Home storage server OS (Windows)

sphinx99

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I need to build a new home storage server on relatively modern hardware, for example Intel 9th or 10th generation or AMD Ryzen 3000 series. Over the last several years I have had great success running Stablebit products on Windows Server 2012. The operating system was stable and robust, the stable bit drive pool software gave me duplicate copies and a single pool, and everything was stored on NTFS drives so it was easy to offload data using a standard Windows PC. Under normal circumstances I would want to replicate this set up so as to not introduce a great deal of human error into the process by adopting some thing new that I don’t have time to learn thoroughly. The problem is my windows server license came through an old job when I worked in IT. I have since left that field and do not see a cost effective way to obtain a legitimate license of a more modern Windows server edition. Also, over the intervening years windows home server has been discontinued.

so I have three primary questions I’m looking for advice on:
1. are there cost effective means of obtaining a windows server license for home use in a legal, legitimate way that permits me access to the routine updates?
2. what are peoples feelings of windows 10 for a simple flie server platform? With stable hardware and drivers I have found it to be very solid as a desktop OS.
3. if it makes more sense to go further a field and look at a ZFS bass platform, does anyone have advice on what type of disaster recovery drills you performed to be ready for a recovery situation, and how time intensive that was? I am not the type to first figure out how to deal with an issue after it happens.

any advice would be welcomed.
 

B00nie

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Why would you want to use a Windows server in general? Doesn't make any sense.
 

defaultluser

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I can't imagine that you would be missing any functionality going with Windows 10 Pro over server.

I think both software options allow up to 20 simultaneous connections, so for basic file serving it should be fiine
 

sphinx99

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Good point. File serving & Plex to roughly a dozen devices (at most) so I don't need much in the way of connection bandwidth.

B00nie - the answer to your question is of course Stablebit. It provides the unique combination of pool flexiblity e.g. all manner of dissimilar disks and folder-level logical redundancy along with the advantage of each individual drive ultimately hosting a standard NTFS file system which makes disaster recovery almost painless. I've been experimenting with FreeNAS/TrueNAS this weekend and while I've enjoyed how robust ZFS has been with regard to integrity checks and resilvering volumes, it doesn't seem to offer much in the way of options if you have a bunch of drives and are ultimately looking for a single pool with a good level of redundancy. I have 2 16TB drives, 2 14TB drives, 3 8TB drives and 5 4TB drives... I don't want to deal with mishmash of mirrors and raidz1/raidz2 volumes.

After kicking the tires on freenas for a couple more hours, I will try unraid this afternoon and see if it fits my use case better. If not, Windows 10 Pro might be the right call.
 

warhol76

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Jan 1, 2013
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Curious on your thoughts on unraid v freenas. It sounds like unraid might be a decent solution for you. Lots of good resources for running plex on unraid. That being said, I would be pretty surprised if there was something on win10 pro that you would be missing from Windows Server.
 

sphinx99

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I'm just kicking the tires on unraid but right off the bat I have huge reservations over their license key policy in event of bootable flash failure, which amounts to "once every 12 months you can restore in the event of failed media; if you need to do so again, contact us to 'discuss options' " - I don't want to be beholden to some company's business hours to fix my home server so this alone may cause me to avoid unraid.
 

warhol76

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That is a complaint I know people have. Practically, I don't think it is really something that comes up for people that use it. I also know they are pretty easy to deal with to transfer the license. I am not 100% certain. But, i think you can run it in demo mode in the short term. Others may have more insight on this area.
 

B00nie

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Good point. File serving & Plex to roughly a dozen devices (at most) so I don't need much in the way of connection bandwidth.

B00nie - the answer to your question is of course Stablebit. It provides the unique combination of pool flexiblity e.g. all manner of dissimilar disks and folder-level logical redundancy along with the advantage of each individual drive ultimately hosting a standard NTFS file system which makes disaster recovery almost painless. I've been experimenting with FreeNAS/TrueNAS this weekend and while I've enjoyed how robust ZFS has been with regard to integrity checks and resilvering volumes, it doesn't seem to offer much in the way of options if you have a bunch of drives and are ultimately looking for a single pool with a good level of redundancy. I have 2 16TB drives, 2 14TB drives, 3 8TB drives and 5 4TB drives... I don't want to deal with mishmash of mirrors and raidz1/raidz2 volumes.

After kicking the tires on freenas for a couple more hours, I will try unraid this afternoon and see if it fits my use case better. If not, Windows 10 Pro might be the right call.
There are many other options to ZFS :) It's not like Windows where you have to use what you're given.
 

Mazzspeed

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NTFS is shocking as a file server file system no matter how you spin it. File server = Linux box, all bias aside it really is that simple. Just be sure you have ECC memory.
 
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Stanley Pain

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For once I have to agree with the Linux zealots here. Install Linux, use ZFS, never look back.

Getting a Windows server license is going to be costly and isn't going to net you much, unless you want Storage Pools + HyperV. I've used FreeNAS, Windows Server and Linux w/ ZFS and there's no way in hell I'd ever move away from Linux + ZFS for my "file server".
 

B00nie

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For once I have to agree with the Linux zealots here. Install Linux, use ZFS, never look back.

Getting a Windows server license is going to be costly and isn't going to net you much, unless you want Storage Pools + HyperV. I've used FreeNAS, Windows Server and Linux w/ ZFS and there's no way in hell I'd ever move away from Linux + ZFS for my "file server".
Only prob is the OP looks for JBOD mode which ZFS lacks.
 

AltTabbins

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I mean if you were using JBOD with Windows, you would still see huge benefits of using EXT4. The performance over NTFS is worth it alone. Not to mention that you don't have to worry about random reboots from updates, something thats pretty critical for a storage box. I can understand not wanting to go full raid for a NAS style box, but I can't recommend Linux enough for any file storage system.
 

sphinx99

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I mean if you were using JBOD with Windows, you would still see huge benefits of using EXT4. The performance over NTFS is worth it alone. Not to mention that you don't have to worry about random reboots from updates, something thats pretty critical for a storage box. I can understand not wanting to go full raid for a NAS style box, but I can't recommend Linux enough for any file storage system.
Thanks for the reply. I certainly understand the value of performance and utilizing a platform optimized for storage - I cut my teeth installing SANs decades ago now, and have no illusion that what I'm doing today is not performance optimized. Now in a different career with a lot less time to master something new, my first priority for this data, above all else, is easy, fast recoverability of data to existing Windows based desktops, in the event of select various failures--of the computer itself, of the drive controller, of multiple disks in the rare event of a multipoint failure that exceeds my redundancy. NTFS isn't terrible (in use for two decades as reasonably reliable widely adopted file system) and I went through one failure already that was painless due my literally being able to pull drives, plug them into a USB dock and just copy off the data.

If I can achieve that with ext4, that would be interesting. I found some applications I wasn't aware of that allow Windows to read ext4 partitions. If I had a JBOD in ext4 can I still access individual drives' content via these tools? (Did some brief searching which was inconclusive.) Also, I'm not clear if ext4 provides folder-level duplication capability. That has been enormously convenient for me with DrivePool.

JBOD with that amount of disks is a bad idea though.

Better option would be something like unionfs or mergerfs.
Why is JBOD + file or folder-level duplication across discrete drives a bad idea, even with a large pool? With DrivePool I can tag a folder as needing triplicate or quad redundancy if I value that data sufficiently, feed it a dozen disks, and have (a) whatever redundancy I want with whatever granularity I want (b) no space management responsibility or effort required (c) effortless recovery if I lose the system but retain the disks. There's the further advantage of not really having one filesystem per say but a pooling layer running atop a dozen drives each with their own independent filesystem. A logical corruption on one drive is highly unlikely to propagate or impact the other drives.

I'd love to have something with the capabilities of DrivePool, running on a BSD or Linux platform, with Windows 10 drivers that allow native read of individual disks within the pool.
 

Mazzspeed

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As far as modern file systems go, the only file system worse than NTFS considering mass storage is HFS. The proplem with NTFS is the fact it 'has' been around for two decades.

Personally, I wouldn't be using Windows, NTFS or JBOD considering a storage solution. But that's just my opinion for what it's worth.
 

Stanley Pain

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I'd love to have something with the capabilities of DrivePool, running on a BSD or Linux platform, with Windows 10 drivers that allow native read of individual disks within the pool.
So I did some reading about stablebit and DrivePool and it seems ok. If you've been using that it should be fine to continue using it. Get Windows 10 Pro for Workstation (since it can do REFS) and call it a day maybe? I've never been fond of Windows for file server type stuff though.
 

odditory

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Dec 23, 2007
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Some decent advice here, and its probably better suited in the storage forum, but this is ultimately what you want based on reading what you're after:

- Cheapo Windows server key being sold in the F/S forum here. I'm still running 2012 R2 myself. You can also run Windows server in Eval mode for 180 days to get your proof of concept up.
- LSI SAS3008 based controller flashed to IT mode, and its windows driver modified pre-installation to enable individual drive spindown (I can help with this, or check ServeTheHome forums)
- Stablebit Drivepool
- Snapraid for snapshot based parity

I've run every storage solution known to man over the last two decades for home media storage- hardware RAID, ZFS, FreeNAS, unRAID, etc. and nothing beats the versatility of pooled JBOD + snapshot raid. Striping home media with hardware RAID or ZFS just introduces unnecessary risk, as striping is only an uptime and performance multiplier. Pool expansion and contraction is also messy with striping-based solutions, not to mention your data is at increased risk during rebuilds. People will attempt to argue all day why ZFS is nonetheless superior to all else for all sorts of reasons, but pooled JBOD+snapraid is clean and simple for UHD rips and non-business-critical home stuff.
 
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