NAS Update

I received some questions regarding the NAS info I posted a while back so here is the latest status of my home servers and NAS units.

Main NAS/Home Server:

HP EX490 running Windows Home Server 2011

Upgraded WHS v 1.0 to WHS2011 (overall better for my uses)

Upgraded CPU from Celeron to E8400 (dual-core with low TDP)

Upgraded 2GB RAM to 4GB RAM (max supported by this hardware)

Upgraded HDs to 4x WD20EFRX (2TB WD Red Drives)

This unit needs a powerful CPU as it backs up all of the machines daily, functions as a web page server and remote data server, as well as the main data storage server.  It also transcodes on occasion.  It seems to use at most 3-3.5GB of RAM but on average 2GB, so the 4GB upgrade is helpful but not necessary.

The second server is a new build.  I bought an HP N40L with plans to upgrade from the EX490, but after I upgraded the CPU in the EX490 I realized how much slower the N40L was at the same tasks in Windows Home Server.  I put the N40L on ice for a bit.  Recently I re-discovered FreeNAS and it seems the N40L is made for it!  The N40L has 5 HD spots once the BIOS is hacked (4 drive slots and the OD slot which is perfect for an SSD for use as a L2ARC drive to speed up read access).  The N40L also has an internal USB slot which is perfect for the FreeNAS OS stick.  In addition it also supports up to 16GB of RAM – I installed 8GB of ECC RAM from Crucial (which is plenty for my RAIDZ2 configuration of 4x WD30EFRX 3TB Red drives).  The FreeNAS x64 system with ZFS doesn’t require a super-fast processor but it does LOVE RAM and fast hard drives – this NAS now backs up the WHS server’s data and I stress the fact that ECC RAM should be used with a ZFS system. Some helpful FreeNAS/ZFS links:

http://www.freenas.org/images/resources/freenas9.2.0/freenas9.2.0_guide.pdf

http://doc.freenas.org/index.php/Hardware_Recommendations

http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=ifconfig

http://www.zfsbuild.com/2010/04/15/explanation-of-arc-and-l2arc/

http://forums.freenas.org/threads/intel-nic-vs-realtek-nic-performance-testing.10325/

UPDATE: I encountered some issues with FreeNAS and inconsistent transfer performance via CIFS.  I am testing NAS4FREE to see if that fares better with my hardware – so far I see that NAS4FREE is more complex to set up, but it seems to offer more options and perform more smoothly with my HP N40L.  However, I cannot get the transfer rates to match the peformance of FreeNAS (which I thought were poor compared to my WHS unit).  I was glad to try FreeNAS first, as the setup was more automated and it allowed me to get familiar with BSD terminology – without that experience NAS4FREE would have been an even more challenging install/setup.  Now I am going to try using Windows 7 Pro as a file server and then return to FreeNAS if Windows proves similarly poor in transfer performance, since that would point to a hardware/network architecture issue.

My lowly ReadyNAS NV unit is still here, and it still works well with reliability and adequate performance.  It now functions as a monthly backup for the other servers.  It’s running the latest 4.1.13 firmware and the 4x WD20EFRX 2TB Red drives have performed flawlessly.  I recently replaced the power supply and have a spare one ready to go so I should be set for a while.  The ReadyNAS NV is limited to about 45MB/s transfer which is less than half of what I see from the WHS and FreeNAS machines so I can’t use it for any serious needs – I’ll find a job for it that requires reliability rather than performance.

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