Easy, cheap and reliable fileserver for ~3 PCs?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Mitthrawnuruodo, Jan 12, 2007.

  1. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Bergen, Norway
    #1
    As some of you might know I work as a web programmer for a couple of small companies, and as the only with a real technical background I (more or less voluntarily) get stuck with all computer related tasks and questions (which is a good thing job security wise, but not always good for the stress level ;)).

    One of the companies are about to get/rent themselves a dedicated Linux server at a hosting company, to host their clients web pages, web applications, and whatever else you can do (mail, ftp, etc.).

    This company has a rather important client, who wants an easy-to-use, cheap and reliable (file) server for their office. They are only 3 people and all 3 are using Windows at the moment (though I might have given one of them a nudge in the right direction), and want to use this as a file server and for backup.

    Then to the hard part: It would also be great if we could (again with an easy solution) mirror (or otherwise backup) that file server to the, above mentioned, dedicated server, using e.g. s/ftp (or maybe samba? I don't know, that's why I ask ;)).

    The client is not in the same geographical location as we are and they are not very computer literate, so if the file server (and backup routines) should be extremely easy to use from day to day, while the dedicated server will be in "better" hands...

    Anybody know any easy-to-use, cheap and reliable (file) server solutions that could be suitable for a small office with 3 non-technical Windows users?

    I know I could have googled this and/or looked for answers on a more Windows centric forum, but I don't know any Windows centric forums and aren't really interested in getting to know them, and sifting through 1000s of Google hits aren't my favourite pastime.
     
  2. weldon macrumors 6502a

    weldon

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #2
    You might try a NAS box from Netgear, Infrant, Buffalo, Linksys, etc. Or possibly a new Airport Extreme w/ a USB drive. But that won't be ready until February.
     
  3. ToddW macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2004
    #3
    Well what I did was get a little linux box. that runs apache and mysql. that allows me to test out several websites that i've developed for a few folks, as well as a back up and file server for me. that is the best and cheap reliable way i have found for doing all the things i need. hope that helps.
     
  4. Mitthrawnuruodo thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Bergen, Norway
    #5
    Thanks.

    A NAS would be my obvious choice, but I don't know any that will allow mirroring/backup to an online server... hence "the hard part" remark in my post above... :eek:

    Same goes for the AE...

    I don't think a Linux box would be a viable solution in this case as 98% of all people in general, and these users in particular, couldn't maintain it for the life of them... ;)
     
  5. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    #6
    I too use a Linux box for my home file server/web test bed. The nice thing is, you don't need much horsepower. I've got 1.6TB of drives in that thing and it's only running on a Pentium III 500MHz processor. I've had opportunities to upgrade it, but it just doesn't need it -- so I just use the parts for something else. And although you do have to have some knowledge to set it up initially, Linux servers don't need a ton of maintenance. You can set them up and more or less leave them alone. I haven't touched the configuration for mine in 6 months or more -- it just works. It's my repository for everything -- I don't store any files on my workstations or laptops (unless I'm taking the laptop somewhere without internet access). I have SSH and FTP ports forwarded through my router so I can access my files anywhere in the world.
     
  6. weldon macrumors 6502a

    weldon

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #7
    A couple questions that would help refine answers...

    • how much online storage do you need in the local office?
    • Is the storage requirement the same for the remote server?
    • How many days/weeks of backup versions do you need to keep?
    • how fast is the connection to the remote server?

    You could do the backup routine in a couple ways...

    1) buy an external drive for a local PC, then have that PC run a routine to copy changes from the NAS to the external drive at night, and upload the changes to the server after that. That way you have two local copies and one copy on the remote server as well.

    2) Have a local PC copy from the NAS to the remote server directly

    3) Configure one of the local PC's as a fileserver and avoid NAS altogether. If the PC's are stable (no rebooting during the day) then this could be just fine for the other two local users.

    I would make sure to tell them to close all applications and logout at the end of the day so they get in the habit of closing all network connections and mounted drives that might get in the way of backups.
     
  7. weldon macrumors 6502a

    weldon

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #8
    Are you running those drives in RAID or as JBOD? if RAID, are you using software or hardware? Are you using a LVM? I don't want to get the conversation too far off track, but I'm trying to decide what to do for my home server right now and I thought it might even help this conversation.

    Specifically, I'm considering running Solaris 10 on an old PC just so I can format the storage drives with ZFS and then use RAIDZ to provide some protection. I still need to figure out an actual backup strategy, but RAIDZ would be a big improvement.

    I know there are other decent filesystems out there, but I like the idea of getting to play with ZFS before it appears on the Mac. Plus, the integrity features are really very cool. Hopefully Solaris will play nice with a mix of Windows and Mac clients.
     
  8. Mitthrawnuruodo thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Bergen, Norway
    #9
    The fast answer? I don't know... ;)

    But to try some guesstimation:
    • A moderate HD, 250-300 GB, would probably go a very, very long way
    • If they need that much space remotely, they can pay for an extra disk on the dedicated server (H***, they probably gonna pay most of that, anyway)
    • One day would probably be enough, but any system to take incremental backups that could be rolled back a couple of days would be nice (if it - as with all other things - is easy to do)
    • Could be as low as 1Mbps, hopefully a bit more (but one problem is that slow lines often has no traffic limits, while faster lines has a cap at e.g. 20 or 30 Gb/month, so minimizing the daily traffic would either way be a good idea™)
     
  9. weldon macrumors 6502a

    weldon

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #10
    Your clients are in Norway too? That might make some solutions a lot more expensive than I would anticipate since I'm in the USA. Hopefully I won't point you towards something that doesn't make sense to buy in Europe.

    With the bandwidth limitations on the pipe to your remote server, I think that maybe you should focus on local backups. If you think 250GB will go a long ways, better get 500GB.

    Buy a 500GB drive and slap it into one of the PC's. Then you can share it out to the rest of the PC's. You'll have to leave that PC on while everyone else uses it, but it should be stable. Use Gig-E between the machines and speed will not be a problem (assuming relatively recent model PC's). Then you can attach a second 500GB drive and just copy between them.

    Alternatively, you could buy a 2-bay external enclosure. Many of those come with an onboard controller that allows for mirroring the two drives for extra redundancy. A third 500GB drive could be used for backups and snapshotting.

    It might be possible to use the Airport Extreme with multiple USB drives, but we don't know for sure yet how that would perform.

    If they still wanted to use the remote server for some backups, maybe you could setup the server in their office to do the first rsync or whatever, and then just do the diffs remotely after its been moved to the hosting site. I would maybe try and concentrate on critical documents that get saved to the remote server so you don't use up all your bandwidth backing up everything across the pipe to the hosting center.
     
  10. 7ttman macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2007
    #11
    file server etc.

    I use a linksys NSLU2 which I picked up for £35 fro Staples UK, and have two LACIE 250GB drives attached via USB.

    I've UNSLUNG it, and running all sorts of free software such as itunes server, media server etc.

    The Linksys has a built-in backup capability and, whilst it has only 2 usb ports, you can extend them using a hub.

    But most NAS/HDD combos have backup capabilities... the decision you nede to make is really how much effort do you want to put into configuring and setting up the service.

    AND don't forget... real BACKUP means physically moving the backed up data outside of the building... so maybe you'd be better off using a ".MAC" like service... for which there are plenty at prices much cheaper than Apples.
     
  11. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #12
    Cheap or truly usable/reliable? It's a choice to be made. That said you can do quite a lot on a budget.

    Internet backup is a smart idea. http://online_backup.ibackup.com/online_backup.htm is one of the solutions. One of the PC's would need to be on overnight to act as the backup agent.

    A VPN router would allow for remote access and administration of PC's should the users get into trouble. I don't know that much about low-cost routers but Draytek seem to make dependable products from what I've come across to date.

    A low-cost NAS like a Thecus Yesbox N2100 including two HDD's in RAID1 would seem to then complete the picture. You could VPN in and administer this box as required as well, since it uses a web-based client.
     
  12. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    #13
    JBOD with automated cron backups of the important stuff (I don't back up everything; a lot of the big media files can be replaced, they're just on the server as a convenience factor). I used to compile my own Gentoo but these days it's much easier to use Ubuntu Server.
     
  13. Mitthrawnuruodo thread starter Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Location:
    Bergen, Norway
    #14
    If the system is truly easy to use/maintain and has high reliability, that would be much more important than it being cheap (but if I can have it both - ææh... - all three ways I would be very happy). If I'm to recommend a pricey system, then it has to be dead easy to use and not lose any data... ;)

    Thanks for all advice so far. Keep 'em coming...
     

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