RAID controller if you intend to install one. 1-2 GB of RAM will be sufficient if the server will not run applications. Gigabit Ethernet will enable future expansion and faster download speeds directly from the server. The power supply should have enough power for all of your hard drives. 3.5 'drives range in power consumption from 7W to 25W, so search the net for your specific model.
Step 7. Think about the case
Will this server be in a server cabinet, or just a desktop case? The server chassis constraints are optimized to accommodate large numbers of servers on an open frame (thin, flat and wide). Such frames are sold, but for one server it makes no sense to buy it. However, unless you plan to host your server in a server center, the "desktop form" of the server will be at least more expensive for the home, if not acceptable at all.
Step 8. Collect
Airflow management is especially important for servers, as hot spots can easily arise when a large number of hard drives are operating continuously. Make sure you have enough fans that blow air in a straight path from the front to the back of the case and that they all work. A dead fan can bring a lot of headaches in the aftermath! Don't skimp on this.
Step 9. Install the OS and software
Linux is usually a reliable solution. Any Linux server distro should be fine and you will get fast performance. On the other hand, Windows Server operating systems are highly customizable, but require significantly more power and resources. And in the end, Windows Home Server is new to the class, but with a lot of powerful features. With WHS, you don't need a RAID controller to create a large array, but watch out for the death of the OS, as all of your data will die with it.
- If you are building a RAID array, get the largest hard drives you can buy. An array of 3 1TB drives is the same size as 6 500GB drives, but with 1TB drives you have significantly more room to expand. And when you run out of free ports, but you still want to expand, you will have to replace all the disks with others, with more capacity. You are building a file server to increase the volume, so think about the future!
- Remember the air flow! Server hotspots are a recipe for disaster.
- Redundancy is more beneficial than reliability. 2 non-local servers with RAID 0 array are much better than 1 with RAID10 array.
- When choosing a case, remember to think about the number of hard drives. You might lean towards a stealthy, unobtrusive enclosure, order it, and find that it only holds 4 hard drives, when you planned 5. Study it first.
- Linux can be tricky for newbies to learn, so be careful not to put critical data on it until you're sure what you are doing!
- RAID overkill allows single or even double hard drive failure without data loss. Quick-swap ports to replace damaged drives are simple, fast, and don't even require a system shutdown. Use them if you can.
- RAID0 does not offer any redundancy, but if you cannot afford to lose data, you must have an external system to back up your data. There are many risks to your data, even with the limited redundancy provided by any RAID array. For example, controller failure, lightning / flooding, etc. When you use a RAID array, you are using several of the same disks, and there is a possibility that all disks will fail. Many arrays are sensitive to this type of breakdown.
- Avoid static electricity when handling computer parts.
- Make sure that outside of the server, as well as inside, you have an abundant flow of air. Putting the server in a locked pantry is NOT a good idea and can lead to a dead server or even a fire!
- Also, on the server market, you can find hard drives with a SAS interface. Mostly they are good, but they require an appropriate controller. Only high-end RAID cards allow you to connect both SAS and SATA drives seamlessly.