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post #1 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey all,

I recently purchased a big ATX tower that can accomodate up to 10 internal 3.5" HDDs. Additionally, it has 4 x 5.25" external bays, which I suppose I can use (with 5.25-to-3.5" adapters) to mount up to 4 additional HDDs.

So I'm looking at building a server machine that can support 14 3.5" HDDs for media storage and streaming over LAN to other devices.

At this point, all I have is the case, and I am just conceptualizing the rest of the H/W requirements for my particular needs, which are the following:

General requirements:
-Ability to add HDDs beyond system board SATA limit (via SATA controller card, PCI or PCI-e)
-Recovery of data from 1 or 2 HDD failures in drive array
-Networking (GigE LAN)
-Hotswap for all HDDs in data array (excluding system/OS drive)
-Compatibility with the latest high capacity (3TB+) HDDs with advanced sector format (64-bit OS is required for this, right?)
-Wish: spin down unused drives for power conservation

Currently, I have a desktop PC that uses the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3, plus an AMD Athlon II 250 CPU. I am thinking that I can upgrade the desktop to a newer Intel platform, and then downgrade the AMD/Asus combo for my server.

The Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 mobo (complete specs from Asus found *HERE*) has 5 x SATA3 + 1 x eSATA. So in order to get beyond the board limit, I'll need to add in some SATA controller cards.

For system expansion, the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 has the following:
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (blue)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
3 x PCI

None of these are used, so any of them are available for dropping in SATA controller cards to expand the HDD array.

I am totally new to server building, but I think this would fit my storage needs more than any commercially available NAS solution. I figure that I can get my feet wet by building a server using just the mobo without any SATA cards, initially. I have 5 SATA3 ports on the mobo, so I can use one for the system OS, one for an optical drive (i.e. DVD reader to load OS and programs), and the remaining 3 for media storage with redundancy. For the redundancy, I am considering SnapRAID, running on Win7 64-bit.

This is my initial pass at planning the build, and I am putting it out there for scrutiny by this esteemed community. Is my plan reasonable so far? Any feedback would be welcome. Thanks in advance

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post #2 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vlad Theimpaler View Post

Hey all,

I recently purchased a big ATX tower that can accomodate up to 10 internal 3.5" HDDs. Additionally, it has 4 x 5.25" external bays, which I suppose I can use (with 5.25-to-3.5" adapters) to mount up to 4 additional HDDs.

So I'm looking at building a server machine that can support 14 3.5" HDDs for media storage and streaming over LAN to other devices.

At this point, all I have is the case, and I am just conceptualizing the rest of the H/W requirements for my particular needs, which are the following:

General requirements:
-Ability to add HDDs beyond system board SATA limit (via SATA controller card, PCI or PCI-e)
-Recovery of data from 1 or 2 HDD failures in drive array
-Networking (GigE LAN)
-Hotswap for all HDDs in data array (excluding system/OS drive)
-Compatibility with the latest high capacity (3TB+) HDDs with advanced sector format (64-bit OS is required for this, right?)
-Wish: spin down unused drives for power conservation

Currently, I have a desktop PC that uses the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3, plus an AMD Athlon II 250 CPU. I am thinking that I can upgrade the desktop to a newer Intel platform, and then downgrade the AMD/Asus combo for my server.

The Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 mobo (complete specs from Asus found *HERE*) has 5 x SATA3 + 1 x eSATA. So in order to get beyond the board limit, I'll need to add in some SATA controller cards.

For system expansion, the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 has the following:
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (blue)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
3 x PCI

None of these are used, so any of them are available for dropping in SATA controller cards to expand the HDD array.

I am totally new to server building, but I think this would fit my storage needs more than any commercially available NAS solution. I figure that I can get my feet wet by building a server using just the mobo without any SATA cards, initially. I have 5 SATA3 ports on the mobo, so I can use one for the system OS, one for an optical drive (i.e. DVD reader to load OS and programs), and the remaining 3 for media storage with redundancy. For the redundancy, I am considering SnapRAID, running on Win7 64-bit.

This is my initial pass at planning the build, and I am putting it out there for scrutiny by this esteemed community. Is my plan reasonable so far? Any feedback would be welcome. Thanks in advance

Just a couple thoughts:
You wanted protection for one or two drives. I recommend picking between those, as it will drive future recommendations, but if you are going to put 14 drives in a system, 2 parity drives is recommend. If you want the ability to spin down drives, you're looking at a software solution instead of a raid controller. If you want 2 drive protection, you're looking at FlexRaid.

As far as sata ports go, you're going to be limited to a X4 (+) port for anything more then adding a single sata port. If you're going to add a graphics card, which isn't necessary at all, that should go into your mb considerations.
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post #3 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 02:02 PM
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I would run a version of Linux or Unix with ZFS (Debian, OpenIndiana, etc) and do all your arrays as zpools. Not sure how proven SnapRaid is yet, and I never liked Win7 as a server.
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post #4 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 02:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, Lars


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars99 View Post

but if you are going to put 14 drives in a system, 2 parity drives is recommend... If you want 2 drive protection, you're looking at FlexRaid.

I think SnapRAID fits the bill for the above, if I'm not mistaken.


Quote:


If you want the ability to spin down drives, you're looking at a software solution instead of a raid controller.

I was thinking here to configure Windows 7 to spin down inactive drives


Quote:


As far as sata ports go, you're going to be limited to a X4 (+) port for anything more then adding a single sata port.

Yep, the x4 port options are being contemplated. Issues to consider are SATA2 vs. SATA3, PCI-e or PCI, and whether or not the card is compatible with high capacity HDDs (3TB+) with Advanced Sector formatting. ATM, I'm not looking at hardware RAID, or SAS.


Quote:


If you're going to add a graphics card, which isn't necessary at all, that should go into your mb considerations.

The Asus mobo has integrated graphics, so I'd likely just go with that.


Thanks again for your thoughts.

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post #5 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 02:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndoggac View Post

I would run a version of Linux or Unix with ZFS (Debian, OpenIndiana, etc) and do all your arrays as zpools. Not sure how proven SnapRaid is yet, and I never liked Win7 as a server.

Thanks, I'd like to look into that option (ZFS) more closely. I did a cursory Google search and Wikipedia read. Are there any good primers out there for noobs like me?

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post #6 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 02:16 PM
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also, if you're interested in virtualization (win7 64, etc) you may also want to look at proxmox which is based on debian.
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post #7 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 02:34 PM
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post #8 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 03:33 PM
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Hello,

If you're going with the kind of storage you're looking at (40 TB+) I would strongly recommend looking at something like the Supermicro boards with IPMI. I have a similar build supplying my home media server needs. I set out with the idea that I wanted to support 22 drives, 20 data + mirrored boot drives. I wanted it rock solid and essentially self healing with redundancy.

As I work in enterprise IT I immediately went to Solaris 10 on an X64 platform (Intel Xeon 3440 to be precise) on a Supermicro X8SIL-F and 8GB ECC RAM. The machine is currently only running 12 drives, 2 boot + 10 data, as I'm waiting for drive prices to dropbefore I buy the next 10 data drives.

The MoBo has 6 SATA ports, I use 2 for mirrored boot, 2 for data then 8 extra ports on a Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8. I'm using 5 into 3 X 5.25" SATA backplanes for the drives in an Antec 1200 tower with a 750W PSU.

The O/S is Solaris 10 U8 with ZFS RAID Z2 on my 10 data drives (essentially RAID 6) with a hot spare, so I have 7 data drives, the drives in question being Samsung HD204UI 2 TB drives.

I've been running this system around a year now, and use a script to shut it down at 3.00AM every morning and then I start it up when I get home after work using the IPMI functionality. Given that most drives are rated for thousands of startup / shutdown cycles, this aspect doesn't worry me and means the servers power usage is less of a concern, though even with the current 12 drives it draws just over 250W.

I would strongly recommend a Solaris or OpenIndiana / BSD with ZFS server OS, it's far more stable, resistant to malware and viruses, and it's what's behind most big data storage systems before you go to the lunatic fringe of EMC / NetApp storage.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Dave
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post #9 of 39 Old 04-23-2012, 11:21 PM
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Sounds like unraid fits your needs nicely.
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post #10 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 05:23 AM
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unRaid doesn't support a second parity disk.
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post #11 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vlad Theimpaler View Post

Thanks, I'd like to look into that option (ZFS) more closely. I did a cursory Google search and Wikipedia read. Are there any good primers out there for noobs like me?

ZFS does not fully meet your use case. It's non-trivial to gradually increase the storage capacity of a protected ZFS zpool and it's not really designed to add single disks.

unRaid would meet most of your requirements and run well on your hardware - but it lacks dual parity. This is somewhat mitigated because data can be recovered from individual drives in the event of a complete array failure.

Windows 8 Storage Spaces holds some promise for your use case, but it's not ready for prime time.

Similar to W8, FlexRaid holds promise, but it is having some growing pains and it was not polished when I tried it last year.

With your use case, RAID6 on Debian with XFS might be an interesting solution.
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post #12 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 07:37 AM
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FlexRaid is in full production.
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post #13 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 07:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars99 View Post

FlexRaid is in full production.

Not to hi-jack this thread, but it appears FlexRaid is no ticky -> no laundry.

Do you know if there is a trial or limited version available?
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post #14 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 08:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acesfullup View Post

Not to hi-jack this thread, but it appears FlexRaid is no ticky -> no laundry.

Do you know if there is a trial or limited version available?

I've no idea what this phrase means, but I believe the latest update to Windows FelxRaid will support a trial version.
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post #15 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars99 View Post

I've no idea what this phrase means

Take it away Jack:

http://youtu.be/97TW1Zm1uMI
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post #16 of 39 Old 04-24-2012, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars99 View Post

I believe the latest update to Windows FelxRaid will support a trial version.

Yes, looks like this is so:

Changes in 2.0 Update 6 (to be released April 20th 2012):
- Added trial feature (new users will now be able to activate the software for a 14 days trial)

http://www.flexraid.com/2012/04/18/release-notes/
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post #17 of 39 Old 04-25-2012, 07:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars99 View Post

unRaid doesn't support a second parity disk.

Why would you need a second parity disc ?

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post #18 of 39 Old 04-25-2012, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Why would you need a second parity disc ?

Some users --- from what I have read and gathered --- feel that a 8:1 or 9:1 data to parity ratio should be used.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Some users --- from what I have read and gathered --- feel that a 8:1 or 9:1 data to parity ratio should be used.

So 8 HDD's for data to 1 parity drive?

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post #20 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 08:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

So 8 HDD's for data to 1 parity drive?

yup...
makes sense (from a playing the odds point of view) for a real RAID setup where parity+1 drive fails and all your data goes Poof!!!

for any of the jbod+parity setups (aka unraid/snapraid/etc) it is nice and all... but not a big deal really since you can always recover the individual drives separately...

NOTE: As one wise professional something once stated, I am ignorant & childish, with a mindset comparable to 9/11 troofers and wackjob conspiracy theorists. so don't take anything I say as advice...
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post #21 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 09:21 AM
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I think some people confuse protected arrays with data back up. These systems are meant to protect you from a single random drive failure. None of these truly offer great protection from multiple failures without mirroring. And honestly, if two drives fail at the same time, it was likely due to an event (power spike), not just old age. Unraid offers great protection against a single drive failure, and is relatively cheap and simple. If you're looking for Fort Knox security, you need your data duplicated in a second location.
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post #22 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris71478 View Post

I think some people confuse protected arrays with data back up. These systems are meant to protect you from a single random drive failure. None of these truly offer great protection from multiple failures without mirroring. And honestly, if two drives fail at the same time, it was likely due to an event (power spike), not just old age. Unraid offers great protection against a single drive failure, and is relatively cheap and simple. If you're looking for Fort Knox security, you need your data duplicated in a second location.

I don't think anyone posting in this thread has that confused.
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post #23 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

I don't think anyone posting in this thread has that confused.

Maybe not confused (entirely), but I'll admit to a little haziness

Here's where I'm at, and what I'm after...

I have lots of data that I want to protect. Currently, the data resides in a stack of 3.5" HDDs that are mothballed, gathering dust in a cabinet. None are attached to a system, but any one can be grabbed at any time, and mounted into an external HDD enclosure with USB/eSATA to access data.

Some of these HDDs are PATA, but most are SATA. Some are as old as 7 years.

I worry that one day I'll try to fire up one of these HDDs and get the click of death and lose access to all the data. None of these drives are backed up, except the most important data, which is copied and archived onto a Seagate 3TB external storage device.

So I thought I could try creating a data server with some measure of protection for all the data HDDs it contains.

I'm thinking along the lines of unRAID and SnapRAID, or something that uses parity drives for data protection.

At this point, I have a basic question. If I implement multiple drives for data, with 1 or 2 drives for parity, what happens if a parity drive dies? Parity protects data, I know, but what protects the parity?

Thanks in advance for allowing me a stupid question or two

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post #24 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 10:24 AM
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Any one drive (including parity) can be rebuilt. I didn' mean to imply that those posting here don't understand the systems. It's simply my opinion that if protection from a single drive failure isn't enough for you, how is any of these systems enough? If you need more protection than that, you should be looking at back-up.
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post #25 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris71478 View Post

Any one drive (including parity) can be rebuilt. I didn' mean to imply that those posting here don't understand the systems. It's simply my opinion that if protection from a single drive failure isn't enough for you, how is any of these systems enough? If you need more protection than that, you should be looking at back-up.

Thanks. Actually, I considered 1:1 copies of data as the first option. But it's not the most cost-effective solution with the current price of HDDs.

The data server is something I thought I could try as an alternative, plus I'd be able to stream content over my home network.

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post #26 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vlad Theimpaler View Post


Thanks. Actually, I considered 1:1 copies of data as the first option. But it's not the most cost-effective solution with the current price of HDDs.

The data server is something I thought I could try as an alternative, plus I'd be able to stream content over my home network.

I'm not suggesting it as an alternative. With prices like they are, people who can do 1:1 mirrors can probably hire a network administrator to do all the work as well. Protection from single drive failure is enough for me. All of these systems give you that, and all have their own advantages and disadvantages. I don't know which (if any) will allow you to easily mix PATA and SATA though. Personally I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the W8 storage spaces will work well.
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post #27 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 10:48 AM
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Well the options are truly endless. Cabling in one box can be a lot of fun with all those hard drives (and I mean fun...I love modding my own cables). One option that has not really been explored in this thread is the external enclosure options.

There are dozens of really good options. One web site that can give you some good ideas is Addonics. They have several different enclosure options. They have a fifteen bay hot swap (no screws needed either) enclosure that uses port multipliers (which you can buy from them) to attach 5 drives into a single output (and the outputs available include esata, USB, USB 3.0). Basically you can put in fifteen drives and mix and match sizes and then plug those drives into the back of your motherboard. Use the one esata on the MB and then get a internal to external esata converter bracket to plug in two more esata cables. I would then use intel storage manager to configure the drives any way you want (it's a software RAID), but more than enough for any home system.

RAID controller cards are great to work with...but they can also be a headache. They also kill reboot times!

It's a nice option and easily expandable. You can also unplug the enclosure and plug it into another computer more easily.

Wesena...a European company that distributes in the US through Perfect Home Theaters...has some wick nice looking enclosures that house up to ten drives. All brush aluminium...very sleek. Just some options to consider.
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post #28 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 11:40 AM
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I have an Areca ARC-1260 (16 channel SATA) controller in my server and am very happy with it.

Quality Assurance Manager, Ceton Corporation
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post #29 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vlad Theimpaler View Post

For system expansion, the Asus M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 has the following:
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (blue)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, gray)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
3 x PCI

None of these are used, so any of them are available for dropping in SATA controller cards to expand the HDD array.

A good high capacity HBA is going to need an x8 slot for decent bandwidth, and you only have room for one of those. I would recommend you look at the IBM M1015 cards, which can be flashed to various LSI variants. You can typically find server pulls on ebay for <$100. That will give you 8 ports on the card itself, which you can expand with SAS expanders. One of these cards + two HP SAS expanders can give you 64 ports with good performance. The SAS expanders are actually more than the m1015, but this way you can start small and cheap, and at least have the capability of plenty of expansion down the road. It supports spin-down and SMART, and has great support on a wide range of OSs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris71478 View Post

I think some people confuse protected arrays with data back up. These systems are meant to protect you from a single random drive failure. None of these truly offer great protection from multiple failures without mirroring. And honestly, if two drives fail at the same time, it was likely due to an event (power spike), not just old age.

It's simply my opinion that if protection from a single drive failure isn't enough for you, how is any of these systems enough? If you need more protection than that, you should be looking at back-up.

I think you may be confused about the reason behind higher levels of fault tolerance. It's because a single random drive failure isn't your only vulnerability. If you have a lot of drives in your system, there's a decent chance you may have some that you bought at the same time, from the same batch. When you have a drive fail, and have to rebuild the data from parity, that's a fairly intensive task. It requires reading all the data on all your remaining drives. This can be an entire day (or even more) of all of your drives continuously reading. If you had one drive fail, and have others in your system of the same age, chances increase that other drives that may also be towards the end of their life don't survive that stress test. Or, you could have any number of glitches that cause issues on more than one drive at a time. Or maybe it just takes a while to get a replacement installed before you can recover the data. With only a single parity drive, if you lose another before you've fully recovered from the first loss, then you've lost data (from both).

It's simple statistics. The more drives you have, the greater your chances of something going wrong, and the more often it happens. The more parity drives you have, the more protection you have against Murphy's Law. I have 21 drives in my server, and two parity drives. And to be honest, if 2TB drives were still $60, I'd probably have a 3rd by now, and will be adding one when the prices come back down. It's cheap insurance. 1:1 backups are even safer, but would require 42 drives, which is crazy. Multiple parity drives allow you to scale your fault tolerance to whatever level you feel is appropriate for the number of drives you have, and your budget (and space constraints, ports, etc.)

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post #30 of 39 Old 04-26-2012, 12:38 PM
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I do understand the reduction in fault tolerance, but I still don't agree with the logic. Dual parity drives protect you from two random failures ( long shot) and only then if one of the drives happen to be the parity drive (longer shot). Two failures in the array loose data even with three parity drives. I'm not trying to pick a fight here. All things being equal, more protection is always better than less. I'm just saying that I wouldn't go with something less suitable for my needs in order to gain extra parity drives. It just seems that it's a long way to go to cover one "what if" while you're still vulnerable to so many others.
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