2013
07.04

Currently at home I use a HP MicroServer with Windows Home Server on it to store all my media (music, video, and photos).  I do all my photo editing on a HP tower PC with a nice Samsung monitor.  My camera is a 16 MP DSLR so the RAW files that I am editing are pretty big (around 21 MB each).  It takes quite a while for the thumbnails to load when I browse a folder, and it takes an age to open a RAW file or to save an edited PSD file over the network to the WHS.

I’ve decided to migrate my content from the WHS to my PC.  But the PC only has a 465 GB drive.  That’s too small and it’s a single point of failure.

What I’ve decided to do is deploy Storage Spaces using USB 3.0 drives on the tower PC.  The PC doesn’t have USB 3.0 ports.  So what I did was use some Amazon.co.uk store credit and bought some USB 3.0 ports.  I bought 2 * StarTech.com 2 Port PCI Express SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card Adapter, available from:

That gives me a total of 4 * USB 3.0 ports on the back of the tower PC.  The cards come with optional power supply leads for devices that draw power from the ports.  They are plugged into the hard drive power lead in the PC. 

Next I’ll be getting myself 2 * 3TB USB 3.0 drives, and plugging one into each USB 3.0 card.  With 2-way mirroring I’ll get just under 3 TB of storage, enough to keep me going for a while, and with room to expand again in the future.

Data access will be much faster than it currently is and I can look at recycling the WHS, possibly turning it into SMB 3.0 storage for my home lab.

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  1. I really like storage spaces but have run into a few issues with them.

    The fact I can split my storage into say a RAID0 for performance and non-critical data and then a RAID5 for critical data is fantastic. Although the out of the box performance is a bit poor and you will need to tune your storage space for it to work well.

    But that aside, where it all fell down is application support. For some reason I found a few games and apps which would just freak out on a storage space volume. I tried all the usual compatibility shims, junction points to fool it into thinking its on a non pooled drive and it just didn’t work. In the end had to go back to using Intel Matrix RAID for my dev machine. I possibly could have done a VHDX mounted on the pool but that just starts adding too many layers of complexity for what I need.

    For reference what I use is 3x 1TB in a pool and then was dividing it up into certain volumes. E.g. RAID0 for testing VM’s primarily doing things like nested hypervisors to simulate Hyper-V, ESX and Xen environments for testing. And then RAID5 for photo’s and other data and then RAID0 again for games (which are in steam so if I lose them I can easily grab again).

    On my storage server which is currently a laptop I went with one of these bad boys (http://www.hotway.com.tw/products/h82-su3s2.htm) a Hotway 8bay chassis. This is then connected to a laptop (i7, 16gb RAM) and a whole stack of disk. This laptop works as my Hyper-V host under Win8, media PC, and centralised storage. However what I came to use was FlexRAID which layers over the top of the filesystem.

    My main reasoning, is that I don’t need real time RAID for bulk storage, this runs once a night. Additionally being file based no block based, if I were to say lose 2 disks in its pseduo RAID5. I would only lose the data on the drive that failed, the remaining data is all 100% intact. So whilst I don’t gain performance, I have gained flexibility.

    Just a few thoughts around how I built things up :) And I really like using laptops now for home mini servers due to the low power consumption, inbuilt battery backup, and relatively high performance. Under full load and measured from the wall socket I hit 18W from the i7 laptop. The disks will add more of course but a benefit of FlexRAID is that I can let the drives goto sleep, as the system will only spin up the drive that the data is on rather than spinning up all drives in a typical RAID array.

    And on that note, I have easily cleared 160mb/sec read from a USB3 drive so performance will be fantastic no matter which way you go.

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