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File Server OS Help

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Adrayic

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Location
CANADA
Hello, I'm looking for some help choosing an OS for a file server that I'm building.

Currently, I am using the system in my sig as an HTPC. I am running XBMC Live off a small partition of the 250GB Maxtor and I have a 1.5TB Seagate drive which I use for most of my media. I have recently filled the 1.5TB drive and am temporarily storing excess media on my OS drive (on another partition) until I can grab a few larger drives.

My HTPC has served me very well for several years and I have been a huge fan of XBMC since its initial release on the original Xbox. That said, there are a few things about my setup that I dislike:

1. Currently I have no backup of my data and the thought of my 1.5Tb drive failing is starting to scare me.

2. I have configured SAMBA on my HTPC so that I can access my media from other PC's in my house but the transfer performance is pretty poor (~10MB/s) and I would like to change that.

3. I dislike having a large server case beside my TV and would like to build a standalone HTPC that will fit in my media cabinet.

It is for the above reasons that I have decided to build a dedicated file server and have a separate HTPC stream the content via gigabit LAN. The file server will consist of the components in my sig (+ 3-5 1.5TB drives) and must be driven by a free operating system (one of the many linux varients perhaps)

While I have successfully installed many Linux distros in the past (Ubuntu, Gentoo, Suse), my knowledge of server OS's is pretty limited. I have done some preliminary research into Ubuntu Server, FreeNAS, OpenFiler, Debian and a few others but I'm finding it difficult to make a decision based on my limited experience. Hopefully you guys can help me out.

I'm looking for something that is relatively easy to setup and maintain. Once configured, I plan on putting the box in my basement and accessing it remotely via SSH when needed. I may have a screen hooked up to it or I may just run it headless. The box will not be used for anything other then serving files to the rest of the PC's on my LAN. The box will need to be connected to the internet so that I can access it remotely via SSH when I am not at home. I would also like to run the SABnzb web server. SABnzb has been a breeze to install on Ubuntu and XBMCLive so I don't anticipate many problems with other distros.

I am strongly considering software RAID 5 but am open to other suggestions. If I do end up going that route, I would like the OS to support software raid 5 as painlessly as possible and would like to be able to add drives to the array as my space requirements increase. If this is not a possibility with free distros (i know UNraid does this), I'm open to other suggestions.

When it comes to performance, I certainly hope I can get my transfer rates higher then 10MB/s. The NF4-Ultra-D has 2 gigabit ethernet ports, my router (DIR-655) has a gigabit switch and my HTPC motherboard will most likely be a P965 DS3 with gigabit ethernet so hopefully my hardware won't hold me back. I'm looking for the best possible transfer rates I can get on a gigabit network so that I can transfer large files between PC's relatively quickly.

I'm sure i'm forgetting a few things but I think i covered the jist of it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 

UnseenMenace

UnseenModerator
Joined
Apr 23, 2001
for a fireserver I would use CentOS or Debian simply because Cent is based on RedHat and is a well supported Enterprise distro which is angled towards a server install more than a desktop or Debian simply for stability reasons.
For a file server I would not install a GUI and would do a command line only install.
 
OP
Adrayic

Adrayic

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Location
CANADA
Thanks for the reply, i never considered CentOS and don't really know much about it but i'll do some research. How does Ubuntu compare to CentOS or Debian?
 

Creegz

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Location
British Columbia, Canada
Ubuntu is Debian based, so the commands will be similar if not the same. However, Ubuntu is a desktop environment and is a bit bloated, more than a server needs. Debian is more server based, so I would suggest just using that since it has options when you install to make it a server. Make the server have a web interface ability so it's easier to access because all you need to do is go to the IP in a browser, but run everything in command, it will save system resource and hard disk space.
 
OP
Adrayic

Adrayic

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Location
CANADA
Thx for the help Anti. Can you recommend a web interface to use with a debian server? Is it difficult to install such an interface? Thx
 

MRD

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2003
I use Gentoo because I like to use the same distro on all PC's for simplicity. That being said, my first recommendation when I hear "file server" is Debian. Very stable, easy, secure. Not up to date or cutting edge, but who cares in a file server?

For a media pc, I'd go Gentoo if you know enough about Linux.
 
OP
Adrayic

Adrayic

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Location
CANADA
@ MRD:
I have installed Gentoo a handful of times on various PC's over the years and aside from the relatively steep initial learning curve, my experiences with the OS have been positive. That said, I really enjoy the XBMC Live install that I have on my media PC right now and will probably stick with that when I build my standalone HTPC in the coming weeks. Would there be any particular reason to configure XBMC with Gentoo rather then just using the XBMC Live CD (ubuntu based I believe)?

As for the file server -- its looking like i'll be giving Debian a try over the next few weeks. I assume that software raid 5 will be relatively easy to configure in Debian? With software raid 5, do I have the ability to add another drive to the array as my media collection grows or should I plan on making the system big enough to last me the next couple of years? Also, I've noticed that debian can be installed with a minimal ISO (~150MB) or a fuller version (~650MB). Since I only want to use this as a file server, is it wise just to use the minimal ISO and install any extras I may need later? Thx
 

UnseenMenace

UnseenModerator
Joined
Apr 23, 2001
Thanks for the reply, i never considered CentOS and don't really know much about it but i'll do some research. How does Ubuntu compare to CentOS or Debian?

Ubuntu is more cutting edge which may be important for a desktop which is required to plate the latest media and fuctionality however it is not something of great importance on a server when compared to stability.

CentOS is a free distribution which is binary compatable and identical to RedHat Enterprise Linux (without the support licence agreement)
RedHat is possibly the largest enterprise Linux in the market today which means its well tested in such enviroments.

Debian is simply second to none when it comes to stability as such its use in server enviroments is undisputed.
 

Deadbot2_1973

Registered
Joined
Nov 30, 2009
Location
Being driven crazy...short drive.
We use Debian for our core router at the wireless company I work for. That machine has been up for almost 2 years at a stretch with no issues. the only time it has ever gone down or given an issue is when the landlord accidentally unplugged the battery backup...pluggged it back in, booted and the current uptime is over 1 year. Do a net install and only install those packages you need ...very light footprint.
 

MRD

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2003
I don't have enough familiarity with XBMC to speak on that subject.

Yes to installing Debian with the minimal CD... it will just download whatever you select that is not on the disc.

RAID 5 is easy to configure and new drives can be added if you use Linux software RAID or many hardware RAID setups (most). Software RAID run through Linux is superior to pseudo-hardware RAID (that is where your board tells you it supports RAID but it doesn't have its own memory or processor to handle parity calculations, buffer data, etc.). RAID5 run through software or pseudo-hardware is going to be pretty slow. It may still be ok for your needs. Hardware raid (where you spend several hundred dollars buying a pci-e card with DDR ram and a processor heatsink on it to run your RAID) is much faster as RAID5 requires a parity calculation for each bit you write (or read if you are verifying). RAID0 or RAID1 don't have the computation overhead and so are just as fast (almost) with software, pseudo-hardware, or hardware RAID.
 

mbentley

Gloriously Lead, Overclockix Chief Architect
Joined
Sep 26, 2002
Location
Indianapolis, IN
+1 for debian as a file server. the best part about debian is the stability. i can't think of a time when i updated my debian server and it broke something by performing the update. with other distros, i've seen updates that i will have to search online for bug reports and solutions which i would find to be a huge pain while i am waiting to restore service on my file server because of a buggy update. on my server, i have gnome installed but i have just disabled it by default. i have only used it a couple of times, but why not have it there if i can disable it and fire it up if needed?

i personally run raid1 with mdadm and the performance isn't horrible. when i am doing long writes my cpu usage spikes pretty badly but that is to be expected by software raid. i don't really have an experience with software raid 5 but it is certainly possible.
 

dropadrop

Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2001
Location
Finland
I quite like CentOS, and would definately pick it over Ubuntu for a server. I have found Ubuntu breaks things during updates far more then CentOS. On the other hand if you are already familiar with Ubuntu then a stable Debian is probably the correct route as the management commands are all the same (not that either is hard to pick up).

Though personally for a file server I would just go with something like a Qnap. I had one recently (older model) and it was great as a file server. The new TS-259 / TS-459 give up to 100MB/s throughput in file sharing and are certified for VMware Vsphere (should you ever want to start tinkering around) just checked, and it's only supported as a target, not host for installing esx-i. The price might not even be a lot higher then what you would end up paying for your own build (and they are very energy efficient). The TS-239 Pro II and TS-439 are a bit cheaper and would probably already be limited by your network. They use Intel processors so should you want to install something that does not automatically come a long you can do it fairly easily, and in my experience the support from Qnap works pretty well. They also have E-Sata ports for backup to an external disk.
 
Last edited:
OP
Adrayic

Adrayic

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Location
CANADA
Thanks for all the help guys, i really appreciate it.

Debian looks like the best solution given the fact that I am already familiar with Ubuntu and I have most of the hardware for the build already. The Qnap devices look pretty nice but they are a little out of reach price wise (I would need at least a 4bay NAS to make it worth it and even then I think I would run out of space).

With regards to software raid: I currently have a plum full 1.5TB 7200.11 Seagate drive. I am looking to purchase two more 1.5TB drives so that I can get started with raid 5. That said, I have a few questions.

1. If I purchase two new drives, should I stick with the seagates (to keep all drives the same) or would it be ok to pick up two WD Green drives (although these run at 5400 RPM i believe) and combine them with my seagate?

2. Once I have chosen the drives, do I have to remove all the data from my full 1.5TB seagate drive in order to create the array? (Do all three drives need to be empty before you create the array).

Thanks.