Drobo or Windows Home Server?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by jaw04005, Dec 12, 2007.

  1. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    I need some type of RAID or RAID-like setup to store all my digital content (photos, home movies, iTunes music, etc) safely at a reasonable price (sub $600).

    Up until now I've been using multiple external hard drives. I've been looking at the Drobo "Storage Robot" (http://datarobotics.com/) for the longest time. It's compatible with Time Machine, however it's only USB-based. There is no Ethernet version of the device. This would limit me to one Mac or PC (We have five in our home).

    So, then I've been reading about Microsoft's Windows Home Server and specifically the HP MediaSmart EX470. It has gigabit Ethernet and some unique features like an "iTunes server" and media streaming to the XBOX 360 and PS3.

    Not to mention it's a stripped down version of MS Windows Server. Therefore, you can install additional "add-in's" like an automatic Flickr uploader, Amazon S3 online backup and Bit Torrent client.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft has not made a Mac-native client for the device yet. Although they have said they are working on one. I would have to administer it on a Windows PC or on my Mac through Remote Desktop Connection.

    It's nice that the Drobo supports Time Machine, but I'm currently SuperDuper (for Macs) and Microsoft's Sync PowerToy (for PCs)—and I'm happy with both of those.

    Obviously, I give up HFS+ for NTFS and SAMBA if I go with the Windows Home Server, which may be an issue for Spotlight.

    Any thoughts or experiences? They're roughly the same price.
  2. GregE macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2007
    I was looking at the Drobo but didn't like it was only USB. I ended up going with the Guardian MAXimus from OWC.


    I bought the enclosure from them empty and then got 2 750GB drives for it from Newegg. Total price I paid is $453.42 for 750GB RAID 1 that connects by firewire. When Drobo comes out with a firewire unit, I may add that to my system.

    Something else for you to consider.
  3. island macrumors 6502


    Feb 19, 2007
    I used a HP Media Vault for over a year with 500GB RAID 1. As of next week I will be switching over to a G5 Power Mac tower setup for my server to allow me more control and even more features.

    Both are great options if you are looking for a RAID 1 setup.
  4. Korwin macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2007
    I just installed my HP Media server 2 days ago. My household has 4 pc's and 2 macs, and an XBOX 360. So far I recommend WHS.

    My goals were to consolidate Movies, Music and Photos to be shared as well as backup each machine. I had bought a Maxtor 320gb GigEthernet NAS external drive, and used an existing Maxtor firewire drive to back that one up to, but 3 months of uptime was too much for it and I lost over 100gigs of data. The backup drive showed no partitions on it after the new RMA'd NAS drive arrived... prior to the crash, I was able to browse all the directories of tar files... but the new unit couldn't find any partitions on the backup drive. Luckily for me the lost data was mostly ripped DVDs and music so I still have all the originals, but I have to re-rip them all which is going to be time consuming, especially when it comes to the DV camera videos and the editing that went into those.

    There are some very cool features inside WHS which parallel some expensive technology found in large corporate environments. De-duplication (Single Instance Storage) being the most notable. Until they release a Mac client for WHS backups, this feature will only work on your windows machines... The documentation says Vista and XP NTFS partitions only, but I am glad to report the backup client works on Windows 2003 Server as well. @$599 for 10 clients, this is the cheapest de-duplicating backup to disk, Bare metal Restore, shared storage NAS device on the market. I can't vouch for how well it works for backing up SQL, Exchange or Oracle databases but for file and print/web/application servers, I foresee this 'home' server making its way, possibly, to some tech savvy small-med businesses.

    Aside from the Backup, the disk management with regards to redundancy is notable. I don't fully understand the magic of Drobo's 'raid' filesystem. It appears that it initially mirrors data to a single drive, and then as you add drives, moves to mirroring to a second drive, and upon adding a 3rd (and 4th) drive adopts a flavor of raid5. With WHS, default single drive, nothing is redundant. Adding a second drive adds that entire drive to your available space, plain JBOD... however, you now have the ability to flag folders and shares to be 'mirrored', when you do that, the data is maintained on 2 separate physical drives. WHS uses a technology they call Disk Extender which basically works on the HSM/Archival principle of your file system either contains the real file or something that looks like the real file instead is only a couple bytes in size called 'stubs' aka 'tombstones' or 'links'. When you add additional physical drives to WHS, they get formatted as standard NTFS drives, no striping, parity etc etc, and then WHS will rebalance the data from the Disk1 onto the newly added storage, replacing the real file on Disk1 with a 4k 'stub' file that points to its new location. If you flag a folder as needing to mirrored, the stub file will contain both locations for the file. If you want to remove a drive from WHS, you can... you have to tell it what you want to do, and it will begin rebalancing ensuring that your data gets relocated to drives that are staying. I don't know exactly how it works since I havent tested this part yet, but the disk extender tech brief states that you can use this to copy your data to a drive, then remove the drive and read the data on that drive from any windows machine since its NTFS data. Thats something I like because the unit supports external drives, so in theory I can attach a external 250g drive and rebalance the data in such a way everything is mirrored to the external drive and then take that drive with me to work, friends house, whatever!

    So far I am just getting started. The Mac is the 'entry point' for all digital photos in our house, so I have basically setup an rsync script to sync the mac's iPhoto Library\originals folder to the Photos share on the WHS. I probably won't mirror that folder since the Mac is technically copy 1 and the WHS is copy 2, and everyone else in the household just needs/wants read access to the photos.

    As far as Music goes... the WHS is suppose to have some sort of iTunes Server built into it, but I haven't messed with that yet.
  5. jaw04005 thread starter macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Wow. Very informative. Thanks.
  6. danny_w macrumors 601

    Mar 8, 2005
    Austin, TX
    SmallNetBuilder has a review on the HP MediaSmart EX470 here:


    I am also looking at a RAID1 or RAID5 solution, either direct connect or NAS. Unfortunately I am still divided because I would like TimeMachine to support whatever I buy, and it currently does not support any NAS devices. If I go direct attach, I don't know whether to get the bare bones Guardian MAXimus or a fancier box like the G-tech G-SAFE or SR3610 from www.cooldrives.com. If I go NAS, the ReadyNAS+ looks nice but is too expensive for my blood, but the cheaper alternatives all have drawbacks. For now I will probably just get the Guardian MAXimus.
  7. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

    Feb 2, 2007
    Ontario Canada
    I like the Drobo but it has only USB so it doesn't seem worth it but on the other hand Windows home server doesn't really support Mac or Time Machine.
  8. pwsabm macrumors newbie

    May 20, 2008
  9. Korwin macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2007
    Here is the shell script I use to sync my photos, as an example:

    osascript -l AppleScript -e 'tell Application "Finder" to mount volume "smb://HomeServer/Photos"'
    rsync -ru --progress /Users/Korwin/Pictures/iPhoto\ Library/Originals/ /Volumes/Photos/
    osascript -l AppleScript -e 'tell Application "Finder" to eject "PHOTOS"'

    I would guess that your network connections to the shares are getting severed from the iMac going into power save mode.

    A word of caution about using a WHS. A problem presents itself after you install a 2nd or more additional hard drive in the WHS. The WHS will rebalance the data dynamically in the background to the new drives. The problem with that is that you now have windows servers moving the data around instead. I notice some metadata problems after this rebalance occurs. Most noticeably, after the I use the mac to put files on the server, I can see their file sizes, however, after they get rebalanced, they all show up as zero kb files, but taking up the real size 'on disk'. Weird.
  10. pwsabm macrumors newbie

    May 20, 2008
    Help me with rsync

    Thank you Korwin.
    I will give it a try.
  11. msantoso macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2008
    take a look at QNAP TS-409 Pro

    it has RAID 0,1,5,6, Gigabit ethernet and 3xUSB port for printer sharing, USB HDD backup, and lots more features.

    I'm using TS-209 and it's great, but recently a friend mention that what happens if the HDD is dead. He said to get a better back up system, supposedly to have RAID support. so i'm looking at 409 model. My most importatnt content is mostly pictures and videos of my niece and my new born baby. For iTunes library, i guess i can rip the CDs again, more or less around 30Gb for ACC 256kbps, for movies and tv shows, i think i would like to have some backup of the kids movies.

    Is it necessary for home users? the NAS is actually like a PC, it is never moved. I never experience dead HDD, it is always me first switch to new bigger size HDD.
  12. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Every hard drive in the world will die, sooner or later.

    If you don't have a backup and keep it up to date, you will be very unhappy one day.

    RAID 0 is NOT backup, there is no redundancy. In fact, if you have 2 drives in a RAID 0 configuration and one of them errors, you will lose all data on both drives.

    RAID 1 is mirroring, and RAID 5 is a checksum type of redundancy, so these will survive the loss of one drive. However RAID is not a backup; if you accidentally delete files, or overwrite them, the mirror is equally as #****ed as the master. Also, if you have drives in a RAID enclosure, and the power supply or bridge board of the enclosure dies, then you are up a creek too.

    Plan on regularly burning DVDs as archival backups IN ADDITION to the NAS or RAID storage that you are using. Anything that's really important, store on DVDs offsite (bank deposit box, other secure location) in case of fire, theft or flood.

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