Thinking of a PC file server... advice?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by livingfortoday, Feb 4, 2007.

  1. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

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    #1
    Hmm... I hope this is the right section for this. Anyways, I currently use a 500Mhz G4 Sawtooth for a file server, with two RAID 0 arrays running off of a Sonnet Tempo card, one for storage, one for backup of the other. Not the most efficient setup, but it works.

    I'm thinking about building a cheap Athlon 64 PC running XP (since I have lots of parts laying around already) and popping in my drives to that - and running them in a RAID 5 array, since the hardware will allow it (OS X doesn't have software RAID 5 support, and cards are reeeeally pricey).

    My question is, assuming I do this, would it be simple to share the music and video from the PC to all my Macs? Currently I just mount the storage drive onto whatever Macs I want to access files from, and it works fine. Would it be as simple to do with the PC? And! Most importantly, would this be worth it? Is there an inexpensive way to do RAID 5 in a Sawtooth?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Danksi macrumors 68000

    Danksi

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    #2
    I was considering FREENAS and my in-law's old PC hardware...(got them onto an iMac)... instead of Windows XP.
     
  3. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #3
    One thing to keep in mind is that you would be addressing the files as a SMB server volume, not as an AFP/Mac Extended volume, therefore there are likely going to be some incompatibilities with Mac filenames.
     
  4. livingfortoday thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #4
    That's actually pretty nifty looking. It might be even cheaper for me to pick up an old used P3 or something similar, and set that up with FreeNAS. Hmm... thanks for the link!

    Edit: the manual says "AFP permits Apple OSX users to access the storage resources of FreeNAS.", but it has no more info on that, past a request for Mac users to submit more info.
     
  5. livingfortoday thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #5
    Okay, just giving this topic a bump, since Im still thinking of doing this, especially as the Sawtooth is out of space and I'd need to get a new PCI card for more drives, or work with an external FW solution. So... anyone use a PC like this to transfer things to their Macs? Is it easy to set up? Any advice, tips, or personal stories would be helpful, thanks!
     
  6. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #6
    I have run a file server for years on my network. It currently has 1.6TB of hard disk space, and I store everything on there, including personal documents (I don't use the Documents directory on my Mac at all). Using Windows for a server just sucks, it eats resources and requires babysitting. I use Ubuntu server on mine and I can boot it up and leave it alone for months on end -- it just keeps working. It's only a 500 MHz Pentium III with 384MB of RAM -- but that's all you need if you're doing file serving, it's not a very intensive task. It works wonderfully. Use something like FREENAS or a full-featured Linux installation, and you'll be golden. You can run it on the cheapest hardware you can find and everything will still work great.
     
  7. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

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    #7
    I would stick away from a Windows Server. I have set up file sharing between PC's and Mac's in my house and file transfers are painfully slow. When Mac to Mac and PC to PC are 10-11 times faster than Mac to PC. This may simply be a fault with Windows XP while Windows Server may transfer quickly.

    But the Linux, FreeNAS or FreeBSD setups are all UNIX based Operating Systems like Mac OS X. So I would assume that they would transfer files without a major slowdown.

    As for hardware I would stick with more recent hardware than a Pentium 3 since you can get a new motherboard with 6+ SATA II ports that supports RAID 5 or even RAID 6 natively, some have on board Gigabit Ethernet, and built in firewire ports. Older boards will require add-on cards for all of these functions and become obsolete more rapidly.
     
  8. livingfortoday thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #8
    Okay... I currently am looking at an Athlon 64 with an ASUS board that supports RAID 5 and has 6 SATA ports, actually. I guess my problem with Linux is that I have never really run it on anything (except Ubuntu on a Powerbook once), and would be rather unsure about how to go about setting up the RAID through that, and making it accessible to my Macs. Do you know of any good web resources that I could look at? And what distribution would you recommend?

    Thanks for your help, and sorry for all the questions!
     
  9. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

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    #9
    With most motherboards the RAID is set up before loading the Operating System, in the BIOS setup you set the BIOS to use the on board RAID capabilities then another boot program is enabled which allows you to set up your RAID array, so it does not matter whether you are using Windows or Linux. For Linux you would simply need a floppy disk with the RAID drivers so that the OS installer will recognize the RAID configuration as a Single Hard Drive.

    Be sure to build a computer with a floppy drive if you want to set up your array as your boot disk, Windows at least will not recognize an array without a floppy disk to load drivers with. For some reason the Windows Installer will not accept anything other than floppy disks.
     
  10. livingfortoday thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #10
    I know Windows is weird about RAID arrays (and SATA, too, at least under XP) and needs a floppy, I never understood why. Ok, I planned on using an IDE boot disk, and then using the SATA ports for my RAID. I could therefore just install Linux on the boot disk regular-like, download RAID drivers and whatnot, and then hook up my RAID just fine?
     
  11. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #11
    That should more or less be it. You really need to be asking these questions over in the ubuntu forums though, they'll be much more helpful. At any rate, please go with Linux and not Windows. File transfer performance on Windows Server sucked when I tried it. Ubuntu is really easy to setup and you should be able to get everything the way you like it in an evening.
     
  12. livingfortoday thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #12
    Okay, great, thanks for your help you guys. I didn't know that about file transfer speeds, so Ill definitely look into running Linux instead of Windows if that's the case.

    Thanks again!
     
  13. PNW macrumors regular

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    Feb 7, 2007
    #13
    I’ve had Suse and XP home boxes talking to each other via Samba for a few years and haven’t noticed a problem with transfer rates across operating systems. However, if you’ve got the time to play around I’d definitely recommend installing Linux just because it does more with less, has fewer problems, doesn’t need to reboot after upgrading installing, etc. As for flavor, I personally prefer Suse. Linux has definitely come a long way in the past few years in terms of recognizing hardware/writing drivers. Both Nvidia and ATI have Linux drivers for their cards. It does support RAID.

    I’ve found the folks at: http://www.linuxforums.org/forum/ to be extremely helpful
     
  14. kitki83 macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    Whats the difference between Unbuntu and FREENAS?


    Man once iam ready for me to install the Server with Ubuntu someone mentions FREENAS which looks like pretty easy for a beginner.
     
  15. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #15
    Ubuntu is a whole Linux operating system. FreeNAS is a stripped down dedicated-purpose version of MiniBSD. It is indeed very easy, and if all you need is a file server it's perfect. I use full-blown Ubuntu Server because I run Apache/MySQL on mine as well to test web sites.
     
  16. kitki83 macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Thank you and Bookmark ur website gonna help me with networking now gotta find Upstream Splitter/switch all this time a router had the same thing as a switch Finally.


    Because before I would put two routers and cant share files.
     
  17. livingfortoday thread starter macrumors 68030

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    #17
    Thanks, guys. I went ahead and ordered the parts for the file server tonight, and downloaded and burned the 64-bit version of Ubuntu. I'll definitely hit up those Linux forums for help if I need it!

    Thanks again.
     
  18. 9Charms macrumors regular

    9Charms

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    #18
    So complicated!

    I installed the ubuntu server and... wow... what the heck? it's all command line based. I have no idea what any of it means (yes I've spent an hour in the manual).

    Is there something easier? Like with a graphical interface?

    mrogers: I really like your set-up, but I have no idea how you set up your server... help?
     
  19. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #19
    Try Linux on your G4

    Why use Win XP? Linux will work best for this.
    If you are going with Linux then Why a PC? Run Linux on the G4.

    I thought that Mac OS X did support software RAID5, could be wrong but certainly Linux does and it will run on the G4
     
  20. jaw04005 macrumors 601

    jaw04005

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    #20
    If you want a Windows-based solution, you may want to wait until Microsoft launches Windows Home Server later this year. It's a stripped down version of Server 2003, but apparently they are specifically tweaking it for 10.5's Time Machine application.

    Update: You may want to apply for the Windows Home Server Beta that's available at connect.microsoft.com.
     
  21. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #21
    Yes. I have an Antec PC case. I bought it because it is silent (and it truely is silent) and it holds a pile of drives in slide in drawers and has good airflow over the drives. There is a dor that locs over the front of the case.
    I think Antec calls it "sonata". Great case.

    I'm running Red Hat's Fedora Core on the PC and I've exported space to both Mac and PC. It works well but do find a mainbard that has built in Gigabit Ethernet. One other nice thing Linux can do is TCP/IP over Firewire.

    My mac Mini has only a 100bps Ethernet port so getting to the Linux server was slow. I connected the Mini and Linux server using FW400 and got a huge speed up. But note you need a FW card in the server for each connection. I could only get it to work "point to point"

    Linux is very "Mac Like". It comes with much the same software they both use the same printing system "CUPS". Not surprizing given the Mac OS X is BSD UNIX based
     
  22. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #22
    Most real servers don't have a GUI. I think it's pretty simple, but I forgot how daunting it can be to someone who's always used GUIs. That said, there is something called WebMin that provides a web-based admin GUI to a Linux server such as you have setup. I don't use it, but I know people who do and they're generally pretty happy with it. Look around on Ubuntu forums if you need help with that. I'm pretty sure WebMin is an Ubuntu package so it should be pretty simple to install.
     
  23. 9Charms macrumors regular

    9Charms

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    #23
    mrogers: would ubuntu DESKTOP work? I just installed that and it's a very nice graphical interface. I have a mixed network of PC's and Macs that I'd like to share videos, photo's and music between.
     
  24. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    #24
    Yeah, that will work fine. You might have to specify a few more things to install that the server config comes with by default, but it shouldn't be a problem. I guarantee you that you'll still be setting some of the stuff up from the command line though, so be prepared for that. You're going to need to setup and install an SSH server and SMB (Samba file sharing) at least. I use those, plus Apache+MySQL and a secure FTP server so I can easily access my files from anywhere in the world.

    I use the server install because it's "lighter" without a GUI; I don't need a GUI to do anything, so why bog down my server with it.
     
  25. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Just for people who don't know, I believe the new airport can function as a file server by plugging in a USB-connected drive and then sharing the drive on your network. Apple hasn't really marketed it AFAIK but it sounds like a neat solution for people who mostly rely on laptops - especially with 802.11n speeds available.
     

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