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Advice needed on building network storage


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I am looking to build a network storage drive that I can control 100% myself. I already have WD mybook WE 1TB drive, but there are problems with the rights of the drives and I cannot get an SSH connection to that drive. So I would like to have a NAS I can control fully.


I would like to use this network storage as a storage for all home files (photos, videos, music, documents etc.). I currently don't have any need for an FTP server on the internet, but I would like to keep that possibility open. The drive must be accessible in my (w)lan from PCs running Linux as well as WinXP and Vista (or soon Win7).


I have a tabletop PC (number 3 in my sig) that I could turn into a network drive. It currently has a 200GB drive with both Mandriva 2009.1 and WinXP Home (dual boot), but It's left almost unused currently. This PC is connected to a WLAN AP so the traffic will all go through WLAN (802.11g) "bottleneck". I will also need to consider if the power source is big enough and if the cooling in the case is adequate.


I'm thinking of buying two 1 or 1.5 TB drives that I would RAID for redundancy reasons. I could:

i) install two additional drives into that frame and leave the 200 GB drive and Mandriva on it as is. The additional drives would be seen as one (RAID1) extra network drive. I would use the current Mandriva 2009.1 as the OS for the network drive system.

ii) discard the 200GB drive and set one of the new drives to boot as default from BIOS. I can leave the 200GB drive in there if I would like to boot to that for some reason


Another option is naturally to buy an NAS case, but it always comes with an OS of itself and some are easier to "hack" than others. I would very much like to go with the system I know best: Mandriva Free.


Any thoughts and advice?

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There's a number of ways you can do this. Do you want it as a true NAS or will it also be used as a desktop computer?


The reason I ask - Openfiler


you can turn a machine/server into a NAS and that is all it will be. I've used this and it's pretty good but I don't have spare hardware to make my own true NAS.


What ways do you want to connect to it? Samba? FTP? ISCSI? NFS?


If you want the machine as a desktop as well, then I suggest you do it within your Mandriva and then install all the protocols you want to use to connect to it with. If you want performance, you'll find that iscsi is the way to go compared to samba, ftp, nfs, etc since you may that disk directly to your machine as if it was externally attached storage. It will appear as /dev/sdb or whatever. Of course, you can only access that particular partition from one machine at one time, then disconnect it and mount on another machine. iscsi can be mounted under Windows as well as Linux.


If you just want to copy files about, then use samba if you're sharing with Windows machines and that you don't want to map the disk directly to your machine. If you want a true NAS, then I suggest Openfiler from the link above earlier in my post.


Be careful about pre-prepared NAS devices. Some are crap, especially the Promise ones. IOMEGA are the ones I've had better experience with, and a maxstor one I had was bad on performance, but maybe if I'd replaced the Windows Server on it with something else it could have been better perhaps.

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An alternative for openfiler is FreeNAS. It is pretty lean (32 MB hard disk space plus some for config files) and runs on FreeBSD. Not sure whether performance wise it is in the same range. it does offer all the ways of sharing disc space I know.


I am myself leaning towards a dedicated NAS because of concerns on noise & power consumption when using a full PC. Bubba looks very attractive -- up to 2 Tb hard disc space in a small enclosure that draws 10-15 W max and is silent (no fans needed). The real attraction is that it is running Debian Linux, i.e. fully configurable once you get over the differences between Debian & Mandriva...

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OK, thank you both.


I've now got the two 1,5 TB drives and I am thinking of leaving the current drive (200GB) as an option to boot from (change the boot order of drives in BIOS). If I wish to boot to either Mandriva or WinXP, I can do that. But this hw would act primarily as my network storage server.


I'm thinking of installing the Openfiler, it seems easy enough. I'll go through the pages (installation guides) and do the installation. Let's see, if I have questions afterwards... :D

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OK - additional question right away. I didn't see any information on RAID for the Openfiler. Will I be able to use software RAID with it?


Hmmm, good question. I can check this for you easily enough by making an Openfiler installation and update you shortly.


Incidently, I tried FreeNAS before when comparing the two I find Openfiler more intuitive. Also, FreeNAS had problems from time to time with things not working how I was expecting - especially ISCSI. I gave up as didn't have the time, and since Openfiler worked it was enough for me.


Openfiler recommend you use the x86_64 version since some point in the future the x86_32 version will disappear.

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Sadly, vmware is crap and doesn't want to work for this, so I'll have to try it at home on my xen server - I know it worked there when I made it before.


In theory it should support raid, since it supports lvm for your volumes, but I cannot verify it right now.

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Some words should be said on RAID: It is not always wise to use it, as it *may* - but not necesserily must - cause more trouble for the home user than it is worth it. Think of the situation you always have in mind, i.e. the most common reason, why most people want RAID: it is the mirroring to defend data when one harddrive goes down. But when you are not sure which of your two HDs is broken, you can lose your data by picking the wrong one for replacement. It may sound trivial, but is often not, when you use two identical drives for mirroring.


Another point goes to checking the drive status: How do you know when one of your drives is broken? Would you do regular checking from time to time or in everyday use? You would not want to go the first drive down and lose the second shortly after, because of perfect mirroring you did not even see there was an error!


These hints are not my personal opinion, but were mentioned in an article from a german computer magazine, which is quite popular in the technical oriented scene. I found them quite considerable when my brother-in-law asked me to build up a NAS. So I'm not argueing against RAID in general, but there are moments to be observed.


Good luck!

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Yep, I agree with that "warning" totally. It is more likely for me to sc**w up the installation myself when e.g. updating Mandriva every six months, than it is for the HD to fail. I may accicentally format /home or leave my /storage out of my setup and therefore delete the partition. If that happens, I don't have anything: I have only perfectly mirrored empty disks.


I am hoping I can come up with an idea of mirroring the drives and perhaps making back-ups on external drive (my 1TB WD MBWE).

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My first try with the Openfiler was a bad burn. I downloaded the image again and burned it again, but didn't have the time to install it yesterday. Now I got no errors in the burn phase and am ready to try installing it tonight.


I managed to install the drives OK as I could see them perfectly in my BIOS when I set the boot order. So that part should be OK.


Now I'm contemplating, whether I should make the system a RAID1 mirror or just extend the capacity with the second 1.5TB drive...


I'll keep you posted.

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Your other alternative, which I'm pretty sure Openfiler can do is because it uses LVM is that you can use LVM snapshots. Of course, it doesn't give immediate security like Raid does, but you have some alternative options.


I didn't get round to doing anything last night my eyes were so bad despite giving them a litre of eye drops that I simply couldn't do it :(


But one of your next stages once you've got it installed is.


1. Create the LVM volume group (add all disks to this, or if you want a second for backup/snapshots create two).

2. Create your logical volume within the volume group. This can be the whole size, or you can make multiple volumes.

3. Enable your services (samba, nfs, iscsi).

4. Play :)


If you need help, I wrote an article on how to use openfiler which went in Linux+ DVD Magazine. Contact me if you think you might need it.

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First, yes you can add raid partitions. Click Volumes, then create new physical volume, select your disk by clicking /dev/sdb or whatever it is. Partition type can be physical volume or raid array member.

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Thanks Ian - certainly something to consider.


But if I understood correctly, the LVM enables adding more physical disks to one partition and changing the size of partitions independently from disk sizes. But if I have two equal size disks that I'm making into a RAID1 array, there is only one physical disk I need to configure. What is the benefit of LVM, when I have only one disk? Or are you suggesting this as an alternative to the option of leaving the RAID1 out and just adding them both to my total capacity (1.5 + 1.5 TB)? Adding them into an LVM of 3TB (total size) or let's say 3 partitions 1TB each


And what is an LVM snapshot?

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