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HTPC vs Media Server/NAS solution and backing everything up?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

I'm having trouble with the pros and cons of building an HTPC or a new Media Server or maybe even both. A little background:

Back when Vista came out, my main machine (which I leave on 24/7) acted as a media server that I streamed to my TV via Xbox 360 and MyMovies. I had an HP MediaSmart Server (WHS v1) with 2x 1.5TB WD Green drives in it and the OS drive that I used to back up that main machine with (and my laptop.) My HP kicked the bucket, sadly, and I moved to backing up via Windows Backup to a 3TB external hard drive. Later on I built a new machine and moved over to Windows 7 and never revisited the whole HTPC issue because I wound up just watching my movies on my main PC instead of streaming them to the TV via the Xbox.

Now I'm looking to kind of move back towards how I used to have it set up, and start streaming to the TV again. As it stands right now, I can use my main rig as a media server like I used to, and I still back up everything to the external drive. My problem is that in this new rig, I have a 256GB Crucial M4 SSD for the OS and one Hitachi 2TB drive for storage and find myself running low on space for my collection of movies. I could just throw another 3TB drive in and call it a day, but I hate having more than one logical drive. I guess something like FlexRAID would fix that, but I would also have the problem of being able to back up the additional storage, as that would put me at about 3.5TB or so.

Other things to note:

I only have one TV in the house with an Xbox 360, a Wii, and an SA 8300HD set top box attached to it with DVR service from my cable provider. I was also thinking of adding a PS3 to it, possibly for bluray.

I want the ability to have full 1080/24p playback on the TV.

I have DVR service, so the ability to record isn't strictly necessary, but I would like to have that ability as well.

I don't have a surround system hooked up to the TV. I keep telling myself I'm going to buy a sweet Denon 7.2 receiver, but I just don't have the cash for it. However, not having the cash has not stopped my addiction to building computers. I'm an IT guy by trade, so I guess it's just in my blood.

I guess the reason I would like to even have an HTPC at all is because I don't want to be bothered with taking out a DVD/bluray every time I wanted to watch a movie. I'd rather have one interface where I can just browse and/or search through my collection, load it up, and enjoy. That and if I do wind up getting a nice sound system down the line, I could also throw all my music on it and listen to it through that (though the girlfriend may not appreciate me taking over the living room just to listen to my music when I have my office and my music on my main rig, haha)

So I guess the major questions are:

Is an HTPC right for me?

How can I deal with my storage issues without using a RAID solution (I really hate consumer RAID and have been burned in the past, though if I want one logical drive, I guess there aren't many ways around it)?

Is it possible to find a solution that is a) not going to break the bank and even more importantly b) be low on power consumption? I live in NY and LIPA (the power company) really rakes you over the coals on electric bills every month.

I guess that's it. Enough of my rambling. Hopefully you guys can offer some advice. I've been a member of this site for a long time and a lurker for years and I've always found it to be a great source of information for anything A/V related. Oh, and the new search/board software sucks, by the way. I did try and search around for a solution but didn't have much luck with it.

Anyway, thank you all in advance.

-Mike
post #2 of 17
I use a 9 TB server with WHS2011 and Flex Raid and just pump the junk to a fairly low powered htpc which was not overly expensive to build and is very "TINY"

With the server software I use the hdds only spin when requests are made of it . When in an idle situations both the server and htpc use less than a 100 watt light bulb. I am guessing about an extra $6 a month but have not really pinned it down exactly cause I just really don't see that type of increase being worth my time to start doing statistical studies rolleyes.gif

BTW .... This seems to be a really cheap and effective way to back up your most vital files . http://www.crashplan.com/?utm_source=Google_Branded&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=text_link&utm_campaign=Branded&gclid=CNv34d65qLICFUWc7QodaSIAhQ
post #3 of 17
But all my light bulbs are 15 watts or less.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by flocko View Post

I use a 9 TB server with WHS2011 and Flex Raid and just pump the junk to a fairly low powered htpc which was not overly expensive to build and is very "TINY"
With the server software I use the hdds only spin when requests are made of it . When in an idle situations both the server and htpc use less than a 100 watt light bulb. I am guessing about an extra $6 a month but have not really pinned it down exactly cause I just really don't see that type of increase being worth my time to start doing statistical studies rolleyes.gif
BTW .... This seems to be a really cheap and effective way to back up your most vital files . http://www.crashplan.com/?utm_source=Google_Branded&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=text_link&utm_campaign=Branded&gclid=CNv34d65qLICFUWc7QodaSIAhQ

Thanks, Flocko. So two machines, in other words. What if I don't want to do cloud backup? I'm not a big fan of crashplan a) because I don't want to have to pay money for backups and b) if a network connection goes down, you can't back up anything. Would I build a third machine for that or would the media server be good to use for that? I'd need double the amount of drives, though, no?
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffkro View Post

But all my light bulbs are 15 watts or less.

Jeff, you just practicing your comedy routine or do you have a suggestion?
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Would anyone else like to chime in? Or is my current setup basically good enough?
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Bump. Wow, no thoughts on this? Okay how about this - what would be the advantages to building a dedicated HTPC over my current setup?
post #7 of 17
As far as cloud back up goes. Well . that's about as cheap as it gets . I see your issues though. You could also look at another choice called " The Box" . You can uncle Google that for the link . My employer is getting ready to go this route .

I don't recommend this officially but as I use Flex Raid ( this NOT a back up per sa ) and really have nothing of monumental value on my server, I don't do any other type of back up. All my movie content was d/l on the net and all my tv recordings are re re runs. Yes, the other option would be a one to one back up and if your data is rather low in volume , say , under 10 tb you could go that way to . Up front cost is going to be greater and those drives could always fail to .

One of the huge advantages to a htpc is that you can build a very low powered machine that does everything you need for very little money. Advantage = FLEXIBILITY ! and simplicity . Low power , low noise , low heat and can be very small in physical size if you want . .

Another option , and a lot of folks do this , would be to combine your htpc and server into on big unit . If proper case and fans are chosen you can have it out in the open in a entertainment system and still enjoy a quiet listening situation . WHS 2011 will run almost (if not all) the same programs and software that Win 7 will run . It will even handle a tv tuner as well . I don't see the need for a third machine . Again , I would not be afraid to run my server as a dual purpose machine . It is rather large in size( freakin huge) as I wanted room for a lot of expansion so that is why I built a separate htpc.

There are hundreds of builds in this forum for you to do a model and I really love Assassins guides . It is how I got into this hobby to begin with . Proly would not have even attempted it with out them . Of coarse along with tons of help from this forum .

http://assassinhtpcblog.com/

http://www.assassinserver.com/
Edited by flocko - 9/11/12 at 3:45am
post #8 of 17
My setup:

Storage and Data:
  • I use Flexraid with 12 2TB data drives and one 2TB parity drive.
  • I have two spare drives on hand in case of drive failure.
  • My storage is in a closet under my stairs. (I call my storage server Harry-Potter)
  • All my movies are stored in boxes out of sight. (In the Harry Potter closet.)
  • I don't back up my movies to the cloud - there's simply too much data at this point. The BR-D in my workstation can rip a Blu-Ray faster than I can re download them.
  • I keep a csv file of my movies in just in case I have a problem that Flexraid can't handle. I can compare what's missing and just rerip the movies.
  • All my important data, docs and pictures are backed up with Spideroak to their servers, and synced to other machines in my house as well.

Playback:
  • We use a $200.00 G530 mini-itx box running XBMC in the family room.
  • We use a Boxee in the bedroom, there's no need for HD Audio there and it gives us netflix.
  • Everything runs through a small office grade Gigabit switch. No Wireless.

That's the important stuff.
post #9 of 17
I have a question about flexraid for robnix you say you have 12 2tb drives for data and 1 parity disk does that give you 12x2tb=24tb of storage or is some of that used for something else?

Also what kind of speeds can you expect with flexraid for streaming to dif things at same time esp if others are also streaming stuff thats on same hd in the pool as others are ? if that part even makes sense?

Thanks for any info you can give trying to decide if i want to go with flexraid or to just go with openmedaivault and make a raid 5 using it.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorddread View Post

I have a question about flexraid for robnix you say you have 12 2tb drives for data and 1 parity disk does that give you 12x2tb=24tb of storage or is some of that used for something else?
Also what kind of speeds can you expect with flexraid for streaming to dif things at same time esp if others are also streaming stuff thats on same hd in the pool as others are ? if that part even makes sense?
Thanks for any info you can give trying to decide if i want to go with flexraid or to just go with openmedaivault and make a raid 5 using it.

It's all storage, so yes I get around 23TB of total disk capacity after file system overhead is counted in We're at somewhere in the neighborhood of 700+ Blurays and DVD now.

I can't really give you a fair answer on the speeds I get. I've never bothered running IOmeter or any other performance tool against my file server. What I can say is:
  • I'm able to copy the movies I rip on my workstation at about 75Mb/sec to Harry-Potter while watching a Bluray rip on my HTPC.
  • I can watch movies in both rooms at the same time.
  • The switch I have let's me setup an LACP trunk, so I get mutiple 1Gb streams in and out of the server.

One of these days I may get some performance data from Harry-Potter, it's really just not a priority.

But the primary reason I use flexraid for this isn't performance, I use it because recovery time is shorter if I lose more than one disk. If 2 out of my 12 disks fail, I can disable the flexraid driver and access the data on the other 10 drives through Windows. I only have to figure out what data was on the failed drives and rerip that. If you're not going to go with a pooling solution like flexraid, use a RAID 6 setup and not a RAID 5 setup. If you lose 2 drives in that RAID 5 setup you'll lose everything, RAID 6 gives you a little more protection from failure.
post #11 of 17
Yeah i have a qnap atm with raid 5 but want to make my own server because it is getting full is reason i am asking so 1 parity disk is enough even with 12 2tb drives? which is what i wanted to know ie you only loose the 2tb from the 13th parity drive and none of the space on data which is good and yeah i do like the idea of being able to save whats on other drives if 2 die or 1 if no parity even others data is still accessible, Do you run it in windows or some version of linux? and if i did go with using it in windows how hard would it be at some point to maybe switch over to use it in a version of linux later? I would assume prob not since linux would need ext3 or 4 or some other file system instead of windows ntfs?

As long as it can handle what you said for performance that will prob be fine to was just worried about being able to stream to more then 1 thing at a time ie 2-3 dif tv's etc.
Might have to look into the multi gbit streams to to help with that

Thanks for the help as well btw
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorddread View Post

Yeah i have a qnap atm with raid 5 but want to make my own server because it is getting full is reason i am asking so 1 parity disk is enough even with 12 2tb drives? which is what i wanted to know ie you only loose the 2tb from the 13th parity drive and none of the space on data which is good and yeah i do like the idea of being able to save whats on other drives if 2 die or 1 if no parity even others data is still accessible,
The trade off between protection and storage space is fine for me, other people may use more parity drives. I would if the data was harder to restore, but it's really just ripping discs in the evening while I do other stuff.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorddread View Post

Do you run it in windows or some version of linux? and if i did go with using it in windows how hard would it be at some point to maybe switch over to use it in a version of linux later? I would assume prob not since linux would need ext3 or 4 or some other file system instead of windows ntfs?
Windows, just in case I ever use it with a Ceton card. Whatever you pick, stick with it so you can stay with a native file system.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorddread View Post

As long as it can handle what you said for performance that will prob be fine to was just worried about being able to stream to more then 1 thing at a time ie 2-3 dif tv's etc.
Might have to look into the multi gbit streams to to help with that
Thanks for the help as well btw
Technically you should be able to stream three bluray quality videos without issue on a single gig link.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by robnix View Post

The trade off between protection and storage space is fine for me, other people may use more parity drives. I would if the data was harder to restore, but it's really just ripping discs in the evening while I do other stuff.
Windows, just in case I ever use it with a Ceton card. Whatever you pick, stick with it so you can stay with a native file system.
Technically you should be able to stream three bluray quality videos without issue on a single gig link.

yeah most of what i have is not to important and easy to redo for sure so 1 would def be enough.
Hmmm will have to try trial and see if i like flexraid then for sure esp if it can handle 3 at once that will be lots for sure.
As for windows I guess I might stick with it if it does everything. I know for my patriot box office media player it had problems accessing stuff on windows 7 but I did get it to work so might just stick with that then not that i will ever need ceton since it looks like its for U.S. and i am in Canada although a tuner or something might be nice i would think that would be better on the htpc i have as apposed to the storage server.

Thanks again for the info and help I will def. check out flexraid to see how l like it.

One more thing if i did use flexraid on windows and streaming i would also want to be able to use it to do a few other things ie it doesn't use up much resources does it? ie cpu memory and such?
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorddread View Post

yeah most of what i have is not to important and easy to redo for sure so 1 would def be enough.
Hmmm will have to try trial and see if i like flexraid then for sure esp if it can handle 3 at once that will be lots for sure.
As for windows I guess I might stick with it if it does everything. I know for my patriot box office media player it had problems accessing stuff on windows 7 but I did get it to work so might just stick with that then not that i will ever need ceton since it looks like its for U.S. and i am in Canada although a tuner or something might be nice i would think that would be better on the htpc i have as apposed to the storage server.
Thanks again for the info and help I will def. check out flexraid to see how l like it.
One more thing if i did use flexraid on windows and streaming i would also want to be able to use it to do a few other things ie it doesn't use up much resources does it? ie cpu memory and such?

I use Hanewins NFS server for streaming access. It's like $25.00 or so and gets me better performance for my HTPC and boxee than Windows CIFS does.

Out of curiosity, I checked during a 170GB file transfer at 100Mb/sec Flexraid is using 2% CPU and 76MB RAM.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by robnix View Post

I use Hanewins NFS server for streaming access. It's like $25.00 or so and gets me better performance for my HTPC and boxee than Windows CIFS does.
Out of curiosity, I checked during a 170GB file transfer at 100Mb/sec Flexraid is using 2% CPU and 76MB RAM.

Ahh nice I was wondering how to get nfs support under windows 7 so might check that out to. Although guess i would need 2 copies since my htpc is running xmbc under win 7 in other room and patriot box office for one of them to which already has nfs support. So flex doesn't come with nsf or anything like that which is good to know as well. I wonder if thats why some people like to use openmediavault with flexraid on it and others but only use those type of things from them and the fact that it would let me free up a sata port since it runs off a usb stick.

Again thanks for all the help def checking flexraid out and some way to get nsf if not in windows then in some form of linux.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorddread View Post

Ahh nice I was wondering how to get nfs support under windows 7 so might check that out to. Although guess i would need 2 copies since my htpc is running xmbc under win 7 in other room and patriot box office for one of them to which already has nfs support. So flex doesn't come with nsf or anything like that which is good to know as well. I wonder if thats why some people like to use openmediavault with flexraid on it and others but only use those type of things from them and the fact that it would let me free up a sata port since it runs off a usb stick.
Again thanks for all the help def checking flexraid out and some way to get nsf if not in windows then in some form of linux.

XBMC has excellent NFS support built in.
post #17 of 17
Right I forgot about that and also forgot i would have needed nfs client on the htpc not server which would be on the file server hehe it was late so was pretty tired:)

One more question and that is to how reliable flexraid is ie how long have you been using it and have you had any problems and are you worried that he may drop support for it since he is now working on nzfs? Other then that worrying me I am convinced on getting and using it.

Thanks again in advance, I really appreciate all your help here has helped me in deciding and given me some ideas to like the nfs etc.
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