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I am considering between

  • windows home server
  • simple NAS
  • extra HDD's in desktop

btw, I will be the main user

I am looking to fulfil the following needs:

  • reliability (i am think RAID 1 or 5)
  • not so prone to virus/malware infections (will using a separate NAS or home server help? say windows home server is still a windows pc except separated by network?)
  • power efficiency (eg. spin down when not in use)
  • download (eg. i may want to dl big files/torrents overnight and i may not want to use a full powered PC for it? does a full pc vs NAS provide significant power usage to justify cost of new system esp. since i am only user?)
  • performance (i guess i like to write/access my files fast, on 2nd thought, maybe for backup i can forgo this? maybe for a WD Green HDD? but how much slower will it be? plus since i am the only user, i think the whole HDD will be mine?)
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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

RAID is not a backup, RAID is a performance and redundancy solution. A separate NAS is definitely a good idea, but understand that the whole idea of a backup means that there are redundant copies of everything. It sounds a bit like you're just looking for a bit more space, which is fine, but it's not a backup. Windows comes with a pretty decent backup utility which allows writing to a second server, tapes, whatever.

You may still have virus issues if you're backing up infected files to the backup server. If nothing else, you may accidentally restore them, and re-infect your machine.

You're not going to see significant power savings from a second machine, aside from differences in video cards, power supply, etc.

For a backup machine, you shouldn't need constant IO, so it's perfectly fine to buy slower, more efficient drives.

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hmm oh, maybe i mean redundancy more, thanks for correcting me. i guess what i meant was storage and reliability (RAID). backups, i'll think abt it, i sometimes feel its abit of a waste of space for my use –  Jiew Meng May 13 '10 at 14:41
    
However, you can use it like a friend of mine does. Install your OS and all in Raid1. Remove the hard disk or disable the raid when you are done. And sometimes attach the second disk and rebuild the array. That way you will have an up-to-date drop-in replacement always in hand. :) –  Shiki May 13 '10 at 14:48
    
@Shiki: You still have "wasted" a whole disk on backup, and something like Robocopy would be a much more elegant solution to the issue. –  Chris S May 13 '10 at 18:19
    
I did not. My friend did. ;P Btw I use Acronis Backup solution which is the best I've ever seen. I'll take a look at this robocopy. Ty. :) –  Shiki May 14 '10 at 11:47
    
@shiki: I'm not a fan of Robocopy. Somehow it made it into production at work, and it's just not suited for that sort of abuse. –  Satanicpuppy May 14 '10 at 13:42
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The options you've mentioned are all reasonable, but you might find that backing up to an offsite backup and/or to other existing computers is cheaper.

Backing up and restoring from the cloud is much slower than doing the same thing over a local network, so it's a good idea to also backup to an onsite computer or USB/NAS storage, as well as another offsite computer that can easily be transported onsite if necessary.

CrashPlan is pretty slick for doing this; you can backup to multiple targets, which can include CrashPlan's servers (optional; for a monthly or annual fee), a friend's or family member's PC, or another PC of yours. And your data is encrypted on all backup targets, so you don't need to worry about anyone finding your diabolical plans for world conquest. Even better, the basic version of CrashPlan is free.

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If you like Windows stuff, Then Home Server is excellent. You can install it on a custom built low power consuming machine. I have one and I use carbonite to remote backup my server. Since price is not listed as an issue, then use hardware raid 1 configured 7200 rpm 1TB sata drives. This is a very solid, stable and fast home network backup system and NAS.

Windows server is really a somewhat limited version of server 2003 and its stable and secure and yes you can run regular programs on it like bittorrent ect..

As far as virues, there really is not a good way to protect yourself except don't do something stupid. don't open email form people you don't trust. Especially attachments you are not expecting. We live in a zero day exploit environment now, AV has very limited effect against this so stay out of bad internet neighborhoods.

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hmm true abt security, i am thinking at least i play safe. i have also never got a serious infection before. nothing major, malware detectors seem to always have something to detect –  Jiew Meng May 14 '10 at 14:45
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I can't recommend Windows Home Server highly enough.

You want backups? It will give you the ability to do a "bare metal restore" - none of this "Install Windows, then all the applications like Office, then restore my files". If your PC has a hard drive failure, once your machine is fixed, you put the recovery CD in the drive, start it up and after a couple of questions, go away for an hour or two and come back to a completely restored PC.

You want NAS? How about being able to combine all your disks into one large volume? No more wondering which disk you put a certain file on - especially handy when you're dealing with thousand of pictures or hundreds of video files. Looking for safety? Turn on File Duplication and it'll make sure that you have duplicate copies of every file so that a drive going bad in your server won't matter - there'll be another copy on another drive.

Virus/Malware? I guard my PCs for that - my WHS box has never been attacked.

Power efficiency? There are WHS boxes that run on Atom chips. WHS has very low requirements and using "Green drives" keeps your power consumption low.

Performance? Well, gigabit ethernet would help. I stream HD content all over my house from my WHS box and not every link (yet) is gigabit and I've had no problems.

You get remote access as well. Download your files, even log on to your desktops at home through your WHS box when you're on vacation if you like.

The one caveat is that "Vail", WHS V2, is coming out soon so you MIGHT want to wait for that. There isn't going to be an upgrade path from what I'm reading (WHS 1 is 32-bit, WHS 2 is 64-bit).

The best part is that you have no idea what you might want to do with a WHS box in the future - and it will let you grow. Buying a RAID array mean that's all you have. Buying a machine that has, at it's roots, Windows Server 2003 (V2 comes from Server 2008 R2) means you're not locked in. You can put more software on it. It already comes with a fully functional web server. There's a pretty healthy add-on market (lots of freebies too) for WHS.

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Some Ideas:

  • Maybe you you want your own windwos server box with raid and enough space and keep it running 24/7 and then you do not need a separate NAS. This is becaue of the filesharing, you don'T want to run it on a NAS with busybox linux.

  • On the other hand it can be a a trap to think one machine should do it all. Get specialised and simple machines / software / operating systems that you can easily configure and operate for the different tasks. Don't let the ads confuse you. You want simplicity and reliability. Plan everything on paper until you have your perfect solution. Plug together what works in an intelligent way.

  • Understand what NAS is and what it is pood for, understand what raid is, and what resources you really need for filesharing. Maybe you want to run your filesharing on a windwos machine and not on a NAS, make your life easy!

  • Scheduling and cron on windows (for backups): Task manager could be used, but what about hanging processes, and restarting? Process / service management is not trivial

  • Raid: software raid is very good working on windows. Always have a spare drive live. Monitor it somehow (this can be done through a script that checks the state of the raid and greps the output and alarms you in case. Speed is not a great disadvantage with software raid any more, and you are not vendor locked in to a hardware raid solution. I believed in hardware raid long enough, but now with software raid everything is so easy and simple. You can use almost any disk, you can exchange disk between machines and simply replace them with a standard harddrive.

  • NAS: is not for backup as my fellow poster explained. But it s great for storage. Move your backups to a different loaction and always kep a backup series (keep last week daily, one every month behind that) You will miss them one day it if not.

  • I have worked with synology NAS and I really liked them.

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non lock-in software raid seems like something i can consider, hmm i think if like u said speed is not a problem, i hope i don't compromise reliability too then i think i will use that. but which one will u recommend –  Jiew Meng May 14 '10 at 14:57
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None of those options are great for backups. A NAS could be hit by the same electrical surge (or fire, or flood) as your desktop. Same for the server. And extra disks in your desktop are even more prone to failure at the same time as your 'data' drives (since they're in the same system).

Viruses can spread via network to the Homer Server, since you're likely mounting the NAS (or Home Server) on you local machine neither add much additional virus protection (unless you're running a virus scanner on the home server but not your desktop.

Since your concerned about downloading directly to the Server/NAS, and read/write speeds, it seems that you're looking more for a place to archive data, not really backup data.

If that's the case, I'd throw a large drive in your desktop and pay for a good off-site (over the 'net) backup service.

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The options you've presented are for local storage, which has advantages and disadvantages. A big disadvantage is that in the case of fire, theft, power surge, your local backup server or NAS may be stolen or damaged or destroyed. If you are really concerned about your data, you need an extra layer of redundancy.

There are various online backup services that will back up your files to the cloud. I use JungleDisk; you can create a schedule to back up your files, and choose what should be backed up. You can even have your files encrypted before they are uploaded, so they remain secure.

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