The OS Quest Trail Log #56: Decisions, Decisions Edition

November was a busy month on the Quest, not all of it stuff I would have wanted to do or expected, but it’s turning out OK. That’s not a recent picture, but we did have our first dusting of snow this month.

I’ve completed a couple of system builds. There was my new home server (more on that later). I’ discussed the CPU and motherboard I picked for the build, but my PC upgrades turned into a complete system build as everything was replaced except for the Velociraptor drive. But even that was demoted as my system drive.

A winter sceneNovember was a busy month on the Quest, not all of it stuff I would have wanted to do or expected, but it’s turning out OK. That’s not a recent picture, but we did have our first dusting of snow this month.

I’ve completed a couple of system builds. There was my new home server (more on that later). I’ve discussed the CPU and motherboard I picked for the build, but my PC upgrades turned into a complete system build as everything was replaced except for the Velociraptor drive. But even that was demoted as my system drive.

In both the server build and the PC build I decided to go with quality and value over a budget build. My definition of value doesn’t mean the parts were the cheapest out there, just that I thought I got my money’s worth.

But the new server build, coupled with Microsoft’s killing off drive extender has forced some additional decisions on me. I moved everything back to my Windows Home Server v1 box right after the announcement.

I tacked a couple days onto the Thanksgiving holiday and since you couldn’t pay me to go near a retail outlet I had time to dig into an alternative. There’s no particular rush, just my own impatience to use my shiny new server.

After considering some alternatives I spent most of my time off setting up and breaking Ubuntu on my new server hardware. In short, it seems like a good solution and I’ve since moved all my file storage over to the new hardware. I’m using Samba to share out the files to my Windows & Mac clients.

Seems to be working for me so far, but I’m hedging my bets by copying everything over to my Windows Home Server box every night so it will be relatively easy to move back. I’m still using the WHS for backups and since I’m copying everything there anyway I’m still using KeepVault for some of my offsite backup.

Now that HP has dropped WHS from their product line I’m even more concerned about the future of WHS. I’ve been considering keeping a small WHS box to handle PC backups and anything else that seems better suited for WHS rather than Linux. I don’t think the HP announcement was triggered by Microsoft’ dropping drive extender. It seems more reasonable that WHS just isn’t generating the business to warrant the investment. Other companies have said that they’ll continue WHS support, but at least here in the U.S. HP has had the only WHS I’ve ever seen promoted outside a website dedicated to WHS.

ISPs and Caps

Comcast Banwidth Usage Nov 2010With some of my backup changes and testing this month my web usage skyrocketed and I approached my 250GB Comcast cap, closing to within 8GB at month’s end.

This caused me to look at alternatives. Which, in this part of the world means AT&T. Even if I go with another DSL vendor it’s still over AT&T wires. Cable is faster, especially up stream speeds which are important to me, so I’m not looking to switch. Rather, I’m looking to go with redundant connection to share the load. Even though this months usage was an anomaly, redundancy isn’t a bad idea since the internet is important to me these days since I work from home a lot to save a two hour round-trip commute. Also, Comcast’s recent problems (which didn’t affect me, maybe because I don’t use Comcast DNS) help make the case for redundancy.

So I decided to go for it and placed an order with AT&T and it went live last night. I’m planning to cut Comcast back to a cheaper plan to absorb the DSL costs. The AT&T price is a promotion for one year so I’ll have to reconsider the benefits in a year.

My typical usage is about 110GB/mth (although it’s been steadily increasing) and I backed up at least another 110GB in November that I normally wouldn’t have since I migrated much of my data to the Vail server which sent everything offsite again. Of course, that Vail box is now shut down and the data will be backed up yet again when I move things over to whatever comes next.

And this month, with a another server move (at least as far as the software is concerned) I’ll be backing all that 110GB up again. I’m funneling the data through the slower DSL connection but it keeps the faster Comcast connection available for everything else.

Drobo

Drobo Rebuild StatusDrobo is often mentioned as a replacement for Windows Home Server as far as drive extender goes. I’m not a fan of Drobo. The one I have is a solid, if unspectacular performer. I had performance issues early on and was not impressed by Data Robotic’s attitude (at least public) that all of us experiencing performance issues were an anomaly. Yet each firmware upgrade brought better performance with no changes on my end. Copying a large number of small files has always been worse than any other drive/array I’ve ever used until the latest firmware upgrade. Now even that is better.

But one issue remains. Yesterday I popped a drive out and replaced it with a larger drive. This is a main benefit of the Drobo, stupid easy drive replacement. The downside is an extremely long rebuild. The rebuild is 24 hours in and it estimates another 35 hours remain. In the past I’ve always copied files off and reformatted as the quicker way to do this. But I decided to let this run and see how it goes. The drive is still usable and the rebuild time isn’t really any worse than other consumer level RAID options.