Building a server...Is unraid the answer?

server-unraid

#1

Hello all :)

Soon I will be putting together a new Plex server to replace my "temporary" windows 10 box. I have a small issue with hard drive space however...

I have been in the bad habit of just buying 4tb red drives and once they get filled up, buying another and repeating the process. now I have 9 wd red drives that have about, 4tb of free space between them. In addition, I have two extra red drives that I have not used at all yet. So, in reality, I have a grand total of 8 used drives, and 3 free ones.

Now, my new server will have:

24 HDD bays
2 x Intel Xeon E5-2650 2.0GHz 8 Core CPU
8 x 8GB Ram DDR3 ECC PC3 10600R
3 x LSI SAS9211-8i Raid Cards

I was looking at using freenas, however I have concluded that the safest zfs option is raidz2 with 6 drives in each pool. But to do this I would have to buy 3 more drives just to set up the first array and I would lose a lot of usable space, albeit safe.

Then I started looking into unraid as a possible solution. From what I can find, it seems that I can create a new unRAID array and then expand that array with additional drives, thus expanding the overall storage..If I could do that, I could easily move all of my data to the new array and not have to buy more drives yet. However, I have to wonder how safe this is and if one parity drive is enough. Or for that matter, do I have all my drive on one array, or do I split them up?

I guess at this point in my planning stage, while I wait for my server to get here, I want to see what someone else thinks of this solution and if it would do as I need. And, is it possible to have two parity drives with unraid. I cant seem to find any support for dual parity as people just say its best to have backup of your data. But at this point, a full backup of all of my data is not possible so I have to make my solution as reliable as possible.

The more I look into all this, the more confused I get and the more I bounce back and fourth between unraid and freenas lol. I would love to hear some info from people who know what they are talking about. And yes, this will primarily be for a Plex Media Server. Once setup I will be doing other things, like ftp, cloud, backups, etc. but first and foremost, a pms.

Thank you!


#2

@Wastedfun said:
I have been in the bad habit of just buying 4tb red drives and once they get filled up, buying another and repeating the process. now I have 9 wd red drives that have about, 4tb of free space between them. In addition, I have two extra red drives that I have not used at all yet. So, in reality, I have a grand total of 8 used drives, and 3 free ones.

You need 2 drives to start a new unRAID array w/ parity protection:

Then I started looking into unraid as a possible solution. From what I can find, it seems that I can create a new unRAID array and then expand that array with additional drives, thus expanding the overall storage…If I could do that, I could easily move all of my data to the new array and not have to buy more drives yet. However, I have to wonder how safe this is and if one parity drive is enough. Or for that matter, do I have all my drive on one array, or do I split them up?

This is true, flexible expansion is one of the great perks of unRAID (only rule: data drives must be the same size or smaller than parity disks). You could set-up a fresh 2-3 drive array on your new hardware with unRAID and copy your data from each of your 8 4TB drives one at a time. Each time you finish copying one, you would pull it from the current computer and add it to your unRAID array. You only need one array, you just create Movies, TV, etc folders there.

As to whether one parity drive is enough… it depends on your risk appetite, but usually once you get past ~ 2-3TB and ~ 4 disks you want to start thinking of additional parity protection. I would stress though that parity protection should be used in addition to backing up your data. It is not a replacement for backups.

Another nice thing with unRAID is that if you had several drives die at once, you can technically load up the remaining drives and recover what is left. That would be a bit tricky, but still it would be possible.

For me, the media on my unRAID box is either heavily backed up (to 2-3 offsite locations like Amazon Cloud Drive for family videos) or is something I’m OK losing (like recorded TV shows). So I was OK having a single parity drive though I have 14 disks.

However, this was my setup prior to unRaid 6.2. With this new version, they now allow you to have two parity disks. I have decided that I am going to buy a blank disk to add as my second parity drive. Though I could recover from two drives failing at once (via backups/re-ripping things), I don’t WANT to since it would take a long time. This is why I’m increasing the parity protection… I want to give myself more of a chance against multiple drives failing faster than I can get them replaced. It can take up to a day to replace a failed 4 TB drive in your array once you have purchased it. If you have more than one fail within a couple days of each other, you might be toast.

… And, is it possible to have two parity drives with unraid. I cant seem to find any support for dual parity as people just say its best to have backup of your data. But at this point, a full backup of all of my data is not possible so I have to make my solution as reliable as possible.

Re: having no backup… just be very certain you understand this risk. Parity protection is not a backup. All kinds of weirdness can happen to your server that parity won’t save your data from. Yes, dual parity support was released with ver 6.2.


#3

I think that helps a lot, thanks. I didnt know you could dual parity with the newest version. after searching for it, I found the release article and see it. The problem with backups for me is, I cant backup all of my media, its just too much. even if I bought a host for it, it would takes 2 years to upload it with the limitations of my provider (data caps, not speed).

However, my crucial data...Photos, family videos, documents, etc. are actually stored in 4 locations. Main PC on Raid 1, server on one disk, HDD attached to router and in the cloud.

I think unRAID is the way to go. Now that I know it supports dual parity and I can expand my array...it seems obvious. The ONLY down side I see is the write speeds for it is terribly slow....but I also have two, 250GB SSD's that will be available to me that I can use for a cache drive. So I think that issue is solved...or rather, worked around.

Any tips for me as a potentially new unRAIDer?


#4

The cache drive is a must if you're adding a lot of content during Plex viewing times. At present I think I have a 500GB WD Black drive. It's plenty fast, though I've fantasized about switching to SSD for even faster copies. I have my mover run once a day @ 3am. That seems to have worked well for me though there have been times where I was copying TB to my server and I ran the mover manually a couple times a day to avoid overflowing the cache and writing direct to the array.

Tips: Make sure to preclear your drives, especially new ones. I usually run 3 cycles which takes ~ 29 hrs per cycle per 3TB drive. Once your array is fully on-line, keep a spare 4TB pre cleared and on-hand so you can immediately begin rebuilding if you have a drive die. You want to avoid having to take a day or two to get your new drive and then you want to run a preclear to stress the drive before moving it into the array (this is why more parity is good). Most drives appear to fail when they're new or they're good for many years. I try to keep two precleared spares on hand for all my storage arrays (including non-unRAID) as funding permits.

I use 2xm1015 cards in my system (LSI SAS9220-8i) which are pretty similar to yours. I flashed them to IT mode and they host 16 of my 20 drive bays. They have worked great, so I think you're making a good choice there.

I don't run any VMs/dockers/etc on my server... just storage. But your CPUs ad RAM look like they're sufficient for the services you're looking to run.

Looking forward to hearing what you end up with (and maybe some pictures?? :) )


#5

sweet. thanks again man. I plan on using this primarily for Plex, but once I dive into unRAID, I will want to try out all the other features it has, that seem interesting. I think the expandable storage and dual parity support fully sold me on it. and from what I can tell, it seems like it doesn't stripe drives like raid5 or 6 does. so if I am watching media, only the drive that holds the data will spin up. This is mind blowing as to how a single drive can hold parity for the others without parity shared between all drives..

I plan on making a big video over all this for my channel, I will share it here when done :)


#6

I went with the Enterprise Hardware RAID solution myself, but if I was going to utilize software RAID, it would probably be unRAID.

I also separated the media server from any serving applications like Plex, Emby, Serviio, Tversity, etc. so they could all access the same data and run as their own VMs and can be worked on and rebooted independently of the media host. I like reboot the RAID host as little as possible. I used to run everything from the RAID host as well and found it to be much more reliable to separate them. So your beefy server is VM host and then the RAID host can be super minimal.

Of course, I have quite a bit of storage though so it takes a little longer than the average single server. : )

70+ drives spread of 4 enclosures for about 240TB with an exact mirror in another part of the house. This also allows me to remap the network shares to point tot he backup server instead so there is no loss in service.

Like you said, online backup isn't feasible so the only option is to mirror it yourself. I have gigabit and it would still take years.

Just so Plex didn't die, I have servers setup for specific content. I also separate them because Plex has yet to add other library types so if you add everything in as a movie or TV show it clutters up the front page as well as matches things incorrectly.

Plex - My main windows server (Movies, tv shows)
Plex Linux - Same as above
Plex Adult - Adult content
Plex Music - music, concerts music videos
Plex Documentary - documentary tv shows and movies
Plex Reality (Stand-up, PPV, Sport, Workout)
Emby - Testing alternative to compare and see what Plex is doing right and wrong
Serviio - Same as above
XBMC - Same as above
Tversity - Same as above

All of which access the same media shares on the RAID host.


#7

wow...beefy setup man, def beyond me at this point. My libraries are more basic...movies, tv shows, comedy, workouts. But when I move things over, I will be breaking them down a bit more by adding kids movies, horror, etc.

For me at my budget, unraid seems the best starting point.


#8

@Wastedfun said:
...and from what I can tell, it seems like it doesn't stripe drives like raid5 or 6 does. so if I am watching media, only the drive that holds the data will spin up. This is mind blowing as to how a single drive can hold parity for the others without parity shared between all drives..

Yea, you can tell it to only spin up the drive it needs, or you can have it spin up all your "Movie"/"TV"/etc drives at the same time. Initially I had it spinning up only the one drive for whatever I was watching, but I got irritated when I went from one show to another and had to wait for the next drive to spin up. I ended up creating spin-up groups to minimize that issue. It certainly is a nice feature though and offers great flexibility.

I plan on making a big video over all this for my channel, I will share it here when done :)

Looking forward to it!


#9

Where does PLEX store the Posters and the Fanart on unraid? If I had an SSD cache drive would that be saved on there or could i add another ssd for that?


#10

Yes, the preferred configuration is to have an SSD setup as Cash drive. When you are using Dockers there will be a share called appdata on the cache drive and this is the default location where each Docker container would store its configuration data.


#11

Thanks. I guess I will go with unRaid as well.


#12

I can't say enough good things about unRAID tbh. I have it running on Dual Xeons with 64GB ECC Ram.

I have Plex running on it along with Couch Potato, Sonarr, NZBget, Deluge, Crash Plan, Calibre, Teamspeak and more.

As well as this it is running my Gaming PC as a virtual machine, an OSX Virtual Machine and a Linux VM.




#13

You game inside a VM? I do a lot of stuff from VMs, but gaming isn’t one of them. How does that perform compared to being a host OS? You are remote desktop into the VM as well when playing games? There has to be some type of lag there. whether it be audio, video or input.

Interesting choice to combine your desktop and server into one machine. My servers take up several racks so that literally isn’t possible, but nice case those, great job. : ) Xeons are awesome for servers, just never used one for gaming.


#14

Just curious, close to 12 months after these posts. Updates.

Busy starting to put together a BOM for a new Home NAS/Media server.
So far the only def is the drives and run-in Plex
Still bouncing between FreeNAS, unRAID and RockSTOR

G


#15

I’m happy with unraid and I will stay with it. But if I had the funds to buy the same drives and replace all of them when I need more space I would probably go with FreeNAS.


#16

If > @Jusedawg said:

You game inside a VM? I do a lot of stuff from VMs, but gaming isn’t one of them. How does that perform compared to being a host OS? You are remote desktop into the VM as well when playing games? There has to be some type of lag there. whether it be audio, video or input.

Interesting choice to combine your desktop and server into one machine. My servers take up several racks so that literally isn’t possible, but nice case those, great job. : ) Xeons are awesome for servers, just never used one for gaming.

Look at this for gaming in a vm