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Old 03-13-2005, 04:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Making a cheap file server?

Greetings all. I really need some more HDD space and I have been considering two options. Are there any benefits to having a full blown file server? It would be made out of an old PC. Nothing life alteringly fast either, 500-600 Mhz or so. I would stuff a bunch of RAM in it, too. I would then plug it into my PowerBook by gigabit. Would the added processing power of a separate machine be able to search through the drive/s faster? I would cram a 250 gig drive in it to begin with. I was thinking of putting a thin distro of Linux on it, unless something else would be better? Is it worth the extra time and money to do this, or should I just get an external firewire drive?
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Disk space is getting cheap. You can buy hard drives for next to nothing. Do you have the room? Are the hard disks fast? Do you keep the computer going with a lot of tasks at once? Fast computers nowadays don't really present a problem answering these questions. The only reasons I would think off the top of my head to have external storage would be:

* You could seriously cram a BUNCH of dedicated hard disks in one system, saving only the OS files for your system.
* You could share it out with your entire household, keeping the resources you use on your personal computer to yourself.
* If you have a disaster in one area of the house, you could in theory protect valuable information (Don't rely on this method as an actual backup, I'm just thinking out loud here!)
* Searching times depend on many factors, a couple of which are: CPU type speed, bus speed, hard drive speed, hard disk type (although SATA is a fast alternative, SCSI as well), cache, RAM, tasks running on the server.

It certainly helps the searching if everything is local on your hard disk and you have nothing running at the time.

Having said all of this, I'm currently running a server computer with Samba; no problems here.

If you think you're just cluttering up an area of your hard drive you don't need more storage, you need organization, and you need to stick to that setup.
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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file serving is more processor intensive than ram intensive.

but sata, scsi is going to obviously be faster than ide.

Debian + Samba = file serving goodness.
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Old 03-13-2005, 09:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I can still realize the benefits of SATA drives with a SATA PCI card, right? I'm looking to pick up a used machine of 500-600 Mhz. It would be a dedicated machine. Would this be sufficient? Is it worth doing this project vs. a firewire drive?
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Old 03-13-2005, 09:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bendsley
file serving is more processor intensive than ram intensive.

but sata, scsi is going to obviously be faster than ide.

Debian + Samba = file serving goodness.
Bingo. You can tune network & filesystem buffers to saturate RAM but for the most part you'll be saturating network bandwidth. The disks will be coasting for everything but directory searches.

Samba rocks.

I use fbsd w/samba whenever it makes sense, but I wouldn't bother without:
1) the need for more than you can fit in your system - something beyond one more HD mechanism. or...
2) the need for redundant or special filesystems. or...
3) the need for multiple system access to the same files. Giving one or more other users access to your local disk space can have incredibly annoying performance effects.
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Old 03-13-2005, 09:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandon11983
I can still realize the benefits of SATA drives with a SATA PCI card, right? I'm looking to pick up a used machine of 500-600 Mhz. It would be a dedicated machine. Would this be sufficient? Is it worth doing this project vs. a firewire drive?
Gets back to "special needs."

If you need redundancy, or multiple systems having access to the same files, or you really feel the need to learn this stuff, then it's worth setting up a file server. They're great for media servers, especially with more than one user in the household. And it's valuable experience. Otherwise pick up an enclosure and another HD mechanism and you're done.
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Old 03-14-2005, 07:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Don't need redundancy or multi user access or any of that shit. Just storage. This server will be connected to my machine and mine only. I guess the only reason to do this would be to access the content on it via gigabit and the fact that I can add drives as they fill up.
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Old 03-15-2005, 01:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I currently have a p3 600 w/256MB ram that is a fileserver/bittorrent client/home ftp server. I have 4 drives in it totaling a whopping 120GB (it's all older drives that were spare). My biggest bottleneck is bandwidth, I max out my 10/100 switch at 8-9MB/s.

I've not used gigabit myself, but firewire transfers at 400Mb/s which is less than half the speed of gigabit. In theory, your transfer over gigabit would be faster, but it depends on hd rpm, hd cache, cpu load, ram, bus speed, etc of the fileserver.
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Old 03-15-2005, 02:45 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandon11983
Don't need redundancy or multi user access or any of that shit. Just storage. This server will be connected to my machine and mine only. I guess the only reason to do this would be to access the content on it via gigabit and the fact that I can add drives as they fill up.
Brandon, 1Gigabit/s is the total system bandwidth. It does not translate well to individual transaction throughput without 100% recent, properly configured equipment. I'm pleased with 200Mb/s copies without new boards.

You might do better buying a larger case with space for additional disks. Knocks out a bunch of bottleneck opportunities.
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Old 03-16-2005, 10:38 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I do understand that 1 gigabit is a maximum speed and it won't be attained unless one had 100% up to date equipment and such. So far I have about 65 gb of stuff to put on the new drive. I'm looking at a 160 gb/7200 rpm/8 mb cache Seagate drive.
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Old 03-16-2005, 01:34 PM   #11 (permalink)
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i have 2 servers at home... all just so that I have centralized storage for me and the wife... place to hold the MP3/photos/movies/etc about 500Gb. It's not beefy at all... Celeron 1.2ghz.. 512 RAM... works great.

the other is an FTP server for me to access when not home and need something. Was very handy to move episodes of 24 from the Tivo to the FTP server and d/l while walking about Madrid.
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Old 03-16-2005, 06:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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If you just want storage then making a file server is useless. Just put another hard drive in your computer. Why waste money? Then you don't have to worry about your files not being with you if you take your PC elsewhere. It'd be different if you were setting up a gaming server or an FTP server....but for storage? Just get another HDD!

-Lasereth
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Old 03-16-2005, 09:28 PM   #13 (permalink)
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As I stated above, this is for my PowerBook, so adding another HDD to it is not an option.
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Old 03-16-2005, 09:44 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Whoops!! I read it as a network setup. Sorry about that. I'd just get the external drive.

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