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Building a windows home server... have some questions

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Im going to build a windows home server box for several uses. I want to use it as a focal point for all of my backups instead of the various externals I have, and I want to use it for storage. Storage is the main thing as I've recently begun to move to total digital instead of discs as its much funner and much more convenient. Ripping all of my blu-rays is taking up alot of system resources though so I'd like to be able to sit at my desktop and do the initial rip, then move the raw MKV's (up to 40GB for a 3 hour movie) over to the server, and let the server do the work to convert the mkv's to a more manageable sized H.264. Ideally, I'd like it to be able to do it faster than what my desktop can, as it currently takes quite a loooooong time. For example, as I write this post, I am converting a 38.6GB MKV of Gladiator to H.264 w/ 16 RF and the estimated time remaining is a little under 5 hours on a 4.2 ghz 2600k. I also want to the system to be as reliable and long lasting as possible so I'd like to use actual server hardware to get the job done.

For CPU i'm looking at the Xeon E3-1230 or 1235. As far as I can tell the only difference between the two is that the 1235 has an IGP. If that's the only difference then i'll go with the 1230 as I plan on running the system headless anyways, and doing all the work from my desktop. Are these CPU's good for performing the tasks above? Will they be able to do my media conversions slower or faster or will there not be much of a difference?

For motherboard I'm looking at http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813182251 for the 6 3.0GB/s sata ports (1 OS drive and 5 2TB drives), dual gigabit lan, and ECC support.

Ram I have no clue what I should do. Idk whether unbuffered or registered is better, 8GB vs 16GB, etc. The way I understood the difference was that registered goes through a controller that staggers the data that it recieves and unbuffered has its own chip and can accept data at any time, even during a cycle. I have no idea what that means for performance though and which one should be used for my purpose.

Drive wise I'm probably gonna start small since the prices right now are ridiculous. I was gonna use vertex 2 60gb but i did a little more reading and found out WHS 2011 requires 160GB minimum unless you ghost the install from a mechanical to a ssd and that's just too much hassle imo. Once it's booted up its mostly gonna be serving files anyways so it shouldn't be a big deal. Was thinkin maybe a single 500GB WD Black w/ 2 2TB F4's to get started until prices come down.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Advice?
post #2 of 7
Not sure if you're really going to need that much ram. Event 8gig seems like overkill. If it's cheap then get it, but I'd put my money else where. If you do the newer version of WHS, they don't do drive extender native, so you may want to buy all 5 2 TB drives and make a Raid 5 array. As for speed, you can always queue up the conversions on the server and let that thing run day and night (with a good heatsink of course). Maybe you won't need speed because you can let it run when you're not around. You talked about overclocking your current CPU to reduce the time of the conversion. I would advise against it for the server, it will cost you more in the electricity bill in the long run. Good job realizing you don't need the ssd. Once it's up, no need for uber fast writes on the C:\ drive. The clients won't really know the difference.

Also, how many computers will be connecting for backup? What is the size of their internal hard drives? What kind of policies are you planning to employ on the backups?
post #3 of 7
Really no need for a server board, unless you need ECC or something like that. Just get something like an Intel DH67BL desktop board. Or if the dual gigabit is the selling point, pick up an intel dual gigabit nic biggrin.gif
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post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by herkalurk View Post

Not sure if you're really going to need that much ram. Event 8gig seems like overkill. If it's cheap then get it, but I'd put my money else where. If you do the newer version of WHS, they don't do drive extender native, so you may want to buy all 5 2 TB drives and make a Raid 5 array. As for speed, you can always queue up the conversions on the server and let that thing run day and night (with a good heatsink of course). Maybe you won't need speed because you can let it run when you're not around. You talked about overclocking your current CPU to reduce the time of the conversion. I would advise against it for the server, it will cost you more in the electricity bill in the long run. Good job realizing you don't need the ssd. Once it's up, no need for uber fast writes on the C:\ drive. The clients won't really know the difference.
Also, how many computers will be connecting for backup? What is the size of their internal hard drives? What kind of policies are you planning to employ on the backups?
From what I'd read WHS 2011 allowed for seamless expansion and automatically combined all the drives added into one big virtual drive. Is this not what drive extender is? And the backup portion is minor, it's just my own personal pc's and some photo's from my aunt's laptop. I'm not sure what you mean on the backup policies though. I mostly backup my music library, pictures, movies (which will be completely moved to the server), windows images, steam library backups, etc. At 160$ per drive I'd also really rather avoid having to buy the whole set of drives, especially since I plan on going past the 6 drive limit of the board when I can afford to. If WHS 2011 can be upgraded constantly like I read it could, the case I'm going to be using can support up to 11 drives so eventually i'll be adding a sata card and adding more drives anyways. If I ever go beyond that, I'll be upgrading to a rack solution.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZFedora View Post

Really no need for a server board, unless you need ECC or something like that. Just get something like an Intel DH67BL desktop board. Or if the dual gigabit is the selling point, pick up an intel dual gigabit nic biggrin.gif

I don't necessarily NEED it, but I want it. The server will be running 24/7, and I'd like it to be as reliable as possible. I know the possibilty of something happening even with desktop boards and ram is super low, but at the same time the server hardware costs about the same anyways so why not.
Edited by Shiveron - 1/31/12 at 2:29pm
post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiveron View Post

I don't necessarily NEED it, but I want it. The server will be running 24/7, and I'd like it to be as reliable as possible. I know the possibilty of something happening even with desktop boards and ram is super low, but at the same time the server hardware costs about the same anyways so why not.

Intel desktop boards are pretty reliable, I'm acutally using the DH67BL in a production web/email server, no flaws at all biggrin.gif

Supermicro does make good motherboards, I have heard that they do use some proprietary pin-outs though so double check that you have every thing you need with that smile.gif
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post #6 of 7
By backup policies I mean running the backup app on the computers. You can set how many backups to keep automatically. Depending on what you're backing up, you could easily have 1TB of backups from numerous backup sessions.
post #7 of 7
@OP

For doing the H.264 conversion, if the software you're using is multi-threaded and can run on the server, you'll need a few more cores if you want to see a genuine reduction on the ~5 hours it currently takes. The E3 at stock speeds certainly won't be faster than what you are using now on your desktop, and if you use a server board, you won't be able to overclock it anyway.

Personally, I would focus the server on storage and network services. I would start with a good quality desktop board from Intel or ASUS, and partner it with 4GB (or even 2GB) of RAM and cheap dual-core CPU. Don't bother with ECC - it's for correcting in-memory errors when running mission-critical apps such as databases, and unless you buy a Xeon the CPU won't support it anyway.

Your drive choosing policy is a sound one, considering drive prices - I too am waiting for prices to drop before I purchase more F4s. I can't advise you on WHS since I don't know that much about it, but I do know that the killer feature of WHS 1.x - the storage pooling technology called Drive Extender - is in fact missing from WHS 2011. There are 3rd party add-ons which provide this functionality, but I don't know their names.

For a free and reliable alternative, look at Amahi Home Server.
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