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RAID: Hardware VS Firmware VS Windows Server 2019

KurskKnyaz

Senior member
Dec 1, 2003
871
1
81
I’m building a server for a small law firm with 3 workstations. Its just a basic file server for Word and Excel files, QuickBooks and some other software that the law firm uses. This specific application does not demand performance but reliability, redundancy, and low-noise is a must. I’ve built many servers before but would appreciate any input on my hardware choices and concerns.

Case: iStarUSA D-213-MATX 2U

Power Supply: SeaSonic PRIME Snow Silent 550W

Fans: 2X Noctua NF-A8 PWM

Motherboard: SUPERMICRO MBD-X11SCM-F-O

RAM: Crucial 16GB DDR4 or DDR4 ECC Unbuffered

CPU: Intel Xeon E-2124 or Core i3-9100

CPU Cooler: Noctura NH-L12S

Hard Drives: 2x desktop drives reused from workstations in RAID 1

RAID: Hardware, Inter eRST or Windows



I want to install Samsung 970 Pro NVMe drives into the workstations and reuse the 500GB desktop hard drives for a RAID 1 setup (I may use a 3rd drive as a hot-spare). I never messed with software RAID because of reliability concerns. In the past I’ve use controllers from Areca, LSI and Adaptec. I want to be able to put the drives into another system should the motherboard fail. I heard that is not possible with software/firmware RAID. All of the hardware RAID controllers are $300+ except for the HighPoint RocketRAID 2720A which is a brand I am reluctant to mess with. The motherboards supports Inter Enterprise Rapid Storage and I can also do software raid with Windows Server 2019 AFAIK. Will there be a significant performance hit if I do not get a dedicated controller? I would also like audible alerts if a disk fails and I would like the RAID software to send out e-mails to me alerting me of a disk failure. Please advise: Hardware $300+, Hardware HighPoint, eRST, or Windows Server 2019 RAID and why? Also, Is the CPU adequate for software RAID.
 

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
3,687
413
126
I never messed with software RAID because of reliability concerns. In the past I’ve use controllers from Areca, LSI and Adaptec. I want to be able to put the drives into another system should the motherboard fail. I heard that is not possible with software/firmware RAID. All of the hardware RAID controllers are $300+ except for the HighPoint RocketRAID 2720A which is a brand I am reluctant to mess with. The motherboards supports Inter Enterprise Rapid Storage and I can also do software raid with Windows Server 2019 AFAIK.
Software RAID isn't inherently any more or less reliable then hardware RAID. It's all in your setup. Most I know about have transferred to software, as it's easier to manage and not reliant on a specific controller.

Since you're going to run Server 2019, for this kind of application, Storage Spaces might be worth a look? It has some of the benefits of hardware RAID, but is purely software.

Also, have you considered a small boot drive? It'll make managing the system a bit simpler.

Will there be a significant performance hit if I do not get a dedicated controller?
There shouldn't be. Anything newer then Nehalem can handle a small array just fine. A basic two drive RAID1 array should be no trouble at all.
 

KurskKnyaz

Senior member
Dec 1, 2003
871
1
81
Software RAID isn't inherently any more or less reliable then hardware RAID. It's all in your setup. Most I know about have transferred to software, as it's easier to manage and not reliant on a specific controller.

Since you're going to run Server 2019, for this kind of application, Storage Spaces might be worth a look? It has some of the benefits of hardware RAID, but is purely software.

Also, have you considered a small boot drive? It'll make managing the system a bit simpler.



There shouldn't be. Anything newer then Nehalem can handle a small array just fine. A basic two drive RAID1 array should be no trouble at all.
When i say reliable i mean in terms of bug. If i decide to switch motherboards will I have an issue migrating with software RAID? What about rebuilds. I've heard nightmare can happen with software and cheap controllers. I was thinking abut a boot drive but I would want that to be on RAID as well so i'll need 2.

I usually but a separate drive for system and a separate for data but I was considering on just using separate partitions in this case. Any reason why to use a seperate physical drive as opposed to a SYSTEM and a DATA partition?
 

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
3,687
413
126
When i say reliable i mean in terms of bug. If i decide to switch motherboards will I have an issue migrating with software RAID? What about rebuilds. I've heard nightmare can happen with software and cheap controllers.
That again depends on setup. F.x. Storage Spaces is completely neutral about hardware, so you can literally just plop in the disks in another Windows system, and they'll appear as if nothing happened.

With Intel onboard RAID, and AMD ditto, I've not had issues with moving arrays, provided you stay on each platform. Intel chipsets are good in this regard, moving between is pretty forgiving. Even amongst different generations.

One thing to keep in mind if you're just doing a simple two drive RAID1. A RAID rebuild will take as long as reloading a backup, since you're essentially just copying one drive to the other. So time required is the same in both scenario.

I was thinking abut a boot drive but I would want that to be on RAID as well so i'll need 2. I usually but a separate drive for system and a separate for data but I was considering on just using separate partitions in this case. Any reason why to use a seperate physical drive as opposed to a SYSTEM and a DATA partition?
That's pretty much down to personal preference, there are advantages and disadvantages with both. Proper setup depends in large part on what you're trying to achieve.

Using separate drive does have the advantage that you can use an SSD for the boot drive, RAID1 should not be required then, since SSDs are a lot more reliable then a HDD. It'll also make dealing with the inevitable shower of updates a lot more pleasant. It also makes having a backup image of the drive/OS very easy.

A word of warning with SSDs though, if they fail, they fail spectacularly. You should not count on being able to get data off a failed SSD.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
45,700
4,121
126
Was this thread / question posted to two sections? I thought that I just read this same post, and someone replied to "get a Synology NAS", and I think I up-voted that response.

Honestly, for a pure file-server, and not a transcoding or application or database server, you probably should consider a pre-built server or a barebones NAS unit (add HDDs yourself), and do it up that way. Most NAS OSes are fairly full-featured these days (but see, I've had some issues with Asustor NAS units and their most recent ADM 3.3 update, and Macrium Reflect 7, not being able to login for some reason to an ALLCAPS username or share name).

How much storage capacity are we talking about here, anyways? I just put together a 40TB (raw) Asus (Asustor) NAS unit, for $360 (NAS) + ($180 x 4) for 4x 10TB WD Red (*white label) HDDs. Works fairly well, aside from Asus ADM OS bugs / Macrium Reflect Free bugs.
 

KurskKnyaz

Senior member
Dec 1, 2003
871
1
81
That again depends on setup. F.x. Storage Spaces is completely neutral about hardware, so you can literally just plop in the disks in another Windows system, and they'll appear as if nothing happened.

With Intel onboard RAID, and AMD ditto, I've not had issues with moving arrays, provided you stay on each platform. Intel chipsets are good in this regard, moving between is pretty forgiving. Even amongst different generations.

One thing to keep in mind if you're just doing a simple two drive RAID1. A RAID rebuild will take as long as reloading a backup, since you're essentially just copying one drive to the other. So time required is the same in both scenario.



That's pretty much down to personal preference, there are advantages and disadvantages with both. Proper setup depends in large part on what you're trying to achieve.

Using separate drive does have the advantage that you can use an SSD for the boot drive, RAID1 should not be required then, since SSDs are a lot more reliable then a HDD. It'll also make dealing with the inevitable shower of updates a lot more pleasant. It also makes having a backup image of the drive/OS very easy.

A word of warning with SSDs though, if they fail, they fail spectacularly. You should not count on being able to get data off a failed SSD.
Right, I forgot about how slow updates can be. The motherboards supports NVMe RAID so i guess i'll get that for the boot drive. What I really want is an audible alert when the disks go bad. That's very important.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
53,175
6,876
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www.uovalor.com
I would do Linux mdadm raid myself but since you're on Windows, Windows raid is probably ok. The advantage of software raid is that it's hardware independent. The server craps out, or you simply want to upgrade, all you need to do is move the drives over to another system and reassemble the raid. No need to rely on proprietary raid controllers etc.

I've always gone with md raid myself and I have one array that has been transplanted through many systems over the years. I even changed every single drive in the raid, one at a time, live. Can also grow it live and do other operations live. Not sure about Windows raid but I have used it a little before and it did look decently flexible and easy to setup.

Whatever you do you want to monitor it too. For my software raids I just have it setup so I get an alert on my alarm view, but I also get an email.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
53,175
6,876
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www.uovalor.com
Audiotory alarms in server rooms tend to be problematic. Hard to figure out where it's coming from with all the noise. I find fans even create harmonics at times that sound like a beep so it would be easy to ignore or not notice a real one.
 
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Feb 25, 2011
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this is a small office
Then you actually don't want an audio alert. Because it will sound until the Computer Guy gets there to turn it off and everybody else will have been listening to it beep for hours at that point, and be ready to effing kill you.
 

mxnerd

Diamond Member
Jul 6, 2007
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Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
53,175
6,876
126
www.uovalor.com
Then you actually don't want an audio alert. Because it will sound until the Computer Guy gets there to turn it off and everybody else will have been listening to it beep for hours at that point, and be ready to effing kill you.
Or it will be more like this:

"I kept hearing something beep in that room and it did not sound good so I just turned off the power bar, I hope that's ok".
 
Feb 25, 2011
16,440
1,274
126
Or it will be more like this:

"I kept hearing something beep in that room and it did not sound good so I just turned off the power bar, I hope that's ok".
Exactly.

The key to IT is to assume that nobody but you wants to realize there's a server there at all.
 

KurskKnyaz

Senior member
Dec 1, 2003
871
1
81
Then you actually don't want an audio alert. Because it will sound until the Computer Guy gets there to turn it off and everybody else will have been listening to it beep for hours at that point, and be ready to effing kill you.
I actually has this exact problem 2 weeks ago. In most cases i can log into IPMI remotely and silence the beep but i know what you're talking about. I usually do both email alerts and a beep.
 

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