Specific Raid Question and general server questions

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Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 7:35 am

I've got a friend with a Bookkeeping business. She has an aging server running raid5 with failing hdds. The first failed hard drive I replaced with the same model number and no problems rebuilding the array. There was a second hdd failure so I did the same procedure in buying the same model hard drive. This time the intel manager tells me it cannot build to the drive. It says the reasons why is one of: 1. Contains sys files (no) 2. HDD reported smart event (don't know how to check that but is a new drive) 3. HDD has failed (no) 4. HDD has different encryption (no encrypt on any drive) 5. HDD is not large enough.

I'm wondering about number 5. When I check the details on the drives, the two existing drives report 488,397,168 blocks and the new drive reports 488,281,280 blocks so it is technically smaller. Would that small difference cause a problem? These are 250 gig drives; can i just buy a 500 gig drive to build to? I wouldn't care about any lost capacity.

The more general question in my mind is why is she running server 2003 in the first place? She wants me to build her a new server and was charged 4900 for her last one. They use exactly 3 programs on the server. Sage runs on the server while the other two programs run locally on clients and store the data files on the server. There are four client terminals and never more than 3 connected to the server at one time. I'm thinking Win 7 pro with 3 hdd in raid1. Is that a prudent plan? Any thought of ssd versus mechanical? Will raid just write too much to the ssds?

Thanks for all your help
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:12 am

yes that little bit of missing capacity is enough for the failed rebuild (that is why in a raid array leaving a little headroom by not using the entire drive is a good idea)

you should be able to use a 500GB just fine.

If drives are dying regularly it may be a good time to replace the entire array before 2 go at once.
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:23 am

The small difference in size will make a difference, and a bigger drive will work. All of the space won't be used, but the array will rebuild.

As far as HD vs SSD, using server grade SSDs in a RAID shouldn't be a problem. Going with lots of HDs is probably cheaper though.

I would use Windows Server over regular Win7, but that's just me.
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:45 am

To the nature of RAIDs you need devices that at least have the same capacity in order for it to work. A RAID can work if some of the HDDs are larger in size, but the size of the RAID is limited by the smallest device in it.
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:29 am

Yup, if the RAID was set up to use the entire device before, the replacement needs to be at least as large. Just get the next size up drive and call it a day.

I always size my RAID arrays to be slightly (a percent or two) smaller than the capacity of the smallest device in the array to avoid this issue. Sometimes I'll set up the leftovers as a JBOD or RAID-0 and use it as a scratch or swap partition; but with disk space as cheap as it is these days that's essentially an OCD-ism on my part (if you look at the economics it probably isn't worth my time to set it up).

Edit: Regarding the server upgrade...

Yeah, with that workload she doesn't really need a server OS. Unless the application is fairly demanding she probably doesn't need SSDs in the server either, but if getting enough SSD capacity to run her application fits within the budget I don't see a problem with it.

Make sure whatever solution you settle on has a good backup and disaster recovery plan. RAID is not backup!
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:29 am

I would say Win7 should be fine - just keep in mind they most likely have a domain set up currently (or maybe not, I shouldn't assume) and client configuration is most likely in your future as well. As far as configuration, I would rather see RAID1 with 2 drives and a third drive used with full-image or other time of bare-metal backup recovery solution. This doesn't sound mission-critical enough for double-redundant drive failure protection and a three drive RAID1 doesn't protect you very well from the "Ooops" of the world. It sounds like they probably have less than 500GB of storage being used if it's a 3 drive RAID5 with 250GB drives, so with a $5k budget I think you could have (2) 500GB SSDs in RAID1 with a mechanical 1TB+ drive for local backups (I would go at least 3TB for expandability in the future). Also, look into Dell for a cheap server as a starting point for your build - you can get ECC memory for reliability and you can always add drives in the future. I build all my own machines but ended up going with a Dell for our new server because cost was comparable and trying to find a good Server motherboard to use was an exercise in futility for me at least. The T20 starts at $299 minus drives and OS and supports ECC.

I would say run daily W7 image backups to the mechanical drive, and use something like Crashplan to take backups of the Data. For $5 a month, you could also add Crashplan central for cloud backups and as frequently as every minute backups of the data. Owner could even run it on her home computer for a "local" offsite backup to protect from theft/fire/natural disaster without having to wait forever to download from the cloud should the worst happen.
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:35 am

just brew it! wrote:Make sure whatever solution you settle on has a good backup and disaster recovery plan. RAID is not backup!


I completely agree. Off-site storage is critical for the recovery process.

My take on it, do a RAID-1 with 3 disks and rotate them out as the "backup," keeping it somewhere safe and off-site. It's something I've used very successfully and it's very easy and quick to rebuild. For the OS, run it on an SSD and back it to the RAID. Win7 Pro now does software RAIDs, too.
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:00 am

As others have said, W7 is fine - and will remain fine for up to 10 client connections.
If you don't want to be involved with hardware support suggest a Dell or HP - they do cheap servers with 3 year, next-day onsite support and things like redundant PSUs.

You're also wise to go for RAID1, do you mean 3 drives (3 identical mirrors)?
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:37 am

Chrispy_ wrote:As others have said, W7 is fine - and will remain fine for up to 10 client connections.


Twenty client connections. :)
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 4:53 pm

You guys are awesome, thanks for all the advice. They backup the data nightly and swap external hard drives offsite once a week so worst case scenario should be one week of lost work. I might want to take a look closer but I think that their entire data imprint is about 40gb right now. That is not even taking into account the data they will be able to final archive and will not be needed to be on the new server. I will probably look into two small drives for raid1 with a large slow drive to do nightly snapshots along with their current backup plan. Data backup definitely takes priority over performance.

I will look at the new build maxing out at $2000 but probably more like $1500 as I am leaning heavily towards a win 7 solution.

Thanks again
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:10 pm

Get ECC RAM and a motherboard/CPU that supports it if you can work it into the budget. This is one of my standard bits of advice for anything mission critical. I'd do that before SSDs if it comes down to picking one over the other.
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:48 pm

Coran Fixx wrote:I will look at the new build maxing out at $2000 but probably more like $1500 as I am leaning heavily towards a win 7 solution.

What is the build you are looking at? Win 7 Ultimate is like 360 bucks, not 500. And what is this Sage software? I am not seeing why a build closer to the $1000 builds in the System Guide will not be sufficient. Are you also buying new monitors, UPSes, and all that stuff?
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Re: Specific Raid Question and general server questions

Postposted on Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:47 am

Flying Fox wrote:
Coran Fixx wrote:I will look at the new build maxing out at $2000 but probably more like $1500 as I am leaning heavily towards a win 7 solution.

What is the build you are looking at? Win 7 Ultimate is like 360 bucks, not 500. And what is this Sage software? I am not seeing why a build closer to the $1000 builds in the System Guide will not be sufficient. Are you also buying new monitors, UPSes, and all that stuff?



Frumper was saying with a 5k budget I could do this or that, I was just saying what the last server cost her and that I was aiming more for the 1.5 to 2k. I only suspect what things will cost at this point, there is quite a price range of server motherboards for instance and I will be looking into any backup software that will make my life easier in managing the network. Sage software is the renamed Peachtree Accounting and it is not part of the cost.
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