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I had a recent scare with my main home computer; one of my internal drives appeared to fail and I thought I lost all our digital media (pictures, video, MP3s) since I didn't have a backup (I know, bad me).

I was able to recover the drive and immediately made backups to a second internal drive, an external drive, and I'm currently backing up on-line via MozyHome.

I don't want to be in this position again, so what I'd like to be able to do is:

  1. Centralize all my digital media to a single device, preferebly one with a RAID 5 or RAID 10 config so I don't have to worry about individual disk failures.

  2. Stream the digital media over my home network to my Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows (XP, Vista and Windows 7) PCs, as well as my home theater.

  3. Backup my digital media on-line, where it's secure and easily recoverable in the event of a disaster.

My questions:

  1. I'm leaning towards a DLNA-compliant NAS with a RAID 5 or RAID 10 config. Would this be better than getting a Windows Home Server (WHS) machine? What advantages does WHS have over a NAS?

  2. For a NAS I'm looking at the Synology DS209+II and Buffalo LinkStation Quad. Should I consider any others, and why?

  3. If I go with a WHS, I'd probably look at specing one out myself and having a custom build rather than use an off-the-shelf WHS like the HP MediaSmart; would this be a good idea, or should I just go with a vendor's system? If a vendor, which vendor and system?

  4. If I go with a WHS, how would I stream media from the WHS to the home theater? Would I have to use a Windows Media Center Extender device, or some other kind of device?

  5. From what I've read, MozyHome isn't able to backup WHS servers, NAS devices or network drives; I'd have to "upgrade" to MozyPro at a greatly increased cost. Are there any on-line backup services that can handle WHS servers or NAS devices at a reasonable price? If I have a RAID 5/RAID 10 config do I even need to backup on-line, or would a backup to an external drive be enough?

  6. I'm leaning towards getting a PS3 to use as a streaming media client for the home theater, so that I get a blu-ray DVD player, gaming console and streaming media all in one package (my home theater is just plain DVD at the moment). I do have my Vista laptop currently configured with Windows Media Center to take advantage of streaming NetFlix movies along with the other media. Would I be able to stream NetFlix movies with the PS3 as well? Should I be considering any other devices? I'd like to have a device dedicated to the home theater, so we can still use the laptop while streaming media. A device with a blu-ray player would be a big plus.

  7. I'm going to get my daughter a ZuneHD this holiday as a gift; what impact does that have on my decisions above (if any)? Would some kind of an iPod be a better choice?

Thanks :)

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4 Answers 4

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Comments/answers in line...

1.I'm leaning towards a DLNA-compliant NAS with a RAID 5 or RAID 10 config. Would this be better than getting a Windows Home Server (WHS) machine? What advantages does WHS have over a NAS?

It's a bit of an apples versus oranges question. The two classes of device (NAS/WHS) cover somewhat different bases. For me, the fact that WHS is a "set and forget" device for backups, and I can easily rollback to previous versions of files if required tips the scale for me. Its media streaming capabilities are tasty icing on the cake.

There's been a very good post on the WeGotServed forum looking at the pros and cons of NAS versus WHS - check it out.

3.If I go with a WHS, I'd probably look at specing one out myself and having a custom build rather than use an off-the-shelf WHS like the HP MediaSmart; would this be a good idea, or should I just go with a vendor's system? If a vendor, which vendor and system?

If you're happy building one yourself, then go for it. It means you can tailor your machine to your requirements. I'm certainly pleased I took the plunge and built my own. Once agin, there's plenty of good advice on the WeGotServed forums.

4.If I go with a WHS, how would I stream media from the WHS to the home theater? Would I have to use a Windows Media Center Extender device, or some other kind of device?

Your question 6 also mentions that you're thinking of getting a PS3. That would certainly do. If you didn't want the gaming capability, then the WDTV Live is getting good reports and a cheap(ish) device to connect WHS to home theaters.

5.From what I've read, MozyHome isn't able to backup WHS servers, NAS devices or network drives; I'd have to "upgrade" to MozyPro at a greatly increased cost. Are there any on-line backup services that can handle WHS servers or NAS devices at a reasonable price? If I have a RAID 5/RAID 10 config do I even need to backup on-line, or would a backup to an external drive be enough?

The key thing is to be able to have an offsite backup. This could be either an online solution or an external disc stored offsite, to which you make regular backups. I've gone for the latter solution. I hope others are able to give you advice on online backup solutions.

7.I'm going to get my daughter a ZuneHD this holiday as a gift; what impact does that have on my decisions above (if any)? Would some kind of an iPod be a better choice?

Getting an iPod means having to use iTunes software (spit!). I'm prejudiced against iTunes, so someone else will have to give you a more measured response.

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@Gcopue; thanks! I'm with you on the iTunes software, actually any Apple software on Windows. However,the iPod has lots more support with other devices, not to mention accessories. She played with the ZuneHD at the local Best Buy and liked it, but all her friends have iPods. I just want to make sure whatever I get her will work with my proposed system. –  Patrick Cuff Nov 25 '09 at 14:29
    
I ended up going with the HP MediaSmart WHS box, and got a second 1.5 TB drive so I can do folder duplication. Also went with the PS3, which does do NetFlix streaming (netflix.com/NRD/…) –  Patrick Cuff Dec 2 '09 at 2:24

The synology firmware is really feature complete. I use a 108j and the extra stuff it does (handle file downloads - url's and P2P, LAMP web server etc) is done really well.

it will allow you to set up automatic scheduled backups to and from client machines using multiple methods including rsync.

If you set up a home theater machine based on (say) XBMC (I'm unfamiliar with the capabilities of a PS3 as a media streamer) you can do pretty much anything except BluRay playback, and just by using a network share on the NAS, and browsing to it.

as for backing up to the cloud... well the cloud can go away at any time so it should only be an extra piece of armour - backup critical data to somewhere you have control:

level 1: Raid - protects agains single disk failure, but more beneficial for smooth 24x7 seamless operation
level 2: backup to a seperate physical machine
level 3: backup to different media kept in fireproof safe - optical media, Tape, or seperate HDD
level 4: online backup like mozy
level 5: transport seperate media to off site location that YOU have more control over(e.g a drawer in your place of work)

IMO WHS is kind of overkill as it's a lot of money for an all-eggs-in-one-basket solution.
It does have a very friendly interface though

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Thanks geocoin! –  Patrick Cuff Nov 25 '09 at 13:44

Go with Windows Home Server. I can't stress this hard enough. There are so many advantages, you almost can't believe it's real.

You get automatic backups every night. You have your C: drive fail? Replace the drive, put a recovery disk in your DVD drive and you get a bare-metal restore of your hard drive. ALL your PCs get backed up EVERY night.

Drive pooling. Media files scattered all over the place? Add drives to a WHS system and add them to a drive pool. All those drives now look like ONE drive.

File duplication. it's like a poor-man's RAID. It makes sure that every file - every picture, movie, document, etc. is on more than one drive. That way, any drive can fail and you can replace it without worrying about data loss.

You also get a web server, remote access and other features. I was logged into my PCs on my home network while sitting in my hotel room in Disney World. I had the entire desktop right there and could transfer any file I wanted to my laptop.

I built my own as soon as WHS was available. Now, if I were starting all over again, I would buy one of HPs packaged deals as they add some nice software to the mix and their hardware makes expansion VERY easy.

Of course, it being Microsoft, it makes it very easy to stream all your stuff to other PCs, XBoxes, etc.

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@David; thanks, you make some good points I have to think about. Have you streamed from the WHS to a home theater? What's the interface like? Is it the Windows Media Center GUI or some other interface? –  Patrick Cuff Nov 25 '09 at 14:32
    
Yes. My WHS machine is the primary "source" for playing video files (.AVI, .MKV, etc) on my HTPC hooked up to a 47" LCD. I'm currently using a copy of Vista Ultimate that I got in a promotion but I'm upgrading to Windows 7 which has native H.264 support. I use Windows Media Center for the interface (rather fond of it) and just noticed a neat new feature on a test PC - it bookmarks your place if you stop watching a video before it's done. That was about my ONLY complaint with the old version. Oh - and most of my usage is via an IR remote. –  David Nov 25 '09 at 14:56
    
Wish I could accept your answer and Gcoupe's answer below, but I'm going to accept Gcoupe's since it has a little bit more detail. I appreciate your response though; I did end up going with the HP MediaSmart WHS box, thanks :) –  Patrick Cuff Dec 2 '09 at 2:22

For storage, it's a lot easier to use a drobo with drobo share. I have 8TB of storage in mine and 2 drives can fail without data loss. Just take the broken out and put working in. That easy. And you can put your media files on it and check out the drobo apps, it should do what you want.

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@benjamin239; thanks for the info about Drobo, I haven't heard about them. Looks interesting. –  Patrick Cuff Nov 25 '09 at 14:01

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