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Old 02-26-2009, 05:30 PM   #1
linux-slacker
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Question Linux as an inexpensive backup solution


Our household has two computers. My computer is a self-built system dual-booting Windows XP and Linux. It replaced a Compaq Presario running XP, which I gave to my son. So far, I have gotten by with backing up one hard drive to another on my computer. I have thought about adding some network storage to create a more robust backup solution that would also enable me to back up files on my son's computer.

For about $200, I can add a NAS device and install a decent sized hard drive that would probably serve my needs. However, I have an old computer and several small hard drives sitting around and am considering the possibility of installing it as a file server that I could back up files to.

If this system is to work, I would like to be able to chain together several small drives to be seen as a single drive that could be accessed from either Windows or Slackware.

It scores big bonus points if it can utilize power saving features, preferably going to sleep when not in use for awhile and being awakened when accessed. This computer has a Wake on LAN feature, and if it can utilize that, it would be absolutely ideal. If I had to, though, I could keep the computer where I could manually control its usage.

If such a thing is possible, I would be curious which distribution would best meet these needs. Thanks in advance for any help.

Tom
 
Old 02-26-2009, 07:58 PM   #2
MS3FGX
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Sounds like basic functionality, you could do that under any distribution. Since you are already using Slackware you might as well continue on with that, assuming you are comfortable with it already. You are looking at setting up a few drives in a RAID, then running Samba (optionally NFS as well) on top of it.

I would suggest looking into getting a RAID card rather than doing it in software. You can get these very cheap anymore (especially if you are using PCI rather than PCI-e), and it will certainly be worth it. Easier to setup and maintain, not to mention better performance because you don't have the processing overhead from doing it in software.

As for power saving features, you can power down the drives after a certain amount of time fairly easily. However, I have ever used wake on LAN under Linux, so I am not sure what the deal would be there.

Last edited by MS3FGX; 02-26-2009 at 08:00 PM.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 08:14 PM   #3
sleddog
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Linux software RAID works very, very well. For the usage it's going to get as a single-user backup system I doubt if the performance difference between software RAID and a cheap hardware RAID card will be a factor. Unless of course that 'old computer' is truly ancient

To chain those small drives together you'd use RAID 0. There's lots of documentation online, and many distributions offer a RAID option during setup.

I'd suggest picking the distro you're most comfortable with and doing a little research before starting the setup.
 
Old 02-26-2009, 08:55 PM   #4
Tinkster
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Ummm ... RAID-0 means that with one drive gone you lose all
data. Doesn't sound like a good back-up solution to me. RAID-5
would be more sensible, RAID-10 ideal.

And as for software vs. hardware: chances are that softraid will
still work with the same set-up in 10 years time. Whether you can
get the same hardware in 10 years time if the controller dies on
you ... ?
 
Old 02-26-2009, 09:34 PM   #5
sleddog
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinkster View Post
Ummm ... RAID-0 means that with one drive gone you lose all
data. Doesn't sound like a good back-up solution to me. RAID-5
would be more sensible, RAID-10 ideal.
Agreed. I was simply replying to what linux-slacker originally requested.

Personally I wouldn't use the old harddrives at all. The likelihood of a drive failure in the not-to-distant future is probably fairly high. Even if there's no data loss it's still a nuisance. I'd plunk down a bit of cash for a new drive and build a simple, single-drive machine. Or if the budget allows, 2 new drives in RAID 1.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 09:37 AM   #6
MS3FGX
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Quote:
Whether you can get the same hardware in 10 years time if the controller dies on you ... ?
I would be more worried about still being able to buy (new) IDE drives in a decade, to say nothing of the controller; and the drives are much more likely to go before the controller does.

If something is being built with already antiqued hardware, a 10 year lifespan is obviously not a design goal.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 11:27 AM   #7
Triflin
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It would be more power efficient to start from scratch for a file server. Old hardware is inefficient and unreliable. Spend that $200 on a nas-enabled portable hard drive, if you do the cost calculations, you come out way cheaper that way.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 02:32 PM   #8
MS3FGX
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Unless you are building a new machine based on Atom or something similar, you are not going to do much better on power consumption; probably much worse.

A Pentium 3 machine will draw ~50 watts (with HDDs, fans, etc), while some new processors draw that much power by themselves. If you are building a new machine with multiple cores (which you have little choice in the matter anymore, go look around and see what the selection for single-core processors is anymore), you will almost certainly be drawing considerably more power than a P3 or even P4 system.

Now on the issue of reliability, I can't really argue with that. This is hardware that has already seen a number of years in the field. It only stands to reason that the failure rate is going to be higher than something new off the shelf.

But you certainly aren't going to save any money by building a new machine. You will get a more powerful system and longer lifespan, but it is all at cost, compared to using the free older hardware you already have.

If you are using a NAS like the NSLU2, then of course that is a completely different story in terms of energy consumption. But you have to keep in mind that a full server is going to be infinitely more capable than any embedded NAS device will be (even something as well documented and flexible as the NSLU2). They would both work for a basic fileserver equally well, but what about down the line? Maybe you would want to host a small site, run local DNS caches, setup an encrypted proxy, etc, etc, etc. You could probably hack something up with the NAS, but it would be much easier to do it on a real machine running a full distribution.

In the case of a NAS, the issue is if you are willing to sacrifice capability in favor of greatly reduced operating costs.

Last edited by MS3FGX; 02-27-2009 at 02:35 PM.
 
Old 02-27-2009, 04:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MS3FGX View Post
I would be more worried about still being able to buy (new) IDE drives in a decade, to say nothing of the controller; and the drives are much more likely to go before the controller does.

If something is being built with already antiqued hardware, a 10 year lifespan is obviously not a design goal.
Well, yes, and the good thing with software RAID is
that you could add a SATA controller with SATA drives
and easily extend the RAID, and move along as things
die on you - heck, you could add USB and firewire
drives to your RAID if speed is not that much of
a concern ;}
 
Old 02-27-2009, 04:14 PM   #10
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MS3FGX View Post
Unless you are building a new machine based on Atom or something similar, you are not going to do much better on power consumption; probably much worse.

A Pentium 3 machine will draw ~50 watts (with HDDs, fans, etc), while some new processors draw that much power by themselves. If you are building a new machine with multiple cores (which you have little choice in the matter anymore, go look around and see what the selection for single-core processors is anymore), you will almost certainly be drawing considerably more power than a P3 or even P4 system.
I have a home server based on a Pentium 2140 and that draws 40 watts from the wall, with a not-particularly-efficient power supply. This is about the same level of power draw as an Atom (35 - 45 watts, until they get the chipsets sorted out later this year), with roughly three times as much computing power.

(The 'from the wall' figure doesn't include the monitor (present, but usually switched off, not blanked), the disk is inactive, but the mouse, and keyboard are powered on.)

I think that exact model (2140) may now be obsolescent, but you may still be able to get one at a bargain price or get one of the replacement products. There is probably scope for saving a few watts by underclocking, too.

You don't want to waste much power on a fancy graphics chipset; getting a mobo with integrated graphics usually cures this by giving you graphics of no great distinction, but which don't eat much power. Of course, this wouldn't be reccomended for games enthusiasts.
 
Old 03-01-2009, 03:23 PM   #11
linux-slacker
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Thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread. I decided to go ahead with the Linux backup server, figuring it didn't cost me anything to at least see if it would work. Since it didn't seem to matter which distribution I used, I went ahead with Slackware since that is what I was already using. It is actually very close to what I had hoped for. I used the smallest hard drive for the system and striped together the others to give me one large space that I could share. I know that this leaves me at risk for data loss in case of a drive failure, but as I mentioned in the beginning this is strictly being used to create backup copies, and I am already backing up data on a second hard drive in my own computer, so this is actually a level of paranoia in case the whole computer goes bye-bye, which is unlikely in itself, so unless everything goes south all at once, I will be OK.

I found some links to info on configuring the RAID array and Samba and got it going without too much difficulty. I can connect to Samba and configure it in my browser on either computer, which is really cool. I have the share visible, but right now it is read-only so I will have to tinker a little more to get it to be usable. The only thing I will not be able to do is bring it up and down remotely, which would have enabled me to put it in the basement completely out of the way. I can get it to go into S3 standby (I can even do that part remotely), but unfortunately I found that while the motherboard supports Wake-on-LAN, the network card does not (the price of using old, cheap hardware). Not much use being able to shut it down remotely without being able to bring it back up as well! I don't want it to be running 24/7, because it will suck a lot of power, so my workaround for that will be to put it on the same power strip as my computer so it comes up along with it, and I can shut it down from my computer so I don't have to have a monitor and keyboard hooked up. Not perfect, but it will work.

I figure I can run it like this for awhile until either something dies or I outgrow these old, rather small hard drives and then upgrade the MB and put in some high-capacity SATA drives. At that point, I could even have enough space to set up a RAID array with mirroring.

I appreciate all the help getting started. Thanks again, everyone.

P.S., I just found out that the spell checker on this board doesn't recognize "Slackware". A bit strange for a Linux board, no?
 
  


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