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View Full Version : Networked hard drives vs. tiny, quiet PCs



NWP
2006-06-11, 01:46
I am curious why so many people want to install their Slimserver on a networked hard drive, or a NAS.

I can see some advantages: They are physically small, and quiet, and I guess they are cheaper than buying a mini pc.

The disadvantages seem to me (I don't own one) is that they are slow, and require a good amount of tech savy and labor to get them to work.

Personally, I went with an old Athlon 1800+ system I had lying around. I bought a minuet case from Antec for around a $90 and a quiet fan to replace the stock fan for around $20 from newegg. So now I have small, sleek, extremely quiet server that suffers from no speed issues and I paid a little over $100. I am also able to use this server as web server where I run Request Tracker, a wiki-based knowledge base, and also use it as a development server for Ruby On Rails applications.

The whole NAS thing just seems like a direction I would never go, nor would I recommend it. If you are on a budget, grab a pentium 4 with 500 megs of ram from retrobox for under $200. They's got some sweet small form factor optiplexes that despite being 4 years old still have more processing power and memory than any NAS device. If you have a little to spend, get one of those sweet mini-ITX boxes or a mac mini.

So, someone please explain the NAS love to me. Why spend a ton of time configuring a device that's always going to be slow when you could get so much more out of an actual PC?

funkstar
2006-06-11, 05:30
Not all NAS devices are hard to set up. My Qnap TS-101 was plugged in, switched on and was running in less than two minutes after opening the box. It takes no maintenance, uses *very* little electricity to run, produces very little noise, and is about the size of a couple of paperbacks sitting on a shelf.

Including a 500gig hard drive, i could not have achieved all this for 450. Sure i could get an Epia based system that is about the same size and a bit more powerful, but i think it would be more than 450 all in. Also i would have either needed a Windows license (thats fine i have an action pack with 10 for my own use) or use linux, which is something i have never been able to get my head round enough to get a system running the way i want it.

If a NAS isn't for you then great, don't use a NAS. It works for me and others who have them running. Why are you moaning about it?

aubuti
2006-06-11, 05:39
My decision to go with a LinkStation HD-HG250 was was mostly a combination of cost and lower power consumption, with a little dose of flexibility. I had been running slimserver on an old Dell (P3 500), but needed more storage to accommodate my flac collection. So I spent a little bit more than I would to get a plain IDE or USB drive and got the LS. Used it just for storage at first, and then went ahead and installed Debian and slimserver.

It handles my relatively small music collection (~3000 tracks) over 2 SBs just fine. Recanning is a bit slow, but it's not something I have to do often, and when I do, I don't sit around drumming my fingers, I do something else. And although I held my breath a bit while "hacking" the LS to run Debian, it is a well-worn and well-documented path, with plenty of support here and at linkstationwiki.org. Once that's done the tech/labor requirements are no different from running it on a regular computer.

I suppose that some day a combination of (a) expanding music collection, (b) additional SBs, (c) bloatier slimserver might make the LS inadequate. If/when that day comes, I'll see about putting slimserver on some beefier machine. But I'll still have the LS as a NAS for backups or other file storage, and that's useful in its own right.

Finally, although reduced noise was not initially a factor (the Dell lived in the basement), the low noise and small size add convenience. Especially for my wife, who is tech savvy but a Luddite when it comes to some old-fashioned things like listening to music. She'll gladly walk into the study to turn on the LS, whereas going down to the basement to turn on the Dell would be something else. Yes, I could get a quiet PC, but it would cost a lot more, and we already have enough PCs in the house.

Jochen
2006-06-11, 07:09
I also thought about getting one of these nice NAS devices, but decided against it for a simple reason: Data security. If the hard disk in my fancy new NAS dies, all music is gone, unless I keep a copy of it elsewhere. But as the main idea of getting a Squeezebox and a central music server was to have everything in one place, this seems contradictive. Keeping a backup and the main server in sync would also be quite difficult, especially if you're lazy ;)

Therefore I got a cheap used PC off eBay for about 80 EUR, put in two 250 GB IDE disks for another 120 EUR and installed Linux on it. I've set up a (software) RAID-1 to have all the data mirrored. Adding more disk space is easy, I just need to get a new pair of disks, plug them in and mount the additional device. Doing this with a stand-alone NAS will be difficult, especially as SlimServer can only deal with one source directory for the music it serves.

A RAID-capable NAS device would have been an option, but comparing prices, the PC solution wins hands down.

peter
2006-06-11, 08:52
Sorry, but RAID 1 is no replacement for backups. Your data is not only
at risk from hardware failure but also from human error. If you
inadvertently type rm -rf / tmp/* (note the extra blank) with sufficient
rights under linux, you're screwed (yeah, done that).

Actually, the best (and cheapest, easiest) option in the case of most
music stores (which tend to rarely change) is to use a second (non-RAID)
disk and nightly synchronisations using something like rsync (local or
over the network). I'm lazy as well but my crontab is very patient and
perseverant. Ideally you would do this with an off site machine, but
another local machine or even a seperate drive in your single machine
would be ok too.

Regards,
Peter


On Sun, 11 Jun 2006 07:09:16 -0700, "Jochen"
<Jochen.298r2n1150035001 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com> said:
>
> I also thought about getting one of these nice NAS devices, but decided
> against it for a simple reason: Data security. If the hard disk in my
> fancy new NAS dies, all music is gone, unless I keep a copy of it
> elsewhere. But as the main idea of getting a Squeezebox and a central
> music server was to have everything in one place, this seems
> contradictive. Keeping a backup and the main server in sync would also
> be quite difficult, especially if you're lazy ;)
>
> Therefore I got a cheap used PC off eBay for about 80 EUR, put in two
> 250 GB IDE disks for another 120 EUR and installed Linux on it. I've
> set up a (software) RAID-1 to have all the data mirrored. Adding more
> disk space is easy, I just need to get a new pair of disks, plug them
> in and mount the additional device. Doing this with a stand-alone NAS
> will be difficult, especially as SlimServer can only deal with one
> source directory for the music it serves.
>
> A RAID-capable NAS device would have been an option, but comparing
> prices, the PC solution wins hands down.
>
>
> --
> Jochen
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Jochen's Profile: http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?userid=5682
> View this thread: http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=24634
>
>

funkstar
2006-06-11, 09:50
What is wrong with a good old fasioned DVD backup of your music? Sure it will take a lot of disks, once it's backed up...thats it!

I'm working my way through my archive puting one or more artists onto a disk, depending on how many albums they have. This way the are easy to find and restore if i ever need them. And once my FLAC files are on DVD, i don't need another backup of them, i just re-fresh the disk with that artist if i add a new album of theirs.

peter
2006-06-11, 12:49
Well, 100 GB of music (which is not that much if you use flac) takes a
few dozen DVD's to backup and it's impossible to automate (I'm lazy) and
I've seen too many floppy's and CD's that turned out to be unreadable
when I finally took them out of the closet.

Not bad to make at least one copy.
A portable HD player like my iRiver is a good medium as well.

Regards,
Peter

On Sun, 11 Jun 2006 09:50:12 -0700, "funkstar"
<funkstar.298ypn1150044901 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com> said:
>
> What is wrong with a good old fasioned DVD backup of your music? Sure it
> will take a lot of disks, once it's backed up...thats it!
>
> I'm working my way through my archive puting one or more artists onto a
> disk, depending on how many albums they have. This way the are easy to
> find and restore if i ever need them. And once my FLAC files are on
> DVD, i don't need another backup of them, i just re-fresh the disk with
> that artist if i add a new album of theirs.
>
>
> --
> funkstar
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> funkstar's Profile: http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?userid=2335
> View this thread: http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=24634
>
>

Jochen
2006-06-11, 13:05
Sorry, but RAID 1 is no replacement for backups. Your data is not only at risk from hardware failure but also from human error. If you inadvertently type rm -rf / tmp/* (note the extra blank) with sufficient rights under linux, you're screwed (yeah, done that).

Agreed. RAID doesn't stop you from being stupid. But a backup e.g. on DVD doesn't stop you from leaving the DVDs lying in the sun, either. I'm not saying that RAID 1/5 is the end all, be all solution, but it always depends on how much effort (time, money and hardware wise) you're willing to spend.

Mounting the music partition read-only and mounting it only rw when necessary (e.g. when adding new music) already stops you from doing most of the not-so-clever things, including the above mentione rm -rf ;)


Actually, the best (and cheapest, easiest) option in the case of most music stores (which tend to rarely change) is to use a second (non-RAID) disk and nightly synchronisations using something like rsync (local or over the network). I'm lazy as well but my crontab is very patient and perseverant. Ideally you would do this with an off site machine, but another local machine or even a seperate drive in your single machine would be ok too.

Sure, if one's willing to have not just one, but two or even more PCs running, this is even better. Just make sure your rsync doesn't do a full sync and also delete files ;)

You could as well keep another copy of the data on a independent disc (maybe even attached to the same computer), only mouted when needed for backup, and keep a copy of the data there. Needless to say that you could as well use RAID there.

RAID is not the answer to all backup needs, but it keeps you fairly safe from hardware failures. And if I'd have to choose from a standalone single-disk NAS and a standalone PC with mirrored disks, I'd always pick the latter.

mherger
2006-06-11, 13:19
> Sure, if one's willing to have not just one, but two or even more PCs
> running, this is even better. Just make sure your rsync doesn't do a
> full sync and also delete files ;)

I'd say either or: either automate, but don't delete, or launche the
synchronization manually, when you know what you're doing... I'm an
optimist, I'm doing the latter: I have rsync remove stuff, but I only run
it manually from time to time (yes, I could always loose the last three
discs I ripped).

> You could as well keep another copy of the data on a independent disc
> (maybe even attached to the same computer), only mouted when needed for
> backup, and keep a copy of the data there.

Exactly what I'm doing. I sync to two different targets alternatively:
once to a second slimserver, once to an external disk, which is only
mounted to be synched.

--

Michael

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Joe Craig
2006-06-11, 13:49
> What is wrong with a good old fasioned DVD backup of your music? Sure it
> will take a lot of disks, once it's backed up...thats it!

I reached the conclusion that a backup hard drive is the best
alternative. My music collection fits on a 250 gig drive with room to
spare. With some careful shopping, it costs less than $80!

I also invested in some inexpensive swappable disk caddies. I just
plug in the backup disk every now and again and run a backup.

--


Joe

peter
2006-06-11, 14:15
On Sun, 11 Jun 2006 13:05:35 -0700, "Jochen"
<Jochen.2997qn1150056601 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com> said:
>
> peter Wrote:
> > Sorry, but RAID 1 is no replacement for backups. Your data is not only
> > at risk from hardware failure but also from human error. If you
> > inadvertently type rm -rf / tmp/* (note the extra blank) with
> > sufficient rights under linux, you're screwed (yeah, done that).
>
> Agreed. RAID doesn't stop you from being stupid. But a backup e.g. on
> DVD doesn't stop you from leaving the DVDs lying in the sun, either.
> I'm not saying that RAID 1/5 is the end all, be all solution, but it
> always depends on how much effort (time, money and hardware wise)
> you're willing to spend.
>
> Mounting the music partition read-only and mounting it only rw when
> necessary (e.g. when adding new music) already stops you from doing
> most of the not-so-clever things, including the above mentione rm -rf
> ;)

That sounds like a good idea.
I know I'll find it too much of a hassle in practice.

> > Actually, the best (and cheapest, easiest) option in the case of most
> > music stores (which tend to rarely change) is to use a second
> > (non-RAID) disk and nightly synchronisations using something like rsync
> > (local or over the network). I'm lazy as well but my crontab is very
> > patient and perseverant. Ideally you would do this with an off site
> > machine, but another local machine or even a seperate drive in your
> > single machine would be ok too.
>
> Sure, if one's willing to have not just one, but two or even more PCs
> running, this is even better. Just make sure your rsync doesn't do a
> full sync and also delete files ;)

It helps a lot if you use rsync in combination with a copy-tree of hard
links. That way you can store a number of snapshots. In my case being
able to look back a day has been sufficient. Especially with music
files.

I use this method: http://www.mikerubel.org/computers/rsync_snapshots/

> You could as well keep another copy of the data on a independent disc
> (maybe even attached to the same computer), only mouted when needed for
> backup, and keep a copy of the data there. Needless to say that you
> could as well use RAID there.

I do that as well. For one of my colo machines I keep a seperate
unmounted nightly synched disk plus nightly snapshots to my home server
over adsl. A day of data loss is acceptable in this case. Never happened
yet (knock on wood).

> RAID is not the answer to all backup needs, but it keeps you fairly
> safe from hardware failures. And if I'd have to choose from a
> standalone single-disk NAS and a standalone PC with mirrored disks, I'd
> always pick the latter.

Depends on the purpose. If it's not a high availability system using the
two disks seperately and synching nightly would be my preference. If a
day of data loss is a big problem, I'd choose the RAID.

Regards,
Peter

Jochen
2006-06-11, 14:25
On Sun, 11 Jun 2006 13:05:35 -0700, "Jochen"

It helps a lot if you use rsync in combination with a copy-tree of hard
links. That way you can store a number of snapshots. In my case being
able to look back a day has been sufficient. Especially with music
files.

I use this method: http://www.mikerubel.org/computers/rsync_snapshots/


Interesting :) I'm using the same method for backing up my colo server to my ADSL-connected machine at home (which is now a dedicated linux system running slimserver as well, before I had it running under VMWare on my Windows PC). This PC is not getting backed up yet, but that may follow at some stage, too.

aubuti
2006-06-12, 07:03
You could as well keep another copy of the data on a independent disc (maybe even attached to the same computer), only mouted when needed for backup, and keep a copy of the data there. Needless to say that you could as well use RAID there.

RAID is not the answer to all backup needs, but it keeps you fairly safe from hardware failures. And if I'd have to choose from a standalone single-disk NAS and a standalone PC with mirrored disks, I'd always pick the latter.
Agreed, but hardware failure is only one of many evils. I am sufficiently sensitized to the hazards of floods, fires, theft, etc. that I don't consider any data secure unless there's an offsite backup. I picked up an external USB drive that keep at the office, and bring home periodically to back up my music library and other home files. Sure, there's a lag during which a few CDs might not be backed up, but the risk there is low. I don't know the more subtle aspects of RAID, but I suppose one could do something similar by having an extra disk and rotating it in as a mirror, and taking the extracted disk offsite.