File server + desktop solution Qs

BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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Disclaimer: I'm a super noob when it comes to NA/file servers/pretty-much-anything-network-related. PLease be gentle with me.

I recently moved my work pc to the living room after a bit of maintenance and have become quite accustomed to gaming on 42in tv I scored from a second hand store (for 100 USD too!).

This lead me to thinking about building another pc. Then I noticed the tangle of external HDDs and realised things would be much worse with two terminals. Enter thoughts about a home server or NAS.

To avoid having too many boxes around my apartment, I wanted to build a server (of some sort) and desktop pc combo.

Use case:
> Server: no more than 3 simulataneous connections at any one time; runs Plex; backup server for my work data, R projects, documents, MetaTrader4 data; off-site access; things I'm not thinking of due to naivety
> Workstation: operate as a 'standard' desktop capable of heavy multitasking (several MT4 terminals, Rstudio cruching microarray data, any number of office documents open, firefox bursting at the seams with open tabs), must have Windows as host or VM.

My current setup runs an 6700k (noOC), 16gb memory and a gtx 750ti. The most resources I have seen used is ~50% memory and ~15% cpu during non-gaming time. I'm aware that a similar hardware setup will be required for the above use case.

What I'm unsure about is the soft side of things. This is all crazy Greek to me. So far I can see the following options:
Linux(Host) > Windows VM > all my workstation stuffs
^>freeNAS or unRAID or something more suitable

Windows > all my workstations stuffs
^>freeNAS or unRAID or something more suitable

Which option, if either would be best? I have virtually no experience with Linux and it's various flavours. My OS command line skills are also pretty abysmal, but I can code in a few languages so I'm not comletely a lost cause *yay*.

I'm having a hard time with researching this myself due to confusion of terms on my end and the internet in general. The current popularity as NAS as a thing is also hampering any digging around.

Anyone care to point my in the right direction? Or any direction for that matter? Even the door is acceptable :p

Cheers,
BobbyT
 

Patrick

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Dec 21, 2010
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FreeNAS is FreeBSD based. Perhaps also look at Openmediavault. Folks seem to like that as well.

Generally what I would tell you to do is to have a dedicated NAS box running FreeNAS or OMV and then keep your data there. Use snapshots and make backups from there. Then, if you can, get 10GbE/ 40GbE (less expensive than you may think) and connect everything. You will get plenty of storage bandwidth and you will get a level of security that you do not have with your current setup.

It will also allow you to update your workstations without having to worry about losing data. If I install a new workstation from scratch, I can just run Microsoft Office, Adobe and 1-2 other installers, re-map my network drives and I am ready to go again. If I delete something off my NAS, I can just go to an old snapshot and recover it.
 

BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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Hi Patrick,

Thanks for dropping in/replying.

You're answer is one I was afraid of :/ Not in the OP is that I rent an appartment so running ethernet everywhere, although ideal, is not really practical. I am fully resigned to sluggish pace of AC wifi for file transfers.
Also not in that post is that I am a temporary resident in the US and will be moving to either Europe in the not too distant future or back home to Australia in the also not too distant future. I have already lugged by current pc (in a Silverstone RVZ01) all the way here from home and that was far from fun. Hence the desire to try and confine the file server/new workstation into the same box.

FreNAS, OMV, Nas4FREE, UnRaid...I have looked at a few NAS based OS so far. They all look pretty impressive albeit in some cases expensive with the amount of storage overhead required for ZFS parity.

I fully accept that what I want to do is not the best solution, however my situation is also not ideal. I'm kinda looking to make the best out of a 'bad' situation.
How unadvisable is it to do what I am thinking (on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is 'periodic mild inconvienence' and 10 is 'dammit, I just lost everything, again!'). My most important data could be hosted in the free Google Drive space, or other cloud based option, for another year or two until I go home. But as I'm sure you know, hardware prices in Australia are nothing to be sneezed at so I was hoping to leverage some of the sweet sweet prices while I'm here in the US.

Cheers,
BobbyT
 

K D

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Dec 24, 2016
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A few years back, In a similar sitation I ran everything off one box, I had a RAID card with a 2 drives in RAID 1 for OS and workarea partitions, 2 drives in RAID 0 for scratch and 4 drives in RAID 5 for data. Operating system was Windows, with VMWare workstation hosting several other windows VMs.


Just my 2c but keep it simple. With just one box and everything being run from windows, I dont see a need to complicate it with virtualized setups. Just install your flavor of windows, install all your apps, get a decent raid card and setup your storage. If you need VMs, you have Hyper V. Or get VMware workstation.

Definitely think about your backup strategy.
 

BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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Hi KD,

Thanks for the response.
That's a lot more RAID than I can follow haha. By scratch do you mean cache?
I had given up on the idea of RAID as I'd need a RAID card. I wanted to do the build in an ITX case (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J5TTBK2/ref=crt_ewc_title_gw_5?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER) to cut down on size for the reasons mentioned above. Could you recommend a low profile RAID card or mini itx motherboard with onboard RAID controller.

Also, I keep seeing that RAID5 is a bad idea. How much of this is hype and how much of it is legit concern.

VMs were mainly a consideration to allow softraid like ZFS. I am open to RAID so long as I can get my head around how it works. Could you maybe give me a brief explanation of how your setup operates in terms of storage (in lay terms)?

As for backup I was thinking about mirroring a backup across the current and new system in addition to a plug'n'play backup drive (I read an article somewhere about setting up an external HDD for autobackup when it is connected to the system; maybe @ lifehacker)

Cheers,
BobbyT
 

BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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It will also allow you to update your workstations without having to worry about losing data. If I install a new workstation from scratch, I can just run Microsoft Office, Adobe and 1-2 other installers, re-map my network drives and I am ready to go again. If I delete something off my NAS, I can just go to an old snapshot and recover it.
Patrick,

Could you please expand on this a little. After reading it again this morning I'm not sure I follow as much as I did last night.
Specifically, what do you mean about losing data when updating workstations? I know this is a really stupid question but I did make a disclaimer at the top of the original post :). Are you just talking about situations where a new workstation is added to the network?

Cheers,
BobbyT
 

K D

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Dec 24, 2016
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I must not have been paying close attention when I read the original post. I interpreted it as you are planning to update your current workstation. Now I see that you are planning to build a new workstation and end up with 2 systems.

  1. Workstation + HTPC + Gaming – Connected to your TV
  2. New Build.

Assuming the above and that you are continuing to use your existing setup for your Work+Play and the new Build is going to be a “Server”, I retract my original suggestion.

For the new build, instead of the Core i7 CPUs, I would suggest that you go in for a server board with IPMI and either onboard HBA or add a PCIE HBA. Build an AIO system (Esxi Free or Proxmox on bare metal with any NAS distro as a VM to serve data) You can host all other “Server VMs” on this.

You can also achieve the same with other Linux Distros or OMV on baremetal but I have found that ProxMox and EsXi are the easiest to use if you are not doing anything complex and most software have detailed guides on how to virtualize them under there 2 hypervisors.

Here’s one on how to setup Proxmox + Docker

https://www.servethehome.com/creating-the-ultimate-virtualization-and-container-setup-with-management-guis/


And one I documented on how to sertup an AIO with esxi

https://forums.servethehome.com/index.php?threads/esxi-napp-it-all-in-one-with-usb-datastore.15897/

Hope this helps.
 

vl1969

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Feb 5, 2014
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ok let see here...

Question #1 : in your plan, do you envision on actually ending up with 3 units?
unit 1: your current setup connected to TV for gaming
unit 2: new workstation for work
unit 3: NAS or file server.

OR your plan is to have 2 units one is pulling a double duty as NAS/file server and workstation?

here is why I ask, it is almost impossible to have a good workable dual duty setup that easy to setup and maintain.
especially if main OS is windows. you can do it ,but it is a pain. especially for developers. some tools interfere with server OS
some may not work with Desktop OS , the things are just going in
circles. so if you need Windows 3 unit setup is best bet. not sure what you use for gaming, but if you can play on Linux OS
or if you can work on Linux, than you can maybe getaway with 2 units setup.

option #1: you can work on Linux OS. all your tools and ide can be run under Linux just fine.
setup a Linux OS like Debian , Linux Mint (debian based). I personally do not like Ubuntu, but you can try it and see if it is upto your standards.
any Linux distro have the capability to work as file server. regardless if it is a desktop or server setup.
all you need is make sure you have SSH and SAMBA installed. my preference is Linux Mint Mate or Debian Mate. for this setup. if you have a good hardware you can try Cinnamon desktop on Mint.
once all is setup, configure the storage disks and samba share(s) as needed and you have a nice file server that will function as a desktop as well. one caveat is it needs to be on all the time.
you go through the same thing if you want to setup this on your gaming machine.

Now if your poison is Windows, you can do it too, but with windows in either configuration you will need a beefier hardware as there is much more overhead. and a licenses for at least one server SKU.


for either Linux or Windows you can look into using URbackup. for all your backup needs.
 

BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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KD,

There's a lot to digest here, which isn't going to happen until later today or tomorrow. But can I ask quickly, is IPMI hard connection only or does it work over wifi? That will really determine how far down that rabbit hole I can go as I'm not in the position to be running cables at home.

Yes I am looking at 2 builds:
1) the current build which you already defined
2) a new build which would operate as a server of sorts and act as second workstation (ie work + storage/server) EDIT: 'double duty' as vl put it above

However it seems to be becoming increasingly clear that what I want to do is not really advisable or simple :/

Cheers,
BobbyT
 
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BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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Hi vl,

Thanks for the reply. After looking at my original post again I can see why there is some confusion over what setup I was hoping to achieve, which happens to be your 'or' option; that is 2 systems in total: my current build (does everything except makes toast) and a new build that would act as a capable workstation and a NAS/server space (ie double duty as you say).

The main catch with running my applications from Linux based systems is MT4. From all reports I have seen (both recent and old), getting it to run on Wine is quite problematic. They may have a Linux installer these days but given the track record of MT4 to bodge just about anything they touch I'm not going near it with a 10-foot pole. This unfortunately locks me into a Windows VM on Linux or using Windows Server.

I hear Windows 7 can have up to 10 (or maybe it was 20) connections which is way more than I need. The absolute max I could require is 3; current PC, phone and tablet (maybe 5-6 if I have a few friends hanging out at my place). Other than the ridiculous overhead of Windows, are there any gottchas I should be aware of using it as a makeshift server OS.

The idea of running a Windows VM on top of Linux (with FreeNas/UnRaid/Samba/whatever running on Linux) gets bandied around a bit. But as with most of this so far I haven't been able to find a decent discussion on the pros and cons of doing such a thing.

Cheers,
BobbyT
 

BobbyT

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Aug 23, 2017
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Just so we're all clear here, the server will not host programs and applications. Any software required by my current build will be locally installed :)
Most of what I use these days is all open source anyways....damn I love free software :p
 

gea

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Dec 31, 2010
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..with FreeNas/UnRaid/Samba/whatever running on Linux
Do not confuse operating system families like BSD, Linux, Solaris or Windows with similar file services like SAMBA, Solaris CIFS or Windows SMB and management tools/distributions like FreeNAS/NAS4Free (BSD) or NexentaStor/ napp-it (Solarish) or OMV/Synology (Linux)

For me the main item is the OS as all important features follows your OS of choice. Services, filesystem features or management tools are then an option that depends on your OS of choice.
 
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vl1969

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well you see BobbyT, the big issue with your needs/wants is that it is absolutely impossible to have a VM act as a workstation on the same machine.
essentially, your second build needs to be a workstation first, file server second to be usable for anything but server role.

as I see it, you have current build, connected to big screen TV, that functions as a Gaming/Multimedia machine/HTPC
that are only roles it has and probably will have. as it is presumably in your living room and hence no suitable working condition. so play only setup and an emergency working rig if "shove come to push".

your second build on the other hand needs to be
1st. a "WORK" station, run all software you need for work.

2nd. a File server / backup server provide usable network shares for all other machines, run backup server and other file server related software.

3rd. Possibly have virtualization capability to run VMs.

that means, in addition to all the File server / backup options, you need to run a Desktop.
and maybe a Hypervisor.

again you have 2 options here.
option 1. simple if you already have Windows license. and even though you can do all of this on windows 7 oe maybe even 10 , I wold not advise it. to run all needed setup properly and reliably a windows server license is a must IMHO.
so you would run Windows as main OS. if you take my advice and have license you Server 2012 or 2016.
add file server role and a hyper-v role,
that gives you all you need. a good File server, and a virtualization server with all the management tools and GUI.
than if you can, simply setup a VM, a standard 2012/2016 server license with Hyper-V role gives you rites to run 2 VM for free, as in you do not need to by/pay for additional licenses to run 2 VM of the same OS (server 2012/2016) on the host.
and install all your software in the VMs.
this does 2 things. you do not run any potentially unstable software on the main host and jeopardise the host stability.
you get better backup options as you can backup the whole VM and move it to new host if needed without reinstalling all of software. you can setup additional VM using Linux OS and run other open source software as needed. even segregate some of the functionality like Plex server into it's own VM. BTW Plex server runs great on Linux with very little overhead.

if you do not have server license or if it is over your budget, the next good solution would be,
setup Linux Mint or Debian distro.
install SAMBA for File server, install KVM for virtualization
run file server from host. and for anything windows related setup VM.
downside for this is, if you are coming from windows, the learning curve is steep. although if you run a desktop version it is way easier than CLI only, but still.
and you will need a license for every Windows VM you spin-up.


FYI, not sure what you mean by IPMI as I have seen people use the acronym for simply a remote connection like RDP or such. if your MB is capable of IPMI than it will be a hardwired connection, either shared with your network port or a dedicated port, but hardwired. but that only means that you need to connect the machine to your router. if your router is wireless you will be able to use IPMI options via WiFi. but do not expect miracles, IPMI over WiFi is slow and bug prone. not fun to use at all.


PS>> I personally would vote for Linux centric setup. I have dumped windows from my household 5 years ago, and so far, I am very rarely have the need for windows PC.
grunted I do not do any work at home, but I have found that Linux Mint distro with Cinnamon works very nice and stable. but Cinnamon is very heavy desktop, so in your case I would go with Mate of LXDE maybe.

 
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