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 Post subject: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:22 am 
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I'm currently using in a full sized Ubuntu box for storage with a 4x750GB drive RAID5. I'd like to set up a small, quiet, efficient box to serve those drives. FreeNAS looks like a very good solution for my needs, software-wise. I'm currently thinking of a pair of WD Red 3TB disks striped.

The Intel NUC series look like they would be able to run FreeNAS well (fairly quiet, plenty of RAM capacity, good enough CPU, etc). The main issue is how to connect the drives. I'm either going to have an external case attached via USB 3 or just hack the box and run SATA cables out of it to the drives.

I backup offsite using Crashplan, so I'm not massively concerned with redundancy and uptime of the local disks.

Thoughts?

Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:46 am 
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HarvesterOfBeer wrote:
Thoughts?

1. FreeNAS is awesome, good choice.

2. The NUC is a very bad choice for a NAS. Besides the limited storage capability, it is way overpriced for a simple NAS. Since you are going to be using external drives anyway I can't see how the size would be of any advantage. You can get any number of CPU included mini-ITX boards way cheaper than the NUC and perform just the same in this use case.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:13 pm 
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Agreed with washu. :!:

The best might be a Thin-ITX board like the Gigabyte GA-H77TN we just reviewed. If all you need are 2 HDDs, any number of small mitx cases would do, esp as there's no need for a PSU in the case, all you need is an external ~80W 19V notebook adapter. Pick a lower power dualcore & enough RAM, and you'd be ready to go. If you want to use ZFS w/ FreeNAS, study the RAM requirements carefully... tho w/ just 2 HDDs, it's probably not bad.

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:24 pm 
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Thanks for the input guys!

I'll go digging though the reviews for a good mobo + CPU + case.

What I've read so far about ZFS and RAM requirements indicates about 1GB per TB of disk. I'm probably going to have 4-6TB of disk, so I'll probably put 8GB in the machine. Not going to use ZFS deduplication.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:01 pm 
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HarvesterOfBeer wrote:
What I've read so far about ZFS and RAM requirements indicates about 1GB per TB of disk.

This bugs me, I have to say. So much RAM; it's just a file server!!

If redundancy & all the fancy features of ZFS is not important, why bother? UFS seems at least as stable, and it can work with way less RAM. ZFS really seems designed more for mission critical storage where 0 downtime & data integrity is critical, which is not so for the typical home server. I'm experimenting & researching these in FreeNAS now.

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:10 pm 
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I'm certainly interested in your findings!

Part of why I'm interested in using ZFS is simply to gain experience with it. I do IT/Ops stuff in my day job, and I'm always looking out to learn new things.

I may also wind up doing some other things with the storage that would make some of the pool/snapshot functionality useful.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:33 pm 
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If you are in IT and want to learn ZFS it is a good thing to know. However the best way to learn it is to try and break it, which is probably not what you want to do on your home file server. Yank drives out and try to recover, cut the power while saving files etc. If you really want to learn, setup an old box with some drives that are too small to be useful and try and break it.

Also, on consumer level equipment (ie, equipment without ECC RAM and not just the server) the data integrity functions of ZFS are pretty much useless. If you can't guarantee that the data you store on ZFS is good it will happily "protect" your corrupt files and tell you they are good.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:08 pm 
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I hear you. This is more personal curiosity than really trying to master ZFS as a career skill. :-)

There are some servers at work which may become "available" soon. If I can grab those, I'm going to throw OpenStack on there.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:19 am 
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Have you considered the new Avonton Plattform?
8 core Atom at 2.4GHz with low power consumption from Supermicro.

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:09 am 
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That Avonton board would be total overkill. You could build the whole NAS including drives for less than that board. That Avonton is meant for low power web servers, not NAS/Storage.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:46 am 
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Here's the position I'm slowing moving to regarding NAS / home servers.

1. FreeNAS, despite its name, doesn't really turn any PC into a NAS like the relatively user friendly ones from QNAP, Synology or... Instead, its ZFS file system demands enormous amounts of RAM to work properly, preferably ECC (which requires a board that supports it), which then implies at least a HP Microserver type hardware, and at 1gb RAM per TB, would need 16gb ECC for a bank of 4 4TB drives. The hardware costs pre-HDDs end up being higher than a high end 4-5 drive bay NAS (say $750 at least with that much ECC RAM and a HP Microserver gen 8... and you're doing all the work of OS setup. The software RAID which ZFS most closely resembles appears to be at least as good as hardware RAID5, but it's not a substitute for a backup system, which anyone who values their data, should still have. We know rebuilding a failed drive in RAID can be an excruciatingly long process during which the data is simply not accessible. And then there's all the horror stories about failed RAID rebuilds -- not sure about ZFS yet in this regard. In contrast, a 1-to-1 backup (RAID 1, 10 or other mirror backup of folders) gives you instant access to the data that was in the failed drive. So if you have a backup system, is ZFS and all its attendant complexity & cost really needed?

2. An alternative is any recent Windows desktop OS (and we all know about the Daz activator which makes it completely free) with StableBit DrivePool, a $20 addon which... "Combines multiple physical hard drives into one large virtual drive, Stores everything in standard NTFS files, and if you want, Lets you designate any shared folder as a duplicated folder; in case one drive fails, your duplicated files remain safe." (SB DP looks like a way better implementation of MS's flawed drive extender in WHS.) Now you can stay with as little as 4GB standard RAM for a 4x4GB HDD array, which for the HP hardware example above, drops cost down to a little over $500, and since there's no need for ECC RAM support, you can move to cheaper hardware -- like $90 bitfenix mitx 6-drive case, $100 mitx board + $50 CPU, $50 PSU, $40 RAM: $330 total) use Remote Desktop from any Windows PC to control your fileserver, run any Windows applications for specialized functions, use mobile apps for android access -- and use the saved $ (and time) to add a USB 3.0 or eSATA external drive array for 1-to-1 backup of important folders in your server.

Aside from the geek attraction of freenas & zfs, is there any advantage of 1 over 2 for the average somewhat techy home user?

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:52 am 
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washu wrote:
That Avonton board would be total overkill. You could build the whole NAS including drives for less than that board. That Avonton is meant for low power web servers, not NAS/Storage.

Of course Moonshot is the poster child, but intel is targeting all kinds of servers that don't need maximum CPU power mostly network but also storage. Asrock has an TX board with 12 Sata ports clearlz for a low power storage solution.
The board is more expensive than most because it is server grade with server features such as IMPI. If learning ZFS is mentioned. maybe server management is also on the radar.

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:40 am 
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MikeC wrote:
Here's the position I'm slowing moving to regarding NAS / home servers.

1. FreeNAS, despite its name, doesn't really turn any PC into a NAS like the relatively user friendly ones from QNAP, Synology or... Instead, its ZFS file system demands enormous amounts of RAM to work properly, preferably ECC (which requires a board that supports it), which then implies at least a HP Microserver type hardware, and at 1gb RAM per TB, would need 16gb ECC for a bank of 4 4TB drives. The hardware costs pre-HDDs end up being higher than a high end 4-5 drive bay NAS (say $750 at least with that much ECC RAM and a HP Microserver gen 8... and you're doing all the work of OS setup. The software RAID which ZFS most closely resembles appears to be at least as good as hardware RAID5, but it's not a substitute for a backup system, which anyone who values their data, should still have. We know rebuilding a failed drive in RAID can be an excruciatingly long process during which the data is simply not accessible. And then there's all the horror stories about failed RAID rebuilds -- not sure about ZFS yet in this regard. In contrast, a 1-to-1 backup (RAID 1, 10 or other mirror backup of folders) gives you instant access to the data that was in the failed drive. So if you have a backup system, is ZFS and all its attendant complexity & cost really needed?

2. An alternative is any recent Windows desktop OS (and we all know about the Daz activator which makes it completely free) with StableBit DrivePool, a $20 addon which... "Combines multiple physical hard drives into one large virtual drive, Stores everything in standard NTFS files, and if you want, Lets you designate any shared folder as a duplicated folder; in case one drive fails, your duplicated files remain safe." (SB DP looks like a way better implementation of MS's flawed drive extender in WHS.) Now you can stay with as little as 4GB standard RAM for a 4x4GB HDD array, which for the HP hardware example above, drops cost down to a little over $500, and since there's no need for ECC RAM support, you can move to cheaper hardware -- like $90 bitfenix mitx 6-drive case, $100 mitx board + $50 CPU, $50 PSU, $40 RAM: $330 total) use Remote Desktop from any Windows PC to control your fileserver, run any Windows applications for specialized functions, use mobile apps for android access -- and use the saved $ (and time) to add a USB 3.0 or eSATA external drive array for 1-to-1 backup of important folders in your server.

Aside from the geek attraction of freenas & zfs, is there any advantage of 1 over 2 for the average somewhat techy home user?
Good points Mike.

On no 2, there are good and bads, as there are with any solution, there is not perfect, just that fits better what some end users might be looking. Stabble bit and Drive bender have been out since the release of WHS2011, to me atm they are both solid enough for use, and they have exapanded their support to more windows versions, so its a very economical way. But as with WHSv1, Windows systems have issues, specially with the file system. Stablebitt will give you the ease of uniting all drives into one logical one, but as it was with WHSv1, its only failback is duplication, and this doesn't counter silent file corruption nor accidental deletion and so on, even dual hdd fails will have a chance of losing your data. I do agree that if you value your data you should backup externally or to cloud, but this will also increase the cost.

Personally im still deciding on what to do when i migrate my server, between

1) unRaid 5.0
2) WHS2011 + Flexraid RaidF 2.0
3) WHS2011 + Stablebitt pool and scanner
4) WHS2011 + Snapraid

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:46 am 
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Just a couple of points about ZFS based on what MikeC said. I have used ZFS in production environments.

1. ZFS doesn't require ECC, but it's data check summing is basically useless without it. That includes the clients and networking equipment, not just the server. The rest of ZFS's features can still be nice to have. Also, ZFS does not have error correction just error detection. Without the same redundancy that traditional RAID setups have ZFS can only tell you that your data is bad, not recover it.

2. RAM requirements can vary alot depending on what you do with it. As a simple media server with relatively large files the 1GB/TB rule can be relaxed quite a bit. If you are storing many small files then RAM needs go up. If you use deduplication then 1GB/TB is no where near enough. A lightly used media sever might get away with only 4GB, but 8GB is a realistic minimum.

3. RAID. ZFS with enough RAM is really fast when used in RAID mode, but then again so is mdadm when configured correctly. Without exotic caching setups the limiting factor in both will be the drives. ZFS does have a couple of advantages when in a rebuild situation. It only has to rebuild the data, not the whole drive so a less than full RAID will take less time than other solutions. It also can continue rebuilding if a bad sector is found, where most other RAIDs will fail. The data in the bad sector is still lost unless there is extra redundancy, ZFS isn't magic. Also, if you had a bad sector in the empty portion of a drive during a rebuild ZFS wouldn't say anything. Traditional RAID would fail the rebuild, but at least you would know you have another bad drive.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:53 am 
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washu wrote:
Just a couple of points about ZFS based on what MikeC said. I have used ZFS in production environments.

Thank you for the comments, it's great to hear from someone with more experience.

btw, sorry, HarvesterOfBeer, for maybe hijacking this thread. If you like, I can split & separate the thread... tho it's still not irrelevant to your interests.

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:07 am 
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No apologies needed! This is excellent and relevant commentary.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:33 am 
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I have an addition to MikeC,

if you go with number 2 you have to care about Antivirus/Malware/Trojan stuff. Using some QNap/Synologie/Thecus you completly avoid the whole problem.

Looking for and installing updates seems to be unavoidable for any solution, including prebuild NAS boxes.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:42 am 
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Pappnaas wrote:
I have an addition to MikeC,

if you go with number 2 you have to care about Antivirus/Malware/Trojan stuff. Using some QNap/Synologie/Thecus you completly avoid the whole problem.

Looking for and installing updates seems to be unavoidable for any solution, including prebuild NAS boxes.

True, re - AV etc.
Updates -- no problem, esp with prebuilt NAS, as they're quite automated these days.

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:55 am 
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While I grudgingly allow my wife to run a Windows machine, I've managed to eradicate it elsewhere at home.

The linux camel-nose has been put under the tent flap at work...no chance of getting the rank-and-file off of Windows, but I'm hoping to eventually migrate most of the servers. :-)

-Pete


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:01 am 
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MikeC invited me to comment on ZFS. But washu is the local ZFS guru and I can't add or take away from what he said as far as ZFS goes.

But there's something obvious which hasn't been mentionned:
A simple Linux/mdadm/LVM setup would get you a trustworthy low-cost NAS if you use a mundane and well-tested file-system. This will run fine on just about any hardware (unlike Windows) and the license is free. It requires less care and is easier to admin. But the real selling point for me is the trustworthiness with low-end hardware. I've lost too much data combining dicey hardware with Windows or fancy file systems on Linux. It often makes sense to go with the most boring and best-tested solution.
But of course if Windows is all you know, the opportunity cost of learning something else might be too high.

Obscure proprietary stuff like this looks like a disaster in the waiting:
Abula wrote:
1) unRaid 5.0
2) WHS2011 + Flexraid RaidF 2.0
3) WHS2011 + Stablebitt pool and scanner
4) WHS2011 + Snapraid

Maybe appearances are deceptive and one of these isn't actually obscure but the regular stuff under a fancy name. If I had to use Windows, I'd want to use code that ships with most versions of Windows and that most people use.

Also:
MikeC wrote:
So if you have a backup system, is ZFS and all its attendant complexity & cost really needed?

No. It merely provides potentially useful features, some of which are also available in other software. Kind of subjective...
But it's worth hammering home the unquestionable flipside: if you don't have a backup system, ZFS is no substitute! Backup, backup, backup.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:18 am 
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Hfat makes an excellent point. On a cost/performance basis you really can't beat Linux+mdadm+good filesystem. FreeNAS is almost as good, just the RAM issue if running ZFS. I say that as someone who prefers FreeBSD over Linux if given the choice. It's a shame that geom RAID 5 was never focused on after ZFS came in, it was basically mdadm for FreeBSD.

I haven't used most of options presented by Abula, but I agree with Hfat that they don't sound like a good idea. I have used unRaid and while it sounds good in principle, it uses a file system that is not known for reliability and is effectively no longer developed. It is also horribly slow at writing.

If you must run a RAID setup on Windows on the cheap this is my advice: Get the cheapest motherboard that has Intel RST from whatever brand you trust. It doesn't need to have any other high end features, so an H77/H87 board is fine. Add a Celeron + 4GB RAM. Install Windows on a separate drive, do NOT boot from the array. Turn on Write back caching. Done. Intel RST is pretty much the only "fake RAID" that performs worth a damn. If your MB dies then you can recover you array it on any other board with a new enough RST, or even under linux with dmraid.

One other point that cannot be stressed enough; RAID is not a backup! If you don't have a backup then don't use RAID! You can only afford two drives? Main + Backup, don't use RAID1. You can only afford 3 drives? RAID1 + Backup or Main + 2 backups, don't use RAID5.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:24 am 
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All good points. And, in my case, offsite backups are handled by Crashplan.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:13 pm 
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+1 on Crashplan. It's a great program for offsite backups and if you can find someone else to host your backups you can do it for free. Only downside it it has a pretty hefty RAM requirement as well (it is written in java). I actually cannot use it for my mother's computer as she only has 2 GB which is the max for her machine and otherwise has no reason to upgrade.

If you have a big backup set you may need to tweak it a bit, ie let it use even more RAM.

It doesn't replace local backups unless you have a crazy fast upload speed. When I got back from my vacation it took 2 months to upload my photos and I have the second fastest upstream available here for home use. I definitely had those files backed up locally the day I got back, not 2 months later.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:58 am 
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Ayup. Anything critical, I make a local copy on another machine.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:36 am 
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washu wrote:
Hfat makes an excellent point. On a cost/performance basis you really can't beat Linux+mdadm+good filesystem.

Linux+mdadm+good filesystem - so can you recommend a particular combo?

As to your other comments about RAID5, etc, the more I read about RAID, the more confused I get! There are so many conflicting opins! I'm starting to feel RAID of any kind is mostly a waste of time & money for home users, and they're generally better off with JBOD of some kind (with disk/data corruption detection?), and a simple, regimented (ie at least once 24 hrs) 1-to-1 backup system, perhaps even 2 identical servers, one primary, one backup. I'm less hot on cloud backup in general simply because the thought of entrusting my most "critical" digital info "out there" just doesn't appeal.

Thoughts?

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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:04 am 
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For end-users who are non-technical, I agree that JBOD + good fs (ext4 or other journaling system)+ good backup is the way to go. If there is a good appliance NAS out there, then some kind of RAID may make sense. The appliance taking care of monitoring the health of the disks and providing intelligent messages about the necessary actions ("Call support, buy a replacement drive unit, slide out the bad one, and slide in the new one"). Even for geeks, I'm not sure RAID buys you a whole lot if you have good local backups. If a drive fails, just replace it and clone the data from the backup you made last night. If you need a layer of redundancy, just mirror the drive.

The trick, of course, is getting the backup system right. Crashplan is the best one I've found so far...and it's free if you want to back up to another box you have. There are a bunch of services, but so far Crashplan's client has been pretty unobtrusive, good cross-platform support, restores have been easy, and the unlimited capacity family plan has been quite cheap.

Crashplan does let you provide your own key for encrypting your data, and claims that the key is never sent to the cloud. I don't know if anybody has done an exhaustive analysis of the network traffic.

Obviously if you have something very sensitive you should either not back it up there or pre-encrypt it yourself. Of course, doing all that in a really secure way is beyond most end-users.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:11 am 
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MikeC wrote:
Linux+mdadm+good filesystem - so can you recommend a particular combo?

I'm not sure I understand your question.
My general reco would be Linux/mdadm/LVM/ext4 but I'm not religious about the details. LVM is optional but it provides some of the most useful features of fancier solutions. I use it on my home server.
Or are you asking for a product, like a general-purpose distribution (such as Debian) or a more turnkey product (such as Openfiler)?

MikeC wrote:
I'm starting to feel RAID of any kind is mostly a waste of time & money for home users, and they're generally better off with JBOD of some kind (with disk/data corruption detection?), and a simple, regimented (ie at least once 24 hrs) 1-to-1 backup system, perhaps even 2 identical servers, one primary, one backup.

Agreed.
Cataloging your files and keeping hashes (or some such) is more useful than real-time error detection for typical home use. Depending on the nature of the files, you would be better off using versioning software though.
Obviously 2 servers is overkill for most people but if you can afford it, it seems the safest and most convenient choice for typical home use.

For home use, RAID is mainly a time saver and as such most effective (and least costly) if used for the system partition. If you have several data drives for instance, you can put your system (and file catalogs) on two (or more) of them.

MikeC wrote:
I'm less hot on cloud backup in general simply because the thought of entrusting my most "critical" digital info "out there" just doesn't appeal.

I don't want to start a argument but I'm in particular skeptical of too-good-to-be-true offers and commonly astroturfed solutions.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 1:20 pm 
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Yes, RAID can be confusing. And you are right that most home users really don't have a need for it. I've seen it used in place of a real backup system more times than I can count.

I think that RAID in the home should be saved for situations when your data to store is significantly more than the size of common disks. 2TB server? No RAID. 20TB server? RAID could be useful. If you want the convenience of having all your data on one volume without using third party software it can be a good idea. While RAID is another potential point of failure, I trust a good implementation more than I trust "drive extenders" and the like.

Be careful with the term "JBOD". I believe you are referring to just having a bunch of independent drives. That's fine as each drive has no effect on the others. However, JBOD can also refer to concatenated disks which is basically the unreliability of RAID0 without the speed benefit. I can't recommend using that in any situation.

I hear you about not wanting to trust cloud providers. However I have tried many consumer level backup systems and none has come close to Crashplan for both "set it and forget it" simplicity with the option of doing more complicated setups if needed. It has no requirement to use the cloud for anything other than authentication and peer finding and you can setup your own encryption key that they at least claim to not be able to access. Would I trust them for something I truly wanted no one to see? No. For offsite pictures of my kids that I could never replace? Sure. Will I drop them in a heartbeat if they screw up? Yes. Also I don't use them as my sole provider for anything, everything has local backups as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Intel NUC as a FreeNAS box?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:47 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 653
Location: Germany
Since the one open project is ruled out, would something like openfiler be more suited? Www.openfiler.com


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